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How Can Cardinals Replace Maxx Williams?

It looks like the Cardinals will be without their security blanket for the rest of the way.

Although the Arizona Cardinals are 5-0 following their 17-10 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, the team wasn't all smiles and celebrations following a tough win over a divisional opponent. 

Tight end Maxx Williams was carted off the field near the end of the first half after sustaining a horrid knee injury while being tackled. Williams didn't return to the game, and on Monday, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported everybody's worst fears. 

Nothing has been officially reported by the team yet, although there's a general feeling that bad news will be confirmed sooner rather than later. 

Football season keeps marching forward, however. The Cardinals will need to find another body to fill Williams' place. Quarterback Kyler Murray said Williams was a big part of the offense.

"You never want to see that happen. That's a brother of yours and the way that unfolded for him is very unfortunate. (He was having a) really good season and then just making a play . . . football happens, you can't change it, you can't really do anything, I don't know what he could have done differently. It's unfortunate.

"We're all behind him (and) praying for him. But to answer your question, I guess in a sense (it did take a toll). He's in a majority of our plays; he's a big part of our offense."

Receiver DeAndre Hopkins believes whoever the Cardinals will insert into his place will be capable of getting the job done. 

"That's the NFL; next man up," said Hopkins. "Maxx is definitely a big part of this offense. But that's why (general manager) Steve Keim and those guys go out and get players that can fill that role. I hate what happened to Maxx; Maxx is my guy, but it's the next man up (mentality) and I think Kliff and those guys will do a good job of preparing the next tight end."

How Can Arizona Replace Williams?

Tight end depth: Many will be interested to see if the Cardinals will explore any options on the trade market, although the team may indeed be comfortable with the current depth at the position already. 

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Players such as Darrell Daniels (once activated off the reserve/COVID-19), Demetrius Harris and even Ross Travis might be capable of helping fill the void left by Williams. 

In their Week 5 victory over San Francisco, Harris played in 32 plays (52%) while Travis only appeared on nine snaps (15%). The Cardinals' offense stalled following Williams' departure, as the team gained a mere 30 yards on their following 20 plays. 

Outside options: As a general manager, your job is to always be looking for ways to make your team better, and that's exactly what Keim may be doing at the moment by searching for outside options to replace Williams. 

The Cardinals, per OverTheCap, have about $2.3 million in cap space at the moment, leaving legitimate options out of the serious realm of possibility. Factor in Arizona already out of their 2022 fourth-round pick (Baltimore acquired it in the trade that saw Marco Wilson land in Arizona), and the Cardinals may not be trigger-happy to trade more collateral at the moment.

Those options still exist, however. The waiver wire may also see some work as well.

Scheming: There's no doubting Williams was on his way to having one of his best seasons to date, as the Cardinals leaned on Williams perhaps a bit more than most had anticipated given the weapons around him. 

Arizona may lean towards more four-receiver sets, something the team already does more than anybody else in the league according to SharpFootballStats.com. The Cardinals have utilized four-wide receiver personnel (one running back/no tight ends) at a rate of 23% of offensive plays prior to Week 5. The next closest team (Buffalo) sits at 13%. 

If the Cardinals don't feel strong about any of the aforementioned options, it appears they may able to work around not having a valued tight end by deploying more of their receivers on the field at the same time. 

Given the strong depth at wide receiver, there likely wouldn't be any complaints from fans, and if any creative genius can develop an offense for Murray and Co. to run, it's likely head coach Kliff Kingsbury. 

Williams' absence will be felt, yet a handful of options exist for the team to move forward as best as possible.