Deone Bucannon went from a key piece his first four years with the Cardinals to an afterthought in 2018.
The former first-round pick never found his footing in coach Steve Wilks' 4-3 defense, shuffling in and out of the lineup. With that as the backdrop, many thought the impending free agent linebacker would take the first bus out of town after the season.
A recent turn of events, however, makes Bucannon's return more realistic. Wilks was fired after the season and General Manager Steve Keim made it clear this week he wants the defense to revert to the attacking 3-4 style in which Bucannon starred. The Cardinals hired former Broncos coach Vance Joseph as their defensive coordinator on Friday to put that in motion.
Despite a tumultuous 2018, Bucannon still speaks highly of the organization. He joined "Burns & Gambo" on 98. 7 Arizona's Sports Station on Thursday and said he'd be open to re-signing.
"What happened with my situation was unfortunate, but it's water under the bridge," Bucannon said. "I don't carry any bad blood. Mr. (Michael) Bidwill and Mr. Keim, they've given me a blessing with this opportunity (by drafting Bucannon). I don't take it for granted. I don't take it lightly. Within the past six months, there were some tough times, but at the same time, that's what builds your character. It definitely wouldn't shy me away from staying in Arizona."
Bucannon is scheduled to be a free agent in March and is only 26 years old, so other teams could be interested in his services. Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher and Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles both utilized Bucannon well in past seasons.
Bucannon said he's looking for the right fit in free agency.
"I want to play for a team that sees me for my value, understands what I can do on the field, understands what kind of player I am," Bucannon said.
A couple weeks ago, the Cardinals didn't seem to be that team, but a return to the 3-4 figures to put them back in the running.
Images of the top tacklers from the season