Patrick Peterson is expected to miss the first six games of 2019 after violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy, but this isn’t just about the Arizona Cardinals losing their best player to suspension.
It’s another web woven into the fabric of a complex team facing unique circumstances on and off the field following a 3-13 season.
Arizona ushers in first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury, a criticized hire, with rookie quarterback Kyler Murray. The drafting of Murray pushed out former franchise face Josh Rosen after he struggled during his rookie season.
And now this.
Peterson, according to multiple sources of 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s John Gambadoro, was upset that the Cardinals could or would not restructure his contract to save him money, knowing full well the suspension was upcoming. That saga comes just months after Peterson requested a trade before the 2018 deadline, backed off that stance and reaffirmed his commitment to Arizona.
There are ramifications to all this.
Kicking off the Kingsbury era at 100%
No doubt Arizona will be hurt on the field without arguably their best player to begin Kingsbury’s tenure as Cardinals head coach.
Peterson was the Cardinals’ highest-graded player in 2018, according to Pro Football Focus. His overall grade and coverage grades were both second-highest in his career, unsurprising considering he’s 28 years old. Peterson will be 29 by the time he is eligible to return to the field on Oct. 20 for a Week 7 game at the New York Giants.
In 2018, Peterson tallied 54 tackles with five passes defensed and two picks. He’s received a decreasing rate of targets in four consecutive seasons.
Then consider the competition. He’ll miss games against four receivers graded by PFF above 80.0 on their scale: Detroit’s Kenny Golladay, Seattle’s Tyler Lockett, Cincinnati’s A.J. Green and Atlanta’s Julio Jones.
After Peterson backed off his midseason trade demand last year, he said he wanted to follow in Larry Fitzgerald’s footsteps as the face of the franchise.
How much do Cardinals fans want to stand behind Peterson now? He’s an eight-time Pro Bowler since being drafted by Arizona in 2011, but his actions dating back to before the 2018 trade deadline, which have been widely publicized, might be tainting his reputation.
Adding a PED suspension to it doesn’t help, and it’s even more concerning that he was dinged for six games. Standard NFL protocol usually calls for a four-game suspension for first-time offenders, which Peterson is. There is one theory that could suggest why Peterson earned six games instead of four.
“First of all, I do not know the details of Patrick Peterson’s suspension,” said ESPN’s Dan Graziano while joining Bickley & Marotta Thursday. “If you’re a first-time offender, positive test for a masking agent, you get two games. Positive test for a drug, and anabolic agent or stimulant, is four. If you test positive for both of those things, it’s six.
“That’s one potential reason that a suspension could be six for a first-time offender.”
Oh, and also hurting his legacy is this: Peterson has been as consistent on the field as he’s been consistently on the field. He’s not missed one of his 128 regular season games or three playoff appearances.
Peterson will miss his first game Sept. 8 when Arizona hosts the Lions.
Pro Bowl streak ends
Speaking of legacy, Peterson’s Pro Bowl streak will come to an end.
Suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs automatically disqualify players to make the All-Star event.
Peterson made the Pro Bowl in each of his first eight years in the NFL, making him one of seven defensive players in league history to reach such a benchmark. And that list is more than impressive:
Less money in the bank
Peterson reportedly took his financial losses from this matter very seriously — so seriously, in fact, that he took some offense to actions either by the Cardinals or at least someone within the organization.
While we don’t know whether he missed April voluntary mini-camp directly because he was unhappy with Arizona or someone with the organization, he did express displeasure with a series of Instagram posts prior to that, including one where he wrote: “My boys told me to watch out for the snakes in the long grass! #savageSZN.”
Peterson will lose $3,882,352 in wages, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.
Gambadoro added that Peterson believed he could have saved $2 million or more with a restuctured contract, which also added to his dissatisfaction.
Cornerback rotation changes
If there’s any silver lining to this, it’s that there’s a good chance Arizona has planned for Peterson’s absence. That may benefit their second-highest 2019 draft pick.
Rookie Byron Murphy, a local product who was drafted 33rd overall out of Washington, is most likely to take on a bigger role during Peterson’s six-game suspension. He and veteran offseason pickup Robert Alford are the favorites to win the starting cornerback jobs, although veterans David Amerson and Tramaine Brock Jr. could also fight for those.
There is little doubt that Murphy, who Arizona had a top-five grade on heading into the NFL Draft, will at least get regular run in nickel packages.