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The future, and breaking down the roster

Posted by Darren Urban on January 2, 2014 – 10:58 am

This time around, the Cardinals aren’t going to be looking for a coach or general manager, so this early part of the offseason figures to be much more quiet than it was in January of 2013. But there is still plenty for GM Steve Keim and his people to work on, because the combine is in less than two months, free agency is soon after that, and it’s time to focus on what the offseason roster in 2014 will look like.

That starts, of course, with figuring out what they liked and didn’t like with the roster from 2013. It also comes down to budget, and contracts, and how many of these unrestricted free agents-to-be want to come back to Arizona based on the deals Keim wants to/is willing to offer. These are not always simple solutions but it is why Keim, as they say, earns the big bucks. When I talked to Keim as early as the week in Florida prior to the Week 4 game at Tampa, Keim was already acknowledging the work that had to go into this offseason.

“There are going to be some tough decisions to be made after the season based on the numbers, just looking at the three-year view,” Keim said then. “We will obviously have to make some tough decisions like we did this past year after the season. The one thing fans and other people don’t realize (is) there are certain contracts that bind you and you can’t do anything (with) and you have the dead money factor.

“Once we get to 2015 I feel really good where we are going to be from a salary-cap standpoint.”

With that all in mind, here is my annual roster breakdown, with most players by position, when their contracts expires and a quick comment on each. There are a lot of choices to be made, and not just by Keim. If you are Karlos Dansby, for instance, do you like the scheme Todd Bowles has put you in — and like playing next to someone like Daryl Washington enough — to want to stay? Money, as always, talks. Dansby did not get the kind of interest he expected last offseason in the market. He had a better year this season, but will that translate for a player who will be 33? These are the things the Cardinals, and Dansby, must balance.

The Larry Fitzgerald situation, and a looming $18 million salary cap number, is another touchpoint. The Cardinals really need to get it lower. How they can work with Fitzgerald on that impacts a lot of things, including, for instance, any potential Patrick Peterson contract extension. When you start mulling all these numbers, you start seeing why Keim is targeting 2015 for salary cap comfort.

There are other key things the Cards must look at roster-wise, aside from the draft. Other key free agents like Matt Shaughnessy, Rashard Mendenhall or Andre Roberts. Other contracts, like perhaps those of Daryn Colledge or Darnell Dockett. Other issues, like the long-term rehab of Tyrann Mathieu and Alameda Ta’amu, or a possible suspension of Daryl Washington, and whether absences at the beginning of the season could make a difference on who is needed on the roster for depth.

The offseason is just beginning. So too is the job of the Cardinals to get ready for 2014.

MendyAfterRosterUSE


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Posted in Blog | 39 Comments »


39 Responses to “The future, and breaking down the roster”

  1. By beardinals on Jan 2, 2014 | Reply

    Sucks about Alameda. He was starting to get some nice time at FB too. The LB corps is STACKED!! May want to trade for more secondary help.

  2. By joe.holst on Jan 2, 2014 | Reply

    Hi Darren,

    Would you happen to have the “dead money” breakdown for next year. I’m guessing Levi Brown, and then maybe Kolb and Adam Snyder.

    Thanks

  3. By roben10 on Jan 2, 2014 | Reply

    Awesome breakdown. Thanks for all the hard work this year!

  4. By hummer53 on Jan 2, 2014 | Reply

    Excellent recap Darren. Team in tough spot concerning Feely. Most other kickers available are older like Jay. You wonder if the new sod installed just before SF game effected Jay any on his FG attempts. It did look damp and loose in Fiesta Bowl. Although he’s paid to make those kicks. Am I correct in remembering that there are no OTA’s until after the draft which was moved to May? That’s a long way off (sigh ).

  5. By LadyBird04 on Jan 2, 2014 | Reply

    Happy New Year Darren!

    Did the Cardinals give out individual awards this year?

    Re: Dansby – he played lights out this year. I’m scratching my head that he wasn’t part of pro bowl selections nor the All-Pro NFC West. Is there some reason he seems to be “singled” out and not even listed in either of these selections? Does it reflect somehow on his perception by other teams/players/coaches? If so, could that be reflected in perhaps little interest in him again this year? I’m flummoxed as to why he hasn’t gotten either of those designations.

  6. By D on Jan 2, 2014 | Reply

    Like always, nice breakdown of the roster.
    QBs- Lindley will be replaced by a draft pick this yr.
    RBs- Mendenhall will depend on $ and Wiliams is the great mystery. I am okay with Ellington, Taylor, Williams and a draft pick.
    WR–with options of Brown and Golden, doubt if Roberts is back.
    TE–I would resign Dray at a reasonable deal, bring back Ballard, will have Housler along with the kid on the Practice Squad, Fells, may draft a TE in rounds 4-6.
    OL–I would cut Potter don’t bring back Winston and with Cooper a Rookie at Left G, I would spend my free agent money on Anthony Collins as my Left tackle next year.
    Collins, Cooper, Sendlein, Watford or Colledge (if he will reduce salary and Massie at Right Tackle
    (Fanaika backup G and Sowell backup Tackle)
    DL–bring back Rucker for depth, draft a DE to replace Dockett after this upcoming year.
    LB’s–loaded with players coming back from IR, may not be able to bring back either Dansby or Shaughnessy because of contract demands.
    DB’s-probably won’t be able to bring back Arenas or Cason, Bell I would replace with Jefferson….bring back McCann at CB and maybe look for a vet in free agency for 3rd CB
    Specialist-I would bring back Zastudil and probably another less expensive younger kicker.
    Use draft for QB, DL, DB, RB and TE

  7. By Judy Reeves on Jan 2, 2014 | Reply

    Steve I know you will do your best to get us a good team next year. I’m just glad that’s your job and not mine. Good luck in the off season, can’t wait till we start again. Thanks.

  8. By stella on Jan 2, 2014 | Reply

    Keep dansby, dockett and fitzgerald

  9. By Darren Urban on Jan 2, 2014 | Reply

    Joe –

    RE: Dead money

    I’d have to do some work on that. There is some for many guys, including Levi ($6.5M), Snyder ($3M) and then much smaller amounts for Fleming, Kelemete, Swope, Jefferson.

  10. By Darren Urban on Jan 2, 2014 | Reply

    hummer –

    RE: OTAs

    Yes, on field stuff doesn’t start until after the draft. Conditioning starts in April.

  11. By John The Draft Guy on Jan 2, 2014 | Reply

    joe.hoist and anyone else

    This is a great website to see cap money, dead money ect. Check it out.

    http://www.spotrac.com/nfl/arizona-cardinals/cap-hit/2014/

  12. By jasonc on Jan 2, 2014 | Reply

    Here is an awesome mock draft game site for people who are into this kind of thing….like I am.

    http://first-pick.com/NFL/DraftGame.aspx

  13. By Hammy on Jan 2, 2014 | Reply

    I really trust what Keim will do as far as bringing back the core of this team. With the coaching scheme we have in place, we should be able to get the right players in our system. I think the most important thing to do is draft a dynamic tight end. If you look back at Arians teams that he coached on offense, they all had very good tight ends.

  14. By Fred on Jan 2, 2014 | Reply

    Losing Andre Roberts would be a HUGE mistake. Hopefully he doesn’t make the same mistake as Breaston and stays.

  15. By Darren Urban on Jan 2, 2014 | Reply

    Fred –

    RE: Breaston

    I wanted Breaston to stay too but he got $9 million or so guaranteed from the Chiefs by leaving. I wouldn’t call that a mistake.

  16. By Tom-AZ on Jan 2, 2014 | Reply

    Talk of trading Fitz should really not even be in the Cards vocab

  17. By andystandsup on Jan 2, 2014 | Reply

    Regarding the possible extension of Peterson.
    Most assume it will happen at 12:01 on the league’s first day, but Patrick is locked up for the entire 2014 season.
    Couldn’t the deal more realistically (and Sherman’s and Haden’s deal are gonna pale compared to PP’s anyways -no leverage there) come AFTER the year, Darren?
    Then, you would have the presumed 2015 TV contracts coming into play and the expected larger salary cap. (Though it will be incremental, correct?)

  18. By Scott H on Jan 2, 2014 | Reply

    Darren -

    You said it, brother! What a difference a year makes. This time last year, we needed a head coach, we needed a GM, we needed a QB…what didn’t we need??? It is nothing shy of amazing that all 3 of those needs were filled at the same time by an organization that has struggled to do the right things. We still do not have our QB of the future, but Palmer can certainly steer the ship for now. Last year this time, this organization was a mess. Now? We can focus on moving forward from 10-5 instead of being back at square one. Last year this time, I was ready for a nice long break from the Arizona Cardinals. Now? September can’t get here soon enough. Questions -

    Palmer was signed for 2 years, yes? If he continues to improve, keeps this team on a winning course, do you see the Cardinals as in a position where they need to keep him? And does that help or hurt in regard to the future?

    Mendenhall…here next year or no? He’s on a one-year deal, yes? I wonder if he is going to be reasonable with what he wants or…maybe not. He’s Edgerrin James-solid, not Adrian Peterson- spectacular, ya know? And Ellington seems likely to get more of the load next year.

    Abraham…was HE a one-year deal? Can’t keep them all straight. I absolutely want him back.

    Dansby…was HE a one-year deal? The man can CLEARLY still play at a high level. I suddenly love the guy much more than I ever did before! I don’t have to say good-bye to him again, do I?

    Last year this time, it seemed like we had less talent than anybody in the NFL. Now? Seems like we have more talent than we might be able to keep! Makes my head spin. A good problem to have, for sure, but…I guess every off-season has its concerns.

    I even want Jay Feely back! I mean, kickers are so disposable in the NFL but Feely just seems so reliable and he can nail it from long distances.

    Do you know what their cap space is right now? Geez, that number for Fitz is scary. All along, it seemed like they just needed to do ANYTHING they needed to do to keep him here. Maybe not everyone felt that way, but up until the time of his last contract, I think it would have been a major public relations disaster if they had traded him or let him get away. He is still one of the best WR’s in the league and I think he is going to like Jerry Rice / Terrell Owens / Cris Carter in his ability to stay great at least into his mid 30′s. I love the guy and never want to see him wear another uniform. But that is my heart talking. The reality of things…is a different story. Does Fitz have to be receptive to helping the organization out here AND do you see that happening?

    I’ll stop now.

  19. By Canadian Redbird on Jan 2, 2014 | Reply

    Darren:

    Re: Levi Brown

    I know that you mentioned earlier that the Cards would not receive a draft pick from the Steelers because he didn’t play in any games for Pittsburgh. However, going forward, if Levi does play for the Steelers next year, would that also trigger a 3rd or 4th round pick coming the Cards direction in the 2015 draft.

  20. By Darren Urban on Jan 2, 2014 | Reply

    Andystands –

    RE: Peterson

    The longer you wait, the more leverage Peterson gets. And if I’m Sherman, I’m making sure my deal doesn’t pale in comparison.

  21. By Darren Urban on Jan 2, 2014 | Reply

    Scott H –

    RE: deals

    The years each player’s contract expires is on the link. I assumed you would have looked at it, but if not: http://prod.static.cardinals.clubs.nfl.com/assets/docs/2014Darren/RosterChartAfter2013.pdf

    As for Palmer, he had a three-year deal but the third year voids, I believe, if he is on the roster five days after this year’s Super Bowl. That will happen, obviously.

  22. By Darren Urban on Jan 2, 2014 | Reply

    Canadian –

    RE: Levi

    Are you sure about that?

    Regardless, I expect the Steelers to release Levi, so it will be a moot point.

  23. By Richard S. on Jan 2, 2014 | Reply

    I wonder if Washington hadn’t been suspended the first 4 games if the Cards could have notched another win, maybe at St. Louis. I’ll bet he wonders that too.

  24. By andystandsup on Jan 2, 2014 | Reply

    In all respect, Darren, Sherman is two years older and not the athlete nor the stats Peterson has. (Not to mention the supposed failed drug test.)
    He should expect a lower value than Patrick.
    Just going to be a tight cap situation this next offseason with all the dead money and Fitz contract.
    Any benefits to pushing the Peterson extension to next year?

  25. By Darren Urban on Jan 3, 2014 | Reply

    Andy –

    RE: Pushing Patrick

    Of course there is a benefit. But there is also a risk and I think you lock down your young stars when you can. The Cards have some cards to play at this point. I’d try and use that to my advantage. The closer he gets to free agency, the rougher the situation gets. It may not happen immediately, but you start talks. No need to create acrimony if you don’t have to.

  26. By John The Draft Guy on Jan 3, 2014 | Reply

    andystandsup,

    Sherman has said he is the best CB in football. Why would he take less?
    drafted the same year as PP, he has been playing with a 5th round salary. I’m sure he wants to be paid higher than any other CB.

    With PP, wouldn’t you want to set the bar and let the other guys say i want PP money or more, instead of the other way around. You may come away better getting it done earlier. i would get the deal done as soon as possible.

    Both Seattle and SF have a lot of young players approaching FA. Both those teams have been able to pay their QBs modestly. Kaep should get something this year and Wilson will be highly paid next year.

    So I hope Sherman gets a monster deal. I hope Earl Thomas gets a huge check. It will only put them in cap hell when Wilson gets his 100 million dollar contract next off season

  27. By Scott H on Jan 3, 2014 | Reply

    Darren -

    Well, yes, I could have looked at the link. I was asking more for your opinions on some of these situations than expiration dates of contracts.

  28. By HunterSThompson on Jan 3, 2014 | Reply

    Hey Jason C -

    Interested in revisiting our salary cap discussions? Seems like Kiem IS worried about Larry’s cap hit, IS intent on signing a new contract with PP this offseason, and ALREADY has injury issues he will need to pay additional players to fill in beyond the guys currently under contract.

    Oh yeah, the Cards missed the playoffs (still behind the 49ers and Seahawks) they are not getting a franchise QB with the 20th pick in the draft (necessitating keeping Palmer), and the Rams have some insane draft picks coming up.

    Reality vs wishful thinking. Should be an interesting offseason, huh?

  29. By andystandsup on Jan 3, 2014 | Reply

    @JTDG, just because you say you’re the best at your position, doesn’t mean you are and need to be paid that way. Otherwise, Dansby would have a huge payday this season or the upcoming one, for example.
    If you haven’t read, Peterson expects to be the highest-paid defensive player in history breaking Darelle Revis’s record-setting contract at at least 50 mil guaranteed.
    You speak of Sherman and Thomas’s contract binding the ‘Hawks, but a PP, Fitz and Palmer trio isn’t going to clear up cap space. If you can push the PP extension ’til the offseason with hopefully more cap space — that would be ideal.
    And by Peterson firing his agent he realizes this is a business. Hard to see hurt feelings by either side.

  30. By Rich on Jan 4, 2014 | Reply

    Darren,

    You always capture the full context of each player’s situation, in just a few words. Its quite special. I really enjoy it.

    One questions: If Bowles stays, he is an obvious, long term succession candidate for Arians as head coach. But is there anyone in the current coaching line up who is being mentored to eventually replace Arians as a play caller? Our OC is fundamentally a high level O line coach.

    rich

  31. By Rich on Jan 4, 2014 | Reply

    Darren,

    What’s your guess re 90? Is he back at reduced salary? Is he trade worthy with the current contract?

    rich

  32. By Darren Urban on Jan 4, 2014 | Reply

    Rich –

    RE: Play caller

    Right now, I don’t see that guy. Maybe Goodwin reaches that level.

  33. By Darren Urban on Jan 4, 2014 | Reply

    Rich –

    RE: Dockett

    Don’t see a trade. And I’m not 100 percent sure he wouldn’t be brought back contract untouched. But in the Cards’ situation, cap numbers like his will always draw scrutiny.

  34. By James on Jan 4, 2014 | Reply

    This kind of reminds me of the 2011 season. We stunk the first half and came back strong with John Skelton winning four overtime games culminating in wins against Seattle and SF in the end. It also reminds me a bit of the 2012 season early this year with poor OL protection hurrying the QB and sacks and IT’s. I tip my hat to Carson Palmer for coming back, that win against Seattle was ugly with four picks but he stuck to it. Next year is simply a new year, count on nothing until we show consistency like Cinci etc.

  35. By jasonc on Jan 4, 2014 | Reply

    Hunter-

    Not really interested because you either didn’t read the posts I wrote or you couldn’t comprehend them. If we are going to speak on it you should have your facts correct.

    Our whole discussion was due to you and others on this blog freaking out about how we couldn’t compete in the NFC west after back to back losses to Seattle and SF without trading Larry Fitzgerald due to his contract. I told you back then that not only did I believe that we had a roster that could compete but I showed you how we COULD….not WOULD or SHOULD…but COULD make moves to still be competitive and not do anything to his contract next season. I went on to state that if we wanted to make any big re-signings like PP or a LT that we would have to probably rework some contracts and that Keim’s staff, who gets paid to do this, could figure it out. I never said we wouldn’t extend PP, I said we didn’t HAVE TO and we don’t he’s under contract, but as Darren stated not doing it early gives PP more leverage.

    Now as to your more recent claims. Where in this blog does it say Keim is “worried” about Larry’s contract? This is a blog written by Darren and it is his take on the roster moving forward. As a matter of fact Darren wrote another blog where he quotes Keim that you should re-read.

    http://blog.azcardinals.com/2013/10/28/keim-addresses-fitz-rumors/

    Doesn’t sound like a guy that is worried. He sounds pretty matter of fact that he has a plan and that it includes Larry.

    I never said we wouldn’t resign PP, I said we didn’t have to….which is a fact.

    We missed the playoffs but we beat Seattle on the road and played SF extremely well both games. We finished in the top ten of everyones power rankings and we showed that we can compete with not only the NFC West but the entire NFL and the 2014 team is going to be better, so not sure what your point is?

    Carson Palmer had a fantastic year even with the INT’s. He brought us back in Seattle and against SF twice. We don’t have to draft a QB this year, I’d like us to take a guy but I trust we will only do it if it is a guy that Keim and BA believe in and that gives me comfort. How can you bet against Keim with what he did last year?

    Everything I wrote is reality…is it positive? yes. Is it optimistic? yes. That is just who I am. I believe that we are a good team and our season backs me up. Maybe if you think that Seattle, SF and StL are so much better than us you should consider switching your allegiances?

  36. By Coach K on Jan 4, 2014 | Reply

    Darren, do you think the Cardinals would consider moving up to take a guy like Blake Bortles if they felt he was the franchise quarterback that best fit BA’s system? And what would it take to trade up into the top three picks?

  37. By Darren Urban on Jan 5, 2014 | Reply

    Coach K –

    RE: Bortles

    Do I think they will take a QB if they think he’s a franchise QB? Yes.

    Do I think they will trade up? They would within reason.

    To trade into the top three picks from 20 isn’t going to happen. It would take most of your draft. If you aren’t 100 percent sure of who you are drafting and what he will do in the NFL, it’s near franchise suicide.

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