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The market — and future — of Calais Campbell

Posted by Darren Urban on January 19, 2017 – 11:46 am

In a few weeks, Calais Campbell will be a free agent. And in many ways, he’s the most intriguing of all the Cardinals’ free agents-to-be. He’s a very good player coming off a very good season, and it won’t be a surprise to see more articles like this one come out, saying the Denver Broncos should chase the big defensive lineman to shore up some of that team’s defensive weaknesses. It makes some sense — Campbell is from Denver, that’s a team primed to keep winning (assuming they can get some consistent quarterback play), and DeMarcus Ware might be done.

But buried lower in the column is the point that Campbell wouldn’t get a big contract from the Broncos, that he’d have to come for the chance to a) come home and b) play for a winner. That’s where this gets sideways in my eyes. The Cardinals want Campbell back. No, they don’t figure to offer him the biggest contract. But if the Cardinals and, say, the Broncos are both offering similar “lesser” deals, I’d guess Campbell would stay right here. And home, for Campbell, is Arizona. It’s not Denver anymore. So there is that.

With the money that will be available overall in free agency, Calais is going to have a chance to go elsewhere and make a nice chunk of change. I don’t doubt that. He will have options to go other places, and probably multiple options. How far the Cards are willing to go for a player who will be 31 in September will be the ultimate question. It’s something the organization — and Campbell — have been considering for months. We’re just coming to the end of the story.

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Rolling over cap space for 2017

Posted by Darren Urban on January 18, 2017 – 1:57 pm

Each year, teams have the option (and why they wouldn’t use it boggles the mind) to roll over any unused salary cap space from the current season on to next year’s cap. It is helpful, of course, buying a little more space with which to use the following season. The NFL Players Association released the list of each team’s rollover money for 2017 Wednesday. The Cardinals have slightly more than $4.4 million they are carrying over for 2017, which just means they will tack on $4.4M to whatever the salary cap is this season.

That number has yet to be set (although reports have it going from $155M to between $166M and $170M). Until then, it’s tough to know how much cap space the Cards will have going into the offseason. It’s safe to say the Cardinals won’t have a ton to spend, not with their own free agents they are trying to retain and the raises others are due this coming season.

The $4.4M rollover is the second-largest amount in the NFC West. The Rams have only $305,000 or so, and the Seahawks are at $2.07M. But the 49ers rolled over a massive amount — $38.7M — which will give them a ton of room to play with. (Amazingly, that’s not the most rolled over in the NFL. The Jaguars are rolling over $39.3M, and the Browns are rolling over a whopping $50.1M. Of course, you have to have places to spend that cap space to make it mean anything.)

Figuring out exact cap space is always a tricky thing, although the NFLPA does attempt to release the information when the new league year (and free agency) starts. It’s frequently a moving target, especially in the offseason with the top 51.

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Cardinals on the open market

Posted by Darren Urban on January 17, 2017 – 12:58 pm

It’s that time of year — and will continue to be, as free agency doesn’t even begin until March 9 — where the speculation of who the best free agents are and where they might land heats up. ESPN’s John Clayton put together a list of his top 50 free agents-to-be (again, contracts don’t expire until March 9, and there is always a chance teams will extend some of these guys).

One key about lists like this — free agency is always about demand. If you are 30th on this list but have multiple teams trying to track you down, that’s better than being 12th and having little interest.

Clayton has four Cardinals on this list:

— No. 4 OLB Chandler Jones
— No. 10 DL Calais Campbell
— No. 28 S Tony Jefferson
— No. 41 ILB Kevin Minter

We know where the Cardinals stand — or have an idea where they stand — on Jones, Campbell and Jefferson. Minter is a little different, although his case figures to be determined not only by the open market but also what the Cardinals want to do early in the draft.

The other interesting part of this list — the cornerbacks. Without knowing what kind of price tag they’d bring (and knowing that a cornerback might be a good target in the draft, and may be even if one is picked up in free agency), Clayton lists five in the top 49: Buffalo’s Stephon Gilmore (13), Houston’s A.J. Bouye (14), L.A.’s Trumaine Johnson (21), New England’s Logan Ryan (44) and Jacksonville’s Prince Amukamara (49).

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Cardinals-Packers, (watching) one year later

Posted by Darren Urban on January 16, 2017 – 10:02 am

One year ago, Larry Fitzgerald did it again. The last hurrah of the 2015 season was today, January 16, as the Cardinals outlasted the Packers in overtime of the divisional round of the playoffs because Carson Palmer spun away from danger to find Fitz and then Fitz raced down the field in front of a University of Phoenix Stadium filled with screaming fans. Then came the shovel touchdown, the trip to the NFC Championship, and many, many smiles.

(The next week didn’t go so well.)

It’s good that last year’s Packers weren’t as smoking hot as this year’s version, after watching Aaron Rodgers on Sunday.

The Cardinals have had a couple of epic playoff matchups with Rodgers and the Packers. Can’t argue that. Last year’s game might not have been as fun to watch all the way through as the previous postseason tilt, but the end certainly was thrilling, to the Floyd tip-drill to the Hail Mary to all that overtime stuff. Now the league has posted the full game on youtube.com, so you can watch the whole thing again if you’d like.


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Cards have seen amazing A-Rod before

Posted by Darren Urban on January 15, 2017 – 6:27 pm

The weekend signaled the end of the NFC West’s season (with the Seahawks getting run over in Atlanta) and then the Packers toppling the No. 1-seeded Cowboys Sunday. Some thoughts as the NFC — which didn’t have the Cardinals — whittled their Super Bowl possibilities down to two:

— Aaron Rodgers is amazing. That pass he lasered to tight end Jared Cook to set up the game-winning field goal (Cook made an incredible catch too) was hard to fathom. It’s not like the Cardinals haven’t seen that before. They (and their fans) did just last year. It’s just that Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald made sure Rodgers didn’t get the last word in overtime.

— Coming into the season, Bruce Arians talked more than once about how the Cards have started hot before and want to see what it would be like to go into the postseason as the hot team. Obviously the Cardinals didn’t get to do that, but the Packers are the ultimate example of a hot team now. Yes, Green Bay got a home game in the first week as a division winner, but they are 2008 Cardinals hot right now. The Falcons are playing really well right now, they get a home NFC Championship and the Packers are injured all over the place on defense. But then again, A-Rod.

— That final week Pack-over-the-Lions game that gave the Cardinals a road game in Detroit next season instead of Green Bay (and put the Seahawks with a road game at Green Bay) could mean a lot in the NFC West race.

— The Cards also get a home game against the Cowboys next season, and I’ve seen enough of Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliott to understand that Dallas is going to be a force in the conference for awhile, barring injury.

— The way the Packers and the Falcons can score, will they threaten that 51-45 Cardinals-Packers playoff score from a few years back?

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Coaches, interviews and the NFC West

Posted by Darren Urban on January 13, 2017 – 9:21 am

The Cardinals are basically going to be set up the same next season — OK, we wait for official word on what Larry Fitzgerald is going to do — because after almost all of the vacant head coaching jobs have been filled, Harold Goodwin remains in Arizona. The Cardinals’ offensive coordinator had three head coaching interviews, but those teams all went with other candidates: The Jaguars with Doug Marrone, the Bills with Sean McDermott, and the Rams with Sean McVay.

The move to McVay was an interesting one for the Rams. He’s 30, younger than current Cardinals players Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton and Frostee Rucker (McVay does turn 31 in a couple of weeks.) He’s an offensive guy, brought in to develop QB Jared Goff and that wretched Rams offense. He did, however, hire one of the best defensive coordinators around in Wade Phillips — a guy McVay can lean on with Phillips a one-time head coach, and certainly a guy who can make the Rams’ impressive defensive talent work. Phillips was excellent in his stint with the Broncos.

In the meantime, the one team without a new coach (and without a GM at this point) is the San Francisco 49ers. Cardinals vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough is scheduled to interview for the GM spot today, although the Niners will have as many as nine GM interviews completed by the time it’s all said and done. The rumor mill has the 49ers eventually hiring Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as coach, although we’ll see how it plays out — the Patriots seem likely to have a few weeks left in their season.

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McDonough to interview with 49ers

Posted by Darren Urban on January 11, 2017 – 10:25 am

Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, who had head coaching interviews with the Jaguars, Rams and Bills recently, isn’t the only Cardinal getting an interview for an open job. With the 49ers’ general manager post still vacant, csnbayarea.com reported that Cardinals vice president of personnel Terry McDonough will interview later this week for the position. McDonough just finished his fourth season in Arizona, and his third after replacing current Buccaneers GM Jason Licht after Licht left after the 2013 season.

McDonough will be the ninth candidate the 49ers have interviewed or plan to interview for their GM spot. San Francisco has not yet hired a coach either. He would be the third on that list from the NFC West; the 49ers are expected to talk to a pair of Seattle front office execs, co-directors of player personnel Scott Fitterer and Trent Kirchner.

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Score one — or 418 — for the Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on January 10, 2017 – 1:37 pm

The Cardinals’ offense was inconsistent much of the season, certainly compared to the previous season. And in light of 2015 — when the Cardinals smashed the franchise record for points in a season with 489 — most seasons were going to suffer in comparison. But as I look through the aftermath of this season (and look at some of the notes stat guru Mike Helm puts together), one of the stats that sticks out is the 418 points the Cardinals finished with for the season.

418.

No, it’s not 489, but it’s not far off the 427 the 2008 Super Bowl-reaching team collected, a 427 that had been the franchise record before the 2015 squad came along. In fact, the 418 points the Cards scored this season was fourth all-time in team history. And it was mostly the offense that drove it — special teams did not score this season, and the defense accounted for 22 points (three return TDs, two safeties.)

The total was aided by a flourish of a finish, with 41, 34 and 44 points in the final three games. But even with all their troubles, the Cardinals were held to 20 points or less only five times (and appropriately went 0-4-1 in those games.) That was with what seemed like a rotating door on the offensive line, especially late when the scoring jumped, and with an underachieving wide receiving corps.

As Ron Wolfley likes to say, the ability to score provides hope. The Cardinals have had many years where that hope didn’t exist. The current version still allows for that hope.

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Resetting the Daryl Washington info

Posted by Darren Urban on January 9, 2017 – 4:20 pm

It’s about that time of year, that time when I get a bunch of Daryl Washington questions (and I have been, pretty consistently, since the end of the season on various platforms). Now Mike Jurecki has gotten a response from the suspended linebacker — albeit brief — with Washington telling Jurecki he has optimism the NFL will reinstate him for 2017. (That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s applied or will apply. We will see.) It does mean more questions coming my way about D-Wash. So this is as good a time as any to lay out (again) what I know/think:

— After missing three full seasons of NFL play, there’s no reason to think Washington — who will turn 31 in early October — will be reinstated. His was an indefinite suspension. Most indefinite suspensions that are at least a year have ended by now if they are going to end. Washington’s, obviously, has not.

— There were good reasons the Cardinals didn’t release Washington from his contract even if they planned to move on from him. They wanted to look into the bonus money he had been paid and their options there. Plus, the bonus money that had been paid is a cap hit that the Cardinals didn’t want to foul up any single cap year. Suspended, Washington a) wasn’t getting any salary/costing any actual dollars and b) wasn’t taking up a roster spot. So it hasn’t been hurting the Cardinals to hold him in place.

— This would have been the final year of Washington’s contract, so this is the first year they could release him and not have it adversely impact the cap. This season, Washington is scheduled to count $2.5M against the cap whether he is released or suspended on the team.

— People ask me about these big cap hits Washington had, as seen on various sites that address NFL contracts. The cap hits were never going to be beyond his prorated bonus, because they always were taking into account salaries that Washington was never going to draw because he was suspended.

— It’s my understanding that Washington’s contract “tolled” on his suspension — essentially meaning his suspension suspended his contract as well — which means if Washington were to be reinstated, it would revert to his 2014 terms. That’d mean a $2.9M scheduled salary, and four years remaining on the deal.

— Not that it means much, because I feel confident in saying the Cards have moved on from Washington. I personally do not believe he is going to be reinstated.

OK. That’s my Washington post for the year, unless something happens. I know, famous last words.

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Playoff withdrawal? Remember Cards-Pack

Posted by Darren Urban on January 8, 2017 – 9:29 am

Sure, with the playoffs starting this weekend you can stew about a team that was top 10 in offense and defense, seventh in the league in point-differential, scored more than 400 points and lead the league in sacks and yet under .500 and not in the postseason. But with it being Wild Card weekend and all, and the Packers once again playing, there is always the opportunity to go down memory lane. Maybe you’d like to re-read about last year’s playoff win over the Packers, or watch the highlights. But if you are looking for more — and perhaps, with Kurt Warner again on the verge of the Hall of Fame — how about a full replay of the Cardinals’ 51-45 wild Wild card win over the Packers in the 2009 playoffs?

You remember that one, of course. Warner had more touchdown passes (5) than incompletions (4). Larry Fitzgerald scored a pair of touchdowns (and kept the ball after each, FYI.) And it went to overtime with a dramatic ending, just like Cards-Pack 2015.

No, it’s not a real game this weekend. But it’s something.


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