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Cardinals Won't Pick Up Isaiah Simmons Fifth-Year Option

Linebacker now scheduled to hit free agency after 2023 season

Plenty of questions have been asked about former first-round pick Isaiah Simmons since new coach Jonathan Gannon arrived. What position will he play? Will he be used in one spot only? How does he fit with all the other linebackers the Cardinals signed in the offseason?

One question has finally been answered: The Cardinals are declining Simmons' fifth-year option -- one that would have guaranteed him a salary of $12.7 million in 2024 -- and now Simmons will be scheduled to become a free agent after this season.

It does not mean Simmons doesn't have a future in Arizona; they can still extend him as they could any other free agent-to-be. (The Cardinals also have the franchise tag as an option.) Last season the Cardinals picked up Kyler Murray's option but it was moot when he got a new contract before the season even started.

Simmons, the eighth overall pick in 2020, was used multiple places over his first three seasons by former defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. Last season, he took the majority of his snaps as a slot cornerback. Gannon has repeatedly said he needs to see Simmons on the field before knowing where Simmons will best fit the new defense.

Last season was Simmons' best year, with four sacks and two interceptions, 99 tackles and seven pass breakups. But he was also benched after Week One after struggles in coverage before working his way back into the lineup.

Now, like every other player on the roster, Simmons has a new staff to impress, and a new group within which to find his role. How defensive coordinator Nick Rallis deploys him this season will be one of the more fascinating storylines to watch.

Arizona Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons (9) during the 2022 regular season game between the Arizona Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023 in Santa Clara, CA.