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Keim: Mathieu extension is “our goal”

Posted by Darren Urban on February 11, 2016 – 6:50 pm

Tyrann Mathieu wants to remain a Cardinal, and he has said as much. General Manager Steve Keim agrees, and with the safety due to become a free agent after the 2016 season, Keim said Thursday night on the Big Red Rage the team wants to get an extension done. When that might be is still a question, Keim acknowledged, but “I don’t think there is any doubt that’s our goal.”

Keim has been mostly holed up in his office this week watching as much college video as he can in advance of the upcoming Scouting combine. But he took some time to be a guest on the Rage, hitting on a variety of topics, including the fact he remains disappointed with the way the season ended, with the Cardinals “embarrassed” in the NFC Championship game against the Panthers.

“Our expectations as an organization, our expectations as a fan base, are to hang banners every year,” Keim said. “Not just the West (division) championship, but the big one.”

Among the other topics Keim addressed:

— Yes, an edge rusher is an important target, but it’s not the only spot. Keim said there are “a lot of areas we need to improve,” and he said that includes depth positions and not just looking at starters.

— Keim said the Cardinals will be as active in free agency as they usually are. But he reiterated that when looking at players who are seeking longer contracts with big guarantees, there must be a certain amount of caution with that aggressive mindset. There are usually reasons these players couldn’t get such deals with their original teams.

— While he would not get into specifics about the Cards’ own free agents — saying there are, as usual, some the team would very much like back — he knows the market could dictate how many return. As for both free agency and the draft, “you can’t force signings and you can’t force picks,” Keim said. “I’ve said that for a long time. When you get into a habit of forcing need, you are leaving better players on the board.”

— Keim wouldn’t be specific with how much cap space the Cardinals will have but added he feels “very good” with where the Cards are right now. Since arriving in 2013 to his current job, “the thing we’ve done the best job of is eliminating the dead money,” Keim said.

— There is always planning for the future, but even with the possibility of guys like QB Carson Palmer or wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald retiring in the next few years, that doesn’t change the expectation of the franchise.

“The NFL doesn’t allow you not to be in a win-now mode,” Keim said.

— Speaking of Palmer, Keim didn’t hesitate in saying he thinks his quarterback will be fine in 2016 even after the rough NFC Championship and has no concerns there is a mental hurdle for Palmer to overcome.

“When we made the trade for Carson three years ago, there was a perception, because you’re talking about a guy who sat out a year in Cincinnati, that maybe he was a quitter or whatever the thought was across the country,” Keim said. “After getting to know him for three years, I haven’t been around many people who are as tough mentally or as competitive as he is. I have a tremendous amount of confidence in Carson Palmer in every aspect of the game.”

“I think Carson Palmer has good football left in him,” Keim added, noting that there are 12-to-15 teams looking for a quarterback. The Cardinals are not one of them. “I’m proud to have Carson Palmer as our quarterback.”

BRRKeim

 


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The case to keep Freeney

Posted by Darren Urban on February 10, 2016 – 10:58 am

There were so many reasons last year to think that a pairing of the Cardinals and veteran pass rusher Dwight Freeney made sense, long before it actually happened. (The fact it took an injury to starter Alex Okafor to make it happen, and then to have Freeney perform as he did while Okafor somehow got hurt away from the team on playoff bye week, probably isn’t lost on the Cardinals.)

Freeney is a free agent. At his age — he turns 36 on Feb. 19 — he made clear both during the season and after that he is in year-to-year mode. He didn’t know if he was going to try and play in 2016, and if he did, there’s a question of whether the Cardinals will want to bring him back. But ESPN did a list of 10 “sleeper” free agents, and of them Freeney is one. The site notes Freeney had 36 pressures in just 264 snaps (and eight sacks, which is a pretty nice number for 264 snaps). For a team that is still looking to upgrade its pass rush, having Freeney around certainly cannot hurt.

Would Freeney take another lower-salary deal with incentives like he signed this season? Possible. Freeney made it clear he doesn’t want to play for a non-contender, so a) money can’t be everything and b) he definitely likes being with the Cardinals and Bruce Arians. He brings so much to the team besides QB pressures too; his ability to be a role model for younger rushers like Markus Golden is invaluable.

Freeney first has to decide if he wants to play again. If he does, it’ll be interesting to see what money that season he just had can generate. It’s possible he could wait it out and be a just-before-camp guy for the Cardinals. But I’d think as they put together the roster, if they see Freeney as a key component, that signing would come much sooner.

FreeneyBlog


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Cash for a fast Combine 40, and the Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on February 9, 2016 – 3:13 pm

Long before he came to the Cardinals, even before he rushed for 2,000 yards and became the only player in NFL history to have more than 2,500 yards from scrimmage in a season, Chris Johnson caught everyone’s attention when he ran a 4.24-second 40-yard dash at the 2008 Scouting combine (I think, had he lasted until the second round, the Cardinals were very interested at the time. They took Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie 16th; Johnson went 24th to the Titans.)

So this year, adidas is offering up $1 million for any player who can top Johnson’s speed at the combine. (The catch: A player has to wear the company’s Adizero 5-star 40 cleats.) In previous years, adidas has been offering 40 money — $100,000 at a time. Two years ago, $100,000 went to current Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who went 4.33 seconds. That still gets a wistful shake of the head from Cardinals wideout Smokey Brown, who ran a 4.34 and understands how close he came to the cash.

Last year, the prize was going to be a custom Porsche, but it conflicted with NFL endorsements, so three guys collected $100,000 each instead: Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes (4.31), Colts wideout Phillip Dorsett (4.33) and Bears wideout Kevin White (4.35). The painful Cardinals connection was that it was actually wide receiver J.J. Nelson who ran the faster 40 time at the combine last year, at 4.28. But to win the money the player had to be signed to an adidas endorsement contract before he ran. The other three were. Alas, Nelson was not.

J J Nelson


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Cards could use some Super pressure

Posted by Darren Urban on February 8, 2016 – 3:24 pm

Just two weeks ago, Steve Keim was emphasizing the need to improve the Cardinals’ pass rush. This is no state secret, or hard to analyze. After watching what the Broncos did to the Panthers in the Super Bowl — and what the Cardinals could not do to Cam Newton in the NFC Championship game — that plan of action couldn’t have been made any more crystal clear.

It changes the game to be able to pressure off the edge consistently. It makes a difference in the biggest games. After the 2007 season, the Patriots, with their 18-0 record and a passing game that scored more than 50 times by itself, stalled in the Super Bowl. The Giants’ defense wasn’t even that powerful overall, necessarily — but it had a front four that could get to the quarterback (and depth up front), that made life hellish for Tom Brady and brought down the undefeated season with a crash.

This has been a constant topic around the Cardinals in recent years. Even looking back at the 2011 draft, when the Cardinals picked future All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson with the No. 5 overall choice, the team was eyeing Super Bowl 50 star Von Miller had he dropped that far (although it became clear in the days leading up to the draft he would not.) You can scheme all you want and blitz more than any other team — which the Cards have done the last couple of years — but blitzing is a risk that can burn a club. And the Cards didn’t always provide the pressure even when they did blitz. The pass rush doesn’t guarantee a title (ask the Panthers, who harassed Peyton Manning pretty well themselves) but it’s an uphill climb without it.


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Warner does not make Hall of Fame

Posted by Darren Urban on February 6, 2016 – 8:08 pm

Former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner again reached the final 10 of Hall of Fame finalists, but for a second straight year he was not voted for the sport’s highest individual honor. The five modern day inductees were quarterback Brett Favre, tackle Orlando Pace, coach Tony Dungy, wide receiver Marvin Harrison and linebacker Kevin Greene. (Former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. was elected as a contributor and quarterback Ken Stabler and guard Dick Stanfel were put in through the seniors committee.)

Warner is going to get in at some point. That seems inevitable.

Quarterback Carson Palmer did win the FedEx Air Player of the Year award, which was announced earlier Saturday, but the Cards didn’t capture anything during Saturday night’s NFL Honors ceremony. Palmer was second to Chiefs safety Eric Berry for Comeback Player of the Year (Berry came back after battling cancer in 2014). Palmer also got a vote for MVP, as did Tom Brady, although Cam Newton won the award by getting the other 48 votes. Former Cardinal Anquan Boldin, now with the 49ers, was named the Walter Payton Man of the Year.

Kurt Warner


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Remembering a serious Derek Anderson

Posted by Darren Urban on February 5, 2016 – 3:50 pm

If the Carolina Panthers win the Super Bowl Sunday, Derek Anderson — Cam Newton’s backup — will earn himself a championship ring. It’s a good place to be in, and a far cry from where Anderson was in 2010, when he came into the season as the surprise starter for the Cardinals after Matt Leinart’s relationship with Ken Whisenhunt completely fizzled. The team wasn’t good, nor was Anderson. The most memorable moment for Anderson came in a “Monday Night Football” game against San Francisco, after which Anderson went off in a postgame press conference when Kent Somers questioned him about MNF cameras catching Anderson laughing on the sideline during a bad loss.

In retrospect (and I just went back to look at the telecast), Anderson’s reaction was brief. But color commentator Jon Gruden criticized Anderson for not being more upset given the way the game was going, and the fans saw and heard it at home. It’s why Kent’s Twitter feed (and mine) blew up with angry fans. So Kent asked Anderson about it after, and when Anderson said he hadn’t laughed, Kent pursued it. It got memorable — in Cardinals’ lore, it was close to they-were-who-we-thought-they-were memorable. Anderson apologized a few days later, but that wasn’t live on SportsCenter, so …

But that was five years ago, and Kent got a chance to catch up to Anderson at the Super Bowl, writing a really good column about that time and Anderson’s rear view of it all. Anderson explains what guard Deuce Lutui was saying to him and why he reacted as he did. Anderson admits he could have handled it better, but probably goes without saying. It was an ugly year, one that nearly pushed him to retire, but Anderson said he rededicated himself to football and now finds himself on the cusp of being part of a championship team.

“I grew from that situation,” Anderson told Kent.

Anderson takes this … stuff … serious, after all. Real serious.

DAblog1


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Mathieu, Jefferson tweet Manziel support

Posted by Darren Urban on February 5, 2016 – 10:08 am

Johnny Manziel’s NFL career might not last much longer, but as more details come out about his troubled life and even his parents go public with their concerns, football doesn’t really matter much in the big picture. What happens with Manziel, both professionally and personally, will play out here in the next months and years, but a couple of Cardinals’ safeties — both of whom have shown to have a pretty good perspective about life and things outside of the game, tweeted the need for support of Manziel at this time.

The first came from Tyrann Mathieu, who knows all about hurting oneself off the field. Mathieu has been in some dark places in his personal life, but he staged a remarkable comeback to not only star in the NFL but have a great life off the field.

Tony Jefferson, who in his last collegiate game played against Manziel in the 2013 Cotton Bowl, then tweeted out a series of comments not just about Manziel but also how public figures are treated in such scenarios.

 Johnny Manziel

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Warner’s chances for Hall of Fame 2016

Posted by Darren Urban on February 5, 2016 – 7:42 am

At this point, it seems inevitable that Kurt Warner will get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It’s a matter of when, I’d guess, rather than if. Warner is in his second year as a finalist, and as the Hall of Fame itself notes, since 1970 85 percent of all players who are finalists eventually get in.

Will that be this year? That’s a lot more murky of a question. Of the 14 finalists accompanying Warner, only one — quarterback Brett Favre — seems to be a lock. The other potential four spots seem up for grabs. Steelers/Panthers Linebacker Kevin Greene is a finalist for a fifth time, but he’s a candidate who has definitely split the voters as a guy who deserves to be in. Colts Wide receiver Marvin Harrison is a finalist for a third time and he’s another guy who seems inevitable, although does he top first-time finalist Terrell Owens, the wide receiver best known for his years with the 49ers/Eagles/Cowboys? Could both go in and shrink the available spots? Rams tackle Orlando Pace is another guy who seems likely to get in sooner rather than later. The other finalists this year:

Saints K Morten Andersen
Broncos S Steve Atwater
Cards/Chargers Coach Don Coryell
Broncos RB Terrell Davis
Bucs/Colts coach Tony Dungy
Steelers/Jets/Cards G Alan Faneca
Redskins T Joe Jacoby
Colts/Cards RB Edgerrin James
Bucs S John Lynch

Again, if Warner doesn’t get in, he’s still likely to eventually. Interestingly, there has not been a quarterback inducted in a decade — and in 2006, there were two that went in, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon. The year before that, two QBs went in — Dan Marino and Steve Young. So getting both Warner and Favre in the same year wouldn’t be a shock.

Warner still has to battle that mid-part of his career, late with the Rams, the season with the Giants and his early Cardinals’ years, where his play wasn’t very Hall of Famey. But I saw those Cardinals’ years myself and that had less to do with the quarterback than the team construction itself. (Danny Green’s coaching staff cornucopia didn’t help either.) But every player who has won multiple MVPs is in the Hall, and Warner took two franchises to the Super Bowl that hadn’t sniffed such a thing in a long time. He’s Hall-worthy. The question is, is this the year?


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Larry Fitzgerald and a little kid’s praise

Posted by Darren Urban on February 4, 2016 – 1:17 pm

I’ve mentioned before that Larry Fitzgerald likes to tackle for fun. With that in mind, I’m gonna just leave this here.


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Peyton’s place wasn’t with Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on February 2, 2016 – 3:30 pm

Peyton Manning insists he hasn’t decided whether he will retire after the Super Bowl despite whatever he whispered to Bill Belichick. The Broncos quarterback doesn’t have the same arm he once did — he admitted it hasn’t been the same since his neck injury a few years ago — and to this, everybody nods their heads already having seen it on the field.

But Act II of Manning’s career has been fantastic even with his uneven end. No matter what the issues, he’s helped lead the Broncos to the Super BowlPeyton Manning twice, and it was just a couple of years ago Manning was flinging 55 touchdown passes (and he had 39 last year when everyone wondered if he was going south then.) Now he readies himself to take down the team that just sent the Cardinals to their unwanted end.

And for a moment, you think back to that few days in March of 2012 when Manning was released from the Colts and actually had the Cardinals on his short list of teams for which he wanted to play. So much would have been different.

There were logistical problems with Manning coming to the Cardinals from jump, not the least of which being a tight salary cap that could have been adjusted to get him on the roster but likely would have made it tough to put people around him. The offensive line at the time was not as good as now (although I maintained at the time and still believe that Manning alone makes any offensive line better with how quickly he delivers the ball and how he knows where to go with it every time.)

Manning liked then-coach Ken Whisenhunt. He insisted after he picked the Broncos that the notion he didn’t want to be in the NFC because of his brother being in the conference was incorrect. He did have Larry Fitzgerald, who was coming off a 1,400-yard season and, as you can see below when the two met after a preseason game, liked him some Peyton Manning.

Manning visited the Cards’ Tempe facility (pictured above right) and then in the next week chose the Broncos and the Cards stuck with Kevin Kolb. Whether it was ever serious or not, the decision changed a lot of things in Arizona. Whisenhunt’s team got off to a 4-0 start behind Kolb that season but lost 11 of their last 12 and the Cards changed both GM and coach. New GM Steve Keim traded for Carson Palmer, re-energizing both Palmer and the franchise. Bruce Arians, who was Manning’s first quarterbacks coach in the NFL and remains close to Manning, likely would never had gotten his one and only chance to be a head coach if Manning had picked the Cardinals.

It’s worked out well for Manning in Denver (and better if he can win Sunday.) It’s turned out pretty good for the Cardinals in the long run, although it’s fair to wonder what would have happened if Manning had made a different decision.

Peyton Manning, Larry Fitzgerald


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Posted in Blog | 28 Comments »
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