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Winding through the free-agent road

Posted by Darren Urban on February 15, 2012 – 11:54 am

Almost a month remains before free agency begins in the NFL. So much can happen by then to change the landscape of who — and who will not — be available. One of the biggest examples is with the Cards. Defensive end Calais Campbell is scheduled to hit the open market, but no one believes he will, knowing the Cards will probably franchise him if they can’t come to a contract agreement, which is why those who have put together lists of the top 50 free agents (more on those in a minute) available don’t bother with Campbell’s name. It’s moot.

This close to free agency, I don’t expect, league-wide, a ton of new deals to get done because there is usually no down side for a player to wait at this point. It’s not like they can get hurt, so why not see what’s out there on the open market (which is why I think tackle Levi Brown, while still a candidate to remain in Arizona, won’t be restructuring with the Cards without first knowing what else is available.) Unless a player is floored with an offer, he looks around.

The Cards, aside from Campbell, don’t have expiring contracts that will likely create bidding wars. In both Pete Prisco’s top 50 FA list and the one done by Pro Football Focus, no Cards are to be found, given the Campbell caveat.

(You can track the Cards’ comings-and-goings in free agency right here, by the way.)

Wondering whether, for instance, an Early Doucet will return makes sense but impossible to judge. Things are fluid and will be fluid until the market speaks. For instance, I’ve long thought the Cards should bring back DE Vonnie Holliday, not just because he played well when he was on the field but his impact on the locker room was incredibly impressive. Well, others notice his worth too, and it will be interesting what that could mean for his future.

That’s the best part of the next month though, it’s the storm before the storm, a few weeks of wondering, waiting and guessing until most of this actually happens.


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Posted in Blog | 45 Comments »


45 Responses to “Winding through the free-agent road”

  1. By DontTakeLoses on Feb 15, 2012 | Reply

    The interview with Vonnie in locker room after last game by Paul Calvisi was so impressive. i was so proud he is a Card, he made clear he loved those guys. My bet he comes back.

  2. By brandon on Feb 15, 2012 | Reply

    Without campbells play, the cardinals would be 6-10 minus the fact Peterson saved us on several occasions. Why isn’t this taken care of ?

  3. By John the Draft Guy on Feb 15, 2012 | Reply

    Interesting article Darren,

    As FA and the draft slowly approaches, there are a million “talking heads” telling us who is going where. For the draft, I think no one is better than Mike Mayock.

    Who are the guys, locally or nationally, that you “trust” or enjoy the most? Is there anyone out there, that, when you hear them say a rumor, you know it is sourced and solid?

    BTW, you do a pretty good job with that insider information too. One just has to read between the lines.. A week before Mcnulty was announced as QB coach, I asked you why the cards aren’t considering him. Your reply was, They may be. A few days later, it was announced. :)

  4. By brad oneill on Feb 15, 2012 | Reply

    if we had wes welker and larry fitzgerald crisscrossing with heap shooting straight up the middle and someone going deep i cant imagine we wouldnt be picking up yards in huge chunks.

    i dont see a lot of o linemen on that list which means if we want some we will have to find them somewhere else. keep duece cards you will need him.

  5. By Marcus on Feb 15, 2012 | Reply

    Do you beleive that we will pick up some linemen for the offense through FA or in the draft?

  6. By Seth on Feb 15, 2012 | Reply

    Darren – I agree that players like Levi will likely test the free agency waters. If what you say is true (and I think it is), why does the front office keep drafting rookie contracts that supposedly “force renegotiation or release” when the player clearly will have no incentive to restructure? It seems to be an annual headache that gives players all of the bargaining advantage (e.g. Larry Fitzgerald) and forces the release of other high or potentially high caliber players (e.g. Antrel Rolle, Levi Brown) without the opportunity to franchise them or receive draft compensation?

  7. By Darren Urban on Feb 15, 2012 | Reply

    John the Draft Guy –

    RE: Trust/Enjoy

    I like Mayock’s work too. I will be honest, I am not — unlike you — big on the draft. I am OK with the actual event, but the lead-up to it doesn’t excite me much. I’ll listen to the stuff and I have to write about it, but considering there are so few of them this team will draft, it’s tough to get riled up.

  8. By Darren Urban on Feb 15, 2012 | Reply

    Marcus –

    RE: OLine

    I could see them doing both.

  9. By Darren Urban on Feb 15, 2012 | Reply

    Seth –

    RE: Contract structure

    I think Levi was the last to get that kind of deal. They realize it doesn’t work. Fitz’s is such only because he made sure it kept being that way, which was smart when he had the leverage.

  10. By MIKE G on Feb 15, 2012 | Reply

    Hey Darren–I think one of the biggest decisions the Card’s have to make is how to address Levi’s contract. I hope he stays but not at the salary he is due.
    I hope they can work something out. I also would welcome Holliday back for spot play and good leadership. I also believe the Card’s want an impact this season from Toler, Ryan Williams and Dan Williams. They were missed during the season. They will be a welcome addition to the team. Hey Darren–off topic–Kurt Warner made waves the other week by stating Eli Manning is not HOF worthy. Many people took exception by his comment expecially in NY. I agree with Kurt –the book is not fully written on Eli and I think he should not even of received the 2 Super Bowl MVP’S!! The Giant defense held NE to 14 and 17 points in each of their wins. The Giants won because of their Defense yet Espn & others seem to only look at the Manning name – it gets tiresome!!! Your Thoughts???

  11. By Darren Urban on Feb 15, 2012 | Reply

    Mike G –

    RE: Manning

    Talking about the Hall of Fame in terms of any player still playing doesn’t make much sense to me. Given that there are five years after retirement before a player can be voted in, there will be plenty of time for that.

    That said, I’d take Eli Manning as my team’s quarterback anytime.

  12. By D on Feb 15, 2012 | Reply

    Free agent names or players that could be cut/released to watch out for if not resigned by current club that could fit in AZ

    I would resign V. Holliday. In addition to R. Marshall and D. Zastudil, maybe Feeley if price is right. (Campbell is a given)

    OLB-A. Brooks, A. Spencer, K. Wimbely
    WR- P. Garcon, R. Meecham, S Johnson
    K-Mike Nugent, Nick Folk
    Backup DT, Marcus Thomas

  13. By Mike Ellingboe on Feb 15, 2012 | Reply

    @Mike G,

    Agree with everything you said, but welcome to the nature of the beast. QB’s are like hockey goalies (vitally important, don’t get me wrong) but both get way too much credit, and blame, for wins and losses. Remember all the hell Eli caught before this season? For that matter, even early in the season when he was raked over the coals for saying he sees himself as an elite QB? Now the group who mocked that statement are the same ones suggesting he’s better than Peyton because he has two rings.

  14. By cards62 on Feb 15, 2012 | Reply

    Darren

    If you would for me put on your GM hat and let me know which 3 free agents would you try to sign that currently play for another team and why?

    Do you think Fitz would restructure his deal to land a Bowe from KC or Vincent Jackson from San Diego or do you think the kid from the Colts Garcon would be a better more affordable fit?

    Keep up the great work with the articles.

    Go Cards and Rod Graves you are on the clock

  15. By tom on Feb 15, 2012 | Reply

    darren,

    do you have any good pics of larry fitzgerald when the cards still had their old school uniforms? if you could link me some good ones that would be great.

  16. By BIG RED on Feb 15, 2012 | Reply

    sign the man, period. (campbell)

  17. By georgiebird on Feb 15, 2012 | Reply

    Darren,
    Eli Manning is a HOFer without a doubt. He’s a great role model and a stand up guy win or lose. But what sets Eli apart from Brady , Rodgers and Brees (all HOFers) is that Eli can handle a pass rush better than anybody. Eli is tough and durable. In stark opposition, you have guys like Joe Flacco and KK who become basket cases in the face of a pass rush.
    I cringe to think that the Cardinals may keep KK.
    And the MGM Grand in Las Vegas has put out it’s early odds to win the next Super Bowl. Only four teams are longer odds than the Cardinals. What an opportunity for the kool-aid drinkers to try and make some money!
    And it’s time to get rid of all the old guys on defense like AW, Lenon, Haggans and Holliday. And for all those who are going to say that AW made the Pro Bowl- to that I say CC and DW didn’t make the Pro Bowl- who would you rather have on the team next year? The Pro Bowl game is a sham and many of the choices are a joke.

  18. By Rugbymuffin on Feb 16, 2012 | Reply

    I still cannot believe this organization has not been able to sign Campbell. Just, blows my mind.

    That being said, I am willing, though it is painful to do so, to give the Cardinals some benefit of the doubt.

    Has any player in the NFL been extended yet ? None, that I can think of.

  19. By Darren Urban on Feb 16, 2012 | Reply

    cards62 –

    RE: Free agents

    Given that so many guys could still re-sign with their old teams, I’m not sure that works at this point. For instance, I think Garcon intrigues me as a No. 2, but will he even be available?

    As for Fitz restructuring, I do think he would be willing to restructure (usually it means getting even more of your money sooner) to help out. Not sure it would be necessary, however. They aren’t going to break the bank on another receiver. I don’t see a guy like Bowe or Jackson — both of whom see themselves as No. 1 guys, which the Cards already have — as a possibility.

  20. By Darren Urban on Feb 16, 2012 | Reply

    Tom –

    RE: Pictures

    I have access to some but I don’t have any links for them.

  21. By Peter in Canada on Feb 16, 2012 | Reply

    Georgiebird – I too like Eli. As you say he is tougher than the over rated Brady and handles the pass rush better. But this is his first HOF worthy season. Prior to this year he was very inconsistent and had too many bad games. There is good reason to believe he can repeat this season and be eventually HOF worthy.

    As for getting rid of the old guys it makes more sense to phase them out rather than just dumping them en masse. That is what will happen to Haggans as Schofield gradually takes over Lenon may be replaced by Bradley and Holliday is only a bit player anyway. I can’t see Wilson going anywhere barring injury.

  22. By Nor cal cards fan on Feb 16, 2012 | Reply

    Will Deuce be a Cardinal in 2012..?

  23. By georgiebird on Feb 16, 2012 | Reply

    @ Peter in Canada
    You are truly one of the more reasonable guys on this site and I enjoy reading your comments.
    I agree that Eli’s stats are not the greatest and he probably will not be at the top of any QB lists even when he retires. But this is the Hall of Fame not the Hall of Stats and Eli is probably the most acclaimed QB in the game right now. He has proven to be a winner. As you and I know, the Cardinals had a QB in the 60s & 70s named Jim Hart. Hart had some nice stats when he retired but not one playoff victory and some very bad games against real good opponents. Conversely, the bigger the game the bigger Eli plays.

  24. By Mike Ellingboe on Feb 16, 2012 | Reply

    @Georgie,

    Still stirring it up. Get rid of Wilson. Why not release Fitzgerald and Dockett while you’re at it?

  25. By John the draft guy on Feb 16, 2012 | Reply

    “D”
    re; free agents
    WRS – Meecham, Garcon would be excellent targets. Stevie Johnson is working out a deal with Buffalo. I would add Mario Manningham to you line up. Manningham is the #3 wr in NY, which makes him someone who would be eager to show the NFL he is a number 2. Problem is, will Kolb/Skelton draw wrs here? I’m just asking.

    OLBs- Brooks had a history of off the field issues that he cleared up in SF. I can’t see him leaving there to be a rotational guy here. Spencer is a bust. Lining opposite Demarcus Ware and your best year is 6 sacks? What he will cost and the ammount of plays he will make as a rotational guy, no thanks.
    Wimberly is refusing to restructure and is due 11 million. What do you think he would cost us?
    I think we will make Acho and Schofield our starters and find a couple of guys to back them up. I wouldn’t be surprised if Haggins is back.

    Marcus Thomas- not needed if we sign Holiday. Williams is back with Campbell and Dockett with Carter, Holiday and Eason backing up.

  26. By Darren Urban on Feb 16, 2012 | Reply

    Nor Cal –

    RE: Deuce

    I think that all depends on the market. Not sure he’ll have a starting spot here.

  27. By John the draft guy on Feb 16, 2012 | Reply

    Just a thought;

    Steve Breaston was a 5th rounder who, after his rookie year, was thought of nothing more than a punt returner. Year 2, (a season where Boldin struggled with injuries-including our run for the superbowl) Breaston stepped up and came from no where.

    No one counted on 7th round pick Marques Colston until he surprised everyone.

    Victor Cruz went undrafted. He showed some flashes in pre season last year. But took off this year and no one saw it coming.

    Whose scouting report is this?

    6’2″ and 208 pounds
    Big, strong frame
    - Blazed a 4.41 at his pro-day
    - Productive
    - Very physical
    - Great redzone threat
    - Outstanding hands
    - Strong hands, rarely gets the ball get into his body
    - Attacks the ball and can pluck it out of the air
    - Abuses CB’s on jump balls
    - Tracks the ball well
    - Good blocker
    - Tough to bring down in the open field, smaller CB’s have a hard time tackling him
    - Has some suddenness to his game
    - Plays even bigger than his size

    Hint; he is on the cards roster… Could Demarco Sampson surprise and be our #2 ???? Remember, he had no camp and was a 7th round pick.

  28. By georgiebird on Feb 16, 2012 | Reply

    @ Mike Ellingboe
    Are you crazy ? What are you talking about cutting Fitz and DD. I was talking about getting rid of AW. AW is the most overrated guy on the team. O yes, he’s a nice guy and capable of a couple of big hits BUT, AW is not a smart football player, he’s prone to stupid penalties and he is a horrible pass defender. Without a doubt, I would get rid of him. And if he’s as good as you think, we may even get a #1 draft choice for him or at least a #2 to make up for that horrific trade.
    So AW made the ProBowl-big deal. CC and DW didn’t make the ProBowl and I regard them as our best defensive players.

  29. By D on Feb 16, 2012 | Reply

    I wouldn’t want to see Schofield start yet opposite of Acho, plus, you have him, Acho and Washington start, that is very young and very un-Whiz like. I would rather see a proven pass rusher opposite of Acho. I think O’brien right now is a rotation player. SF has many UFA in key spots, CB, Saftey, WR and QB that will take priority over Brooks, plus they have the Rookie Smith as a pass rusher that had a great year-Brooks is under the radar type that has proven skills in a 3-4 defense. I would target him to improve the Defense and weaken SF

  30. By Peter in Canada on Feb 16, 2012 | Reply

    John the Draft Guy and D –
    I can’t believe Buffalo want Stevie Johnson back. I had to check the internet to make sure it was true. He has to be if not the most selfish player in the NFL at least in the top 3. Last year Chan Gailey got sick of all the 15 yard penalties for stupid celebrations of which Johnson was the main offender. He said that the next person to celebrate and take a penalty would be suspended. So guess who pressed the envelope and was suspended. There is nothing spontaneous about end zone celebrations. They are all rehearsed. Apart from that he has another nasty habit of dropping passes.

    As far as I am concerned, the best contribution he could make to the Cards would be to sign with SF or Seattle.

  31. By Chuck 1 on Feb 16, 2012 | Reply

    For those fans who believe that the Cards should select the “Best Player Available” (BPA) during the draft, let’s assume for the sake of discussion that the BPA in every round is a Tight End (admittedly impossible, but let’s play the game), should the Cards select a Tight End in every round???

    Or, should they, at some point realize that they have enough TEs and FINALLY take an OLineman???

  32. By Mike Ellingboe on Feb 16, 2012 | Reply

    @Georgie,

    Wilson is one the top players in the game, period. Not sure where you’re coming up with the whole, “AW is not a smart football player, he’s prone to stupid penalties and he is a horrible pass defender.” No sooner does Darren print an article about him being the league leader in defensive plays then you come up with that assessment. Hence the comment about cutting Fitz and Dockett while you’re at it. Why not just purge our roster of all our “older” superstars? Even if your assessment that CC and DW are better at their positions than he is (which I’d say is premature) why would that make him expendable? You’re not suggesting he’s only worthwhile if he’s undisputably the best player on our “D,” are you? Who do you plan on replacing him with?

  33. By Mike Ellingboe on Feb 16, 2012 | Reply

    @Chuck 1,

    Since we’re using unrealistic scenarios, are you recommending that we take our “needs” in order of rounds regardless of who is available? That could work out great, fill up our roster with a bunch of lesser talented players who happened to play the “right” positions for us in college.

  34. By johnnybluenose on Feb 16, 2012 | Reply

    georgiebird. it’s a bit early to annoint aaron rodgers as a hall of famer.

  35. By georgiebird on Feb 16, 2012 | Reply

    @Mike E
    One of the problems with the Cards is that younger players are not pushing older players out of a position.
    The 2011 schedule (thru no fault of the Cards) was a cream puff schedule especially as regards opposing QBs (especially the last 9 games). In one close game against the Rams, they almost beat us with a 3rd string QB.
    Real good QBs have their way with AW; they have worked him over even in his best and healthiest years. Is AW capable of coming up with a big play? Yes, but his bad plays far outweigh his real good plays.
    There is a reason that only 4 teams carry higher odds than the Cards to win the next SB. And that’s in the face of this “miraculous” last 9 games of the 2011 season.
    We all want to see the Cards win, but drinking the kool-aid isn’t going to make it happen. I should know, I drank a lot of the kool-aid in the 1960s & the 1970s.

  36. By Chuck 1 on Feb 16, 2012 | Reply

    Mike E,

    My point is that blindly selecting the “BPA” (incidentally, by what criteria?) doesn’t make sense IMHO when most fans would say that the Cards’ most pressing NEED is on the OL, specifically at LT. Levi is not the answer. The Cards need time for the QBs to find a receiver and to provide Beanie and Williams running room.

    I would say fill that need first and then look for the BPA.

  37. By Darren Urban on Feb 17, 2012 | Reply

    Chuck 1, Mike, everyone –

    RE: BPA vs need

    Let’s all make one thing clear: The pick is always about both BPA and need. It’s a mix. It’s rarely one over the other. The idea is that you rate your players and pick off that rating board. But let’s be real, the ratings are based on need. It doesn’t triumph all, but it does influence rankings. You want to end up taking someone at 13 that is the best guy available but also fills one of, say, 3 or 4 spots you have need.

  38. By Mike Ellingboe on Feb 17, 2012 | Reply

    @Darren, Chuck 1, everyone;

    Understood, just playing devil’s advocate to the idea that a LT should be our pick because it is seen as a “need.” It was that same thinking that caused us to bypass AP. Give us a legit first round talent, and regardless of position we’ll know we improved our team. If you look at last year, we didn’t need Peterson but having him on our side is looking really good.

    It doesn’t take long in the NFL for a perceived strength or weakness to become the other.

  39. By John the draft guy on Feb 17, 2012 | Reply

    Mike
    You have to remember, AP had real concerns regarding his health. Obviously, he was fine , but you have to wonder what Graves had down on his draft board.
    In reality, one of our biggest needs was corner. Wouldn’t it been nice if we had drafted both need and BPA and taken Darrelle Revis.
    Hindsight is a beautiful thing. :)

    I get your point though. I remember in 2004 (when the cards had just spent a 1 in ’03 for Johnson and a 2 for Boldin) and everyone was yelling, why take another wr, when we need a QB.? We will never know if passing on Rivers and taking Fitz was the right move, but fans are pretty happy about it.
    The Giants took JPP when they has Osi and Tuck- worked out for them.

    But rating guys are different for each team and what is perceived BPA may not be to that team. Coples is a pretty good looking DE in this draft, but he doesn’t fit our defense. Money also must play a part. If we have all this money tied up in Campbell and Dockett, how could we justify taking Brockers (who looks like one of the best players in the draft). FA plays a big part in your drafting also. What if you pull an Eagles, and sign all the best corners. Do you take a corner because he is BPA?

    The perfect pick is the one that fills a need and is the best player. The problem becomes when they don’t match and you pick anyway. The way to match need and BPA is to trade up and down. Think if we Jumped ahead of the Browns and took Joe Thomas instead of Brown, no one is saying we blew the pick in 07.
    Maybe dropping down and taking Mike Adams around 23-30 would be the perfect marriage also.

  40. By Mike Ellingboe on Feb 17, 2012 | Reply

    @John,

    “What if you pull an Eagles, and sign all the best corners. Do you take a corner because he is BPA?”

    If it’s Morris Claiborne, yes, I would. Of course, it’s unrealistic that he’d fall that far but the ones they have aren’t working out (DRC/Nmandi) or are getting old (Samuel). Point being, if it’s down to a couple of guys that both have question marks clearly you go with the position you “need.” But if we’re talking a true blue-chip, immediate impact player then you make room, like we did with Peterson. I do hear what you’re saying, but as I see Coples as the most overrated player in the draft and Brockers needing another year of college I had to use your Eagles example to clarify my thoughts on what I’d like our approach to be. To his credit, as “busts” go Levi has turned out to be pretty solid and hopefully we get him back at a reduced rate.

    My fear is that he doesn’t come back, and for what’s available at LT we end up going through the LT growing pains all over again when a guy like DeCastro will probably be available @ #13. Give me a guy that can be penciled in from day one, even at a Guard position, over a question mark any day.

  41. By John the draft guy on Feb 17, 2012 | Reply

    Mike
    Don’t know if we will fully agree but I enjoy the debate.
    The way I see it They’re all question marks.
    There was as many people who thought Leaf was a sure thing as Manning.

    I love the draft as much as anyone, but even I know it is far from an exact science. I mean how are there 31 WRs picked in the 2010 draft and Victor Cruz went undrafted. If done over, he is the first WR off the board. How does that happen?
    So, tell me again how the same experts, whether employed by teams, NFL network, or ESPN or just doing blogs can miss him , yet tell me someone is a can’t miss? They all can miss.

    So let’s take a look at Decastro. He looks and plays like the real deal and everyone loves the guy. But look at their schedule. Dajohn Harris (usc ranked 81) and Alameda Ta’amu (washington ranked 104) are the only top candidates he went against in the top 350 in this years draft. So Decastro did great pushing around Oregon, Duke , and UCLA, but are you sure he will be just as successful against Suh, Wilfork, Seymour, or Kevin Williams. Kind of a question mark now. Mayock, me, or you don’t know that answer.

    To find that player who fills a need and in rated high on your board must be combined. Last year is a good example. IMO, Our biggest need was OLB. Von Miller was rated top 5. If Miller fell, it would be the perfect marriage of need and BPA.

    Honestly, I wouldn’t have picked PP. Full disclosure is once Miller was gone, I would have traded with the Falcons and picked up an extra 2 and 4 and this years one (remember that argument Darren) . Most disagreed with me. But sitting at 26, we could have pulled the trigger on Andy Dalton ( I liked Ponder more, but the Vikes took him at 12)
    With that extra 2, we could have looked at a guy like Torry Smith. Then, with our QB spot taken care of for years and a complement to Larry, we would have 2 first to address oline and OLB this year and still had DRC and our 2 this year. But Peterson was a good pick also :)

  42. By cards62 on Feb 18, 2012 | Reply

    Best Player Available is just an NFL buzz word to answer a reporter question.
    Like John said 31 receivers taken and no Cruz and they all play the same position. Now lets compare a DE in the 4th round to a WR available in the 4th round. Drafting is partly science, but mostly art.

    John very nice article. I like Von Miller, but I wanted Peterson. I though before the draft and still think that he can be a shut down corner, (was not in 2011), but I liked how he progressed, and of course he was a great return man in college. I am glad we did not trade down, now the year we drafted Levi Brown I wish we would have traded down ha ha.

    Go Cards and Rod Graves enjoy your visit to Indy, have dinner with Peyton while you are in town, and find us some gems in the 2012 NFL Draft.

  43. By adamant on Feb 22, 2012 | Reply

    Hey Darren, I know this guy is a guard but would the CARDS be interested in the FA Guard from the Vikings— Steve Hutchinson.

  44. By Darren Urban on Feb 22, 2012 | Reply

    adamant –

    RE: Hutchinson

    I wonder how much he has left in the tank.

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