Iowa offensive lineman Tyler Linderbaum (65) looks to make a block during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Illinois, Nov. 20, 2021, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Pro Football Focus projected the Arizona Cardinals selecting Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum in its first mock draft since Arizona’s season ended on Monday.
Linderbaum is a 6-foot-3, 290-pound lineman who earned the Rimington Trophy in 2021, which recognizes the best center of the season. He was an All-American as a junior this past year and started for three seasons on the Hawkeyes’ line.
Center isn’t a pressing need for the Cardinals this offseason, though. Veteran Rodney Hudson signed an extension with Arizona through the 2023 season after the team acquired him last offseason.
His impact was felt when healthy in 2021, although a ribs injury and a stint on the COVID-19 list held him out of five games.
Hudson will be 33 years old by training camp, though, so the thought process here could be that Linderbaum would provide depth on the interior offensive line and be in position to succeed Hudson down the road.
Linderbaum finished the 2021 season as PFF’s highest-graded interior offensive lineman and the top-ranked interior offensive lineman expected to enter the 2022 NFL Draft. He’ll likely slip in the first round due to positional value, but I doubt he gets past Arizona.
Cardinals starting right guard Max Garcia is a free agent and left guard Justin Pugh only has one year left on his contract. Pugh is a cut candidate, as well, since the Cardinals could save $9.2 million by doing so, according to Spotrac.
Arizona has not spent much draft capital on offensive linemen in recent seasons.
It has not taken a lineman in the first round since left tackle D.J. Humphries in 2015. They highest the franchise has gone was selecting Josh Jones with the 72nd pick in 2020.