For the second year in a row, the Arizona Cardinals opted for an intriguing, versatile linebacker prospect atop the NFL draft. The team landed Tulsa’s Zaven Collins with the No. 16 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft.
While Collins will slide in next to last year’s first-rounder Isaiah Simmons to give the Cards one of the most tantalizing linebacking corps in football, it appears as if the selection will also come at the expense of one of the team’s mainstays at the position in recent years.
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Cardinals to Allow Jordan Hicks to Seek a Trade
Jordan Hicks, who tied with All-Pro Budda Baker for the team lead in tackles with 118 this past season, appears to be done in the desert. That is, if he can find himself a suitable destination.
Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Cardinals have given Hicks permission to seek a trade, as the team plans to usurp him from their starting lineup.
“They are going to put him (Collins) in essentially as the starting MIKE backer right when he gets there, right when he signs,” Rapoport said. “So that leaves Jordan Hicks a little on the outside looking in.”
“The Cardinals have let Hicks seek a trade, let him go out there and see if there’s another place that will take on his salary and make him the starting linebacker. Difficult to do, but we’ll see if he can do that,” he noted. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes back there. Becomes a veteran voice, but also a reserve, which no matter where you are in your career is not something that anyone wants.”
Hicks, who signed a four-year/$36 million deal with the Cards back in 2019, has been a mainstay along their front-seven ever since, starting every game for Arizona over the past two seasons. In 32 games, the Texas product has collected 268 total tackles, four interceptions, and 1.5 sacks.
While the numbers are gaudy, he did see his overall play take a sizeable step back in 2020. According to NFL.com, the 28-year-old missed 14 tackles and allowed 41 catches in coverage on 57 targets. In return, his overall Pro Football Focus grade divebombed 10.6 points from the year prior and a whopping 24.7 points from his stellar 75.1 mark in 2018 — the season that led to Arizona scooping Hicks up on the open market.
Hicks’ base salary for next season checks in at $2 million with $1 million in roster bonuses and another $2 million in incentives based on playtime.
Cardinals Listed Among Favorites to Acquire TE Zach Ertz
Arizona has been extremely busy this offseason bolstering its roster. Yet, thus far, they’ve still failed to address the tight end position. Last year’s leading receiver at the position, Dan Arnold, latched on with the Carolina Panthers in free agency, leaving a crapshoot of underwhelming in-house players such as Maxx Williams and Darrell Daniels to man snaps at the position — that is, if the Cards don’t ultimately swing for yet another blockbuster move.
“Enter (Zach) Ertz, who would be a great fit in Arizona,” wrote Bleacher Report’s Paul Kasabian, who listed the Cardinals among the top-two landing spots for the Eagles tight end.
“The Cardinals have some dynamic talents in superstar DeAndre Hopkins, electric rookie Rondale Moore and sure-handed Christian Kirk, but they could use someone for short and intermediate routes to move the chains,” he noted.
“That player has been future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald of late, but he hasn’t yet committed to returning to the team after completing his 18th season,” Kasabian continued. “Ertz can more or less assume Fitzgerald’s receiving role in that respect as a short-yardage guy/additional safety blanket for Kyler Murray.”
As our own Mike Greger recently detailed, Hicks could prove to be a realistic puzzle piece in potentially acquiring the three-time Pro Bowler. The Eagles are in desperate need of linebacker help, and Hicks — who started his career in Philly — was fairly productive for the Birds over his four-year run with the team.
The cherry on top, Ertz’s wife Julie actually grew up in Arizona. It’s almost as if the deal was meant to be.