Cardinals Should Go All-In for Ex-Broncos Starting CB

Getty Images Cornerback Bryce Callahan of the Denver Broncos backpedals during a training session in 2020.

As each day gets closer to the NFL regular season, there’s less time to figure out a certain problem for the Arizona Cardinals.

The cornerback room lost a key starter in Malcolm Butler after being placed on the Reserved/Retired list for personal reasons.

This leaves a defensive back room filled with inexperience with Marco Wilson, Byron Murphy, Tay Gowan and Robert Alford, who hasn’t seen the field since 2018. Many talking-heads will question general manager Steve Keim’s thinking with the CB room. Yes, Keim could’ve drafted better and yes, he could’ve found more depth earlier on.

But Butler’s decision came out of left field. The Cardinals haven’t officially announced it, but NFL reporter Aaron Wilson says Arizona signed CB Rasul Douglas to the practice squad on September 1.

While Douglas could land on the 53-man roster, Arizona has a chance to find a better player who could be on the market. Now is the time for a decision to be made.


Veteran Cornerback Available

According to Brad Spielberger of PFF, Denver Broncos cornerback Bryce Callahan is a “player to monitor” for a potential trade.

Spielberger mentions the Bears are among interested teams. Remember, Callahan spent four seasons with the Chicago Bears to start his career. The New York Jets also have a connection with Callahan and general manager Joe Douglas, who was the director of College Scouting for the Bears in 2015. Both teams need CB help desperately.

Although Spielberger mentioned Callahan would be a hot commodity if he was cut, it’s extremely unlikely for that to happen according to Broncos insider Benjamin Allbright.

Allbright makes it clear that with a big enough trade offer Denver can deal him. Callahan joined the Broncos in 2019 after his years with the Bears. He’s one of the best slot corners in the NFL, but he’s also great on the outside as well. Callahan posted a 46.9 percent passer rating in 2020. He also had a top-five coverage grade on third downs in 2020 according to PFF.

Unfortunately, he didn’t play a snap in Denver in his first season with the team. He only started 10 games in 2020 until he landed on injured reserve in early December.

Callahan’s in the last year of his three-year contract and the Broncos have a crowded corner room in Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby and rookie Patrick Surtain II. Thus, Callahan isn’t in line to start. Callahan has his injury concerns, but any team with an urgent need at the position should be calling the Broncos.


Trade Price & Fit for Arizona

There’s no certainty that the Broncos will trade the 29-year-old cornerback. But if Callahan is available, Luke Patterson of Sports Illustrated thinks a mid-to-late-round pick at best could do the trick.

The Cardinals dealt their fourth-round pick to the Ravens when they traded for corner Marco Wilson in the 2021 NFL draft. That leaves general manager Steve Keim with just a third-round, fifth-round, sixth-round and seventh-round pick in 2022. Keim can still find a way to make a Callahan trade happen, but other teams could have more leeway.

The only question would be money, which Callahan’s base salary is $6.5 million. Keim hasn’t shown the willingness to spend on the CB position this offseason.

As for the fit, Callahan could move anywhere. The Cards could use him at the slot, the outside, you name it. Plus, he’s familiar with defensive coordinator Vance Joseph’s scheme. Joseph plays multiples schemes, going with man-coverage and zone-coverage when seen fit. Byron Murphy has shown to be a slot corner, but maybe he blossoms on the outside. Robert Alford is a question-mark. Although Marco Wilson has been impressive in the preseason, he shouldn’t be thrown out there to the wolves in AJ Brown or Julio Jones in Week 1.

History has shown that Keim won’t aggressively spend on the CB position. But, Callahan is essentially a one-year rental. The Cardinals got money back in Butler’s deal and the need for a corner hasn’t been more clear than it is now.

Adding Callahan would be a classic low-risk, high-reward move.

 


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