Isaiah Simmons' well-publicized position change didn't last through the end of the preseason in Arizona.
The Cardinals traded the former first-round selection to the New York Giants in exchange for a 2024 seventh-round draft pick, the team announced on Thursday.
"Isaiah did everything we asked of him," Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon told reporters on Thursday. "Moving forward this is the best way we want to play football against other people."
Simmons' tale in Arizona revolved around a lack of fit. The 2019 ACC Defensive Player of the Year entered the NFL as an obvious tweener at linebacker, but his rare blend of size, speed and athleticism made most personnel executives salivate over the thought of what Simmons could become.
Former Cardinals general manager Steve Keim ended up being the executive willing to take the risk on Simmons' untapped potential when he selected Simmons No. 8 overall in 2020. Keim didn't last long enough to admit failure, but his replacement, GM Monti Ossenfort, quickly acknowledged the Cardinals' past blunder without so much as saying a word.
The compensation -- the 2024 seventh-rounder -- did the job for him.
Arizona began its new era under Ossenfort and Gannon this offseason with an open mind, allowing Simmons to push for a switch to safety, the same position he'd occupied when he began his collegiate career at Clemson. Instead of unlocking Simmons' potential with the change, it ended with him packing his bags to New York after two preseason games.
Arizona has a bit of a history of this type of frustrating misuse of talented players. Haason Reddick was forced to play inside linebacker early in his career with the Cardinals before finally returning to the proper place -- edge rusher -- in his final season in the desert in 2020. In that last campaign, Reddick broke through for 12.5 sacks. He's posted double-digit sacks in each of the two seasons that have followed for the Panthers and Eagles, respectively.
Cardinals linebacker Zaven Collins (selected No. 16 overall in 2021) is now the latest switch, moving from linebacker to edge rusher under Gannon. Time will tell us if that was the right decision.
Simmons, however, is out of time in Arizona, and it might be for the best. The Giants have the personnel on their roster to fill out a defense, and don't need to rely on Simmons to do too much. He can occupy a specialist role in coordinator Wink Martindale's notoriously aggressive defense and pressure quarterbacks in a manner that will keep NFC East offensive coordinators (and beyond) up at night.
You can't teach speed. If the Giants don't try to fit Simmons into a prefabricated box, they just might be able to unlock his potential as a defensive weapon.
Simmons seemed to welcome the change on Thursday, posting on social media, "Gods plan🙏🏾 let's get to work!!"
Head coach Brian Daboll definitely didn't try to assign Simmons a position in the minutes after the trade became public Thursday, telling reporters Simmons has "multiple role potential" with the Giants, per the New York Daily News.
Want to follow these storylines and more? NFL+ gives you the freedom to watch live out-of-market preseason games, daily coverage on NFL Network, the best NFL programming on-demand and much more! Plus, NFL RedZone is now part of NFL+ Premium!Learn moreabout NFL+.