Will Cardinals Re-signing of T Marcus Gilbert Alter Draft Strategy?

Howard Balzer

Just when it appeared a day might pass with no news coming from the Arizona Cardinals, the club cut its available unrestricted free-agent list to eight by re-signing tackle Marcus Gilbert.

In addition, after running back Kenyan Drake said recently he would be signing his one-year, $8.483 million transition-tag tender, he officially signed the paperwork Thursday.

Including Drake, along with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and tackle D.J. Humphries — who both signed in February before the start of the league year — the Cardinals have now re-signed nine of their unrestricted free agents this offseason. They also re-signed safety Charles Washington after he was not tendered as a restricted free agent.

Drew Rosenhaus, the agent for Gilbert, told Adam Schefter of ESPN the one-year deal is worth “up to” $3.75 million, which are the buzzwords for an incentive-laden contract. Most likely, it is a relatively low base salary along with incentives for games played. Thanks to injuries that included a torn ACL just before the start of the 2019 season, Gilbert has played a total of only 12 of a possible 48 games over the last three seasons.

A second-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011, the 6-foot-6, 330-pounder who turned 32 in February, started 75 games from 2011-16. However, a hamstring injury and four-game performance-enhancing drug suspension in 2017 resulted in him starting seven games. A knee injury ended his 2018 season after five games and last March, on the first day of the league year, the Cardinals acquired him for a compensatory pick in the sixth round of the draft.

He was playing for $4.55 million on the final year of his contract and appeared set to be the team’s right tackle opposite Humphries when he suffered a torn ACL in practice four days before the season opener against the Detroit Lions. He was inactive for that game and then placed on reserve/injured Sept. 10 and missed the entire season.

While going through rehab at the team facility in February just five months after surgery, Gilbert expressed hope that he would re-sign and be able to play at a high level again. He told the Cardinals' website, "I knew that wasn't the way I wanted to go out, especially coming off a disappointing year before. I had every thought to come back and reclaim that top right tackle spot (in 2019.) That did a lot of damage to me, but I still know I have a lot ahead of me. I don't want to hang it up too soon. I know what type of player I am."

Third-year pro Justin Murray started 14 games at right tackle last season and Jordan Mills two. Mills is one of the team’s unsigned unrestricted free agents.

The return of Gilbert and Murray makes it an open question whether the Cardinals will zone in on a tackle with their first-round pick four weeks from now, which is eighth overall, as many draft predictors believe.

While there is no guarantee of good health for Gilbert, also having Murray could allow the team to consider a variety of options in the first round, including a trade down that could potentially retrieve a second-round pick after trading their own to Houston in the DeAndre Hopkins trade.