Sam Bradford and his contract

Posted by Darren Urban on March 19, 2018 – 1:47 pm

When Sam Bradford signed last week, the immediate reaction was tied in part to the contract he got and the numbers that were being thrown around. Monday, the details of the contract leaked out in multiple places, underscoring that the Cards did give Bradford a nice contract — but, given his injury history, he will have to be on the field for it to be as nice as it can be.

The key points: A $10 million signing bonus and a $5 million salary — the $15M guaranteed originally reported. Bradford can get another $5 million, but it will be doled out on a per-game basis, which works out to $312,500 each time he is active for a game. Interestingly, he also got a no-trade clause, perhaps not a shock after he was dealt right before the season started in 2016 from Philadelphia to Minnesota.

The Cardinals hold a team option for 2019, which has to be exercised a couple of days into the 2019 league year.

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Justin Pugh and Pat Tillman’s jersey

Posted by Darren Urban on March 18, 2018 – 1:09 pm

New Cardinals guard Justin Pugh grew up on the East Coast and is playing some catch-up in learning about the history of his new team. But Pugh’s brother is in the military, and there is one Cardinal Pugh knows very well — Pat Tillman.

“It’s actually funny when I signed … My nephew is nine years old,” Pugh said. “We have a Pat Tillman jersey at my house. So, my nephew was like, ‘We already have a jersey hanging in the rafters right now,’ and it’s a Pat Tillman jersey.”

Pugh feels very strongly about the military, using his My Cause, My Cleats window to support Merging Vets and Players. Even though Pugh played for the Giants the past five years, it was a Cardinals jersey that hung near an American flag on the wall of the house in Holland, Pennsylvania.

“That’s (a picture) he sent to me,” Pugh said. “I sent him a picture of Pat Tillman’s locker right now, and he’s like, ‘No offense to you. I think Pat Tillman might be the first Cardinals (jersey I wear). I’ll have that jersey, wearing it, before I get your own jersey.’

“Obviously, (Tillman) made the ultimate sacrifice for this country, and everything that he did, you wish you could be half the man that he was.”

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Tyrann Mathieu heads to Texans

Posted by Darren Urban on March 16, 2018 – 8:11 pm

Tyrann Mathieu was released Wednesday. Friday, he found a new home — albeit for one year, at least for now.

The Honey Badger agreed to to a deal with the Houston Texans for one year. Reportedly, the Cardinals’ last offer on the pay cut was $8 million. Mathieu said a couple of times in interviews since his release money wasn’t the most important thing. The Houston Chronicle’s John McClain reports that the deal is worth $7 million — a $4.5 million signing bonus, $2 million in salary, and $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses (which would average $31,250 per game).

The Texans, assuming quarterback Deshaun Watson is healthy again after tearing his ACL, have a chance to be good. They also will get back from injury defensive end J.J. Watt — who is friends with Mathieu and who was openly recruiting Badger to come to Houston.

Whatever the contract, Mathieu will be in line to return to free agency in 2019. If he is able to take his game back to its 2015 levels, the bet on himself will be pretty valuable. The Cardinals don’t face the Texans in the regular season, but a preseason matchup wouldn’t be out of the question.

As a side note, guard Justin Pugh has also reportedly agreed to a deal with the Cardinals. I’d expect news on that tomorrow. Meanwhile, wide receiver Jaron Brown is headed to the Seahawks on a one-year contract.

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Mike Iupati sticking around

Posted by Darren Urban on March 15, 2018 – 8:00 am

As the Cardinals look to reshape their offensive line, it looks like one key member will be remaining. Guard Mike Iupati has restructured his contract, according to ESPN’s Field Yates, so he can remain on the roster this season. Iupati took a pay cut, from a scheduled salary of $7.75 million to $5 million for 2018, in addition to giving up a $250,000 roster bonus due Friday. In return, his 2018 salary is guaranteed, and — much like cornerback Justin Bethel did a season ago — his 2019 season, the final year of his deal, can now be voided, allowing him to reach free agency after this season.

The move earns the Cardinals some cap space, and it gives Iupati flexibility. It also points to Iupati remaining the starting left guard. The Cardinals have D.J. Humphries at left tackle, and they are reportedly signing Andre Smith, who could become the new right tackle (and leaving Jared Veldheer’s status up in the air.) There is also a report that the Cards will be visiting with free-agent guard Justin Pugh of the Giants.

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Safety and life after Tyrann Mathieu

Posted by Darren Urban on March 14, 2018 – 12:55 pm

From the day he signed his new contract, Tyrann Mathieu and everyone else knew revisiting the deal might be a possibility. No one thought it was probable, because the last time we had seen the Honey Badger on the field he was playing like an NFL defensive Player of the Year and certainly — despite an other ACL tear — he’d be back to that same player by March of 2018. While Mathieu was solid in 2017 (and played the most snaps in the NFL) even he acknowledged he wanted to play better. And the team wanted to adjust his contract with that revisiting deadline had finally arrived. The two sides couldn’t come to an agreement, and Mathieu is no longer a Cardinal.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out on the field. It’s not like the Cardinals didn’t want him — they tried to re-do the deal — so they had plans for him. There is this notion out there that his role would be diminished, and while we don’t know exactly what the defense of new coach Steve Wilks will look like, it’s hard to imagine Mathieu marginalized if he had stayed. He didn’t, however, so now Budda Baker is the focal point at safety, along with veteran Antoine Bethea. Tyvon Branch is a free agent and coming off a major injury, so the secondary — which also as of now needs a cornerback across from Patrick Peterson — needs some help.

As for the Honey Badger, it will be interesting to see what his market is, after Kent Somers reported that the pay cut Mathieu was asked to take was said to be “reasonable.” (Everyone has a different perspective on reasonable, of course.) What teams might reach out to him? Could he land in New York, where both of his former defensive coordinators (Todd Bowles as Jets head coach, James Bettcher as Giants DC) are working? Where does he fit?

On a personal level, Mathieu’s story was fantastic to cover and he was always excellent to deal with — even when you would delve into subjects not everyone would want to talk about. He was open about his past. He was interesting talking about the height of his play. He was introspective when speaking about his hometown of New Orleans, and how it’s been a difficult place for him to be. He’s a player you want to see succeed.


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Looks like Bradford as QB1

Posted by Darren Urban on March 13, 2018 – 12:01 pm

The dominoes had been falling and then later Tuesday, it looked like the Cardinals put themselves in position for their short-term quarterback answer. While nothing is official yet, multiple reports say the Cards plan to sign veteran quarterback Sam Bradford. Bradford, who was the Vikings’ opening day starter in 2017 before a knee injury essentially ended his season, was one of the top QBs available despite his injury history. Once Kirk Cousins and Case Keenum were off the board, it makes sense to chase Bradford as a bridge as the Cardinals continue to look for a young alternative to be the long-term starter.

Nothing can be official before Wednesday afternoon, and given Bradford’s injury history — he’s twice torn his ACL and missed most of last season because of knee problems, among other aliments in his career — he would definitely have to pass a physical before anything is official. When he has played, however, he has played well, with the former No. 1 overall pick completing more than 71 percent of his passes with 23 touchdowns and only five interceptions in 17 games played with Minnesota.

But if Bradford arriving does come to pass, the Cards will have taken a first step in the quarterback process. It wouldn’t be a surprise to add another veteran. And the draft remains an important possibility.

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QB dominoes falling

Posted by Darren Urban on March 13, 2018 – 9:40 am

Free agents cannot officially sign with new teams until Wednesday afternoon, but as usual lots of moves are all but done in the “tampering” period prior to Wednesday. That includes the quarterback merry-go-round, in which the Cardinals are forced to take part (given that they do not have one for 2018 yet).

The big move came Tuesday morning, when news leaked that Kirk Cousins will end up exactly where everyone posited he would — the Vikings. That came the day after news that the Broncos would end up with Case Keenum. The trades that also cannot be completed until Wednesday are out there, so the Browns traded for Tyrod Taylor and the Redskins traded for Alex Smith. The Bills also will make a trade with the Bengals that got them the 12th overall pick (ahead of the Cardinals at 15) and still have 22 overall, giving them ammunition to get even higher in the draft. As of now, the Jets, like the Cards, still don’t have a starter.

None of these moves preclude a ton of teams from potentially taking a QB in the draft in the first round. Cousins and Keenum always figured to be the first two FA QBs off the board. So now we see where Sam Bradford ends up, and Josh McCown, and A.J. McCarron, and Teddy Bridgewater.

One other thing to remember (after Ian Rapoport put out there that the Cards could have interest in Mike Glennon when he is cut by the Bears, as expected) is that the Cards need multiple QBs. That isn’t just a starter. You want a backup too, and a veteran one even if you draft a guy high.

And to think, free agency hasn’t even officially started yet.

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Tyrann Mathieu talks contract

Posted by Darren Urban on March 8, 2018 – 6:13 pm

Tyrann Mathieu was traveling the media circuit Thursday to talk about events he has coming up — a charity kickball game and his “Heart of a Badger” football camps — when it happened to coincide with discussions with the Cardinals about his contract. Mathieu is due a good chunk of guaranteed money March 14 if he remains on his current deal.

“I think there are different ways you can go about restructuring you contract,” Mathieu said during an appearance on NFL Network. “Some guys like their money up front, some guys put it on the back end. The tough part is when someone asks you to take a pay cut. I don’t think that makes sense for a lot of players.”

Asked directly if the Cards had asked him to take a cut, Mathieu said with a smile, “I don’t know.” He also mentioned his agent was the one talking numbers with the team. Asked if he’d be open to a cut, Mathieu said “that’s a conversation that has to be had. My first conversation about (the contract) was today, this morning. We’ll see where it goes.”

Mathieu added, “I love Arizona, obviously. It is a place I feel I really grew up in. The fans, the city, everyone accepting me with open arms. But like I said, when players get in this situation, these things are completely out of our control. Obviously the team has a decision to make. That decision doesn’t necessarily involve me.”

In the end, Mathieu will be part of the decision. He did add, “I would like to make as much as I can make.”

UPDATE: Mathieu talked more about the situation Saturday.

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Windows and sea(hawk) change in the NFC West

Posted by Darren Urban on March 8, 2018 – 12:48 pm

The so-called “windows” all stay open for only so long in the NFL. That doesn’t mean a team can’t sustain competitiveness, or that any success must be followed with a significant down period. But rosters turn, great players get older, and the equation always changes. The Cardinals have gone through a ton of change this offseason, transitioning from Bruce Arians to Steve Wilks as coach and seeking out a quarterback now that Carson Palmer has retired. It demands the focus locally, but clearly, it’s not the only transition going on in the NFC West.

The Seahawks have traded away star defensive end Michael Bennett. Star cornerback Richard Sherman, coming off a major Achilles injury, looks like he very soon will become an ex-Seahawk. Safety Earl Thomas is reportedly on the trading block, and the future of defensive cogs defensive end Cliff Avril and safety Kam Chancellor is very much in doubt. And that doesn’t even include the fact coach Pete Carroll blew out the majority of his coaching staff and brought in new guys.

The Rams were on the upswing last season and it looks like — although not guaranteed — that the 49ers are trending the same. Everyone is waiting to see what the new versions of both the Cardinals and Seahawks will look like. It’s one thing to have Avril or Bennett not around. It’s quite another to think that Sherman might not be a Seahawk, especially when it comes to playing Larry Fitzgerald and the Cardinals.

The division definitely has a different feel to it.

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Where the Cardinals’ draft picks officially fall

Posted by Darren Urban on March 6, 2018 – 8:56 am

The NFL put out the official draft order of all seven rounds for April. The Cardinals, of course, have seven picks after acquiring three compensatory choices. They have two picks in the third round, none in the sixth, and their seventh round pick is third to last (so, barring a trade, Saturday is gonna be a long day.) The Cardinals’ original choices are all 15th in the respective rounds:

First round (15th overall)

Second round (47th overall)

Third round (79th overall)

Third round comp pick (33rd in round, 97th overall)

Fourth round comp pick (34th in round, 134th overall)

Fifth round (152nd overall)

Seventh round comp pick (36th in round, 254th overall)

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