Arizona signed veteran corner Mike Jenkins on Tuesday and is expected to host former Washington and San Francisco cornerback Chris Culliver on a visit next week. The news was first reported by ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and confirmed by Cardinals general manager Steve Keim on Tuesday night after he threw out the first pitch at the Arizona Diamondbacks game.
“Obviously, Justin is the current starter, but it’s always going to be an open competition,” Keim said, according to arizonasports.com. “Knowing Bruce Arians and his staff, we’ll play the best 11 out there, so whoever gives us a chance to succeed. But we have expectations for Justin. He’s got great athleticism and movement skills.
“He’s got to continue to hone his skills, more so with the eyes, the vision, the instinctual things that come with the game. And really, more than anything, he just needs to play football. So I think the more Justin plays, probably the better he’ll get.”
Bethel, who averaged about 23 defensive snaps per game through Week 14, was thrust into an every-down role at cornerback in Week 15 after safety Tyrann Mathieu suffered a season-ending knee injury and Jerraud Powers moved from outside corner to slot corner. A foot injury that required surgery forced Bethel to miss all of OTAs and minicamp, limiting him to classroom work.
Even though the Cardinals drafted two cornerbacks this year, Brandon Williams and Harlan Miller, and had 10 corners on the roster before signing Jenkins, they felt the need to add more. In Jenkins, the Cardinals will get another big body -- he’s 5-foot-10 and 197 pounds -- that fits into their scheme.
“He’s had some up-and-down years in the NFL, but for what we do schematically, having a bigger press corner, [he] certainly creates more competition at that position,” Keim said. “That’s really been our goal is to continue to stay aggressive, build our roster and stay aggressive regardless whether our guy is a starter or backup. Try to build as much depth as possible, so if you have any type of issues moving forward, you have enough players being able to contribute.”
In Culliver, the Cardinals would get an even taller (6-0) and bigger (199 pounds) corner than Jenkins, but he comes with medical concerns. He tore his ACL and MCL during a Thanksgiving practice last season, according to multiple reports, and missed the 2013 season with a torn ACL. Culliver, who was drafted in the third round by San Francisco in 2011, was suspended one game last season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
“He’ll come in and take a visit with us,” Keim said. “Another guy who’s a longer, athletic press corner. We’ll see. He’s coming off an ACL. There’s obviously the medical side of it that you have to look into.
“He’s a guy that’s also had some success in the NFL. We’ll see where it goes next week.”