PHOENIX – With the skepticism of oddsmakers serving as a backdrop, the Arizona Cardinals made a flurry of moves just weeks before the start of the regular season to further cement predictions from most major sports books that the team will post the fewest wins in the league this season.
Thursday’s transactions started with the trade of former first-round pick Isaiah Simmons to the New York Giants and continued with the team’s acquisition of veteran quarterback Josh Dobbs for a fifth-round pick from the Cleveland Browns, bringing intrigue to a position battle created by Kyler Murray’s injury.
In addition to moves involving Simmons and Dobbs, the team sent offensive lineman Josh Jones to Houston for a fifth-round pick and signed former Arizona State offensive lineman Cohl Cabral. But the decision to trade Simmons in exchange for a 2024 seventh-round pick raised the most eyebrows.
Simmons, 25, gets a fresh start in the Big Apple entering his final season under contract. The highly touted Clemson standout turned heads at the NFL Scouting Combine with his rare combination of size and speed. After the 6-foot-4 linebacker-safety hybrid ran a 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds, Arizona zeroed in on Simmons with the eighth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
But during three seasons, the Cardinals organization and its fans never witnessed Simmons reach his potential. Arizona’s new regime declined Simmons’ fifth-year option in May, foreshadowing the end of their partnership.
“The situation presented itself (Thursday) morning,” Cardinals general manager Monti Ossenfort said Thursday. “We thought it was the right move to make for us as a team.”
“We’re always going to make decisions predicated on what we think is best for the team,” Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon added. “Wish Isaiah well, but thought that was the best move for us as we sit here today.”
Bouncing around positions, Simmons never found a home in Arizona.
As Simmons continues his NFL journey, his desire for a fresh start could not have been more apparent. Having finished the previous season with commendable stats — 99 tackles, seven pass deflections and a career-high four sacks — Simmons was eager to shift his focus to the secondary. He envisioned himself complementing the talents of All-Pro safety Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson.
“Isaiah did everything that we asked him to do,” Gannon said. “Moving forward, we feel like this is how we want to play football against other people. We’re going to try to put the best guys out there that can function and do a good job for us.”
Simmons showed flashes in the desert, but his inconsistencies outweighed the good. The turning point arrived during the Cardinals’ preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Simmons seemed out of sync, missing coverage assignments and lacking the expected effort.
“Everyone saw the play online where he kind of gave up chasing the quarterback down right before he reached the endzone,” said Doug Haller, a senior writer for The Athletic. “Not a good look, especially for a young coaching staff who doesn’t have ties to players who were there before they arrived.”
Ossenfort added, “We’re never going to be snap judgment. It’s a culmination of since we all got here, in the spring, in the training camp, and it’s a decision we came to – not a reaction to one particular thing.”
It is rare to see a young starting-caliber player traded for a seventh-round draft pick. NFL fans on social media were surprised by the compensation, but PHNX Sports Cardinals reporter Bo Brack was not as Ossenfort and Gannon continue to put their stamp on the organization.
“This trade was necessary as they cleanse themselves of the Steve Keim-Kliff Kingsbury era,” Brack said.
NFL teams are required to trim their rosters from 90 players to 53 by Tuesday. Simmons was not a part of the front office’s long-term plans, and there will be more difficult decisions to come.
Regarding the type of player the Giants are acquiring, Haller expressed uncertainty: “Strangely, I do not think anyone really knows for sure.”
Brack believes the Giants pulled off a low-risk, high-reward deal, saying, “I think they are getting a guy that wants to prove a lot of the doubters wrong, that he is not a bust.”
Some of those questions will be answered on Sept. 17 when the Giants face the Cardinals in Week 2.