And it has nothing to do with his sexual orientation.
The Cardinals are stocked, if not overstocked, at outside linebacker, the position Sam will most likely have to transition to if he gets drafted in a 3-4 scheme, which the Cardinals run. At about 6-foot-2, 260 pounds, he’s too short to play off the edge for Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles – especially when Arizona’s starting defensive end is 6-8, 300-pound Calais Campbell.
Sam would be better fit as an OLB, but during their mad dash through free agency last year, the Cardinals made the position a point of emphasis. Already with Sam Acho, Arizona added Lorenzo Alexander, Matt Shaughnessy and John Abraham through free agency and drafted Alex Okafor. During the season, the Cardinals signed Dontay Moch and Marcus Benard, who also contributed this past season.
Sam’s spot on the Cardinals' roster is essentially filled by Acho, who at 6-3, 257, has the most similar body type to Sam. And Acho, most likely, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Arizona was able to fight through a decimated OLB corps last season to still register the top-ranked run defense in the league and the sixth-best defense overall. In Week 3 against New Orleans, the Cardinals lost Acho, Alexander and Okafor in a freak series of injuries within one game. In their place, Abraham became an every-down linebacker and Shaughnessy stepped up and proved worthy of his one-year deal.
Sam came out publicly Sunday night, making him the first openly gay college prospect in the history of the NFL. By now, less than 24 hours after his story was aired on ESPN and printed in The New York Times, it’s well known. He came out to his Missouri teammates back in August and proceeded to have a stellar season.
If the Cardinals pass on Sam, it’s not because he’s gay. It’s because they don’t need him. It’s a football decision.