Darnell Dockett was one of the guys who stayed on Karlos Dansby hard last offseason, trying to convince his former teammate — who had been cut by Miami — to return to Arizona. Dansby did, taking a cheap one-year deal, being happy to come back to the Cardinals, and making Dockett happy in the process. Then, after Dansby had by all accounts his best season as a pro, he was paid a lot of money to join the Cleveland Browns. It was significantly more that the Cardinals offered, on a longer contract. His departure was not a surprise, although some were disappointed Dansby didn’t remain with the team that is considered closer to a contender.
Wednesday, Dockett sure sounded like he was one of the disappointed ones. During a media session with a bunch of different questions, Dockett was asked about the changes in the defense and about “one big loss.” The reference was to Dansby, if not by name. Interestingly, Dockett talked about Dansby — but didn’t use Karlos’ name either.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for our guy that left, I love him like a brother but we were one or two peices away from making a lot of noise,” Dockett said. “But we are going to regroup. Our GM, coaches, owner will get someone to fill that role and we’ve got guys with enthusiasm of getting that opportunity for that role. They know they have big shoes to fill.
“I personally feel he chased the money versus a ring. That’s no knock on Cleveland, I’m not saying Cleveland doesn’t have a chance. Everyone has a chance, but I just felt like it was made for him to be here. The financial part, that’s totally different. I don’t know anything about that. But when you look at everything we have done this year, the sacrifice our defensive line made for that certain individual to make his plays and going to a game not being selfish. Our defensive line doesn’t care about sacks and tackles and stuff, we come to do a job to hold guys off linebackers so we can be the number one run defense. I just think that opportunity was here, to get into the playoffs and make a run for it.
“I’m not going to complain about spilled milk. I wish him well in Cleveland but at the end of the day we’ll see who is where at the end of the season.”
There is little question that this defense is built for linebackers to make plays, and Dansby and Daryl Washington showed that a lot of the season last year. There has already been plenty of discussion of Dansby’s departure and the likely replacement in Kevin Minter. But clearly, Dockett had been hoping Dansby would have returned.
Tags: Darnell Dockett, Karlos Dansby
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The Cardinals know when they are playing their games and they know people will be watching. The 2014 schedule has been announced and it includes the prime-time games that the Cards have been pining for. Monday night to open the season at home? Bruce Arians couldn’t have drawn it up any better. And while the Dec. 11 Thursday night game in St. Louis is no picnic, at least the Cards are coming off a home game against Kansas City. Plus, it will give the Cards an extra few days before hosting Seattle in “Sunday Night Football” on Dec. 21.
There is little reason to completely analyze a schedule because, frankly, it can mean little when the games are played months from now. Still, there are takeaways to note (and here is a schedule you can print/download):
– Cool to open on Monday night in a home game. Last time the Cards opened on a Monday night, it was Ken Whisenhunt’s debut in 2007 in San Francisco. Could’ve been a win if Eric Green had just fallen on the ball.
– Strange, however, to open with a team you just closed the preseason with. My guess is that the starters might not even play in the preseason finale now, as opposed to their usual one series.
– Season closes with three straight division games. Given this era of the NFC Best, perhaps that’s only fitting.
– Bye week in Week 4. Early. Too early? Well, given that it is after what figures to be a rough-and-tumble 49ers game and gives the Cards two weeks to prep for Peyton Manning, maybe it’s just right.
– No more than two straight weeks either at home or on the road. Can’t complain there.
– It could be chilly in Seattle in late November. Maybe SF in late December too, although Santa Clara will be warmer than the ‘stick. But New York in September is perfect, Denver in early October … weather should not be a factor.
But now that the schedule is out, I guess it’s time for the draft. It’s always something, right?
Tags: 49ers, Eric Green, Ken Whisenhunt, Peyton Manning, schedule
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The court case for linebacker Daryl Washington has finally come to a conclusion, almost a year after his initial arrest. Washington, who entered a plea last month after being charged with assault on the mother of his child, was sentenced Wednesday morning to one year of supervised probation for one aggravated assault charge. That means no jail time, although that is not a surprise given his plea deal. But now comes the second part of this equation. The NFL has been monitoring the case, of course, but it waits until it is fully played out before handing out any of its own punishment. That time has arrived.
How long it takes the NFL to make a decision on whether or not to suspend Washington — who served an unrelated four-game suspension to begin last season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy — is up in the air. Anything that would happen would come in the form of a regular-season ban, so there is time. Given the way commissioner Roger Goodell has handled things in the personal conduct area, a suspension would not be a surprise. Washington is officially charged with a felony, but if he performs well during the probation — essentially does everything the court asks — it will be reduced to a misdemeanor. What that means for the NFL is in question; a felony isn’t a good thing, obviously, but does the possible reduction play into the decision?
The Cardinals weathered the Washington-is-missing storm last year (going 2-2 in his absence.) We’ll see later today when the schedule comes out — 5 p.m. Arizona time, be sure to check azcardinals.com then! — what the Cards face in September. Last year, of course, the Cards had Karlos Dansby upon which to fall back without Washington. Dansby is gone. There is Kevin Minter, and Lorenzo Alexander, Kenny Demens and JoJo Dickson, and maybe a draft pick. Washington was already a key to this defense. Any absence will have an impact.
UPDATE: Coach Bruce Arians briefly addressed Washington this morning at the Cardinals’ charity golf tournament. “We’ve known this was coming for a long time,” Arians said. “Daryl’s known it. Whatever the judge decides is right, in this case. And we’ll live with it. We’ll wait and see how it goes.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Daryl Washington, Karlos Dansby, Kenny Demens, Kevin Minter, Lorenzo Alexander, Roger Goodell
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A couple of late afternoon things to touch on:
– The NFL officially announced the 2014 schedule will be released Wednesday at 5 p.m. Arizona time (8 p.m. eastern). Be sure to check azcardinals.com then not only for the schedule but for various schedule-related content, including one to download. Yes, it’s kind of funny that the schedule release means so much, especially since we are only talking dates and times here (and TV appearances), but not opponents. We already have long known not only who the opponents are but where the Cardinals will play them. Still, it’s a big deal. People want to make plans. Certainly I am paying attention to what weekends I will be out of town.
– Larry Fitzgerald has been working out here with the Cards, but he’s got a non-football game to play too. Saturday night is his annual charity softball game at Salt River Fields. Fitz again has a pretty nice guest list, including Colin Kaepernick, Richard Sherman, Anquan Boldin and Kurt Warner. Now, Fitz isn’t exactly Mike Trout out there — he didn’t exactly shine when he took batting practice at a Diamondbacks game a few years back — but he hangs in there. It’s all about the Larry Fitzgerald Foundation, right? Click here for tickets.
– April 26th is also Pat’s Run, in which I will be taking part once again and hopefully some of you are too. It’s been an emotional couple of days thinking about Pat Tillman and his legacy on the 10-year anniversary of his death. Pat’s Run is one of those great things that came out of it.
– The 2014 Cardinals cheerleading squad will be announced Thursday night, during an FSN Arizona special televised at 6:30 p.m. (and then immediately posted on azcardinals.com).
– Finally, don’t forget about Thursday night’s Spring Tailgate, including the live TV show. All the details are here.
Tags: charity, cheerleaders, Larry Fitzgerald, NFL schedule, Pat Tillman
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There has been and will be a lot written about Pat Tillman of late given that today is the 10th anniversary of his death. (That includes my story last week.) I have written about Tillman many times over the years I have covered the team, having been here for the final two seasons of Pat in a Cardinals uniform, covered his departure into the Army and then his death. There are a few moments that come to mind with Tillman. This is just one that happens to stick in my head.
In 2000, the Cardinals were not very good. The playoff season of just two years previous was a memory. Vince Tobin was fired as head coach seven games into the year. Dave McGinnis was named interim head coach, and was able to remove the interim tag just before the final home game of the season — a relatively inspired loss to eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore. But the week before, the Cards had traveled to Jacksonville to play a Jaguars team that had been to AFC championship games recently but had gotten out to a horrible start before getting hot down the stretch. The Cards went to Florida and were hammered. The Jaguars scored on eight of 10 possessions (with the 10th lasting 14 plays, going just 31 yards and burning the final 9:45 of the clock.)
Tillman had something to say afterward.
“In this league, you have to overcome injuries, problems, coaches getting fired,” he said that day. “Nobody cares (about excuses.) Don’t tell me about the pain, show me the baby. We’re not showing the baby right now, we’re just bitching about the pain.
“They are a good offensive team. Does that give us an excuse to lay on our backs and let them roll over us? No. We didn’t play the way we want to play. … I want to say the way we are capable of playing, but we haven’t gone out and played very well and it’s hard for me to even say it. People don’t believe it.”
It was just a loss in a lost season. Given what Tillman’s life — and death — became later, it is barely a footnote. But I think it resonates with me for a couple of reasons, part of which was that I was there to hear the anger and frustration in his voice. I think of it for more than just that though. It was after the 2000 season when Tillman was a restricted free agent, when he could have signed an offer sheet with the Rams for five years and worth $9.6 million. It was a deal the Cards may not have matched, but either way, Tillman would have been paid. Instead, Tillman — who again, mind you, lived through the frustration of the 2000 season and was offered a deal with a Rams team who would end up playing in the Super Bowl the next season — wouldn’t sign the offer sheet. He came back to the Cardinals, for a one-year, $512,000 contract.
Tillman wanted to stay with McGinnis. He wanted to stay with defensive coordinator Larry Marmie. He wanted to help fix the Cardinals, rather than jump to the high-flying Rams. The Cards were the team that drafted him, that took a chance on a college linebacker who might not have translated to the NFL. He didn’t want to leave that. He wasn’t going to make excuses.
Tillman’s life, his legacy, was and is about so much more than football. For me, though, it’s hard to forget those moments in the visiting locker room in Jacksonville, and how Pat Tillman it was.
Tags: Pat Tillman
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It came as little surprise, given the circumstances and previous reports that it was going to happen, but the Cardinals officially executed the fifth-year team option on the rookie contract of Patrick Peterson today. The option is for the 2015 season, and will pay Peterson a little more than $10 million. More importantly, it gives the Cards some breathing room as they move toward a long-term contract extension. Peterson was at the facility today (although I didn’t get a chance to talk to him.) Without the option, Peterson would have been an unrestricted free agent after the season.
What the timeline will be for a Peterson extension is unknown. This isn’t a new subject. The option year means the Cards aren’t really under any pressure to get a new deal done yet — this could be complicated, since Peterson is going to want a hefty new contract — but General Manager Steve Keim has left little interpretation about Peterson’s future. Peterson isn’t going anywhere. He has joined Larry Fitzgerald as one of the faces of the franchise, and that isn’t going to change.
The contract is part of the reason a guy like Antonio Cromartie gets only a one-year deal. There are other factors, of course, but in part it’s because the Cards will have a significant investment in the other starting cornerback. Given needs across the depth chart, having to pay both starting CBs big money probably isn’t feasible in this salary-capped world. Given who is involved, with Keim and Peterson, I still expect this to come out with relatively few issues. It might not happen right away, but it’s going to happen.
Tags: contract, Patrick Peterson, Steve Keim
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The new collective bargaining agreement from 2011 changed and redirected several elements of NFL teams’ offseason programs, one of which being fewer days for the team to officially work together. The Cardinals have had a handful of players use the team facility to work out the last few weeks, but they couldn’t interact with coaches and they couldn’t get the official workout program of new strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris.
That changes Monday, when the Cardinals are allowed to begin their workout program (along with the rest of the league, save for the teams with new head coaches who could begin April 7.) It bears repeating — and emphasizing, the NFL Players Association would certainly say — that this is only voluntary work. In fact, the only mandatory work of the entire offseason is the minicamp June 10-12, which includes Fan Fest at University of Phoenix Stadium June 10. The rest can be skipped if a player so chooses — although after covering this for 15 years, it’s not a surprise to see most players take part in most if not all of the voluntary work, especially when organized team activities start.
Certainly, a glance at Twitter Sunday saw more than a few Cardinals making note of their trek back to Arizona, undoubtedly for the introduction to Buddy classes that will take place Monday:
My last night In Jersey. Headed out to AZ in the morning to start off season workouts. I’m so excited to get started. #BirdGang
— ANTONIO CROMARTIE (@CRO31) April 20, 2014
Headed back to az to lead the gang to the big show… I guarantee playoffs!! And will be a shock if the enemy score 10pts.. 😠
— DARNELL DOCKETT (@ddockett) April 20, 2014
Leaving for AZ #birdgang ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️
— Jonathan Dwyer (@JDwyer27) April 20, 2014
Not everyone will be there Monday, nor should they be expected to be. But there were quite a few guys trickling in last week already, and I’d think there will be a big group Monday. We’ll have more on azcardinals.com tomorrow.
– While the players are getting started, the front office and coaches continue to head toward the draft. The bulk of the draft meetings were completed last week as everyone discussed, broke down and haggled about the dozens of pro prospects. Speaking of that, don’t forget the Cardinals Spring Tailgate event is coming Thursday. Click here for more details, but part of the celebration (which helps kick off the Big Red Rib and Music Festival out on the Great Lawn) is a one-hour televised special featuring GM Steve Keim, VP Michael Bidwill and coach Bruce Arians, as well as Tyrann Mathieu and Jared Veldheer. Tweet a question for anyone on the panel — using the hashtag #CardsTailgate — and if the question is used, you will win an autographed mini-helmet.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Buddy Morris, Darnell Dockett, Jared Veldheer, Jonathan Dwyer, offseason, Tyrann Mathieu
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It was a rainy Saturday in March 2006 when Edgerrin James visited the Cardinals for the first time. Kurt Warner was gamely trying to hold his annual flag football tournament on the practice fields, and the Cards were in the process of locking up a star running back. The price, in the end, was four years and $30 million. James didn’t collect all of it, but he still got plenty. The Colts felt James was on the downside, not worth the cash, and in the end, they were proven right that they didn’t need him — winning the Super Bowl in 2006 with young Joseph Addai and the serviceable yet forgettable Dominic Rhodes at running back.
The overall trend to run through running backs when they were cheaper and then move on hadn’t enveloped the NFL completely. But that’s about when the Cards’ thought process turned. From there, Tim Hightower was a fifth-round pick who essentially replaced Edge in 2008. Beanie Wells was added in the first round for 2009. Ryan Williams was drafted in 2011. Then came Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor last season. The Cardinals have not spent anything close to significant money on a free agent running back since Edge. They have yet to have a running back drafted play past his rookie contract. The reality of the NFL is that the position has not only be devalued, the bottom dropped out of the market faster than Arizona home sales circa 2009.
Only Williams is scheduled to make at least $1 million this season, and whether he remains on the 53-man roster for 2014 is very much up in the air. Ellington (who only will make $495,000) is the starter, and whether Taylor ($495,000) or Jonathan Dwyer ($795,000) is the other back, there is little (relative) investment. You see the same across the league, with the money being paid to free agent running backs, with the way running backs are sliding down the draft every year. The way things have gone, that No. 3 overall pick spent on Trent Richardson might be the last time a top 10 pick is spent on a back ever.
Of course, “ever” is a long time. Sometimes, a back is special and deserves the big money. Adrian Peterson comes to mind (and no, we won’t go into how he ties into the Cardinals and the Edge signing right now.) But these days, it doesn’t look like many Petersons will emerge. Not the way colleges are using running backs themselves, and not the way the NFL is handling them once they get to the pros.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Beanie Wells, Edgerrin James, Jonathan Dwyer, Ryan Williams, Stepfan Taylor, Tim Hightower
Posted in Blog | 81 Comments »
Everybody remembers Patrick Peterson’s wonderful rookie season returning punts — four touchdowns (and a fifth he should have had if not for a shoetop tackle by the punter in the finale against Seattle). Peterson averaged 15.9 yards a punt return, the Cards averaged 24 yards a kickoff return between LaRod Stephens-Howling and A.J. Jefferson and it was generally an effective use in Ron Wolfley’s beloved “transition game.” Obviously, the last couple of years, it hasn’t been quite the same.
In 2012 Peterson’s average fell to 8.4 yards a return with no scores. A dropoff was probably inevitable, but Peterson looked uncomfortable much of the time. The kick return game dropped to 23.3 yards a return, although finding a happy medium for effective kick returns in this day and age of big kickoffs and mostly touchbacks isn’t an easy equation. Last season, Peterson’s punt returns fell to 6.0. Kickoff returns were a mere 20.0, and former kick returner Javier Arenas often looked so frustrated he rarely could return one that he did so when he shouldn’t, leading to poor field position.
It’ll make for an interesting dynamic this season. Ted Ginn was signed to add speed in the receiving corps, but it’s not hard to make the argument his greatest strength as a player is on kickoff returns (where he averaged 23.8 yards a return last season). He’s also pretty good on punt returns (12.2 yards last year), and that will provide an option if Bruce Arians decides Peterson is better served focusing on being a Pro Bowl cornerback and remove the pressures of being the guy who everyone thinks might score a touchdown every time he fields a punt. Peterson doesn’t want to give up the job, but we’ll see how it turns out in the big picture.
The Cardinals’ offense was doing much better at the end of the season and should be improved given the pieces that have been added. It wouldn’t hurt if the kickoff and punt returns could chip in to the improvement equation.
Tags: A.J. Jefferson, Javier Arenas, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Patrick Peterson, special teams, Ted Ginn
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The three quarterbacks of the Cardinals were at the facility today, doing a workout, hanging out and prepping for when the team can officially get started with new strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris next week. Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley, a cohesive group all last season, looked like it again and made me think of something Bruce Arians told me a couple of months ago. “You have a (quarterbacks) room, (and) if you have a starter and you know who the backup is and you have a third guy who fits in the room, you don’t fool with it,” Arians said. “It’s too delicate of a learning place to fool with it.”
In the context of what the Cardinals might do in the draft, it’s a notable belief. Palmer said today he would understand if the Cardinals picked a quarterback in the draft. He’s not getting any younger, and the Cards would like to have a long-term answer at the position. What team wouldn’t? Arians is a major part of the draft meetings and he of course will have input on the top 120 board. But GM Steve Keim will have the final call, and like any GM viewing the big picture — which Keim most certainly does — settling on a young quarterback would be nice, to say the least.
Is there a guy in this draft worth it? Keim might think so, but he won’t be saying, wisely. Draft meetings are going on about 25 feet from me but there’s no way to know what this group of QBs will be graded by this scouting staff and front office. One thing that is interesting in this situation: Palmer is going to be due an extension after this season, and there is a large difference between paying a starting quarterback what Palmer would command (he’s getting $9 million this season) and what a guy under a rookie contract would cost. I don’t think that’s a determining factor (I don’t think the Cardinals would have a problem with Palmer as 2015 starting QB, assuming his level of play remains solid) but it is something to consider.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, draft, Drew Stanton, quarterbacks, Ryan Lindley, Steve Keim
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