INDIANAPOLIS – With Mike Leach’s retirement in January, the Arizona Cardinals have to find a new long snapper for the first time in eight seasons.
But general manager Steve Keim will leave that up to Arizona special teams coordinator Amos Jones.
“It starts with our special teams coach,” Keim said. “When you get to specialists, whether it’s punters, kickers, long snappers, it’s probably the first positions that scouts will tell you they don’t have a great feel for. You rely on special teams coaches.”
Jones will likely look at two in-house options before expanding his search to free agents, rookies or potential, but unlikely, trades. Both defensive tackle Josh Mauro and backup offensive tackle Bradley Sowell have worked at long snapper the past two seasons as emergency options in case Leach had been injured.
“We have some guys who can do it,” Keim said. “Yet, at the same time I don’t know that I’m convinced yet that they are [the answer]. But they’re guys that definitely have that possibility.”
There will be eight unrestricted free-agent long snappers, according to ESPN Stats & Information, including Baltimore’s Morgan Cox, Detroit's Don Muhlbach, Green Bay’s Brett Goode, the New York Giants’ Danny Aiken and Oakland’s Thomas Gafford.
Goode is coming off a torn ACL and Aiken a thumb injury.
Whoever will be Leach’s replacement next year will take over for one of the NFL’s longest-tenured players. He played in 216 consecutive games, the second-longest streak among active players. He also played in 235 total games, which was seventh-most among active players.
Keim said Arizona will miss Leach’s dependability and his locker-room persona.
“We put a lot of faith in our special teams coach to find those next guys,” Keim said. “They kind of have a network and a clique of special teams coaches that stick together, and they go to different workouts. We’ll find a guy [who] I think will be a good player.”