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Age is but a number, as free agency moves on

Posted by Darren Urban on March 10, 2017 – 4:25 pm

Yes, the Cardinals have gotten older. There are caveats to that, though. Phil Dawson, at 42, is way older than Chandler Catanzaro, but then again, that’s one of the reasons the Cards have swapped Dawson for Cat Man, because they wanted someone proven in tough situations. Dawson has shown that (and the fact Dawson wanted to come to Arizona means something too.) Karlos Dansby is going to be 36 in November, but my guess is that Dansby is a bridge for an inside linebacker coming in the draft. (Besides, Dansby played pretty well last year in Cincy, and the Cards obviously felt strongly enough to swap him out for Kevin Minter.)

No, Antoine Bethea’s age doesn’t help in comparison to Tony Jefferson, but Jefferson was leaving regardless. And this is a deep draft in the secondary. I’m sure that has played a role in this too. But age was always going to be a big part of this season, with Carson Palmer (37 in December) and Larry Fitzgerald (34 in August) knowing they are nearing the end.

Said Dansby, when asked what it meant adding that age to the roster, “wisdom.”

— On a personal level, one press conference with Los reminds me how much fun it is to have him around.

— The Cardinals carve out some cap room not only by extending Chandler Jones but also by getting safety Tyvon Branch to take a paycut from $4 million to $2 million this season.

— Dawson comes to the Cardinals, while Catanzaro signed with the Jets and coach Todd Bowles Friday.

— I would still expect a free-agent guard at some point, but I don’t know if it will be soon. I haven’t heard anything, and it’s possible they are going to let the market settle some. The Cards under Steve Keim have usually added some key free agents after the first wave. I don’t see why it would be different this year. We’re barely a day in.


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Comings, goings, kickers and Dansby

Posted by Darren Urban on March 9, 2017 – 5:21 pm

Free agency started Thursday and it was busy. As expected, Calais Campbell left, as did Tony Jefferson. And D.J. Swearinger. The Cardinals kept center A.Q. Shipley, and they found a new safety in Antoine Bethea. Things are moving at a rapid pace all across the league. That’s pretty normal.

— The safety trio of Tyrann Mathieu, Tyvon Branch and Antoine Bethea should be OK if Mathieu and Branch can stay healthy. That’s the hope.

— It’ll be Boehm vs. Shipley for starting center. Nick Mangold isn’t walking through that door. Don’t forget that the Cardinals felt comfortable with the job Shipley did last season. Boehm will get his chance, but I don’t think the Cards are worried if Shipley is the starter again this season.

— Bethea was released, so he does not count in the compensatory pick equation. Campbell, Jefferson and Swearinger will, and with the large deals Campbell and Jefferson got, the Cardinals are well ahead in the 2018 comp pick game. So there’s that.

— It looks like linebacker Karlos Dansby could end up with a third tenure with the Cardinals. That’s huge, man. Huge. Mostly because Kevin Minter — the man who replaced him after the 2013 season — is a free agent and who knows if he will return. Dansby had more than 100 tackles with the Bengals last season, so he’s still plugging along.

— Dansby is older (he’ll be 36 during the season) but not as old as kicker Phil Dawson, the former 49er who looks like he’ll be coming to Arizona as well. If Dawson does, that’s the steady kicker the Cards didn’t have a season ago. The Cards have moved on from Chandler Catanzaro.

— Like Catanzaro, tight end Darren Fells was a restricted free agent whom the team did not tender. Fells is going to visit the Lions.

— Should hear something soon on the official front with the Chandler Jones extension, but judging by reports it’s going to look a lot like Olivier Vernon money ($80+M in potential value, $50+M in guarantees.) Which makes sense, because Vernon’s deal always was the likely benchmark for an extension.

— On the first day of the new league year, the NFLPA had the Cardinals with $21.3 million of salary cap space. That’d be prior to Bethea and Shipley signing (and tight end Jermaine Gresham, who officially signed his contract Thursday as well.)

Day one is done. Hopefully.


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Campbell, Jefferson close to new addresses

Posted by Darren Urban on March 8, 2017 – 9:32 pm

Nothing can happen before 2 p.m. Thursday, but the expected — that Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson would be signing elsewhere as free agents — is close to happening, according to multiple reports Wednesday night. Campbell is expected to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars, while Jefferson is expected to sign with the Baltimore Ravens. Jefferson reportedly could have gotten more money from Browns. Campbell was reportedly wooed also by Washington.

It’ll make for an interesting visit to University of Phoenix Stadium this coming season when the Jaguars visit Arizona for the first time in more than a decade.

Campbell and Jefferson aren’t gone yet. Nothing done at this point can be official. There is always a chance something could change at the last second — a la Frank Gore — but it looks like Campbell will be a Jag, Jefferson a Raven, and the Cardinals out two defensive starters.


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On free agency eve, the Cards’ FAs-to-be

Posted by Darren Urban on March 8, 2017 – 4:07 pm

By this time tomorrow the Cardinals and the NFL will be well into free agency. The “tampering” period has given everyone plenty of opportunity to get a head start on signing players, although no visits are supposed to have been set up and no players — just agents — are supposed to have talked to teams yet.

What has floated around the Cardinals is all about their own guys so far. Linebacker Chandler Jones, who isn’t going anywhere because he was franchise tagged, is reportedly close to a contract extension with the Cards. That would help cap space, but there is nothing official yet and we’ll see how quickly it can get done. Calais Campbell has been linked to the Jaguars, Bucs and maybe Broncos, but nothing concrete, while Tony Jefferson can apparently break the bank in Cleveland if he wants, while the Ravens and Jets are also showing interest.

Reports also have cornerback Marcus Cooper getting interest from the Jets and safety D.J. Swearinger possible interest from  the Bears.

Where does that leave the Cards? Still with a long list of free agents who will hit the market officially at 2 p.m. Arizona time Thursday unless the team re-signs them beforehand. That current list:

— RB Andre Ellington
— RB Chris Johnson
— RB Stepfan Taylor
— TE Darren Fells
— G Taylor Boggs
— C A.Q. Shipley
— OL Earl Watford
— DT Calais Campbell
— DT Frostee Rucker
— LB Kevin Minter
— LB Sio Moore
— LB Alex Okafor
— CB Marcus Cooper
— S Tony Jefferson
— CB Mike Jenkins
— S D.J. Swearinger
— K Chandler Catanzaro

Free agency has arrived.


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Bethel: I think I should start at CB

Posted by Darren Urban on March 7, 2017 – 10:34 am

Really, it’s no surprise. A player is asked if he should start. He’s going to say yes. That’s what Justin Bethel did Tuesday, when asked on the NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” show if he should start at cornerback for the Cardinals this season.

Yes, I think so,” Bethel replied.

“That was my mindset going into this past season,” Bethel said. “Even when I did get hurt, I thought I was going to be back soon enough to get a chance to (be the starter), and obviously a couple of setbacks and that wasn’t the case.”

Bethel had a foot injury that kept him out the entirety of the offseason, and part of camp. It bothered him most of the season, although Bethel was back to feeling like himself in the last couple of games.

“At the end of the season, seeing myself being able to go out there and making plays kind of showed me, ‘OK, you’re getting back to where you need to be,’ ” Bethel said.

What will be interesting is whether he gets that chance. The Cardinals are trying to figure out what to do with that starting cornerback job opposite Patrick Peterson. The draft is deep in cornerbacks. And Bethel, even with the injuries, hasn’t been able to consistently show himself at cornerback (Bethel played there a chunk at the end of 2015 after Jerraud Powers was hurt). Coach Bruce Arians did praise Bethel at the Combine, noting he played better after “I said what I said” (the infamous “failure-in-progress” comment). Bethel, with a $4.75M salary, is paid like a No. 2 starting cornerback. He’s earned that money as a Pro Bowl special teamer too, but it’ll be an interesting story to watch — again, with such a deep CB draft class.


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To WR or not WR? That is question

Posted by Darren Urban on March 6, 2017 – 10:31 am

A year ago, the Cardinals had no better unit that their wide receiver corps. Larry Fitzgerald had an excellent season. Smokey Brown was a 1,000-yard pass catcher. Michael Floyd piled up 100-yard games down the stretch. J.J. Nelson was a big-play rookie, and even Jaron Brown and Brittan Golden had proven to have moments.

It’s different now. Fitz was still excellent in 2016. But Smokey got sick, and Floyd all but disappeared before being released. Nelson came on, but Jaron Brown got hurt. Questions at the position swirl, both for 2017 and the future given Fitz’s vague countdown to retirement sooner rather than later. That’s the backdrop the Cardinals have going into both free agency later this week, and into next month’s draft.

“It’s an interesting deal when you look at your depth chart every year and you think that’s really one of your strengths,” General Manager Steve Keim said of the arc of his wide receivers from season to season. “It always teaches you a lesson that you can never have enough good football players at one position because injuries, different things that can occur during a season (that) depleted the wide receiver corps this year.

“It goes back to show you, you may have a guy who is fourth or fifth on the depth chart, but you have to be comfortable when you head into the season that ‘I may be playing with this guy.’ Not only from a mental aspect but you have to feel he can get the job done physically as well.”

Coach Bruce Arians likes getting the smaller, fast wide receivers in the later rounds. But post-Fitz the Cards figure to need a bigger receiver. Maybe they seek someone in free agency, but if everyone is healthy, the Cards could conceivably roll this season with this corps intact. If someone pops up in the draft, you can think about that move.

ReceievrsBlog


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QB meetings ≠ drafting that QB

Posted by Darren Urban on March 5, 2017 – 10:21 am

The quarterbacks are coming through Indy, as the top ones stood at their respective podiums for media interviews, they were asked — as always — about some of the teams they had met or would meet with. UNC’s Mitchell Trubisky and Clemson’s DeShaun Watson were specifically asked about meeting with the Cardinals, and both acknowledged it had or would happen. My guess is that had Pat Mahomes or DeShone Kizer or Davis Webb been asked (and Webb was asked about teams before declining to be specific) they too would have a Cards’ visit somewhere in there.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians had said he likes “five or six arms” at quarterback. But that’s on first pass. And it certainly doesn’t mean the Cardinals are ready to jump on five or six quarterbacks in the draft.

“You look at every aspect of the quarterback,” Arians said. “Mental aspect. The heart and head, they’re the hardest things to evaluate. I can see his arm strength, I can see his feet, I can see him jump, but the two things he plays with, his brain and his heart, they’re very hard to evaluate.”

Like every position, quarterback evaluation is a projection. By the time the Cardinals are done, they may find that only one or two of those five or six make sense as an early pick, either in the first or second round. And that one or two may be long gone by pick No. 13. That’s what this due diligence is all about. The Cardinals — who we all know want to find a young quarterback sooner or later — are of course going to talk to all these guys. Whether they draft one (or have a chance to draft one) is TBD.

Deshone Kizer


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John Ross topples CJ2K’s 40 record

Posted by Darren Urban on March 4, 2017 – 11:58 am

Chris Johnson has long been proud of his record 40-yard dash time at the Scouting combine. His 4.24 at the 2008 combine has been the benchmark that is annually talked about when the NFL and its potential draftees go to Indianapolis this time of year. University of Washington wide receiver John Ross turned lots of heads Saturday morning when he ran the 40 in 4.22 seconds, drawing an audible reaction in the media room here at the Convention Center.

It was unofficial at first. When it became the official time about 45 minutes later, Johnson was no longer the record-holder.

Ross, talking to the media Friday, said he had been “gifted with speed.” And he was asked specifically about breaking Johnson’s record.

“I’m going to try, I’m going to try,” said Ross, who noted his fastest time previous was 4.3. “I don’t want to say too much, but I’m going to try. I’ll give it a shot.”

Johnson, on Twitter, certainly noticed.

Johnson had a good run. (Pun intended.)

(Speaking of CJ2K, coach Bruce Arians said he hoped the Cardinals could re-sign Johnson, who is about to become a free agent again.)

rosscj2k


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Bidwill, potential Cards and second chances

Posted by Darren Urban on March 3, 2017 – 10:52 am

This year more than any other, potential NFL draftees with off-field red flags have been highlighted here at the Scouting combine, in large part because some are not here. The NFL didn’t invite a few players who normally would have been otherwise if it weren’t for off-field trouble. That has generated mixed reviews from NFL people, although Cardinals president Michael Bidwill said he was glad to see it and send the message the NFL is “not messing around with this.”

(My full chat with Bidwill will be posted Monday on azcardinals.com.)

The Cardinals haven’t shied away from drafting players with off-field question marks, however. They’ve shown that with Tyrann Mathieu and Robert Nkemdiche. Bidwill, as owner, has the ultimate say over who will stay available on the Cards’ draft board, and who will not.

“It started with my grandfather and my father, and I am following in their footsteps, that we’re not going to have bad character guys,” Bidwill said. “That doesn’t mean that people don’t make mistakes, in college especially. They are kids. They are 18 when they get to college. We should give people a second chance if they are truly earnest about turning their life around. That’s my role, to make that decision. They push those decisions up to me.

“There are clearly some kids still getting in trouble their junior, senior year that look like they are going to have a chronic problem and I don’t want to waste my time talking to them.”

Still, Bidwill said, there are players that the football side will “bring to me and say, ‘We want to try and convince you.’ ” One was Mathieu, who was aided in Patrick Peterson’s willingness to stand on the table and vouch for Mathieu. Nkemdiche went through a number of interviews with the Cards last year, including a sit-down with Bidwill. Whether any potential Card falls into that category this year, that’s what these next couple of months are for.

pv7_2082

 


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Catanzaro will be “pushed” with new kicker

Posted by Darren Urban on March 2, 2017 – 11:24 am

One of the Cardinals’ free agents-to-be is kicker Chandler Catanzaro. He is restricted, although the Cards probably won’t tender him, hoping to re-sign him for less than the approximately $1.8 million the cheapest tender offer would be. The Cardinals want him, even after struggling last season with 21-of-28 field goals made.

(A quick aside: It’s amazing how far kicking has come. No one disputes that 75 percent on field goals isn’t good enough these days, but before 1980, the NFL leader usually was in the 70-percentile. Climbed to 90 percent for good in 1988. Catanzaro was at 88 and 90 his first two seasons.)

But, assuming Cat Man will be back, “there will be competition,” coach Bruce Arians reiterated.

“There always is,” Arians added, but it “might be a stronger one this year.”

That doesn’t signal to me another undrafted rookie or unknown off the street. That probably means a veteran of some sort, unless there might be a decision to draft one later (Countdown to Zane Gonzalez questions in 3, 2, 1 …). I’d guess the former is more likely, someone that can be picked up later when the rush of initial free agency ends. Catanzaro, assuming he returns, is still the favorite to be the kicker this season. His leash figures to be shorter, though.

“He’s a very talented young guy,” Arians said. “He needs to be pushed.”

catmanblog


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