Haason Reddick was on his way to finishing his time in Arizona as a first-round bust, but then 2020 happened.
Reddick burst onto the scene as a late bloomer, racking up 12.5 sacks in his fourth season with the Cardinals and returning his name to the prominent place where it once resided ahead of the 2017 draft. That landed him a new opportunity with the Carolina Panthers, who added Reddick on a one-year, $6 million prove-it deal.
He's ready to do some proving. Just ask one of his former coaches.
"Carolina got a jewel," Cardinals defensive line coach Brentson Buckner recently told ESPN. "He is hungry. He knew going into free agency people would say we want to see him do it again.
"He was like, 'I'm always gonna bet on myself.' So you're getting a hungry guy who's super-athletic, who's young, who's still finding his way, but he's on the right path."
Reddick had to bet on himself because his track record simply wasn't strong enough to find him another opportunity of relevance prior to his 2020 breakout. A sack total of 12.5 looks great on paper, but it's fair to wonder if it was a fluke -- especially after Reddick feasted on Giants pass protection for five of those sacks in a single game.
The more logical explanation might be that Reddick was simply playing out of position, with the Cardinals trying to jam a square peg into a round hole for three seasons before giving up and putting Reddick in his proper place: the edge.
Now, Reddick is reuniting with a coach he knows well from their days at Temple. While this is true of Panthers head coach Matt Rhule, we're really talking about Carolina defensive coordinator Phil Snow.
"One thing that I know about Snow is he's going to take the pieces that he has, and he's going to try to get them all on the field at the same time and create a bunch of mismatches,'' Reddick said, again via ESPN.
Carolina has the type of defensive versatility to achieve just that, with Brian Burns, Jeremy Chinn and Shaq Thompson returning to serve as flexible playmakers, and Reddick joining the fray. With this base of knowledge in mind, the decision to move to Charlotte became an easy one.
"I had tried inside linebacker, and that's not me," Reddick said. "I wanted to make sure [in free agency] I was used as a pass rusher. That's what I do best. That's where I'm most confident."
He'll have plenty of reason to be confident with his new team. We'll know by January whether he proved enough to the rest of the league.