MVP replacements: Arizona Cardinals

Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.

So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.

The clear-cut MVP this season was linebacker Karlos Dansby, and the possibility of him leaving the Cardinals this offseason is quite good. He is a free agent, and Dansby wants more than the $2.25 million he made in 2013, but at 32, whether he’s worth that to Arizona will determine if he returns.

If Dansby is not back next season, how Arizona fills that inside linebacker position next to Daryl Washington will be telling. The Cardinals drafted inside backer Kevin Minter, in 2013 but with the rejuvenation of Dansby, Minter spent the season watching the defense and playing special teams. After a year learning defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ system, one would expect Minter to be ready. He’s a “thumper” according to coach Bruce Arians, and would be a powerful complement to Washington’s speed.

But it’s not that easy. Minter would have to compete with Jasper Brinkley, who’s under contract for through 2014. Brinkley got the nod at starting inside linebacker when Washington was suspended for four games to start the season. But he’s not the future for Arizona. And if a weird twist of fate occurs this offseason and Arizona chooses not to pay Washington his $10 million roster bonus -- and Dansby doesn’t return -- the Cardinals would be without their starting inside backers. Then Arizona's priorities could shift in free agency and the draft.