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Free-agent targets and their board

Posted by Darren Urban on February 13, 2014 – 12:00 pm

That the Cardinals will likely consider signing a left tackle in free agency would be no surprise. Who the targets might be remain mostly speculation, especially since there is still a chance some of them won’t make it to the open market, whether they are signed to an extension before March 11 or are given the franchise tag. Kansas City’s Branden Albert is the most notable choice (and there was a report out of Kansas City that the Chiefs will let Albert walk). There is also the Ravens’ Eugene Monroe, the Raiders’ Jared Veldheer or the Bengals’ Anthony Collins.

Whatever the Cards decide to do — at tackle or another spot — they will be prepared. That’s what General Manager Steve Keim and his front office group have been doing in the run-up to the Scouting combine, building their free-agent board for a second straight season. Last year, the Cards did the same, and ended up signing seven of the top nine players they had listed (which included one of their own free agents, safety Rashad Johnson.)

That board is more complicated than just listing the top talent on the market. It takes into account positions of need, of course, in addition to estimated salaries of what these players might want, what they should be worth when it comes to metrics, and what the Cards would be willing to offer. It delivers a blueprint so the Cards are prepared when free agency begins.

As the Cardinals proved last season, they have numbers in mind for all their offers. It doesn’t sound like Keim likes to do a ton of negotiating. Last season, for many free agents early in the process, the Cardinals told visiting players their offer could very well be off the table if they left without signing. That proved fruitful. The Cards didn’t sign everyone they went after last season, but that’s where the board helps.

“It will help us move on to the next guy if a guy decides to drag his feet or to not take the deal,” Keim said.

A lot can still change until March 11, because of the Cards’ own free agents that may or may not re-sign. The board, though, will be a crucial part of the process going forward.

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26 Responses to “Free-agent targets and their board”

  1. By Dr. G. on Feb 13, 2014 | Reply

    Darren –
    …Now if our own free agents want to hold out, the money for them may not be there later on based upon your take of Keim’s tactical approach…makes sense not to haggle with some of the greedy agents who think they can play hard ball. I don’t follow much of the other NFL team’s activities other than who they sign or not, but I admire the take-it-or-leave approach of Keim… I still think Los’ success was due to his coaches putting him into the right schemes. I hope he knows that.

    Q: Can you name any of the players last year Keim wanted that we did not sign? Perhaps you are not permitted or they don’t let you know. Some are curious. Thanks for your efforts…

  2. By Darren Urban on Feb 13, 2014 | Reply

    Dr. G –

    RE: “other players”

    I never saw the list. There was a lot of talk of interest in Reggie Bush. And LB Rey Maualuga came in for a visit early in the process.

  3. By Andy Kw on Feb 13, 2014 | Reply

    Lets cut DT Darnell Dockett. He is one heck of a player and it would be great if he can restructure his contract. But does anybody think that in his point in his career that he is willing to take a pay cut? I say lets get some more Cap Space and sign younger players. He is talented but he is 32. Teams all over the league have been making tough but good decisions: Saints released DE Will Smith, DB Roman Harper, DB Jabari Greer. The Detroit Lions released DB Louis Delmas and WR Nate Burleson. I say we do the same.
    Other guys to cut (I wrote more in the last article Darren Urban posted):
    -OG Daryn Colledge
    -RB Ryan Williams
    -LB Jaspar Brinkley

  4. By georgiebird on Feb 13, 2014 | Reply

    The paradigm for the Cardinals has shifted to a higher level. Last year, the Cardinals made significant improvement. Some can argue the Cards ended the season as a top five or six NFL team. While the quarterback position was upgraded (by default), most of the success goes to BA and SK.
    As long as Palmer is the QB, it will be difficult for the Cards to improve beyond the 5th or 6th best team-there are just too many very good QB’s in the top five or six teams.
    Conversely, some bad moves by SK can easily drop the Cards back into the upper-middle group of teams. The stakes are higher than ever this year. Feel good stories are a thing of the past.

  5. By John The Draft Guy on Feb 13, 2014 | Reply

    Darren,

    Isn’t Monroe on the Jaguars?

  6. By Matt on Feb 13, 2014 | Reply

    Completely agree with you g b, Keim better be on top of things and prove it very soon.

  7. By ored on Feb 13, 2014 | Reply

    how far in the past?last year at the beginning of the season many thought we would struggle to win 5 or 6 games,turned out to be a nice feel good story.
    personally i think we’ve seen what we can do and with an eye on the prize,we have a statement year.

  8. By ChristianR on Feb 13, 2014 | Reply

    Andy K, we don’t have enough leverage on Dockett to cut him. Cutting him would just create a bunch of dead money that we owe him to play somewhere else. Plus, our organization made the same commitment to him that they made to Fitz: a career as a Cardinal. Cutting Ryan Williams will only save us about $1 million. It’d be better to ask him to take a little less money and actually use him. He still could be an effective ‘back, but he’s never had the chance to prove it. I agree with trying to get rid of Colledge and Brinkley, especially if we resign Dansby (who is also in his 30s, like Dockett). We might be able to trade our most productive lineman, though. I doubt it, but let’s see what happens.

    georgiebird, I love that post, and almost everything is spot on. The only thing I could disagree with would be Palmer at QB. A team doesn’t need a great QB to be one of the best. In 2007, the Bears finished their season as the second best team in the NFL with Rex Grossman as their QB. Brad Johnson was hardly elite when the Buccaneers won a Super Bowl. He just had that good season and was aided by a great team with great coaching (fun fact, Tampa Bay was also the #1 defense that year and also scored 48 points in Super Bowl, like Seattle). Point is, a great team can make an ordinary QB look extraordinary. We can still have a couple strong seasons with Palmer at the helm.

  9. By Islandofmisfitcards on Feb 14, 2014 | Reply

    Darren,

    Free agency is going to be a huge part of our season I agree, but I was hoping to get your take on the events of what took place this week. Michael Sam is going into the NFL draft this year, and with speed edge rushers being a need for the Cardinals I can’t help but think that on a team which took a chance on a player like Tyrann Mathieu, brought in free agents like John Abraham and the numerous other parts on the island of misfit toys which made our 2013 Cardinals he is a Birdgang member waiting to happen. Will it take an adjustment period? Absolutely, but with Bruce Arians coaching our team I have in him a leader with the confidence, and straight forward attitude that would not play games when it came to what he expects, and would hold his players accountable to being part of a team. I know writing this on our blog and being only one of a few million Cardinals fans makes my opinion less than the most desired, and I would never presume to speak on behalf of the Cardinals fan base, but as a life long Cardinals fan, youth football coach, soon to be college graduate of the University of Arizona, and proud man in love with the most wonderful woman in the world I hope Michael Sam gets to chase and accomplish all those hopes and dreams he is chasing and if he can do it in a Cardinals uniform for the next ten to fifteen years then I am in full throated support of this young man. Being SEC defensive player of the year in a conference which produced Patrick Peterson, Patrick Willis, Tyrann Mathieu, Eric Berry, Joe Haden, Karlos Dansby, Greg Hardy, Rashad Johnson, Jasper Brinkley, and a list a mile long of not just of great Arizona Cardinals, but great NFL players it would be foolish to not consider drafting this young man. I have read a lot of comments on this topic since the news broke at the beginning of the week, and the one that struck me and has stuck with me was a young man who quoted his grandpa “Bravery is the courage to be yourself no matter what others might do, think or say” and Michael Sam at 22 years old is showing the bravery of a man twice his age. Well other than the expression of my hopes for the best with Mr. Michael Sam fellow Cardinals fans please have a Happy Valentines day, and a good weekend.

  10. By Coach K on Feb 14, 2014 | Reply

    If we can get a left tackle in FA, I think this could be a better move than drafting one. I don’t think an elite left tackle will fall to pick #20. I’d rather see the Cardinals get the best available athlete. Either an elite corner, or an elite tight end.

    I have been watching film of Jimmy Garoppolo this week and the more I watch his throwing motion, the more he reminds me of of Kurt Warner. I am now starting to think this kid could be the sleeper in this draft. He is only 6’2″, but is well built and sold at 220 lbs. His throwing motion and quick release is really impressive. In fact, he has a better release than any quarterback in this draft. I think Blake Bortles is the most NFL ready, but I have to put Garoppolo right behind him. This kid could be a steal for the Cardinals in round two. His arm talent just jumps off the film. Can make all the throws. I’m really anxious to watch him throw at the combine.

    I hate to compare anyone to the great Kurt Warner, but after watching film on Garoppolo, I’m having flashbacks to Kurt at his best. Those quick timing passes he was so good at. Garoppolo has those instincts. This kid could be the real deal.

  11. By Darren Urban on Feb 14, 2014 | Reply

    JTDG –

    RE: Monroe

    Traded to Baltimore last season after Jags took Joekel.

  12. By Darren Urban on Feb 14, 2014 | Reply

    Islandofmisfit –

    RE: Sam

    Personally, Sam’s announcement would have no effect on me as a football guy. But he has to be able to be a good football player. Jury is still out on that.

  13. By John The Draft Guy on Feb 14, 2014 | Reply

    Islandofmisfitcards,

    Sam;
    I’m not sure why your opinion would not be welcomed by the birdgang?
    But long before this news, jasonc and I had a conversation about Sam. I really didn’t see the explosion out of him and he seemed like he was lost at times on the field.

    I think we concluded (help me out jasonc) that the fact that 1st round prospect Kony Ealy played on the other side and got doubled all the time helped benefit Sam.

    As for someone different playing, merit always trumps all. Jimmy Johnson always said, “If a backup falls a sleep in a meeting, he is cut. If Troy Aikman fell asleep, wake him up and fill him in on what he missed.” If you can play, teams will accept you.

    Along the same lines, remember when Doug Williams had the African American world on his shoulders because people said Black QBs can’t win superbowls? When he won the game and put up an amazing performance, it helped break down discrimination against African American QBs. Don’t believe me?

    Did you hear any stories about Russel Wilson’s ethnic background? Any questions about, can he win the big one because of his color of his skin? I saw nothing. All I heard is this amazing leader and talented QB lead Seattle to the championship.

    Honey Badger was a gamble in round 3. No one wanted a druggie who gets kicked off his college team. The cards took a chance and lets face it, the questions came. “Can HB stay clean” Can he be counted on” . Some teams may have wrote him off all together because of the distraction he would bring. HB took the press, the cards took the press and his merit made everyone forget his past.

    When Sam is drafted, he will be bombarded with questions. The team he plays for will have the questions, every team mate will have the questions, and it will cause distractions. But Merit trumps all. If Sam flops, people will still have questions about whether an openly gay player can succeed. If he succeeds, the questions will go away eventually. Lets face it, if John Abraham said he was gay, would that change your opinion of him? It wouldn’t for me. Just keep putting up those sacks.

  14. By shooter28 on Feb 14, 2014 | Reply

    georgiebird-

    Carson Palmer has been a solid QB over his career but has suffered on bad franchises with subpar talent around him. Their is a reason Palmer was a #1 overall pick. Palmer got off to a rough start in 2013 , but , he was in a brand new offense , behind a sub-par O-line with a UD LT & to make matters worse Arizona lost their 1st round 7th overall pick stud LG J. Cooper to injury for the season. All of his pass catchers struggled the first month of the season as well in the new offense , and not all but about half of his INTs were on his pass catchers & protection breaking down around him. For almost the entire season Palmer was the NFLs second most hit QB and most pressure QB behind only A. Luck.

    Once everyone in the new offense settled down though and the run game picked up , Palmer was one of the NFLs best QBs over the last 9 games of the season. He lead Arizona’s offense to a 12th overall ranking , finishing ranked 8th in passing yards & ranked in the top 10 in passing yards, CMP % , YD/AVG and of QBs who played 15 or more games he finished 11th in TD pass’s in the NFL in just year one of Bruce Arians offense , which is known to be one of the NFLs most complex. Over last 9 games Palmer had a 66% Completion Percentage, AVG 281 Passing yards per game, 16TDs-8INTs, basically a 2 to 1 TD/INT ratio, 8.2 YD/AVG , and a 97.7 Passer Rating.

    With Carson Palmer & all his pass catchers around him knowing the offense front the start of the season , he should be even better this season. Palmer has one of the NFLs best top 3 WRs duos in the league at his disposal. He has two of the best offensive minds and play callers who are great proven coachs working with QBs in Bruce Arians and Tom Moore. With the high caliber elite defense Arizona has , Palmer will be fine as Arizona’s starting QB.

  15. By jasonc on Feb 14, 2014 | Reply

    JTDG-

    You are correct. One concern we came up with about Sam was the fact that he played on the other side of Ealy who appears to be a better player. Sam’s sack total also came in bunches, which I think all sack totals do, but it is a concern I’ve heard brought up that 9 of his 11.5 sacks came in three games. I think the biggest concern I’ve heard is that he doesn’t appear to the the size to play to the level of his athleticism. If he was 6’5 275 he would be athletic enough, but at 6’2 255 he lacks the explosiveness to be a traditional DE and he doesn’t appear to be fluid enough to play in space as an OLB in the 3-4. I think he has a future in this league and he is a mid rounder but he appears to be a situational player or a project at this point according to most of the scouting reports I’ve read. The only game I was able to watch was the Florida game and he looked extremely impressive in that contest notching 3 sacks.

  16. By chad on Feb 14, 2014 | Reply

    Darren,
    ?
    Not to get off subject. But did we ever find out what kind of pick we are getting from the Steelers for Levi Brown?

  17. By Darren Urban on Feb 14, 2014 | Reply

    Chad –

    RE: Levi pick

    Because Levi didn’t ever play a down for the Steelers (getting hurt in warmups before his first game) the Cardinals are not getting a pick for him.

  18. By Coach K on Feb 14, 2014 | Reply

    I’m not sure why people are writing comments about Sam on this article on free agency, but oh well. I am very curious if Keim will grab Steelers free agent outside backer Jason Worilds. He is only 25 years old and has played extremely well for them. I also hear he is not happy there. I think signing a solid player like Worilds would be very smart considering his age and quality play in Blitzburgh. And I think the price would be good for both sides.

  19. By John The Draft Guy on Feb 15, 2014 | Reply

    Coach K,

    First, the comments started before the next blog was posted.

    Second, Pitt needs pass rushers, They used their first round pick last year to get a pass rusher. Seems to me, if Worilds was any good, he wouldn’t be allowed out of Pitt.

  20. By Coach K on Feb 15, 2014 | Reply

    John, that’s a valid concern, but he was snubbed by the number one draft pick. So you expect your number one picks to play. That does not mean Worilds can’t play. but to be fair, I have not watched enough film to discuss his pass rush ability honestly. So perhaps i should.

  21. By John The Draft Guy on Feb 16, 2014 | Reply

    Coach K,

    I am not saying he can or cant play. I just think on a team called Blitzburg, you wont let a good pass rusher, who is 26, walk away.

  22. By Coach K on Feb 16, 2014 | Reply

    Update. Jason Worilds was drafted as a pass rusher out of college and does possess those skills. He should be targeted by Keim since he is only 25 years old and has a solid game. His pass rush skills are outstanding. Can bull rush and swim with equal effectiveness.

  23. By clssylssy on Feb 18, 2014 | Reply

    It seems as if the Cardinals (rather Keim) have their work cut out with free agency and looking at the very real possibility of losing some of our defensive players who played a significant role in getting us that 10-16 season. Now that Fitz has restructured (as nobody believed he would) the Cards have the money to pay players who are deserve to be paid like Dansby, Peterson, Abraham etc. I know you and other fans feel John Abraham is going to be “too old” to cut it again but his play last year says otherwise and giving him another one or two year contract would keep an important piece in place while grooming somebody to bring up. Dansby is wanting to get paid what he’s worth and Cards fans seem to find that shocking and disloyal but, in most businesses there is the concept of merit increase and certainly, Dansby “merits” his pricetag. I have to wonder how many fans would take a salary cut out of loyalty to their employer or for the good of the company? If we don’t pay Dansby, somebody else will and it will probably be one of our division rivals. The same goes for Patrick Peterson; if we don’t pay hiim what he’s worth it will cost us in a lot more than cap dollars. The organization has gone out of it’s way to pump Peterson up as the “new face” and, like Fitz, he has been a major draw for ticket sales and merchandise in addition to being an exceptional player on both sides of the ball. The really great teams are smart enough to keep their major players as they are the critical to taking the team to the next level. Looking at the teams who were most successful in the playoffs, I think we are going to see a push for building powerful defenses this season. Older players may lose a slight step but what they bring in the way of leadership and stability more than makes up and need to be retained; a good GM will plan ahead and bring their replacements on board gradually. Placing all expectations on rookies is like planning to pay all your bills with a big win in Vegas!
    I have been reluctant to jump on the Steve Keim bandwagon as I like to base my conclusions on performance and not media hype. Keim did a good job his first year but the real test will come as the Cardinals are poised to breakout…depending upon how Keim manages some difficult contract problems. I will say that I was impressed with his statements around the Michael Sam issue, found it to be one of the most intelligent and articulate I’ve read. It made me proud that the Cardinals are sophisticated enough to know that a player’s ability to do a job is about skill and personal merit. I’ll be wishing Steve Keim good luck in performing a difficult follow-up this year, as the bar has been set high!

  24. By Senator J on Feb 18, 2014 | Reply

    Darren, do you think we might be in the market for a TE or K you do have Vinetari and Graham on the market

  25. By Darren Urban on Feb 18, 2014 | Reply

    Senator J –

    RE: K/TE

    I’d say right now, yes to both. Definitely need a veteran kicker. I wouldn’t be surprised if that is Feely, but until he re-ups, they need someone.

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