Cardinals center A.Q. Shipley (front) has done a nice job protecting quarterback Carson Palmer this season.
A.Q. Shipley's career has been one constant shuffle-- from practice squad to the active roster, from backup to starter, from guard to center.
The Cardinals have dealt with a similar situation this season, constantly juggling pieces on the offensive line because of injuries and ineffectiveness. But for the first time in his career, Shipley has been the constant.
The 30-year-old has held down the starting job all year, playing solidly at center for 15 games despite the chaos around him. The Cardinals selected Evan Boehm in the fourth round of this year's draft to compete for the starting center job, but Shipley was much better in the offseason and coach Bruce Arians has been "extremely" pleased with his play throughout 2016.
Boehm saw his first offensive line action of the season at right guard in Sunday's 34-31 win over the Seahawks, but again it was Shipley manning the middle.
"He does exactly what I thought he'd do," Arians said. "He leads the offensive line and brings a matter of toughness and smartness to our offense."
Shipley has been an NFL journeyman because he lacks ideal measurables for a center, but he's been a stabilizing force as big name linemates Jared Veldheer, Evan Mathis and D.J. Humphries have missed time with injuries.
Shipley has been graded as the 13th-best center in the NFL this season by Pro Football Focus and believes he's proven that his short arms and lack of ideal height don't prohibit his ability to succeed.
"That's always been my (perceived weakness)," Shipley said. "I've never really looked at it. I think the media and the scouts have made a bigger deal about it than I've ever done, but my job this year was to go out there, do my job and prove it doesn't really affect me. Almost every (defensive line) guy that made the Pro Bowl we've played against, so I think athletically I was able to do that."
Most believe Boehm is still the future at the position, but Arians has always said draft status means nothing to him once the players arrive. Shipley is an unrestricted free agent after the season but Arians said he would love to re-sign him and have the pair compete for the starting job again.
Shipley, who has made previous stops with the Steelers, Eagles, Colts and Ravens, would like to return.
"I'd love to be here," he said. "I have a great rapport with Carson (Palmer) and Drew (Stanton) and a lot of the guys in here. I think the guys like playing with me. I've got a great rapport with coach (Harold) Goodwin and B.A. Obviously I'd love to be back, but that's above my pay grade."
Palmer partnered with center Lyle Sendlein for their first three years together in Arizona, and there were questions about how quickly his chemistry with Shipley would develop this season. While there have been other offensive line problems, the Shipley-Palmer pairing has not been an issue.
"He's just so versatile, so smart, extremely tough," Palmer said. "I won't call him short, but he gets great leverage on guys. He's had a phenomenal year. It's been huge that, especially playing that position, he's been there every week."
When the Cardinals entered the season, Shipley was one of the biggest question marks on the line, but he's answered those doubts. That was vital for a player entering free agency at an age when many have a tough time finding jobs.
After a career of moving, Shipley hopes he has found a home.
"It definitely eases the mind a little bit, to be able to play a full season on your free agency year," Shipley said. "Like I said, I'm hoping I hear something from them."