A little of this, a little of that

Posted by Darren Urban on March 26, 2010 – 7:21 am

Some Friday morning kibbles and bits …

— There have already been a handful of players showing up for offseason workouts here in Tempe. Mostly it is first- and second-year guys as John Lott’s strength and conditioning program had its “soft” start, but there have also been veterans like Adrian Wilson and Beanie Wells. The “official” start comes Monday, and there should be a good turnout (although I am not expecting Fitz back from India). I guess the 2010 season is upon us.

— A Twitter exchange between safety Kerry Rhodes and potential kicker Jay Feely, who were teammates last year with the Jets. Rhodes (answering a previous comment): “no question and u better be my teammate in AZ!” Replied Feely. “LOL. Thanks bud, we’ll see.” So Feely doesn’t sound close to signing yet. Neil Rackers hasn’t either, so the Cards are still kicker-less.

— A new Cardinals Underground has been posted, as we talk about the offseason thus far. In the next few weeks, we have another podcast planned and some videos previewing the draft (as well as stories by yours truly. The first round is less than a month away — April 22).

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You can’t spell Donovan without N-O

Posted by Darren Urban on March 25, 2010 – 2:45 pm

A couple weeks ago I was at a nearby smoothie/sandwich shop for lunch when, lo and behold, Donovan McNabb walked in for a meal. The place is just down the road from the Cardinals’ facility, and I chuckled to myself at the time there would be people everywhere that would be willing to make that jump: McNabb must be meeting with the Cards and stopped by for lunch.

I thought, though, that the McNabb rumors with the Cards, however ill-conceived, were dead. I thought I had cleared that up a long time ago, even before Kurt Warner retired. Then the Cardinals signed Derek Anderson to back up Matt Leinart, and McNabb-to-the-Cardinals carried even less weight. Of course, Eagles coach Andy Reid decided to tell everyone at the recent owners’ meetings that Philly was listening to offers for their quarterback. And it all started again.

So how about this: General manager Rod Graves just told me in an e-mail the Cardinals have “no interest” in a McNabb trade. No interest. (My guess is, given the dearth of NFL news right now and the huge play the McNabb saga is getting, that quote will be used a time or two across the internet going forward.)

Yes, McNabb lives in Chandler. Yes he wants to play for a contender if he is traded. But it’s not going to be the Cardinals. It never was. Playing connect-the-dots provides fodder for the rumor mill but it makes it no more likely to happen. (For specific examples of why McNabb wouldn’t work, see my above link). Will McNabb be an Eagle in 2010? I have no idea. Will he be a Cardinal? Nope.

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Filling in the roster gaps

Posted by Darren Urban on March 24, 2010 – 1:47 pm

With the owners’ meetings wrapping up today and the pace of free agency slowing down, it may be a good time to look at where the Cardinals’ roster stands — and where there are holes that need to be filled by the time minicamp begins April 30.

This topic crossed my mind after writing yesterday about the signing of wide receiver Darren Mougey, who may or may not pan out but certainly isn’t been seen (at least as of now) as a replacement, whether it’d be Anquan Boldin or even Jerheme Urban. He’s just one of many receivers that will be on the roster this summer. Today, the Cardinals officially have 60 61 players on the roster, leaving 19 spots to be filled by the draft/undrafted rookies (which figures to total between 14 to 16, depending) and then some free-agent spots. There are seven veterans un-signed who could still return: LB Monty Beisel, FB Dan Kreider, QB Brian St. Pierre, S Matt Ware, K Neil Rackers, DT Bryan Robinson and WR Sean Morey (although I think Morey is more likely to end up in Seattle right now).

(On my 60-man count, I am including all the restricted and exclusive rights free agents who have yet to sign their tenders, because they eventually will.)

What spots need shoring up? The Cards need at least one more quarterback, and even if St. Pierre comes back, they need someone young, at least for camp. They need another receiver or two, although I am guessing whether they chase a veteran may depend on what happens in the draft. Remember, at that spot, a fourth receiver would likely need to play special teams and guys like Kevin Curtis or Torry Holt tend not to want to do such things.

The Cards definitely need to look at nose tackle, especially if Robinson doesn’t return. They need inside linebackers even if Beisel comes back (which I expect). They probably could use another young pass rusher at outside linebacker without knowing exactly what Cody Brown/Mark Washington/Stevie Baggs brings to the table. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them get another cornerback — you can never have too many — and a return man is also needed if Steve Breaston is going to be the No. 2 wideout.

Numbers-wise, here is the current 61-man breakdown by position:

  • QB  2
  • RB  4
  • FB  2
  • WR  6
  • OL  11
  • TE  4
  • DL 9
  • OLB  6
  • MLB  4
  • CB  6
  • S  5
  • Specialists  2

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A number of options

Posted by Darren Urban on March 23, 2010 – 4:10 pm

Monday, second-year linebacker Reggie Walker — a one-time undrafted guy, although a player who earned time last season as a rookie — was working out when I asked perhaps the most important question … at least right now, given that on-field work is still weeks away, and given that the Cardinals just signed free-agent linebacker Joey Porter.

“Are you keeping 55?” I asked, as in the jersey number he currently wears and the jersey number Porter has had his whole career. “I hope so,” Walker said, before pausing and acknowledging, “I hope I get something.”

Officially, Porter hasn’t been issued a jersey number. I asked Clark Haggans, a good friend of Porter’s, and he just shook his head and said, “I’m staying out of that one.” My guess is that, eventually, Porter and Walker will come to a meeting of the minds and Porter will end up with 55, but you never know. Already, Paris Lenon started as 51 and got 53 got 51 from fellow newcomer Stevie Baggs, who is now 57. I’m expecting possible flip-flops in the secondary too, now that Antrel Rolle (21) is gone, newcomer Kerry Rhodes (currently 21) is on the lookout for the 25 he had in New York and last year’s 25, Bryant McFadden, suddenly may have the shot at his Steelers’ number (20) assuming Ralph Brown doesn’t return.

It matters. I mean, I remember Cardinals safety Ifeanyi Ohalete dealing with courtrooms back in 2005 when he sued former teammate Clinton Portis, who got 26 from Ohalete when Portis arrived in Washington and then didn’t pay off the deal after Ohalete was cut from the Redskins. It’s about more than a number. It’s about an identity. Just ask 9-0, er, Darnell Dockett.

That doesn’t mean a guy like Walker won’t have to carve out a different identity, though. Only one guy is going to be able to drive 55 in the Cards’ locker room.

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Signings and a new wideout

Posted by Darren Urban on March 23, 2010 – 10:27 am

Some small moves went down today. Tight end Ben Patrick and fullback Nehemiah Broughton each signed their one-year tender offers — Patrick was a restricted free agent, so he doesn’t have a chance to sign any offer sheets anywhere now — while the Cards also brought back safety Hamza Abdullah. They hadn’t tendered Abdullah, but bringing him back as depth potential isn’t a surprise, especially since Matt Ware remains unsigned.

The Cards also added a receiver to the roster, and he’s a local guy. Darren Mougey went to San Diego State but he prepped at Scottsdale Chaparral High School, which also produced center Lyle Sendlein (oh, and a certain writer too). Sendlein was a senior linebacker calling plays for the Firebirds when Mougey was a sophomore safety. Later, Mougey became Chaparral’s quarterback in leading them to a state title, and went to San Diego State as a QB. But the 6-foot-6 Mougey was eventually moved to wide receiver for his last two seasons, when he totaled 66 catches for 805 yards and seven touchdowns. He was signed by the Falcons as an undrafted rookie last year but cut before the season started.

With Anquan Boldin and Jerheme Urban gone and Sean Morey potentially leaving for Seattle, the Cards suddenly need to think about the position. The only other wideouts behind Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet are practice-squad holdovers Onrea Jones and Ed Gant.

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Now where on free agency

Posted by Darren Urban on March 22, 2010 – 4:58 pm

General manager Rod Graves is in Orlando right now for the owner’s meetings. I’m not sure exactly what happens with the Cards now in free agency — I am trying to get that answer — I wouldn’t be surprised if the plan, at least until the draft, is to chase a few of the Cards’ own un-signed guys like Bryan Robinson and then wait until after the draft to see where else the roster needs talent.

One spot the Cards will keep considering outside in free agency is kicker. Jay Feely is still in play — he finished up his visit Monday — and there remains the option of bringing back Neil Rackers. Safety Matt Ware, despite earlier reports elsewhere in the NFLverse, has not yet re-signed and I don’t get the sense that’s imminent. I still think he eventually returns. Wide receiver/special teamer Sean Morey wants to return, I believe, but he has yet to re-sign and took a visit with the Seahawks.

UPDATE: Well, I was partially on track. I heard back from Graves, who said the Cards will continue to consider free agents. But if the Cards sign players from elsewhere, they would “likely be to replace some of our own UFAs that we do not have agreements with.” That’s the category Feely would fall under, and would come into play, it would seem, if guys like Robinson, Morey, Ware, linebacker Monty Beisel, quarterback Brian St. Pierre or fullback Dan Kreider don’t return.

I think the free agency market will be very interesting post-draft. Veterans who are waiting now for bigger potential deals probably aren’t going to get them, and historically it’s even harder to get a decent deal after the draft because teams have filled up their holes with new talent that can be home-grown. What happens to Mike Gandy or Chike Okeafor, for instance (other than that they won’t be in Arizona)? And will anything change this week, after NFL owners are going to get the low-down of exactly where things stand with the impending labor problems?

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No comp draft picks

Posted by Darren Urban on March 22, 2010 – 3:40 pm

The NFL released the compensatory picks for the 2010 draft today and the Cardinals did not get one. While there had been a lot of talk earlier about possibly getting one after losing defensive end Antonio Smith last offseason, I guess it was offset by signings like cornerback Bryant McFadden, to the point where comp pick guru AdamJT13 had already guessed the Cards were out of the loop (that link, by the way, explains well how the comp pick formula basically works).

The picks announced today, again, were based on last offseason. This month’s free agency transitions will affect the 2011 draft. In short, the Cards could come out ahead — possibly. Players have to be actual free agents (the contracts expiring) and not released, meaning the loss of Antrel Rolle won’t help but the signings of Joey Porter and Derek Anderson won’t hurt either. For now, the Cards’ 2011 comp formula will be Karlos Dansby/Jerheme Urban vs. Paris Lenon/Rex Hadnot.

UPDATE: Here is AdamJT13’s explanation on the Cards’ situation for this draft: “Arizona signed two qualifying players and lost two qualifying players, so the best the Cardinals could hope for was a net value pick, but as I projected, the difference in values was not enough to warrant one. Had the Cardinals not signed Jason Wright, they would have received a third-round pick for Antonio Smith.” I believe the players were McFadden/Wright vs. Smith/Terrelle Smith.

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Porter seeking “trained assassins” with Cards

Posted by Darren Urban on March 22, 2010 – 10:36 am

New linebacker Joey Porter did an interview with Sports 620 KTAR this morning, noting that he never wanted to land anywhere else but Arizona (which seemed obvious) and that his trip to Washington may have expedited the process. As for his penchant for talking, Porter said he thinks coach Ken Whisenhunt was not only aware but comfortable with what Porter brings to the table.

“He knew exactly what he was getting, a guy who gets fired up on game day,” Porter said. “When it is time to rally the troops, I am going to make the main guy all the way to the last guy on the roster, when we come out of that tunnel, they can be whoever they are during the week but on game day, they are going to be trained assassins.”

As has been said before, Porter was a very good fit with the current Cards and where he stands in his career. “Arizona was my No. 1 choice from the beginning,” he said.

There is little question Porter brings with him attitude, which might be one of the reasons defensive tackle Darnell Dockett was so excited to see Porter come aboard. “None of the bullying stuff is going to happen to us,” Porter said. “If any of the bullying stuff happens, it’s going to be us on defense.”

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Porter was the secret

Posted by Darren Urban on March 19, 2010 – 10:48 pm

So Darnell Dockett, apparently, knew about Joey Porter long before anyone else did.

“#birdgang fans, I was trying to tell yall I had a surprise but couldn’t tell ya just yet till I make sure! So there yall have it JOEY PORTER” is what Dockett tweeted tonight, two days after promising big news. I suppose it wasn’t all that much of a leap, since I and many of you were guessing the same thing. Really, Porter coming to Arizona, as I mentioned, was the only thing that made sense, and his deal, at three years and a reported $17.5 million , still was for less than he was originally aiming (and I’d like to see the breakdown from there too — how much is the first year worth? Two years? Is in backloaded?).

Some consider this a poor deal, but truthfully, the Cardinals had some wiggle room to risk such a contract, given all the money they won’t be spending on Kurt Warner and Karlos Dansby this season. And Porter is still a more proven pass rusher than anyone on the roster at linebacker, even if he has lost a step. The fact his signing has clearly energized guys like Dockett and Larry Fitzgerald inside the locker room can’t be discounted either. They have to feel the team is making the effort to stay on top.

Ultimately, I think the pros outweigh the cons with where Porter stands right now and where the Cards are. Coach Ken Whisenhunt knows Porter well enough that he knows the ins and outs of Porter’s bombastic personality. I am guessing he’ll be the last “big” signing, with the Cards now filling out the roster — kicker, quarterback maybe — until they see where they stand after the draft.

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At the end of the week (Porter is a Card)

Posted by Darren Urban on March 19, 2010 – 2:38 pm

The weather is perfect today. A great day to be outside. Alas, I am not. A great day to be in front of the TV watching college basketball. Alas, I am not. So as long as I’m in my own little piece of the NFL world in the cubicle I call home (OK, I call my house my home, so I guess I just call this work) …

UPDATE: I guess I spoke too soon. Joey Porter is a Cardinal with a new three-year contract.

There is no white smoke coming from Joey Porter’s camp (figuratively, of course, not literally) so the free-agent linebacker doesn’t have a home yet. He was finishing up a visit to the Redskins earlier today and I am sure they have talked about what it would take to get Porter to Washington. That said, given Porter’s desire to be in the West, I would think the Cards will hear from him again (unless the Redskins decide to money-whip him, which in this new Shanahan-Bruce Allen era, I would doubt). I’ve said what I thought, that I think he could help the Cards but it wouldn’t crush them if he didn’t come. At this point, I am just hoping he makes a decision soon.

— Darnell Dockett hasn’t followed up with any big news, but I can tell you whatever he was talking about, it wasn’t a contract extension. General manager Rod Graves told me the team at this point is not “engaged in any active discussions” with Dockett on his deal. That really isn’t surprising; with everything going on with free agency and the prelude to the draft, anything that would be done with Dockett — if anything is done right now — would be later on in the offseason anyway. So that brings us back to Dockett’s news. Porter? A promise from coach Ken Whisenhunt that Dockett will be Dan Krieder’s replacement at fullback?

— Strange days over with the 49ers and the whatever-is-going-on with general manager Scot McCloughan. From a Cardinals’ perspective, it doesn’t really matter why or how as much as that the GM is apparently on the outs a month before the draft. Considering the 49ers, right now, are the Cards’ biggest threat when it comes to defending the NFC West crown in 2010, it’s a significant development. McCloughan has seemingly been an important cog in rebuilding that team so to lose him has to hurt, at least in the short-term.

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