For quite some time now, the Arizona Cardinals decision-makers have been able to supply the squad’s safety position with excellent contributors. Many have been found via the draft, giving the club some homegrown defensive backs that they can be proud of. Throughout the years, even most of the safeties that have left the organization were adequately replaced by Cards management at some point.
The franchise’s greatest player at the spot, Larry Wilson, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1978. The eight-time Pro Bowler spent his entire 13-year career (1960-72) with the team, back when they resided in St. Louis. Wilson collected 52 interceptions during his time in the NFL, and was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1966.
Another outstanding safety, Adrian Wilson, spent 12 years (2001-12) roaming the Cardinals’ secondary. The North Carolina State University product was voted to five Pro Bowls, and was inducted into the Cards’ Ring of Honor in 2015. Wilson’s impressive career numbers included 89 tackles, 25.5 sacks, 27 interceptions and four defensive touchdowns.
Tim McDonald starred at safety for the squad for six campaigns (1987-92), back when they were known as the Phoenix Cardinals. The former USC Trojan made three trips to the Pro Bowl (six total) while playing for the organization, and was a First-team All-Pro in 1989. McDonald racked up an incredible 1,263 tackles as a pro, and picked off 40 passes as well.
Antrel Rolle, selected with the eight-overall pick by Arizona in 2005, began his NFL career as a cornerback. After losing his starting job, the former Miami Hurricane was moved to the safety position in 2008. Rolle excelled at his new spot, and went on to accumulate 834 tackles, 26 picks, 69 passes defensed and five defensive touchdowns during his 11 seasons in the league.
Tyrann Mathieu stayed with the Cards for five years before leaving as a free agent in 2018. The “Honey Badger” was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2015, when he recorded 89 tackles, five interceptions and 17 pass breakups in 14 starts. Mathieu has tallied 397 tackles, 13 picks, 49 pass deflections and seven sacks in six professional campaigns.
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Current Cardinals safety Budda Baker is not yet in the class of those mentioned in this article, but he’s certainly on his way. In just 30 games (20 starts), the 23-year old has recorded 136 tackles, eight pass breakups and three sacks. It would not be surprising if Baker continues his stellar play, and becomes a member of the Cards’ elite group of safeties somewhere down the line.