Cardinals decline 2020 option on DT Nkemdiche

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals have declined to exercise the fifth-year option for defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, the team announced Thursday.

Nkemdiche, who was the 29th overall pick in 2016, is entering his fourth NFL season.

Once a projected top-10 pick, Nkemdiche, 24, has yet to pan out like many expected him to. He has been riddled with injuries and has often played ineffectively, seeing action in just 27 of 48 games over the past three seasons. He didn't record his first career sack until Week 1 of last season, which ended up being his most productive year, with 4.5 sacks and 32 tackles in former coach Steve Wilks' 4-3 scheme.

Nkemdiche suffered a torn ACL in Week 14, ending his 2018 season. The injury occurred two weeks after a career-best game in which he had 2.5 sacks and seven tackles against the Chargers while showing the type of impact he could have on a game.

At the NFL owners meetings in late March, new Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said he wasn't sure whether Nkemdiche would be back for training camp.

"I don't know yet," Kingsbury said. "I've seen him rehabbing really hard up there. He looks great, feels great. But we're going to be smart. He knows he has to maximize who he is this year and have a great year. I really like where his attitude is at, and [defensive coordinator] Vance [Joseph] is excited about him in our scheme and maximizing what he can be."

Nkemdiche, considered one of the nation's best college defenders while at Ole Miss in 2015, tumbled down draft boards in 2016 after falling 15 feet out of the window of an Atlanta hotel in December 2015. Police found marijuana cigarettes in his hotel room and he was charged with possession.