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Markus Golden Would Be Thankful For Permanent Stay With Cardinals

Linebacker scheduled for free agency for third straight offseason

Linebacker Markus Golden (44) is hoping to remain with the Cardinals in 2021.
Linebacker Markus Golden (44) is hoping to remain with the Cardinals in 2021.

The initial question had already been asked in his final press conference, the day after the Cardinals had been eliminated from the playoffs, but Markus Golden verbally hit pause.

He had something to say first.

"Let me take the time to really say thank you," the linebacker said. "Thank you to the Arizona Cardinals for bringing me back here. It was a rough year for me in the beginning of the year, so to be able to come back and play for the Arizona Cardinals, it was a blessing. I just wanted to thank everybody. Everybody that's involved in the organization, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to come back and be a Cardinal. I'll never forget this and I really appreciate it."

That Golden would be emotional was not a surprise. The veteran doesn't just wear his heart on his sleeve – it comprises his whole wardrobe. The Cards' 2015 second-round pick didn't want to leave as a free agent after the 2018 season, and he was ecstatic the team traded for him midseason this year after a season-and-a-half in New York with the Giants.

But emotions are mostly pushed aside now, in the offseason, when contracts must be dealt with and rosters built. Golden, who heads into unrestricted free agency, finds himself on the business end of the game once again.

Would the Cardinals like to collect pass rushers, to get Chandler Jones back from injury and still retain Golden, and fellow UFA Haason Reddick (12½ sacks) and restricted free agent Dennis Gardeck (seven sacks)? That would be ideal. Jones figures to bounce back, Reddick and Gardeck seemed to find their way in the NFL, and Golden is the kind of energy/team-first guy that a team craves on the field and in the locker room.

But even in a normal offseason, such a foursome would be difficult to hang on to, and with the salary cap declining approximately $20 million, this will not be a normal offseason.

Reddick figures to be a top priority for the Cards, and it may come down to an either/or proposition between he and Golden. Gardeck, not only restricted but coming off ACL surgery, figures to return.

Golden had three sacks in the nine games he played for the Cardinals, with a forced fumble, an interception and two passes defensed. He played in 70 percent of the defensive snaps upon arrival.

Unless he gets an extension prior to March 17 – the opening of free agency – it'll be the third straight offseason Golden will have reached the open market. He didn't get the offers he thought he might after his 2018 in Arizona, and the Cardinals ultimately gave his replacement (Terrell Suggs) more money that Golden received on a one-year deal with the Giants.

The market never developed again last offseason, even after Golden had 10 sacks in 2019, leading him back to a tender offer in New York. But he was used less and less, until he was finally dealt back to the Cardinals – who needed him badly after Jones' injury.

Golden embraced the move, coming back to where he began. Now he'll see if he gets to stay.

"I love this game, I love playing football," Golden said. "I wouldn't be where I am at, I wouldn't have been able to go to college, get a college degree. But it's a special thing being able to play for Arizona. It gave me another shock of energy just being back home. Being here where I know my heart is, it really matters to me to be in Arizona on the Cardinals."