The Cardinals placed defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche on injured reserve earlier this week, but declined to give details on the nature of his injury. Today, Arizona head coach Steve Wilks announced that Nkemdiche actually suffered a torn ACL against the Lions (Twitter link via Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com).
The revelation of Nkemdiche’s ACL tear has numerous implications, beginning with his availability for the 2019 campaign. ACL recovery times can vary in length, with most players taking anywhere from six-to-twelve months to regain full health. Clearly, that timeline creates a wide range of outcomes for Nkemdiche’s 2019 season. If he can heal quickly, the former first-round pick could be ready for training camp. If not, Nkemdiche could potentially miss most or all of next year.
New of Nkemdiche’s knee injury will likely also affect his future earnings. The Cardinals hold a 2020 fifth-year option on Nkemdiche, and they’ll have to make decision on that option by May 2019. It’s guaranteed for injury only, and given Nkemdiche’s ACL tear, it seems highly unlikely that Arizona will exercise the option. Were Nkemdiche unable to pass a physical in 2020, the Cardinals would be on the hook for his salary (which will be in excess of $7MM) regardless of whether he can play or not.
Whether Arizona would have any interest in exercising Nkemdiche’s option even if he were at full health is an open question. After being selected 29th overall in 2016, Nkemdiche hasn’t done much in the NFL. Health questions have kept him off the field for much of his career, and he’s only played in 27 total games over three years. This season, Pro Football Focus graded Nkemdiche as just the No. 102 interior defender among 118 qualifiers.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.