Cardinals Report Three Linebacker Tryouts Thursday

The Arizona Cardinals are exploring linebacker depth options, reporting three tryouts to the league office Thursday.
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With the Arizona Cardinals down outside linebacker Chandler Jones (biceps) for the year, outside linebacker Isaiah Irving (neck) being placed on reserve/injured and inside linebacker Jordan Hicks suffering an ankle injury — sources have told AllCardinals — the team is exploring potential depth options. This, evidenced by the tryouts reported to the league office Thursday, which actually took place Wednesday.

The Cardinals held tryouts for linebackers Stephone Anthony, Corey Nelson and Terrance Smith and also reported a visit with tight end Evan Baylis, who was added to the team's practice squad Sept. 29 before signing to the active roster Oct. 19 and waived Oct. 27.

Despite Arizona defensive coordinator Vance Joseph admitting his belief that "Hicks is going to be fine," the franchise's apparent interest in adding a linebacker suggests that it wants to hedge any potential setbacks. The Week 8 bye should help in allowing players additional time to recover from a grueling travel schedule through the first seven weeks.

When Hicks left Sunday's game against the Seahawks down the stretch, the Cardinals employed a combination of inside linebackers Tanner Vallejo and rookie Isaiah Simmons, who intercepted Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson on his final offensive play of the game before Arizona kicker Zane Gonzalez converted the game-winning, 48-yard field goal.

Currently, the Cardinals have 10 linebackers on the 53-man roster and three on the practice squad.

Anthony, 28, was selected in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints out of Clemson. He started every game his rookie season and accumulated 112 tackles (70 solo, 42 assisted), five tackles for loss, five pass breakups, four quarterback hits, two forced fumbles, one sack and one interception. He became the first Saints rookie to record 100 tackles in a season since Hall of Fame linebacker Rickey Jackson.

Interestingly, Anthony set an NFL record his rookie season, becoming the first player in league history to return a blocked kick for two points after defensive lineman Kevin Williams blocked an extra point, following a rule change that took effect in the offseason to allow such returns.

A position change to strong-side linebacker in the 2016 offseason created a difficult transition for Anthony and he appeared in just 10 games with three starts. He had just 16 tackles and three for loss that season before being placed on reserve/injured Dec. 20, ending his year.

The listed 6-foot-3, 245-pound Anthony was then traded to the Miami Dolphins in September of 2017 for a fifth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. He played in eight games and was not extended, becoming a free agent in 2019. He had stints with both the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets through training camp that offseason, but did not stick. Eventually, he signed a deal with the Saints in September and started in one game out of 12 appearances last season.

Nelson, 28, was chosen in the seventh round of the 2014 draft by the Denver Broncos and stayed with the franchise through the 2017 season, which was cut short after five games due to a torn biceps. He played 60 games with Denver (seven starts) and registered 116 total tackles (77 solo, 39 assisted), six passes defensed, four quarterback hits, three tackles for loss and one fumble recovery.

He then signed with the Atlanta Falcons before playing in one game and being released after 10 days, subsequently landed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in January, which lasted until August when he was cut on the last day of the roster trim to 53. Nelson returned to the Broncos afterward and appearing in seven games (two starts) before he suffered a torn biceps for the second time in his career and was ruled out for the remainder of the year.

Smith, 27, entered the league with the Kansas City Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 2016. He made the practice squad in September of that year before signing to the 53-man roster in November, where he remained through seven games of the 2018 season before suffering a knee injury and being placed on reserve/injured in October. For his career, Smith has played in 31 games (three starts), registering 36 tackles (25 solo, 11 assisted), two passes defensed, one sack, one tackle for loss, one interception and one quarterback hit.

In 2019, the listed 6-foot-2, 235-pound Smith signed with the Miami Dolphins in August before being cut at the end of the month.

As of Thursday, the Cardinals have not made any movement in relation to the reported tryouts or visit.