With Friday the deadline for teams to pick up the fifth-year contract option on first-rounders drafted in 2016 — for the 2020 season — it was not a surprise to see the report that the Cardinals will not exercise the option for defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche.
Nkemdiche is coming off an ACL tear in December for which he is currently rehabbing. There is also no argument that Nkemdiche's initial three years in the league have been far short of expectations. Nkemdiche did have his best season in 2018 before his injury, starting for the first time in his career (six of the 12 games), notching 4½ sacks and having an eye-popping, dominant performance in Los Angeles during what for the Cardinals was an otherwise difficult blowout loss to the Chargers. The Nkemdiche that day is the one the Cardinals hoped they were drafting. He just hasn't been seen very often.
Had the Cardinals picked up the option, Nkemdiche would've been due a salary a little less than $8 million. No option does not mean Nkemdiche can't return. It just means he'll be scheduled to hit the free-agent market, and we will see how much interest he could draw. In the meantime, Nkemdiche has to work to get back into the mix. The defensive line could use him -- right now, the starters figure to be Darius Philon, Corey Peters and Rodney Gunter, with third-round pick Zach Allen and then a battle for roster spots as Nkemdiche comes back.