The defensive backfield situation got interesting for the Arizona Cardinals when they drafted Oklahoma cornerback Jamell Fleming. He is a cornerback that will likely make significant contributions on special teams and can play some safety.
The Cardinals already have a large group of cornerbacks. Patrick Peterson, William Gay, Greg Toler, A.J. Jefferson, Michael Adams, Crezdon Butler and Marshay Green are already on the roster. Toler is returning from a torn ACL, but is right on schedule and is expected to make a full recovery and be healthy in time for training camp.
Gay was signed as a free agent and is expected to fill the nickel corner role and play some safety.
Peterson is a starter, while Jefferson and Adams were key special teams contributors in addition to their playing time on defense.
At safety, the Cardinals currently carry Adrian Wilson, Kerry Rhodes, Rashad Johnson and James Sanders, whom they signed this offseason as a free agent. Last season, Hamza Abdullah was also on the roster, but he played almost exclusively on special teams. They only went three deep on defense when using safeties. Sanders does not play on special teams, so they will likely plan on playing four deep this season.
William Gay and Fleming can also play safety as well, so there is added versatility.
Unfortunately for Abdullah, this likely means that he will not be returning, despite fabulous special teams play in 2011. The team already is set at safety and they added a defensive back in Fleming who can play on special teams.
As for the cornerback position, the team carried four or five most of last year. All four were special teams contributors, if you include Patrick Peterson as punter returner. Gay does not play special teams, so that leaves two, maybe three spots on the roster, and they would play special teams.
Toler, Fleming, Jefferson and Adams fit the bill. One of them will probably not be returning. Since Fleming is a draft pick this year, unless he is awful, he is almost certain to have a spot. That would leave Toler (the expected starter), Jefferson and Adams to battle for the last one or two spots.
All three of those players are talented. But this is a good scenario to be in for the Cardinals. They can either trade a player closer to the season, or they can simply have the luxury of having to cut one very talented player because they have another more talented player to fill the spot.
Unless a trade happens, fans are likely going to have to say goodbye to the young Jefferson or special teams stud and sure tackler Michael Adams.
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