Cardinals positional needs and review: Inside linebacker

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Jess Root
·3 min read
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The Arizona Cardinals are in the offseason and are evaluating what to do to improve and address the roster in 2021.

As we have done previously with the quarterback, running back, wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line and outside linebacker positions, we will look at each position group, how it did in 2020, who is on the roster moving forward, and what the Cardinals need at the position moving forward.

Next up are the inside linebackers.


2020 season

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The Cardinals got plenty of production from their inside linebackers in 2020. Jordan Hicks was tied with safety Budda Baker for the team lead in tackles with 118. However, he was not as productive across the stat sheet as he was in 2019. That season, he had 150 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, seven QB hits, three picks, 1.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. In 2020 he had 11 tackles for loss but only one QB hit, no sacks, no forced fumbles and one interception. Newcomer De'Vondre Campbell made a big difference in the start of the season but he slowed. He got hurt late in the year and saw rookie Isaiah Simmons get playing time late in the season. Campbell had 99 tackles, seven tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble. Simmons, the No. 8 pick in the 2020 draft, was brought along slowly. Fans clamored for him to play and he finally got regular playing time over the final half the season. He was productive, too. In only 34% of the team's defensive snaps, he had 54 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks, an interception a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Tanner Vallejo and Ezekiel Turner both led the team with 15 special teams tackles each. Turner also blocked a punt and caught a fourth-down pass on a fake punt.

Roster outlook

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De'Vondre Campbell: Unrestricted free agent Jordan Hicks: Signed through 2022, $9.5 million cap hit in 2021 Isaiah Simmons: Signed through 2023 with option for 2024, $4.7 million cap hit in 2021 Ezekiel Turner: Restricted free agent Tanner Vallejo: Unrestricted free agent Evan Weaver: Futures deal for 2021

Offseason needs

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

2021 offseason need: Minimal

The Cardinals need players in the room, but Hicks and Simmons figure to be the starters in 2021. Simmons should be good next season. Campbell probably will not come back, but the Cardinals could use another player who can be trusted on the field. If Simmons is going to be used in a variety of roles, then they will need another linebacker who can make plays on defense. Maybe that is Vallejo, who has been productive every time he has been given defensive snaps. They also need depth for special teams. Ideally, Weaver can do enough to be both those things and then maybe Turner returns to shine on special teams. Listen to the latest from Cards Wire's Jess Root on his podcast, Rise Up, See Red. Subscribe on Apple podcasts or Spotify. Latest show:

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