Cardinals take WR Floyd in first round

Posted by Darren Urban on April 26, 2012 – 6:30 pm

The Cardinals ended up taking the Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd with the 13th overall pick Thursday. There was a lot of speculation/reports that the Cards were trying to trade down, but in the end, they stayed put and took a big (6-foot-2, 220 pound) pass catcher who was thought to be the second-best receiver in the draft behind Justin Blackmon.

There has been talk about the Cards upgrading at the position behind Larry Fitzgerald since last year. Now they grab him. He’s not a speed demon. He’ll probably bring a similar dynamic to the table as Anquan Boldin did when he was paired with Fitz. Floyd had 100 catches for 1,147 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior, and 79-1,025-12 as a junior.

Still looking for a tackle in this draft — and without trading down, the Cards don’t pick again until 80th overall, in the third round — but the Cards graded Floyd high (higher than T Riley Reiff, obviously). They’ll need better QB play too though. Even great receivers need good passes in their direction.

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A ride for a Gorbachev, and other NFL stuff

Posted by Darren Urban on April 26, 2012 – 1:24 pm

Life isn’t all about the NFL draft the next few days. Turns out Mikhail Gorbachev — yes, the one-time leader of the Soviet Union and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize — is in town to speak at a fundraiser for the Thunderbird School of Global Management. He needs to get back to New York, where Cardinals president Michael Bidwill just happens to be headed Sunday for some NFL meetings, Bidwill said during an interview on Ch. 12 this morning while previewing the draft. Since Bidwill is also a pilot, he said he will be giving Gorbachev and his group a ride.

Of course, life is mostly about the draft in my part of the world. So we wait for the first pick coming in less than four hours. There’s been lots of talk about potential trades. Nothing yet though.

— Reportedly the Vikings have CB Morris Claiborne as the No. 1 player on their board. Goodness, I hope that’s because Luck and Griffin are already locks to go elsewhere.

— It sure seems like there could be a trade possibility when the Cards are on the clock. A lot can happen between then and now. Options could be there, though.

— I know this is the last place where you’re thinking “Pro Bowl,” but the league is reportedly thinking about suspending the Pro Bowl. Clearly, that game has gotten worse the last couple of years. It did bring up this interesting tweet from Dominique Foxworth, president of the NFLPA: “The Pro Bowl is an important tradition we are in talks with the league to improve and preserve the game for our players and fans.” It definitely needs improving to give it a reason to go on.

— Finally, for ongoing, interactive draft chat, feel free to follow me and ask questions on Twitter, @cardschatter. I’ll respond as much as I can as we go through the afternoon and evening.

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A chance to mock

Posted by Darren Urban on April 25, 2012 – 5:00 pm

Here it is, the long-awaited-and-yet-not-any-more-likely-to-be-anything-but-mocked mock draft from yours truly. To be clear, I have not sat back and broken down hours of tape nor do I know what’s on anybody’s draft boards, including the Cards. This is about making educated guesses, which as we all know when it comes to the draft usually means little. It doesn’t include any trades, which would/could blow it up quickly (although as I write this comes the rumor the Bills are willing to trade from 10 to 3 to get T Matt Kalil; If I am the Vikings, you better be sure you like a guy at 10. You don’t want to give up a potential stud just for a draft pick.)

In my mock, the Cardinals ended up with tackle Riley Reiff. By the time the Cards picked in my virtual world, the top two receivers (Blackmon and Floyd) are both gone and so is the guy likely considered the best potential 3-4 pass-rusher (Melvin Ingram.) I have guard David DeCastro falling all the way into the 20s.I feel confident I have hit on my slots for Luck and Griffin, however.

The best part of my mock? That it is done, which means we are about 24 hours away from the real draft and no longer have to speculate and instead actually see actual draft picks being made.

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Changing Bradley’s contract

Posted by Darren Urban on April 24, 2012 – 9:43 pm

There has been so much talk about the contract of linebacker Stewart Bradley. The news came down Tuesday, first reported by Adam Caplan, that Bradley had his $5 million salary reduced to $2.5M this season. Kent Somers added the detail that Bradley could recoup the money in incentives, but it is a cut. As we have talked about before (ironically, using Bradley as an example) a player doesn’t usually mind restructuring a contract because that doesn’t cost the player any money. In this case, Bradley does lose money. In reality, he probably wouldn’t get a $2.5M salary at this point on the open market so it’s still worth it for him to take a cut. And the last three years of his contract remain, for now, unchanged, meaning he can get back to a $5M salary next year if he plays well enough.

That’s the big question. He couldn’t beat out Paris Lenon last season. We will see what an offseason can do for Bradley, who right now is expected to help both outside and inside at linebacker. In some ways, he’s the defensive version of Kevin Kolb, both with the need of an offseason and the need for a rally year after 2011.

— Bradley can feel more comfortable in one way: He’s back to his familiar jersey No. 55 now that Joey Porter is gone. Cornerback William Gay also has switched already, getting No. 23 (from the original issue No. 29.) That probably doesn’t bode well for free-agent safety Hamza Abdullah. Wide receiver DeMarco Sampson switched from No. 89 to No. 10, and defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin went from No. 60 to No. 95.

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The Hyphen as a sore thumb

Posted by Darren Urban on April 24, 2012 – 3:27 pm

General manager Rod Graves was recalling in his mind was the “most tense” discussion the current brass had had in the draft room — the debate about whether to take running back LaRod Stephens-Howling in the seventh round of the 2009 draft.

In hindsight, the debate seems crazy. Not only has Stephens-Howling — The Hyphen to those who know and cover him in the media — been worth a late pick, he’s been incredibly valuable as a special teams player and in certain packages on offense. But he is only 5-foot-6, and Graves was less than convinced. “I’m glad (director of player personnel) Steve Keim and coach (Ken) Whisenhunt stepped up to say, ‘Rod, this guy can really help our football team,’ ” Graves said. “Jokingly, I say that, but we do have good discussions, healthy discussions.”

Keim was talking about Stephens-Howling while talking about the Cards’ draft cards (story on the homepage by the end of the day). By the time the sixth and seventh round come up, the draft grades have shrunk. But Stephens-Howling was noticeable that day.

“He was sticking out like a sore thumb because he had a grade of 70, which is a huge grade for a 5-foot-6 running back who didn’t even start at Pitt,” Keim said. “That’s basically a third-round grade on our scale, a grade of a guy who would either be an eventual starter or a significant role player. That’s what that stands for.

“To get a guy in the seventh round that have a grade like that, those are the ones you really get excited about, as opposed to the Patrick Petersons who, your two boys and my six-year old could tell you he could play.”

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Now there’s 90

Posted by Darren Urban on April 24, 2012 – 9:40 am

The NFL announced that teams will now be allowed to have 90 players on the roster in the offseason/preseason, following the precedent set last year. Of course, that last year was because of the lack of offseason and the need for bodies in a boom-here-it-is training camp, but teams decided it worked. You know coaches like having more players in the preseason. It makes sense.

The rules are slightly different. Now, every single player under contract, one way or another, counts against the 90. It used to be there were roster exemptions for guys on the physically-unable-to-perform list, or if a rookie was unsigned. For example, tagged defensive end Calais Campbell would not have counted against the roster if he didn’t sign his tender, but now, he will.

It does impact the preseason, because in the past, rookies would have signed, trimming down available players as they did, and now the rookies will sign and the low-end roster guys will be able to stick around regardless. There won’t be a difference in OTAs and minicamp, because in the past the rookies would participate (signing injury waivers but not having a contract) and their roster spots were used. There were always more than 80 in the summer.

— Cardinals Hall of Fame cornerback Roger Wehrli will be in New York to announce the team’s third-round pick. The NFL started having former players announce second-round picks last year — another cornerback, Aeneas Williams, announced the Cards’ pick in 2011 (running back Ryan Williams — but with the Cards without a second-round pick, Wehrli will be used a round later. (No, I don’t know what happens if the Cards end up trading into a second-round pick.)

— If anyone cares, the Cards have had everyone show up to voluntary workouts by now save for Campbell.

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Sifting through smoky draft talk

Posted by Darren Urban on April 23, 2012 – 11:15 am

I listened to NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock make a point today that isn’t new nor something I hadn’t thought of, but it bears repeating right now: Any information someone from a team divulges about the draft or players in it knows what he is doing.

I never really like the term smokescreen because, to me, that tends to imply everything said is a lie. While there are obviously some lies being told around the draft right now, not everything is false. But I do believe that everything said, true or false, has a purpose, whether to make people think better or worse of a player or differently about what a team might do. It doesn’t mean you can’t make logical, educated guesses about who a team will pick when all is said and done, but unless you have a team’s draft grades, there is no way to know.

Which brings me to the element of the player talking draft. There has been a lot made this morning about an item in Peter King’s “Monday Morning Quarterback” that Larry Fitzgerald “badly” wants the Cards to draft Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd. To which I say, that’s no surprise, but it doesn’t really mean anything. I have no problem with a team touching base with a player or listening when a player has something to say. Basing a draft pick on that doesn’t make sense to me. In 2006, Kurt Warner made it clear he didn’t think the Cards should draft a quarterback. Turned out Warner was right in thinking he was better than Matt Leinart, but it’s tough not to see the personal bias there. While Floyd could help the Cards, Fitz has a personal reason for wanting another high-profile receiver too. Just like on the flip side when Fitz’s buddy Steven Jackson didn’t want the Rams to take Trent Richardson (although Jackson understands reality too.)

Bottom line, there will be speculation increasing 10-fold this week. The benefit of hindsight Friday morning will show that most of it was wasted breath. But that’s what makes it fun. Greg Cosell of NFL Films, who watches a ton of video, did a mock draft based on team needs and strict on-field grades (off-field issues didn’t factor in for him) and he has Matt Kalil dropping to the Cards. That won’t happen, but it’s fun to dream.

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Remembering Tillman

Posted by Darren Urban on April 20, 2012 – 1:49 pm

My wife asked me last night, in the course of a conversation, if Pat Tillman and Larry Fitzgerald had ever been teammates. No, I told her. Tillman was killed the day before Fitz was drafted by the Cardinals.

Obviously draft time jars some Tillman memories. So too does the fact Pat’s Run — the annual 4.2-mile jaunt around and in Sun Devil Stadium, which sold out with an astounding 28,000 people this year — will be tomorrow. I’m taking part for the seventh straight year, part of a group of us from the Cards that includes coach Ken Whisenhunt.

I won’t go into my Tillman anecdotes yet again. If you want, you can read about them here, or read about how Pat joined the Army here, or watch his famous interview he gave the day after 9/11 here. Safe to say I was lucky enough to have crossed paths with him, and while he wasn’t perfect, he stood for a lot of honorable things. That’s why I’ll be running tomorrow, and that’s why, next Thursday night, I’ll be think back to that Friday morning in April, 2004, when I got the call at home that Tillman had lost his life.

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Fan Fest and Fitz’s swing for charity

Posted by Darren Urban on April 19, 2012 – 5:51 pm

In the past, the Cardinals have held Fan Fest the Saturday of minicamp, which always came one of the first couple of weekends in May. Minicamp no longer can be on the weekend — new CBA rules — and so Fan Fest has moved as well. It will still be held on the middle minicamp day. Now, that’s a Wednesday, June 13, and because of the time of year, it will be part of an evening practice at University of Phoenix Stadium. More details to come.

In the meantime, if you are looking to see some Cardinals stars Saturday, you are in luck. Larry Fitzgerald is holding his annual softball game to raise money for his First Down Fund charity. It’ll be out at Salt River Fields where the Diamondbacks hold spring training (you can get tickets here) with first pitch at 1:30 p.m. And, fitting for Fitz, he’s lined up a pretty good roster of athletic celebrities.

The list Fitz provided includes teammates Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett and Patrick Peterson, along with former NBA great Gary Payton, Terrell Owens, Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin, Jared Allen, Greg Jennings, Steven Jackson, Tommie Harris, Roy Williams, Donovan McNabb, DeSean Jackson, DeAngelo Hall and LeSean McCoy.

I’m not sure Fitz is quite as good of a softball player as he is on the football field, but it’s for charity, right?

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A draft presser without specifics

Posted by Darren Urban on April 19, 2012 – 11:49 am

Of course, it isn’t a surprise, but the press conference of general manager Rod Graves and coach Ken Whisenhunt was devoid of many specifics. The biggest thing, and again, not a surprise, was Whisenhunt’s comment about “needing” to take a tackle.

“What we don’t want to do is draft a lineman just to draft a lineman,” Whisenhunt said. “Just because you think that’s what you have to do.”

I don’t think that’s smokescreen either — the Cards aren’t going to take a tackle in the first round because of need. It’ll depend on the draft grades and who is left available. As I have mentioned in a couple of comments before, if a tackle is rated an 82, let’s say, and another position is an 88, for instance (90 is a star-to-be in the Cards’ system), the Cards are better served with the 88, right?

As for trades, Graves talked a few times about “opportunities” but really, there is no way to know what will happen, and again, that’s more about the function of where the Cards sit rather than trying to be vague. As Whisenhunt noted, last year it was pretty easy to know what one or two players the Cards would have a shot at picking fifth. This year, at 13, that’s almost impossible given the number of combinations that could come down over the first 12 picks — especially since there doesn’t seem to be a real consensus about who “deserves” to go once the picks get past No. 6 or so.

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