After center Rodney Hudson contemplated retirement during the last offseason and spent much of the past season on injured reserve, the Cardinals expect him to finally hang up his cleats this offseason, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. The 12-year veteran is set to turn 34 before the season begins, and as injuries continue to interfere with play, Hudson may be ready to put a bow on an impressive career.
A Chiefs’ second-round pick out of Florida State in 2011, Hudson played in every game for Kansas City as a rookie, earning one start. He earned the starting center job in his sophomore season, but a broken leg ended his season after only three games. After earning that starting job, though, Hudson was forevermore considered a surefire starter at the position.
In the final year of his rookie contract with the Chiefs, Hudson had the best year of his career, starting all 16 games for the first time and grading out as the fifth-best center in the league, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). The Raiders rewarded the strong contract year with a five-year, $44.5MM contract in 2015. Hudson would reward Oakland in return with some of the best years of his career, including his first two Pro Bowl bids. The Raiders avoided allowing Hudson to play out the final year of his new contract, signing him to a three-year, $33.75MM extension that made him the highest paid center in the NFL in 2019. Hudson once again rewarded them with a Pro Bowl season and a second-team All-Pro selection.
As he was headed towards another contract year, and a sizeable cap hit, Las Vegas opted to trade Hudson, along with a seventh-round pick, to the Cardinals in exchange for a third-round pick, used to draft defensive end Malcolm Koonce. Hudson started 12 games for the Cardinals during his debut season in Arizona, finding the IR for a few games due to rib and shoulder injuries. After considering retirement, Hudson returned for a second year with the Cardinals. Unfortunately, Hudson was placed on IR after dealing with knee trouble throughout training camp and the first four games of the season. He would miss the last 13 games of the season due to the injury issues.
Those four games now appear to be his last in the NFL as the Cardinals expect him to retire. For Arizona, this puts them squarely in the market for a new center. Billy Price, who started in place of Hudson, is set for free agency. Even if he weren’t, Price graded out as the second-worst center in the league this season, according to PFF. Guard Sean Harlow also has experience at center but is also set to hit free agency.
If All-Pro Eagles center Jason Kelce doesn’t join Hudson in retirement, he’ll be the top option in free agency this spring. Otherwise, Jets center Connor McGovern had a strong contract year and Jon Feliciano should be available, as well, after switching from guard to center for the Giants last year. If Arizona chooses to go the draft route, North Dakota State’s Cody Mauch, TCU’s Steve Avila, and Minnesota’s John Michael Schmitz are considered the top prospects at the position, according to Dane Brugler of The Athletic.
If this is the end of Hudson’s career, it’s one he can be proud of. With three Pro Bowls and an All-Pro selection, as well as some of the most prolific contracts for a center in NFL history, Hudson has plenty to hang his hat on after 12 years of play.