Jerraud Powers finds role in nickel

TEMPE, Ariz. -- When there are three players vying for two spots, there's always an odd man out.

When Arizona signed cornerback Antonio Cromartie on Thursday, Jerraud Powers found himself on the outside looking in. But he'll land on his feet with the Cardinals, Arizona general manager Steve Keim said.

Powers will be Arizona's primary nickel back until second-year safety Tyrann Mathieu returns from ACL and LCL surgery.

“The good thing about (Powers) is that he's really versatile,” Keim said. “Not only can he play outside, he can play inside.”

Of the three, Powers has the most experience at nickel and it's likely Cromartie wouldn't have come had Arizona made him play in the slot.

Keeping Powers and his $3.75 million salary and $4.75 million cap hit gives Arizona some lineup flexibility when it comes to Mathieu's health, Keim said.

“If (Mathieu is) not back early, we have a guy who can be a standout nickel because in today's NFL, we know that nickel corners are generally playing anywhere from 60 to 70 percent of the time,” Keim said.

When Mathieu returns, Powers' role will be altered because Cardinals coach Bruce Arians likes using Mathieu as a free safety and nickel back so the defense doesn't have to substitute.