TEMPE, Ariz. -- This is it for D.J. Humphries.
This is why the Arizona Cardinals drafted him 24th overall in 2015.
The Cardinals officially parted ways with right tackle Bobby Massie on Wednesday, the start of free agency, despite making a late run to re-sign him to a one-year deal. With Massie signing a three-year deal with the Chicago Bears, the door opened for Humphries to be Arizona’s next right tackle. And after a year waiting in the wings, he should be ready.
It apparently was all part of the Cardinals’ master plan.
At the NFL scouting combine two weeks ago, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said the idea of drafting Humphries was to sit him for a year and let him develop. They had the luxury of being able to do that because Massie was under contract through 2015, and Humphries was the tackle of the future.
“We drafted D.J. last year No. 1 knowing we were going to redshirt him because we had so much to teach him,” Arians said. “If we threw him out there, he was going to fail. Once they fail, it’s hard to get those scars off, so he didn’t dress for a game purposely just to get better and better, and going against guys like (OLB) Dwight (Freeney) and (DT) Calais (Campbell) in practice, he got better every week.
“I think next year he’ll be ready to play.”
Well, the future is now the present.
Humphries showed progress last season, but it got to a point in the season where Arians felt it was better to let him sit and watch, than play in chunks.
“Oh, he got drastically better,” Arians said after the season. “The last half of the season, I’d have had no problems playing him. I wouldn’t tell him that, but I had a ton of confidence in him.”
Now all Humphries has to do is keep Arians’ faith.
The biggest question surrounding Humphries is how much he’s matured from last season. His maturity as a 21-year-old often was questioned by Arians during spring practices and training camp. At one point, Arians nicknamed him “knee deep” because, he joked, a foot in his backside wasn’t enough to motivate Humphries.
The physical part of being a right tackle won’t be an issue for Humphries. The hurdle he’ll have to overcome will be between the ears. He’ll need to grasp the Cardinals’ playbook, which for a tackle -- especially for an on-field rookie -- who at times has to block without any help from a running back or tight end can be difficult. And he’ll also have to prove he’s capable of being an everyday professional.
That’s why he was drafted -- to be in this position. And it’s his time.
“D.J. is a guy we looked at as a long-term solution, not a short-term fix,” general manager Steve Keim said. “I think sometimes in the draft you have to look at it that way.”