Isaiah Adams

Evan Brown Favorite For Cardinals’ LG Job; Latest On Paris Johnson Jr.’s Position Change

Although the Cardinals swapped out D.J. Humphries‘ veteran contract for new right tackle Jonah Williams‘, the team is keeping costs low along its offensive front. Only one player — Williams — is tied to a deal worth more than $7.5MM per year.

Paris Johnson Jr.‘s first-round salary checks in behind Williams’ $15MM-per-year pact at this Cardinals position group. Among Arizona’s interior O-line, backup-level salaries are present. One of those is allocated to Evan Brown, who signed a one-year, $2.35MM contract with the team in March. Brown spent last season as the Seahawks’ starting center, but he will shift positions once again.

The Cardinals have installed Brown at guard, and the Arizona Republic’s Bob McManaman notes the veteran is in the lead to win the team’s left guard post. While a host of competitors are vying with Brown for the only undecided spot along Arizona’s offensive front, Brown came to the desert after three seasons as an O-line regular.

The Seahawks used Brown as a 16-game center starter last season. That came after Brown worked as a fill-in starter in back-to-back seasons in Detroit. The Lions plugged Brown in as a Frank Ragnow injury replacement in 2021; that season brought 12 starts for the former UDFA. He operated as Halapoulivaati Vaitai‘s RG fill-in during the 2022 season. All 40 of Brown’s career starts came over the past three seasons, as he bounced around between four teams from 2018-20.

Brown, 27, played for similar terms in Seattle (one year, $2.25MM) to plug a hole created by Austin Blythe‘s retirement. Pro Football Focus graded Brown as a bottom-tier center in 2023, slotting him 27th last season. The advanced metrics site viewed Brown’s pass protection as an issue in 2022 as well, though it graded the former UDFA as much better in that department as a center in 2021. As the Cardinals continue to rebuild, Brown will attempt to hold off some competitors — including last season’s Week 1 starter at the position — on an inexpensive front featuring another journeyman starter.

Hjalte Froholdt, a 2019 fourth-rounder who played for three teams from 2019-21, is entrenched as the team’s center. Will Hernandez is locked in as the team’s right guard, McManaman adds. Brown will battle LG incumbent Elijah Wilkinson (nine starts last season), Trystan Castillo-Colon, Carter O’Donnell and third-rounder Isaiah Adams in the primary competition for the job. Adams’ presence figures to be important here, though the Cardinals appear to be planning to ease the Day 2 draftee into the mix slowly. Brown is a stopgap guard option, and Jonathan Gannon said he is also seeing time at center — perhaps in preparation for a swing role if Adams becomes the LG starter.

Johnson and Williams, of course, are locked in as starters as well. Johnson is making the switch from full-time right tackle as a rookie to the left side. This aligns with D.J. Humphries‘ trajectory, as the former first-rounder moved from RT to LT after one season as a starter. Johnson is now replacing Humphries, and McManaman adds the 2023 No. 6 overall pick began preparing for the position switch before officially receiving word it was a go. Noting he and Humphries still communicate regularly, Johnson — an All-American left tackle at Ohio State in 2022 — said the Cardinals informed him a switch could happen depending on how free agency unfolded.

I got a text one day and it said, ‘Hey, can you play left?’” Johnson said. “I’ve been training both. I asked after the season and they were like, ‘Honestly, we’ll talk to you at some point in the season,’ and I got a text, and it was like, ‘Depending on what happens in free agency.

I had a whole season at right tackle, so if I get the word I’m staying at right tackle, I’ll just do what I did before. But I thought I might as well train at left tackle now as if I’m going to be left tackle. I’d rather do that than train all at right tackle and get the call, ‘Hey you’re at left tackle now.’ … I was just preparing in advance.”

Humphries, the Cardinals’ LT starter for seven seasons, remains a free agent. Johnson is under contract through the 2026 season. Kelvin Beachum remains in place as a swingman behind Johnson and Williams, who is staying at the position he played — following a trade request based on a left tackle role — in his Bengals contract year.

Cardinals Move Paris Johnson Jr. To LT

Seven years ago, the Cardinals flipped their starting tackles by moving Jared Veldheer to the right side and first-round pick D.J. Humphries to the left edge in their then-Carson Palmer-centered offense. Chosen in the first round eight years after Humphries, Paris Johnson Jr. will be at the center of a Cardinals position revamp up front.

Arizona used Johnson as its right tackle in 2023, but the former No. 6 overall pick is ticketed for the blindside post this season. Jonathan Gannon confirmed the Ohio State product will play on the left side during the offseason program, as a development effort — one that will see free agency addition Jonah Williams continue at right tackle — ensues ahead of Johnson’s second season. Johnson has been working at his new spot since the Cardinals began on-field work this offseason.

Paris obviously playing both, Jonah playing both, but we’ll start there and see how it goes,” Gannon said, via’s Darren Urban. “That’s what they both feel comfortable with right now.”

While noting he holds veto power regarding this effort, Gannon is pointing to another Cardinals tackle switch-up. The above-referenced change occurred after Humphries played right tackle in his de facto rookie year (the 2015 first-rounder missed all of his actual first season). Humphries remained in that post through last season. The Cardinals said they would be open to re-signing Humphries — a March cap casualty — but their recent Johnson-focused announcement makes a reunion highly unlikely.

At this time last year, the prospect of Johnson beginning at guard was in play. The Cardinals employed Humphries and Josh Jones and had just re-signed Kelvin Beachum. But the team slotted its top draftee on the right side. Johnson started all 17 games at RT as a rookie. A move to the left side always seemed in play, with Johnson finishing his college career there and earning first-team All-American acclaim. Johnson played right guard for the Buckeyes in 2022.

This move is perhaps more interesting for Williams, who made a trade request — a Bengals regularity over the past two springs — after the team kicked him to the right side. Cincinnati’s Orlando Brown Jr. signing “blindsided” Williams, though the three-year Bengals LT retracted his trade ask and went to work on the right side. Williams started opposite Brown throughout last season and signed a two-year, $30MM Cardinals deal.

Williams agreeing to terms with a team to play right tackle is notable given the events in his final Bengals offseason. It would also seem easier for the Cardinals to keep Johnson on the right side and install Williams at the position with which he is most comfortable. But Johnson certainly brings higher upside; the team will begin an earnest developmental effort for him to take over as Kyler Murray‘s blindside protector. Pro Football Focus ranked Johnson and Williams 57th and 59th among tackles last season.

Beachum, 35 next month, remains on Arizona’s roster as a swing tackle. The team returns right guard Will Hernandez and center Hjalte Froholdt. Williams’ deal contains $19MM fully guaranteed, covering part of his 2025 salary. The team added Evan Brown in free agency, still rosters Elijah Wilkinson and used a third-round pick on Isaiah Adams. Brown, Wilkinson and Adams are set to compete for the left guard gig, Urban adds. Gannon confirmed the Brown signing will not move the Cardinals to try Froholdt at guard.

Cardinals Sign Round 2 CB Max Melton

The current CBA has largely removed holdout-driven drama from the NFL offseason, but the wiggle room regarding second-round picks does add some intrigue to the rookie signing process. The Cardinals’ Tuesday signing will help influence this year’s guarantee structures.

Arizona agreed to terms with its second-round pick — Rutgers cornerback Max Melton — Tuesday, according to KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson, who adds the deal includes three fully guaranteed years and part of the DB’s 2027 salary being locked in at signing. The Cardinals are guaranteeing $50K of the No. 43 overall pick’s 2027 salary.

This follows the Rams’ Braden Fiske deal, which Wilson reported guarantees 15% of the Florida State defensive lineman’s 2027 base salary. Fiske went No. 39. The Rams and Cardinals’ deals show more progress being made by second-rounders. Last year’s class did not see its No. 39 overall pick (Jonathan Mingo) secure any Year 4 guarantees. The Cards giving Melton three fully guaranteed years and some 2027 guarantees will mandate this year’s Nos. 40-42 picks (cornerbacks Cooper DeJean, Kool-Aid McKinstry and Kamari Lassiter) receive some contract-year security.

Last year’s guarantee arc did not require the Jets to guarantee all of No. 43 overall pick Joe Tippmann‘s Year 3 salary, and No. 42 overall choice Luke Musgrave also did not receive three full years guaranteed. The Cardinals’ Melton agreement will continue to move the baseline for second-round guarantees, and the former Big Ten corner will get to work in attempting to carve out a significant role as a rookie in Arizona.

Checking in 50th on Daniel Jeremiah’s big board, Melton is viewed as a player who could be a fit outside or in the slot. He intercepted eight passes over the past three seasons at Rutgers, returning one for a score. Melton also notched 10 passes defensed as a junior in 2022. The 5-foot-11 cover man added to his draft profile by running a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at the Combine.

Arizona has been in need at corner for years, with Byron Murphy‘s 2023 exit for Minnesota amplifying the issue. The team’s group at the position will look different in 2024, as three CBs — Melton, third-rounder Elijah Jones and seventh-rounder Jaden Davis — join free agency addition Sean Murphy-Bunting as new faces here. The Cardinals did improve in pass defense last season, ranking 13th in Jonathan Gannon‘s debut; they will aim to make more gains with their new pieces this year.

The Cardinals also agreed to terms with third-rounder Isaiah Adams, a guard out of Illinois. Adams was part of a four-third-rounder haul for Arizona this year.