First-Year Cardinals 2020 Reviews: OLB Devon Kennard

Over the next few weeks, we'll take a look at the offseason additions from last year and review how their first season in the Valley fared. Next up, linebacker Devon Kennard.
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During the 2019 season, edge rusher Chandler Jones was the only Cardinal with more than three sacks or 10 quarterback hits. Arizona needed someone to pair him with for 2020 to help improve its pass defense. 

General manager Steve Keim signed outside linebacker Devon Kennard, who had back-to-back seven-sack seasons for the Detroit Lions. 

Kennard's Arizona tenure started off strong. Opposing offensive lines double-teamed Jones, and Kennard took advantage with two sacks and four quarterback hits in his first three games. 

However, he sustained a calf injury in Week 3, which started the derailment of his season. The injury held Kennard out until Week 6. 

When he returned to the lineup, he played his normal amount of snaps for the next two weeks alongside Haason Reddick, who took over on the edge after Jones went down with a season-ending biceps tear. 

But, during Arizona's Week 8 bye, Kennard landed on reserve/COVID-19, putting him out of commission for two weeks. 

When Kennard returned, he never received close to the amount of snaps he played early on, as newly reacquired rusher Markus Golden and Reddick had taken over as starters on the edge.

"I felt like I was making an impact and dealt with injury and then COVID, and it hasn't played out that way since," Kennard said late in the season. "It's frustrating, I want to be out there as much as I can to try to help the team."

Kennard finished the season with three sacks, nine quarterback hits, five tackles for loss and a Pro Football Focus grade of 63.8. By the end of the year, he played just 32.8 percent of defensive snaps.

Moment of the year: In Week 3, Kennard faced his former team, the Lions, and sacked quarterback and former co-captain Matthew Stafford. The play came on third-and-long in the first half to get the ball back to Arizona. 

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) is sacked by Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Devon Kennard (42) in the first half at State Farm Stadium.

Contract: Kennard signed a three-year, $20 million deal. However, his $6.25 million base salary in 2021 becomes guaranteed if he is on the roster on the fifth day of the new league year. 

He would count just south of $8 million next year if he is on the roster and if the Cardinals cut him before the March 21 deadline, they would take a $3.75 million dead cap hit and save some money. 

Season performance grade: C-plus, but inconclusive. There is no way of telling what would have happened had he stayed healthy, and he looked very productive at the start of the year. 

Bring him back?: Reddick is a free agent, and could get the franchise tag or negotiate a deal. In that case, he and Jones would be the likely starters on the edge. 

The $3.75 million dead cap hit drops to $2.5 million in 2022.

Verdict: If the Cardinals franchise tag Reddick, or go all-in on bringing him back, then letting Kennard could makes sense. That $4 million-plus cap savings could be used on filling other roster needs.