As it turned out, the offseason chatter about Cardinals linebackers Chandler Jones and Jordan Hicks was much about nothing. At least for now.
Both players reported to camp Tuesday and participated in the traditional conditioning test that opens camp.
Both situations have been well-chronicled. Jones raised eyebrows when he was a non-participant in the team’s on-field offseason program workouts as he enters the season with one year remaining on his contract.
Hicks agreed to a salary reduction early in the offseason and then watched as the team selected Zaven Collins in the first round of the draft and immediately insisted he would be the starting MIKE linebacker and defensive play-caller alongside Isaiah Simmons.
The Cardinals subsequently allowed Hicks to seek a trade partner. Either nothing materialized or if there was interest, the club believes Hicks’ value is more than what would have been gained in a trade. His $2 million base salary is guaranteed and he counts a reasonable $5.9 million against the salary cap.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury was simply pleased both players remain on the roster.
He said, “As you know, Chandler’s a phenomenal human being, obviously a phenomenal football player. We’re just all excited to have him back healthy and can’t wait to watch him this season. He looked in great shape, so excited to have him back.”
Noting the 11 games Jones didn’t play in 2020, Kingsbury said, “We missed him last year when he was injured and he brings such a presence in the locker room and on the field. To have him back and get him rolling is going to be big for us. (What happened) is part of the business; it’s that time of year, but he’s in great spirits.”
As for Hicks, Kingsbury said, “Jordan’s going to come in and compete his tail off. He looks tremendous, he was a captain last year for us and one of the real leaders on our team and so once again, great to have him back.”
The head coach said he and other coaches were “in constant communication with him throughout the offseason to let him know the situation. He’s a competitor and he’s highly motivated to come in and show what he can do.”
Realistically, that could be as much for the Cardinals as it is for other teams if Collins meets expectations. Kingsbury was asked why he and general manager Steve Keim went all-in on Collins so quickly.
“Talking to Steve, we wanted to make it known that’s the direction it was going to go,” Kingsbury said. “We want to see what they can do the field. There are very high expectations for them athletically. We know they will have ups and downs like young players do, but to have two guys like that with that athleticism on the field at the same time; we’re just excited to see it.”