- Josh Weinfuss, ESPN Arizona Cardinals reporter
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Yates, who is an ESPN NFL Insider, made the case for the Cardinals to send defensive tackle Dan Williams to the Dallas Cowboys for cornerback Morris Claiborne. He makes solid arguments for both sides -- Williams will help the Cowboys improve against the run and Claiborne will be a better option behind Antonio Cromartie than what the Cardinals have now. Claiborne hasn’t been playing to his potential, as Yates noted, but the idea of him rejoining his former Louisiana State teammates Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu could bring life back to Claiborne’s game.
I don’t see the trade happening because Arizona would be losing a large piece (literally and figuratively) of its top-ranked run defense. What Williams brings up the gut of the defensive line is hard to replace, especially when his backup, Alameda Ta'amu is coming off an ACL injury. Williams pushes the center and guards back into the quarterback, which forces the QB to scramble one way or the other and into the arms of an outside linebacker or either Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett. Simply put, Williams is too valuable to let go right now.
But the idea of a Cardinals’ trade got me thinking: Who on the roster could be traded before the season? Trades don’t have very often -- only 47 have taken place since the start of free agency in 2013, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Player-for-player trades are even less common with only eight happening during that stretch, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Housler has yet to live up to expectations that accompany a third-round pick and certainly didn’t produce what Cardinals coach Bruce Arians expected of him in 2013. Housler had a career-high 454 yards in 2013 on 39 catches -- six fewer than 2012 -- even though he missed three games, two because of an ankle injury and one because of a groin injury. He also caught his first career touchdown midway through his third season.
He’s entering the final year of his rookie contract and his salary is poised to jump to a little more than $800,000. Even with the recent addition of John Carlson and the re-signing of Jake Ballard, the Cardinals are expected to draft a tight end in the early rounds next month, one that might better fit Arians' two-tight end scheme. Though Housler has shown flashes of being a talented receiving tight end, he’s not yet in the same category as Jimmy Graham, Vernon Davis or Jared Cook. And one of his weaknesses is blocking, which Arians requires out of his tight ends. If Arizona got the right offer for Housler, he could be on the move before the season.
As could Acho. One of the most well-liked players in the locker room, Acho could be traded because of a stockpile at outside linebacker and the value he could command on the trading block. Acho is also entering the last year in his rookie deal, and his salary is scheduled to increase about $900,000 this season.
Acho missed the final 13 games of 2013 after breaking his left fibula in New Orleans in Week 3, and Arizona’s defense didn’t miss a beat, going on to finish the season ranked sixth overall and first against the run. The Cardinals are bringing back Acho’s replacement -- Matt Shaughnessy -- who's likely to start at right outside linebacker ahead of Acho. At 26, Acho has been steady throughout his young career. He had seven sacks and 30 tackles as a rookie, and four sacks in 2012 along with 32 tackles and two interceptions.
He’ll turn 26 in September and is still young enough to fill a starting need long term for a team who needs a hand-in-the-dirt linebacker. Arizona showed it could win without him, which would make the breakup a little easier.
On Monday, my colleague Field Yates put together a list of five trades that could happen (it's an Insider story) and one included the Arizona Cardinals.