Cardinals Could Add Possible Cut Ex-First Round Defender

Sheldon Rankins

Getty Images Josh Allen is tackled by Sheldon Rankins and Quinnen Williams in 2021.

If there’s one side of the ball that needs replenishing for the Arizona Cardinals, it’s the defensive side.

Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph could use another veteran body after losing linebacker Chandler Jones in free agency. While the Cardinals drafted rookie linebackers Cameron Thomas and Myjai Sanders in the 2022 NFL draft, it’ll be hard to replace Jones’ 10.5 sacks of production in 2021.

After releasing defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, the Cardinals employ Leki Fotu and Rashard Lawrence as their only defensive tackles who are next to defensive ends J.J. Watt and Zach Allen. Veteran tackle Corey Peters is still a free agent after being with the Cardinals since 2015.

The Cardinals currently have $2.9 million available in cap space, according to Bob McManaman of The Arizona Republic. The team’s cap space will increase to $13 million on June 1 because they released defensive tackle Jordan Phillips and his $10 million salary in March.

With additional salary cap relief coming available in the near future, the Cardinals could go after a potential veteran release.

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B/R Lists Possible ‘Surprise’ Cut Candidates

Maurice Moton of Bleacher Report wrote a list of eight surprise names who could be released by their respective teams.

It would make logical sense for Arizona to go after New York Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, whom Moton labeled as a possible “cap casualty.”

Rankins may become a cap casualty because of the influx of talent along the Jets’ defensive line. Between free agency and the 2022 draft, Gang Green added Jermaine Johnson II (rookie first-rounder), Micheal Clemons (rookie fourth-rounder), Jacob Martin and Vinny Curry. Don’t forget that Carl Lawson will return to action after he missed the 2021 season with a ruptured Achilles.

Rankins, 28, was drafted 12th in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft by the New Orleans Saints. He had his best season in 2018, recording 40 tackles and eight sacks. Unfortunately, Rankins suffered a torn Achilles in the Divisional Playoffs of that same season. During the 2019 and 2020 seasons, the 28-year-old would also miss 10 games due to ankle and knee injuries.

In 2021, Rankins signed a two-year contract with the Jets worth $11 million and $6 million guaranteed. Despite having a poor 46.1 PFF grade, the Louisville product had exceptional box score stats during his first season with New York. He posted 32 tackles, three sacks and 11 pressures while playing 57 percent of the defensive snaps in 2021.

Due to the Jets’ defensive line depth, Rankins could be released. According to OverTheCap, cutting Rankins could save the Jets $5.4 million in cap space.

If the Jets were to release the former first-round pick, there’d be an argument to place Arizona as a possible suitor.

Heavy on Jets Writer Weighs In

Heavy on Jets writer Paul Esden Jr. wrote an article on Moton’s prediction. According to Esden Jr., cutting Rankins “would be surprising.”

Esden Jr. brought up ESPN Jets beat reporter Rich Cimini’s March 20 tweet that Rankins received $1.25 million in guaranteed money on the fifth day of the 2022 league year. Cimini then said that “he’s (Rankins) not going anywhere.”

Connecting the dots, Esden Jr. wrote: “If the Jets were going to move on from Rankins, they would’ve done it prior to a portion of his contract becoming fully guaranteed.”

At the same time, there are clues to the Jets toying with the notion of adding multiple defensive tackles. Esden Jr. brought up a March 23 article from The Athletic’s Connor Hughes, which included details that the Jets were interested in then-free agent tackles BJ Hill and DJ Jones. It was also reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the Jets hosted Larry Ogunjobi on a multi-day visit in May.

The Jets could afford to add defensive tackles and keep Rankins. But it’s also possible that there could be a replacement plan in place by general manager Joe Douglas.

With what the Cardinals have left on their roster at the defensive tackle position, the Cardinals could be inclined to check out the free-agent market. Veteran tackles Ndamukong Suh, Akiem Hicks and Sheldon Richardson are still available.

But if Rankins were to roam free into free agency, the Cardinals could check out the 28-year-old services.

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