A restricted Hoyer’s potential place

Posted by Darren Urban on February 28, 2013 – 1:05 pm

Through all the talk about what the Cardinals might do at quarterback and who their potential targets might be through trade and through the draft, one name has remained somewhat in limbo — Brian Hoyer. Hoyer flashed a bit at the end of the season for the Cardinals and he was a player new GM Steve Keim had long considered. With the Cardinals looking everywhere for QB answers, Hoyer likely remains a candidate for the roster in some capacity at this point.

Originally, Hoyer was thought to be an unrestricted free agent. But as free agency approaches in a couple of week, Hoyer instead ended up in restricted free agent limbo. A restricted free agent is a player with three accrued seasons. Hoyer was an RFA going into the offseason of 2012, and the New England Patriots tendered him a contract offer then, restricting him from shopping his services on the open market. Yet Hoyer was cut at the end of training camp in favor of Ryan Mallett — a signed tender offer still doesn’t make it a guaranteed deal — and Hoyer waited.

To get an accrued season — and a fourth would allow someone like Hoyer unrestricted free agent status — a player must spend six games on a 53-man roster during the season. As it turns out, Hoyer just missed. He was with the Cardinals for three games. Before that, and after the Patriots let him go, the Steelers signed him for two games. He was cut the Saturday before the third game. It led him to a better opportunity with the Cards when they claimed him off waivers the following Monday, but those two days off the roster also meant he compiled just five games on a roster total — and a second straight year of restricted status.

What it all means is that the Cards have control over Hoyer staying if they choose to. The Cards could tender Hoyer at the lowest RFA amount — about $1.3 million — and have the right to match any other offer Hoyer might get. (For another $700,000, the Cards could tender Hoyer so that any team signing him away would owe the Cards a second-round pick. I don’t see the Cards doing that, nor would I see a team giving up a pick for the one-time undrafted Hoyer.)

I do think Hoyer will be tendered an offer as the Cards search for a QB. It would have been easier for him to get away as an UFA, but I think the Cards will want to see more of what they got a glimpse of down the stretch last season.


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Free agents list and comp picks

Posted by Darren Urban on February 27, 2013 – 6:05 pm

Free agency is still a couple weeks away — March 12 for those who have forgotten — but for those who want to keep track of the Cardinals’ comings and goings, here is the page to do so. On it you can see the Cards’ own unrestricted and exclusive free agents going into the offseason. I ran into free agent safety Rashad Johnson today. He sounded upbeat about his status with the Cards but he wasn’t there to sign a new deal or anything. Those deals, I would think, will be deadline-driven probably. The Cards have talked to many of the agents for free agents, but again, I don’t think anything is about to pop.

The Alex Smith trade — or the reported trade that is going to happen — to the Chiefs will give the 49ers another draft pick this season. That, along with the anticipated compensatory picks the 49ers will get for losing free agents last offseason, will give San Francisco 15 draft picks for April. The day has been littered with speculation over what the Niners will do with all those picks. It’s too many to draft. No way 15 rookies make the team. So the Niners might as well trade some of them for players (Revis? Harvin?) or to move up and get a better pick or two or nab a rookie they really want.

Speaking of comp picks, I don’t expect the Cards to have any. They lost cornerback Richard Marshall to the Dolphins (to a pretty big contract) but signed free agents like William Gay, Adam Snyder and James Sanders. So that means the Cards will likely have only their seven picks — none in the seventh round and two in the sixth round. The official list of compensatory picks usually is released during the March owners’ meetings, which this year happen to be in Arizona.

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Exhausting QB possibilities and more scuttlebutt

Posted by Darren Urban on February 27, 2013 – 9:52 am

The idea that the Cardinals would explore the trade possibility for 49ers backup quarterback Alex Smith — as Kent Somers noted yesterday — shouldn’t be a shock (although I will admit I originally wasn’t sure if the Cards would surrender a pick for him). Nor would the idea that the Cardinals could/would/should look at a trade for Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett, a speculative concept that picked up steam yesterday after Tom Brady’s extension essentially made Mallett ever playing for the Patriots (barring an injury) unlikely.

The talk reminded me of something general manager Steve Keim recently said when it came to the QB search: “We will exhaust every resource we have.”

That, Keim said, included every draftable quarterback from the first round to the last, free agency and, of course, potential trade options around the league. There is a priority list. Given what is out there in both free agency and the draft (which, right now, doesn’t seem exciting), a trade isn’t a surprise. Besides, if the Cardinals were going to spend a draft pick on a quarterback this year anyway, why not deal one for, say, Smith?

A trade with the Niners seems unlikely, just because San Francisco would seem to have options and conventional wisdom says they’d probably rather not help a division foe. The latest out of San Francisco (via Matt Barrows) is that the Niners would want at least a high fourth-round pick for Smith. If the Chiefs offer one, that’s basically a late third, given their spot at the top of the draft. UPDATE: In the seconds after I posted this, Jay Glazer reported that the trade of Alex Smith to the Chiefs was done and would happen as soon as it could March 12. So there’s one resource off the board.

Mallett, given that the Patriots don’t have another QB right now and comes cheap, is going to cost more, I’d guess. At least a third, where he was drafted in the first place (and I have to wonder what the Cardinals thought of him just a couple of years ago in 2011, when he was available and this team passed on him three different times. Besides, his accuracy is a question despite his big arm and some in New England didn’t think he outplayed Brian Hoyer last preseason even though the Pats dumped Hoyer in favor of Mallett.)

Much will be speculated on right now and there will be a level of truth to most of it, because the Cards are as Keim said exhausting every path trying to fix this problem. No trades can come down until March 12, nor can any free agents be signed. The draft is two months away. If Kevin Kolb doesn’t return, I can see a draft pick and a veteran added. The QB question won’t be answered until it’s answered.


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Considering Levi moving to guard

Posted by Darren Urban on February 26, 2013 – 11:20 am

Any thoughts of the potential offensive line for 2013 and a shuffle has included — at least from some in the fan base — speculation that moving tackle Levi Brown to guard would benefit all involved. Brown, who did finish the last half of 2011 strong at left tackle before a triceps tear kept him out of the entire 2012 season, said when he re-signed last season he preferred playing left tackle over right tackle. I don’t know what his feelings about guard would be — my guess is that he’d rather play tackle — but it may be a moot point given head coach Bruce Arians’ early thoughts.

“He’s a talent,” Arians said. “I don’t think he’d have any problem playing guard. But tackles are harder to find. Depending on what is available in the draft and free agency, those six or seven we suit up on Sunday you like to have position flexibility. But I would see him more as a right tackle/left tackle than a guard.”

General manager Steve Keim leaned the same way.

“The fact Bruce wants our five best offensive linemen out there means Levi could potentially move inside to guard,” Keim said. “That just depends on the combination of players we either sign in free agency. Looking at it on the horizon I don’t anticipate that happening, but you never want to say never.”

Brown’s return has been hailed by Arians as important help to fix the offensive line. To me, that sounds like a tackle.


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Arians thinks accuracy can be helped — sometimes

Posted by Darren Urban on February 25, 2013 – 11:41 am

Larry Fitzgerald was targeted 156 times last season. He ended up with just 71 catches.

Now, that doesn’t mean there weren’t times when Fitz could’ve and should’ve come down with a pass and didn’t. That certainly happened, and more times last year, I think, than in the past ( had him with five drops last season, credited him with three.) But there were many, many, many more times when the pass went to Fitzgerald and the ball simply wasn’t close enough to even make a play on it.

This isn’t about Fitz though but the ability to make sure whatever quarterback is behind center can be accurate. There are many factors that go into an incomplete pass, including the pass rush and pass protection. But last season, none of the four quarterbacks who played for the Cardinals completed 60 percent of their passes. Kevin Kolb was 59.6 percent, John Skelton was 54.2, Ryan Lindley 52.0 and Brian Hoyer 56.6. These days, if you aren’t completing between 62 to 65 percent of your passes — at least — you are going to have a hard time being successful. It’s something to watch for with the rookies too, although given the upgrade in speed and schemes in the NFL, accuracy can be a projection for those guys.

The question is whether it can be improved in a prospect — or with anyone.

“I think you can improve all phases of their mechanics,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “Some guys, if the flaw is so difficult in their throwing motion especially from the trunk up, it’s going to be hard. But the majority of accuracy problems are your legs. Guys overstride, they understride, they put themselves in bad positions and stress themselves. Fundamentals, that’s why golfers go to the driving range every day. Tiger (Woods) is a great player, Rory (Mcllroy)  is a great player, but they go to the driving range every day. Quarterbacks need to go to the driving range every day.

“You want to be more of a teacher than a swing coach. When you are a swing coach, you know you have problems.”


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Sunday at the combine and Barkley chatter

Posted by Darren Urban on February 24, 2013 – 9:04 am

Sunday morning in Indianapolis. The media room is still sparsely filled, after a Saturday night when many were out — late — in a city populated with coaches and scouts at local establishments. It’s a fruitful time for little bits of info to be spread of the “I’m hearing …” variety and then for it to pick up a little steam, regardless of what it is. So then the tweet came down from @nfldraftscout: “Text I received from a scout this morning: Matt Barkley will not get past the Arizona #Cardinals at No. 7 overall.” Then SI’s Peter King retweeted it and it floats out there for everyone’s consumption.

Let’s get past the idea of whether Barkley could actually be the pick there for a moment (although I don’t see it happening, not that high. Maybe the second round, but GM Steve Keim wants a difference-maker at 7 and I don’t see how Barkley is going to grade higher than all but six or seven of these guys available in the draft.)

Instead, think these things: Why would one of the Cardinals’ scouts tell @NFLdraftscout (his name is Matt Miller) this? If it comes from another team’s scout, how would that scout know? Most importantly, how could this even be decided yet? The Cardinals haven’t even evaluated the quarterbacks yet. They haven’t done any draft grades, or have had any of the draft meetings for anyone higher than the fringe back part of the draft. If none of the grades are known, it’s impossible to know how the Cards will build their board. In short, it’s fruitless to guess where the Cards are leaning with that top pick — QB or otherwise — because they aren’t yet.

It is easy to play connect the dots with the Cardinals and a quarterback. Maybe Barkley impressed in the interview. The interview doesn’t show if he can throw a 15-yard out to Larry Fitzgerald, though. I do think the Cards will draft a quarterback. I do think there is a good chance it will happen in the first couple days of the draft. But I’d be stunned if that plan has already been finalized to the point of a definite player already.

I asked Cardinals coach Bruce Arians the other day about how all the coaches and scouts get together at Indy, guys they know, and what they talk about. He chuckled when I suggested info might bounce around. If info is discussed, what’s it really worth?

“I think any information you get, throw it out the window,” he said. “They’re lying to you. It’s all secretive.”

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Maybe Peterson will throw, too

Posted by Darren Urban on February 23, 2013 – 11:01 am

Already, Bruce Arians said Patrick Peterson would still return punts. Peterson is too dangerous with the ball to stop doing that. And who knows — it might even go beyond that. Offensive snaps aren’t out of the question, Arians said.

“We have a group of receivers that are pretty dang good and I’m not sure which one of them I would sit on the bench,” Arians said. “The more he can touch the ball, that’s why he will be the punt returner. We’ll look at that.”

That idea works for Peterson, who isn’t going to turn down any chances to have the ball and make something happen. Last season, Peterson caught three passes when lined up as a receiver. That was under former coach Ken Whisenhunt, of course, but Arians is clearly open to it.

“I think Coach understands what type of player he has in me,” Peterson said. “I think he knows I have the determination to make something special happen when I have my hands on the ball. I’m excited to see what would happen, if he decided to do something like that.”

More work, besides defense and punt returns, can take the starch out of a player, especially one who is going to cover the opponent’s top receiver every game. Peterson said that didn’t matter. His offseason training is to prepare him for heavy workloads.

“I’m the type of guy that wants to do whatever it takes,” Peterson said. “I think I have the ability to play all three (facets) of the game, defense, special teams, and offense. I prepare myself. I prepare all offseason, get in all the running, to make sure my legs can handle all that needs to be done in a 16-game season. I put my body through hell and back to be prepared. I would be ready if Coach were to want to take it in whatever direction he might take it.”

Arians said he would have “some fun” with Peterson-on-offense concept. “I’ve got to see him throw too,” Arians said.

That notion drew a chuckle from Peterson. “I definitely can throw it,” Peterson said.


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A top rookie quarterback would play

Posted by Darren Urban on February 22, 2013 – 3:55 pm

Back in 2006, when Matt Leinart was just drafted and Denny Green was in charge, the hype around the Cardinals’ freshly-minted quarterback-of-the-future was off the charts. Back then, Kurt Warner was just a guy, a placeholder for Leinart much like Warner had been for Eli Manning and the Giants back in 2004. But Green was having none of the hype. He made it plain — in a perfect scenario for 2006, Warner would play all season, and Leinart would sit and learn the whole year and not even play a single snap.

(Of course, that didn’t happen because Warner fumbled the ball all over the place and Leinart came in and it got me one of my all-time favorite quotes from Denny. I asked him, with the Cards 1-8 and Leinart struggling, what it would have meant for Leinart to have sat the entire season as the original plan, and Denny’s first reaction was, “That’s an awfully philosophical question for a Wednesday.” As opposed to saving the philosophical questions for Friday. But I digress.)

Flash forward to 2013, when the Cardinals could spend their highest pick on a QB since that season. Will it be the first round? If I am guessing, I say no. Never say never I suppose. The second round seems more likely. But unlike Green, both GM Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians would rather drop a first-round rookie in the fire. No reason to wait.

“My philosophy is, if you are taking a player that high, particularly at the quarterback position, I think that guy needs to be on the field and play for you,” Keim said. “To me, a player grows by being on the field and taking snaps, and I don’t think you can replicate that, whether it is the speed of the game, the timing of routes … in practice. He needs to be on the field.”

Said Arians, “I’ve never been one to sit them on the bench. You never learn on the bench. He’s not going to get any reps in practice because that’s for the starter. If you want him to develop, you give him every rep in practice and you throw him out there. Hopefully you can put enough talent around him that he can handle the downside.”


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The final say

Posted by Darren Urban on February 22, 2013 – 9:35 am

When the Cardinals get together for draft meetings, the scouts give their breakdown of the player, the coaches chime in on what they think, and eventually the group comes together to give the player a final grade on which to base the team’s top 120 board — the ranking by which the team will make its selections during the draft. When the Cards are on the clock, because of those meetings and discussions, there aren’t decisions that are needed to be made. The emotions are taken out of draft day.

But there is a final say if there needs to be a final say — and it will rest with general manager Steve Keim.

Prior to the draft “we’ve had the conversations and sometimes we agree to disagree,” Keim said. “But at the end of the day if there is a tough decision to be made with personnel, I will make those decisions, just like coach (Bruce Arians) is going to make his decision on third down what play to call. As long as we all stay in our lanes and we pay attention at the task at hand, that’s what is important.”


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Potential new NFL calendar floated

Posted by Darren Urban on February 22, 2013 – 7:48 am

The NFL is reportedly talking about changing the offseason calendar, which is an interesting concept, to say the least. The theory goes that the Scouting combine would be moved from February to March, free agency from March to April and the draft from April to May. The idea, according to ESPN, is to make the league more relevant through the calendar year. There has been more and more talk about the regional combines and the role they could play going into the main combine, which would be helped by a shift in timing.

How could that play out? The collective bargaining agreement is pretty set in stone for timing, and organizing a new offseason schedule that would fit with the new dates wouldn’t be a simple process (the NFL Players Association would have to sign off on any new timeline.) The hardest part to fathom is how the players would get a chunk of time off before training camp (which, in the plan, would begin on the same day for every team — again, making for an change for the teams playing in the Hall of Fame game, since they have always started earlier.)

Yesterday, Bruce Arians was lamenting how long he has to wait to talk football with his players and I’d assume moving the calendar back would delay that even more, since you need free agency at least to be underway you can get the offseason program started. Let the debate begin.

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