As the Arizona Cardinals begin their quest to cut the team’s roster size from 90 to 53 by the end of the preseason, we’re taking a look at every player at each position group and determining their odds of making the final cut.
Player: Jaron Brown
Position: Wide receiver
Experience: Fifth NFL season
Contract status: 2017-$1,311,250, 2018-Unrestricted free agent
2016 season quick review: After catching just 44 passes over the first three seasons of his NFL career, Brown emerged at the Cardinals’ training camp last fall as one of the most improved players on the team’s roster. Brown looked like a completely different receiver, making contested catches look routine and breaking through the Cardinals’ secondary on a regular basis. Brown’s performance in August convinced us that he was poised for a breakout season, but through the first few weeks of the regular season, that type of a season wasn’t exactly materializing. Though Brown was on pace to set career-high in catches, yards and touchdowns, he still didn’t showcase the same explosiveness he boasted during training camp. Then, in week six, disaster struck for the Clemson product, as he tore his ACL on Monday Night Football against the New York Jets. Brown’s season ended that night, and now, he’ll look to battle back into contention for a role with the Cardinals in 2017.
Projected roster status: Entering his fifth NFL season, Brown will need to compete for a spot on the Cardinals’ 53-man roster, and it won’t be easy as the team has added Aaron Dobson and Jeremy Ross to the fold, both of whom are capable of challenging for the spot held by Brown last year. If Brown returns to form health-wise, we’re confident he’ll make the team’s opening week roster, but if there are any complications stemming from his surgery, it could be a long road back for Brown.
Projected depth chart status: Brown’s spot on the Cardinals’ depth chart will be dictated entirely by how he performs in training camp. It’s impossible to project how Brown will look post-ACL tear, but assuming he’s back to full health and not limited in training camp, we anticipate Brown –assuming he makes the team– will hold down the fourth or fifth slot on the wide receiver depth chart.
CardinalsSource.com analysis: Brown put together the most impressive training camp of any Cardinals’ player last August, and was rewarded for his efforts with a Cardinals’ Camp MVP award. Brown looked the part of a No. 2 or No. 3 threat capable of becoming a quarterback’s security blanket as a possession receiver, but with the Cardinals’ depth and Brown’s injury, he never received that opportunity. Now, Brown is hoping that opportunity presents itself, but there’s a much longer road to reaching that point this season. Following the emergence of J.J. Nelson, the selection of third round pick Chad Williams, the additions of Dobson and Ross and the transition of Andre Ellington from running back to wide receiver, Brown is going to be at an immediate disadvantage in fall camp if he’s even a half-step slower as a result of his surgery. It’s impossible for us to know right now what kind of shape Brown will be in, but based on his production through four seasons of his career and the small, one-year “prove it” contract the Cardinals extended to him, it’s clear he won’t be one of the team’s primary priorities. Arizona is now in a position where it will simply keep the best five or six receivers it has on the 53-man roster, and if Brown doesn’t prove he’s one of them this fall, the Cardinals will have no qualms about cutting ties.
Overall value: After agreeing to terms on a one-year extension last fall, Brown and the Cardinals know it’s time for him to prove it or move it during training camp. Arizona is attempting to craft as deep of a wide receiver corps as possible, and though Brown is a well rounded athlete with a broad skill set, he doesn’t have any top-tier traits that add immense value to the Cardinals’ roster. Fortunately for both sides, the contract pays Brown under $1.5 million, and if he makes the team this fall, he should be able to live up to the terms of the deal with his production. If Brown doesn’t find himself on the 53-man roster, though, the cap hit won’t be significant for Arizona and it’s one the organization can withstand.