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Bidwill aids St. Louis high school athletes

Posted by Darren Urban on March 25, 2017 – 10:38 am

The Cardinals haven’t been in St. Louis since 1988, but the team continues to have ties there. So many of the organization’s great players still live in the area, and when the Rams were in St. Louis, the Cardinals would have alumni functions every year when the Cards went to St. Louis for their annual road trip.

Still, it’s good to hear that team president Michael Bidwill and the Cardinals decided to help the St. Louis chapter of the National Football Foundation. (Bidwill had been inducted into the NFF’s Leadership Hall of Fame in January of 2016.)

It would have gone unnoticed if the executive director of the St. Louis group hadn’t talked about it with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Bidwill donated $10,000, helping underwrite an annual banquet that honors the 25 best high school players in St. Louis and gives out scholarships to 11 student-athletes. The Rams had been doing it, but that ended when the Rams moved to Los Angeles.


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David Johnson? Yeah, he’s looking good

Posted by Darren Urban on March 22, 2017 – 2:31 pm

Rehab seems to be going quite nicely.


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Kurt Warner’s brush with jersey thief

Posted by Darren Urban on March 21, 2017 – 4:39 pm

This story about the Mexican newspaper director — former director, at this point — who allegedly stole Tom Brady’s Super Bowl jersey  is fascinating. It’s fascinating to watch the video, and even more insane to read the AP story about this guy and his apparent history of doing such a thing. There are so many layers to this (including how easy it is to get a media credential at the Super Bowl when you aren’t even doing anything), but it was interesting to see how Brady apparently wasn’t even the only Super Bowl quarterback to have his jersey lifted. Kurt Warner apparently did too.

From the Associated Press story:

Velazquez and Palafox both said Ortega was carrying a bag containing a past Super Bowl jersey worn by Warner and an Emmitt Smith book. Warner was named MVP at the 2000 Super Bowl.

“He showed me Warner’s jersey with his signature and told me a story about how Warner was surprised that he was in possession of the item,” Palafox said. “He said he planned to gather interest from Warner to sell him the jersey for $8,000.”

The story doesn’t necessarily specify which Warner jersey was taken (it mentions he was the 2000 SB MVP — the 1999 season — but doesn’t clarify that was the year it was taken). Warner was in two other Super Bowls, after the 2001 season and, of course, for the Cardinals after the 2008 season. I don’t ever remember hearing about Warner losing his Cardinals jersey, and I’d guess it probably was the 1999 jersey since that was one Warner won. Regardless, it’s a crazy story about a brazen guy. Here’s hoping Kurt gets his jersey back.


(“Kurt, do you know where your jersey is?”)

 


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Estimating the Cardinals’ comp picks

Posted by Darren Urban on March 20, 2017 – 11:41 am

A team can have up to four compensatory draft picks — extra picks a team gets when it loses more free agents than it signs — in a year. While the comp picks, maxed out at 32 across the league, are a moving target for now with free agency ongoing, the Cardinals seem to be in line for four extra choices. The actual formula remains a secret, but enough people have been working on it enough that a general idea of where the picks land can be estimated. Overthecap.com credits the Cardinals (as of now) with an extra third-rounder, an extra fourth-rounder, an extra fifth-rounder and an extra sixth-rounder in the 2018 draft.

Calais Campbell nets the third-round pick. Tony Jefferson the fourth-rounder. Marcus Cooper gets a fifth-rounder, and although the loss of D.J. Swearinger is canceled out by the signing of kicker Phil Dawson, Kevin Minter’s departure gets a sixth-rounder. The losses of Earl Watford and Alex Okafor are offset by the signings of Karlos Dansby and Jarvis Jones.

Again, this is an estimation. The league doesn’t release the formula, and other things eventually can be involved, including playing time and postseason honors. But if the Cards end up with four extra picks, that wouldn’t be too bad. There doesn’t seem to be much percolating with any new signings right now, which would mean more extra picks at this time next year.


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Minter replaces Dansby who replaced Minter

Posted by Darren Urban on March 18, 2017 – 3:18 pm

Once Karlos Dansby came back to the Cardinals (“Three-down linebacker? Man, I’m one interception away from being a legend, man”), it was clear Kevin Minter would be moving on. Minter did Saturday, reportedly agreeing to a deal with the Bengals. While Minter got better over his four years, the Cardinals were still looking to upgrade. We will see if Dansby — who turns 36 during the season and is 10 years older than Minter — is that answer, although I will not be surprised to see the Cardinals address the position in the draft.

It’s interesting that Minter is going to Cincinnati, where he will ostensibly replace Dansby, who is obviously replacing him. And then, to think back to 2013, when Minter was a second-round pick (and basically ignored that night, because the third-round pick was Tyrann Mathieu) and then lost out on a chance to start next to Daryl Washington when Dansby was signed for tenure No. 2 in Arizona.

So the Cardinals saw Dansby in Cincy and believed him better than Minter. And the Bengals didn’t worry about losing Dansby and see Minter as a replacement. I’ll miss Minter, who became a go-to guy in the locker room and was willing to avoid sugarcoating stuff, especially when things didn’t go well last season.

Out of nine 2013 draft picks, the Cardinals have two left — Mathieu and Andre Ellington, with Stepfan Taylor still a free agent.


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Calais says thank you to Cardinals fans

Posted by Darren Urban on March 17, 2017 – 11:13 am

Calais Campbell left as a free agent, a move that was frankly expected long before we got to the actual departure. But that certainly doesn’t erase nine great years of Campbell as a Cardinal, both on and off the field, with the gentle giant and his cookie monster-type voice making an impact in opposing backfields and on the fan base. You wouldn’t find a nicer guy, someone who interacted with anyone that approached, whether it be at training camp or at his Big Red Rage radio shows.

Now, Campbell has penned his farewell to the fans in The Players Tribune. His voice actually is a key part of the article.

Nine years is a long time. That’s a lot of hikes up Camelback Mountain and double orders at Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles. I wish so badly that I could have helped bring Arizona the Super Bowl title it deserves, but I’m still proud of every second I spent here. I’m a much better person for it.

There were a lot of places where I could have started my career, but I’m so glad I found my way to the desert. I’m never going to forget where I lost my voice.

And also found it.

It’s a great read and well worth your time. Campbell takes you from the time right before he was drafted through the Super Bowl and all his years with the team.

On a personal level, I hate to see Calais go. I think I have a good relationship with most everyone on the roster, but there was no one more helpful than Campbell. From my perspective, he was a go-to guy, because he was always there. Need a comment about the big picture? Calais. Need to talk to someone after the Cards had a bad game or were in a bad rut? Calais. All those times Bruce Arians made pointed comments about Campbell needing to play better? Calais didn’t shy away. He answered, and many times, agreed that he needed to do better (Make no mistake, Campbell was brutally hard on himself when the team or he wasn’t playing the way they should, even with his generally sunny disposition.) When neither Carson Palmer or Larry Fitzgerald wanted to talk to the media after pretty significant contract extensions in training camp last season, Campbell was the one to face the cameras and talk about how important it was for the team — even at the time knowing that he too was going into the final year of his contract and that his own extension might never come.

It took Campbell a long time to earn Pro Bowl recognition, a long time to prove that he was a very good second-round pick. He was under the radar in a lot of ways, partly because he developed in those lost years of 2010-2012 when the Cards weren’t in the thick of national conversation. But the Cards knew what they had — he got a big contract in Jacksonville, but he got one in Arizona in 2012 too — and he certainly left an impressive legacy over his nine seasons in the desert.

 


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Wait and see with Cardinals and FA CB

Posted by Darren Urban on March 16, 2017 – 3:22 pm

Brandon Carr went to the Ravens Thursday and Morris Claiborne to the Jets and the free-agent cornerback pool got a little smaller. But at this point, I’m not sure it makes a big difference to the Cardinals. Yes, with the defection of Marcus Cooper to the Bears, the Cardinals are going to have to find a new starter opposite Patrick Peterson. But it looks like that will be a slowly developing situation rather than an immediate fix.

There remain in-house candidates like Justin Bethel and Brandon Williams. Bethel did just take a paycut as he tries to rehab his cornerback stock (he did play well at the nickel late in the season and Bruce Arians noted that Bethel’s best spot was probably in the slot), while Williams struggled a lot as the raw, young cornerback that he is and he is far from a sure thing as a starter in this league.

But in a draft deep in cornerback talent, choosing one in the early rounds looks like the initial play. There are a few “name” cornerbacks still out there in free agency — Alterraun Verner, Brandon Flowers, and yes, Darrelle Revis, for example — but there is a reason they are still on the market. (No, I don’t see any chance Revis would be a pickup, regardless.)

This seems headed for the same place it was last season, where Bethel and now Williams and a draft pick will get a chance to show what they have, and a veteran will be picked up at some point to be in the mix. Remember, the Cardinals added Mike Jenkins and Alan Ball in camp last year before injuries took them out (Jenkins was your starter before he hurt his knee) and the team traded for Cooper.


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Bethel pay cut means free agency sooner

Posted by Darren Urban on March 15, 2017 – 9:00 am

The NFLPA web site, which updates daily the amount of salary cap room each team has, listed the Cardinals at around $18.5 million yesterday and at around $21 million today. Turns out — with the new contract of Jarvis Jones not yet in the system — that cornerback Justin Bethel had his pay reduced for 2017 from $4.5 million to $2 million, (also on the NFLPA site). I would guess, given his ups and downs last season, it was not a shock. (The move, figuring in signing bonus proration, saves the Cards $1.75M on the cap.)

Bethel did get something in return, however. His contract, which was to run through the 2018 season, now ends after 2017 — meaning he is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after the season. Next year was probably going to be dicey anyway, since Bethel had been scheduled to make $5 million in salary, but still, this will give him a guaranteed opportunity to reach the open market or to have some leverage for a new deal.

Bethel says he’s finally healthy from the foot injury that torpedoed his 2016 season. It’s a big year for him both on defense and to help a special teams unit (he is a multi-time special teams Pro Bowler who didn’t get there last year) that struggled.


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With FA losses, comp picks in play for Cards

Posted by Darren Urban on March 14, 2017 – 10:03 am

The Cardinals would’ve liked to keep Calais Campbell. And Tony Jefferson (or D.J. Swearinger), and Marcus Cooper too. But the prices got to be a lot larger than the team wanted to pay, and there was a flip side to those players defecting — and to the way the Cardinals have looked at bringing in free agents themselves over the last few days: Compensatory picks.

Comp picks are the extra selections at the end of each round, starting in the third, that teams get after all the free agent comings and goings are tallied. The NFL keeps the formula for comp picks secret, although a) it’s determined by each team’s free agents losses and gains, along with the size of those players’ new contracts, plus playing time and postseason honors; and b) there are only so many in a draft.

(This was made painfully clear to the Cardinals recently. The Cardinals get an extra fifth-round pick in the 2017 draft next month, and they had qualified for three other extra seventh-round picks — but the NFL caps the total number of comp picks at 32, and since teams across the league qualified for 39 total, the last seven didn’t count. The extra three of the Cards’ picks fell in that last seven “dead zone.”)

There are other things that dictate the comings-and-goings part of the comp pick equation. Players who are in the league 10 years or more don’t matter as much (so the Cards aren’t really hurt by the “coming” of Karlos Dansby, who was basically canceled out by the “going” of Alex Okafor to the Saints). This only applies to free agents who had contracts expire (so Antoine Bethea, cut by San Francisco, does not count in the equation.)

A team would max out with four comp picks in any given draft. Right now, it looks like the Cardinals would be in line for four — four pretty good ones. Those that break this down (the best they can, given the secrecy of the exact formula) estimate the Cardinals gaining potentially two third-round picks in 2018, plus a couple of others. Even if one of the picks isn’t a third but a fourth, plus a couple of other later ones in the fifth- or sixth-round to get to the maximum four, it would give the Cardinals a lot of firepower in the 2018 draft. (If it played out like that, it’d be 10 draft picks, because the Cards traded their 2018 seventh-rounder to Kansas City for Cooper).

Nothing is set in stone, but the money is a big driver in comp picks and at this point, you figure the big money in free agency is already gone. If the Cards were going to lose high-profile free agents, they at least figure to get something out of it.


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The prices of free agency, and other stuff

Posted by Darren Urban on March 13, 2017 – 5:07 pm

As we get past the first few days of free agency and the contract numbers begin to trickle in, we got a sense of how pricey the market was for some (like Calais Campbell) and how the Cards have interpreted those who have left and who have arrived. With that, some thoughts on some of the contracts handed out to recently departed and freshly minted Cardinals:

— Campbell got $30 million guaranteed over the first two years of his four-year deal, and gets a $3M bonus in early 2019 if the Jaguars choose to keep him. That’s a lot of money, but it’s why the Cardinals-Campbell marriage was destined to end. The Jags had (have) oodles of cap space, so they front-loaded the contract. The Cards didn’t see fiscally how that would make sense for them.

— The same goes for the $19 million guaranteed for Tony Jefferson and the $8 million guaranteed for Marcus Cooper, who got a three-year deal with the Bears. Bruce Arians said Cooper could get big money, and he did. I have to say I was a little surprised.

— Along those lines, I’ve heard from a handful of fans asking me about doing something like a trade for Patriots RFA CB Malcolm Butler. Not going to happen. To give up a pick and be facing a need for a giant contract extension in a secondary that already has two giant contracts with Pat P and Honey Badger, nope. This draft class is strong at cornerback. I’d guess they will draft one at some point. Will they add a vet? Maybe, but it won’t be for giant money.

— Karlos Dansby gets $2 million if he stays healthy and plays a lot. That’s a reasonable contract for a soon-to-be 36-year-old who figures to start. (Kevin Minter, who was unlikely to return after Dansby signed, was reportedly visiting the Colts Monday.)

— Jarvis Jones, the Steelers’ OLB free agent, was visiting the Cardinals. That would seem tied to Alex Okafor, who was visiting the Saints. If Okafor comes back to the Cardinals, they won’t need Jones. If Okafor departs, there’s a need Jones could fill.

— Have to say I was a little surprised Andre Ellington returned, not because the Cards wouldn’t want him — they need players behind David Johnson and Ellington can produce, especially as a receiver — but because I thought he’d want to find a place where he might get more time. The running backs market is not robust. And Ellington said he wanted to stay. Speaking of prices, I’m sure it was a team-friendly contract. It’d be good to see Ellington break off a couple of those electrifying plays he had his first couple of years.


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