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A potential No. 2 cornerback in trade

Posted by Darren Urban on May 18, 2018 – 2:35 pm

It sounds like there will be no Bashaud Breeland signing. But there would be a good reason for that — multiple reports Friday have the Cardinals closing in on a trade for veteran Browns cornerback Jamar Taylor. Taylor is a one-time second-round pick of the Dolphins in 2013, and the cost in the trade — again, by multiple outlets — is a sixth-round pick not next year, but in 2020. In structure, it looks a lot like the deal the Cards made in 2016 for cornerback Marcus Cooper (who was acquired for a seventh-round pick in 2018.)

If the Cards were to get Taylor, having him pan out like Cooper would be a plus. Cooper had a solid season across from Patrick Peterson in 2016. Taylor would presumably be the eventual starter across from Peterson, although I would guess coach Steve Wilks would likely — as he does with all spots — announce that the competition is ongoing. There are other veteran options already on the roster. But Taylor, who has three career interceptions (all coming in 2016), would be a welcome addition to the mix.

UPDATE: It’s official now.


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Special Cardinals on all-time special teams

Posted by Darren Urban on May 17, 2018 – 9:15 am

You can see the emphasis Steve Wilks is putting on special teams early on in his tenure, devoting a good chunk of both Phase Two and Phase Three on-field work every day to let special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers do his thing. Along those lines, the Cardinals have had some pretty good special teamers over the years, and that was noted when veteran NFL reporter Rick Gosselin — who has long had a detailed system on how to rank special teams units and is an expert on that part of the game — created his all-time special teams lineup.

Three Cardinals made the list, all for their coverage work. Four-time Cardinals special teams Pro Bowler Ron Wolfley, now the Cards’ color analyst, made Gosselin’s first team, along with a quote from Patriots coach Bill Belichick — who was Wolfley’s coach when both were in Cleveland.

“Wolfley had less speed than those other guys,” Belichick said. “But he was very tough with a top motor. He was physical to run through blockers. He wasn’t always the first downfield, but he was around the ball and smart to recognize wall returns and the blocking schemes. He played next to the center on the punt team and was both strong and smart in protection.”

The other two Cardinals landed on the second-team, and are more recent vintage. The just-departed Justin Bethel never quite worked out as a cornerback, but he was excellent on special teams, making three Pro Bowls in six seasons with the Cardinals. And Sean Morey was one of the first players Ken Whisenhunt brought over from Pittsburgh. Morey made a Pro Bowl as a Cardinal as well, memorably blocking a punt in overtime in 2008 that Monty Beisel recovered for a game-winning overtime touchdown against Dallas.


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Veteran cornerback Breeland on Cards’ radar

Posted by Darren Urban on May 16, 2018 – 10:34 am

Veteran cornerback Bashaud Breeland was one of the first free agents signed back in March. He signed a three-year, $24 million contract with the Panthers — only to have the deal voided when he came in for his physical and he had a foot infection suffered while on vacation. Since then, Breeland, who played last year in Washington, has been trying to get healthy.

He’s apparently OK now, because he reportedly is making visits again, and the Cardinals are on his list. Rob Demovsky of ESPN said Breeland is supposed to visit the Colts today and the Cards Thursday. The order in which a player makes his visits is always crucial, because the first team has a chance to never let him leave. Then again, it will be interesting to see what the market is monetarily for Breeland. Can he get another three-year deal like he did originally (with about $11 million guaranteed?) This is the time of year when it’s always about expectations: The expectations of the player and what he can earn, and the expectations of what a team thinks it can get a player for, especially when the free agent has made it to mid-May.

Certainly, the Cardinals have been looking at what they can do at their second cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson. “We are looking for someone to step up on the other side of Patrick — whether it is Brandon (Williams), whether it is Lou Young, whether it is Bené Benwikere, whether it is (rookie Chris Campbell,” coach Steve Wilks said Tuesday. Maybe that someone comes from the outside.


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Josh Rosen and his particular outside noise

Posted by Darren Urban on May 14, 2018 – 9:39 am

Clearly — and especially in this day of instant Internet reactions — Josh Rosen is a lightning rod. It wasn’t hard to notice from afar pre-draft when the quarterback was just a potential NFL player, but it’s a lot easier after the Cardinals drafted him. The emotions he apparently stirs, for fans everywhere but notably for fans of teams for which Rosen does not play, are oddly strong. (And often having nothing to do with football.)

It’s not difficult to find this stuff, and you’d think for a 21-year-old, it would weigh on him. But Rosen insists it does not, and he sounds genuine when he says that.

“You ignore it,” Rosen said. “It’s not that hard. It’s only hard if you make it hard. If you are Googling your name every other day and reaching out to people, yeah, you can make it hard for yourself. But as far as I know, if you keep your phone limited to messages and calls, don’t read too much (you’re OK.) The only thing that really matters is the guys in the building (at the Cardinals’ complex). That’s where I am trying to keep it right now.”

Rosen said he got to this point mentally because of a lot of “awesome mentors,” both former and current NFL players who have provided advice — whether they were guys who have always handled that part of the gig well, or even guys who might’ve handled it poorly and now have advice on how to do it better.

“I’m not going to say who,” Rosen said, “but thank you to all you guys.”


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For Cardinals, the fullback is here again

Posted by Darren Urban on May 11, 2018 – 2:23 pm

Not that it comes as a great surprise after a) Derrick Coleman was signed as a free agent Thursday or even b) Elijhaa Penny was getting reps in Phase Two work as a lead blocker for David Johnson, but Steve Wilks and Mike McCoy have brought the fullback back to the Cardinals. If you recall, Bruce Arians made very clear he was not going to use a fullback in his tenure (although there were times when he kinda did, even if it was embodied by a lineman like A.Q. Shipley or Evan Boehm.)

Arians preferred two tight-end sets if he was going to have only two receivers on the field. Wilks and McCoy see the fullback — or an H-back, depending on the situation — as a preferred option. The Cardinals also signed undrafted rookie fullback Austin Ramesh (pictured below).

“Derrick is going to come in and give us a boost,” Wilks said. “We really didn’t have a true fullback on the roster. Going against him within that division in the (NFC) South (when Coleman was in Atlanta and Wilks Carolina), the guy has proven himself.”

“Within our system and the things we do, a fullback is a part of that offense,” Wilks added. “It’s been a part of that offense for a while with McCoy, and even the same thing with me in Carolina. We think that’s a major part of what we are doing and we want to try and bring in a guy who shores up that position for us.”


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Cardinals’ 2019 comp pick estimate: Just one

Posted by Darren Urban on May 8, 2018 – 1:47 pm

Today is the deadline for free agents signed counting for or against a team’s compensatory pick haul for the 2019 draft. The Cardinals benefited greatly in 2018 with comp picks, earning three comp picks (and ultimately using all, to choose OL Mason Cole, RB Chase Edmonds and OL Korey Cunningham.) Next year, it won’t quite be the same.

According to Nick Korte of overthecap.com, the Cardinals — based on their free agent gains and losses this year — will get a lone extra seventh-round pick, attached to the departure of wide receiver Jaron Brown to the Seahawks. Three other losses qualified as potential seventh-rounders: quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert (to Tennessee) and Matt Barkley (Cincinnati), and offensive lineman Earl Watford (Chicago). But none figure to earn picks because there are only 32 comp picks awarded and all three fall in at 33 or higher.

(The Cards lost a couple of higher-value free agents but those are canceled out by the ones they signed themselves. And as always, players that had been cut — like Tyrann Mathieu — do not qualify in the equation.)

The list can change slightly depending on how much some guys play or if they are released. But it’s usually a pretty close estimate of where we will be when comp picks are revealed in late February or so.


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Christian Kirk and the “new” passing game

Posted by Darren Urban on May 8, 2018 – 10:41 am

The idea is that Christian Kirk, as a second-round pick, will be able to step in and make an impact as a receiver right away. Beyond Larry Fitzgerald, there is certainly an opening at the position. There is a lot to sort out, of course — what might the role of J.J. Nelson and Chad Williams be going forward, how much more might tight end Ricky Seals-Jones be used, will running back David Johnson slide right back in as the second-leading pass-catcher like he was in 2016. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is just now building out what he might want to do. That will take some time.

As polished as Kirk might be at this point, coming in and doing big things right away as a rookie receiver can be difficult. You need opportunity as well as skill. You also need to figure out just what the expectations would be for “making an impact.” Last year, Rams third-round pick Cooper Kupp made an impact, even if his numbers wouldn’t necessarily make him an obvious Pro Bowl candidate (62-859-5). Former third-round Cardinals pick John Brown did the same in 2014 (48-696-5). If Kirk could replicate either of those seasons, I’d guess the Cardinals would be pretty happy.

A look at every receiver drafted over the last three years by pick 47 (Kirk’s spot) or earlier finds plenty of lost rookie campaigns. Using Smokey Brown as a potential benchmark, of the 19 wideouts taken at 47 or higher, only three (Sterling Shepard, NYG, 2016; Michael Thomas, New Orleans 2016; Amari Cooper, Oakland, 2015) had as many catches as Brown as a rookie (65, 92, 72, respectively.) Only two, Thomas and Cooper, had as many yards as Brown (1,137 for Thomas, 1,070 for Cooper.) The same trio were the only ones to reach the five touchdowns of Brown (Sterling 8, Thomas 9, Cooper 6).

That’s 16 wide receivers that didn’t do a ton as a rookie (Houston’s Will Fuller did go 47-635-2 in 2016, so he was close). Again, when looking to see what Kirk might be able to have, recent perspective counts.


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Bruce Arians gets his TV gig

Posted by Darren Urban on May 3, 2018 – 8:10 am

When Bruce Arians retired from coaching, he said he was looking at what to do in the next stage of his life. Doing some form of football on TV made a lot of sense to him, and networks were intrigued by the blunt-talking B.A. Thursday, that became reality when Arians was officially hired by CBS to join a three-man booth with play-by-play man Greg Gumbel and former quarterback Trent Green for the 2018 season.

“I always hoped that broadcasting would be an option after I retired from coaching as a way to stay involved with this great game,” Arians said in a statement released by CBS.  “I am thrilled to have that opportunity with such a class organization as CBS Sports.  As I begin my new career in the broadcast booth, I am excited to join Greg, Trent and Jamie and look forward to learning from them, as well as sharing my passion and knowledge for the game with the fans.”

Of course, it will be interesting to hear how Arians interprets games from the booth, and how easily he is able to avoid some of the not-made-for-TV language he so often likes to use. Arians has joked about that multiple times when talking about being on TV.

The Cardinals only have one game on CBS all season — a home game Nov. 18 against the Oakland Raiders. I wouldn’t be shocked to have Arians and crew at that game, but we will see.


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The fifth-year option and Josh Rosen

Posted by Darren Urban on May 2, 2018 – 1:14 pm

The fifth-year team option for NFL teams for their first-round draft picks is always an interesting proposition, and it’s at the forefront of league topics right now since Wednesday is the deadline for team’s to figure out their choice for the 2015 draft picks. The Cardinals already made their call, exercising the option for tackle D.J. Humphries. It’s also part of the story for new first-round pick Josh Rosen, with whom the Cards will have a fifth-year option in 2022.

The Cardinals usually use their option, which began in 2011 after the new collective bargaining agreement came to pass. Of all their first-round picks since then that have come up for the option, the only time the Cards didn’t use it was on guard Jonathan Cooper (who was actually traded to New England for Chandler Jones before the option deadline arrived in 2016.) Patrick Peterson, Michael Floyd, and Deone Bucannon have all had their rookie deals extended to that fifth season — which does jump a player’s salary a good amount depending on their position and draft slot, but does keep the player from free agency another year.

Rosen’s case in a few years will be interesting. As noted in Kyle Odegard’s story today, finding a rookie quarterback to use is the best way for a team to build up its roster because the rookie wage scale makes a QB much cheaper — and there is more room under the cap to get players elsewhere. That’ll be the first four years. Former agent and cap expert Joel Corry does estimate that by 2022, assuming a similar climb in the salary cap, Rosen’s 2022 fifth-year option will be north of $25 million.

If Rosen is the real deal, there is no question the fifth-year option will come into play. (Next year, with Robert Nkemdiche, would seem to come down to his 2018 work.) Because of the timing — and because a player cannot get a contract extension or a new deal until he has played three years in the league — chances are good that Rosen will be optioned. But the Cards might make sure he gets a new deal before it ever kicks in. If Rosen is the player they hope he is.


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Sam Bradford’s text to Josh Rosen

Posted by Darren Urban on May 1, 2018 – 9:15 am

By now (I would hope) you’re all watching the series “Flight Plan” and how it chronicles the offseason of the Cardinals. The episode coming Wednesday night on Facebook (www.facebook.com/cardinalsflightplan) will be all about the draft, with a ton of cool behind-the-scenes stuff with number one draft pick Josh Rosen — including a text message from new teammate/competition at quarterback Sam Bradford.

The scene plays out as Rosen and his parents and agent were being driven to the Cardinals’ Tempe facility Friday for Rosen’s introductory press conference. Rosen turns to agent Ryan Williams and says, “Sam just texted me. Bradford.” Then he reads the text.

“He said, ‘Josh, what’s up, man? Welcome to Arizona,” Rosen reads. ” ‘Just wanted to let you know that I look forward to playing with you. I’ll be an open book, so if you ever need anything or have any questions, feel free to ask. Hope all is well.’ ”

You can then see Rosen writing a text back.

It’s an important tidbit given the questions some have had with how Rosen and Bradford will mesh, given that Rosen — obviously — is considered the long-term solution at quarterback. Yes, you can say Bradford is just being nice, but had he not texted and just waited to talk to Rosen when Rosen arrives next week, no one would’ve thought anything of it. It’s hard to not think the message genuine.

On Rosen’s part, he’s made it clear he’d like to play sooner rather than later, but he acknowledged at his press conference, “First and foremost, I’m an Arizona Cardinal. It’s team before everything. … I’m going to compete my butt off every single day, but then again, I’m not going to be the guy that comes in and thinks he’s the man from Day 1. It’s a long process, and you’ve got to earn it.”

All this will be on Flight Plan this week. Usually, there is a new episode debuting every two weeks, but this week is the exception. It will post Wednesday night at  6 p.m. Arizona time on Facebook Watch and then on azcardinals.com Thursday morning.


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