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Dockett and the chance to return

Posted by Darren Urban on February 27, 2015 – 4:06 pm

Normally, a key veteran like Darnell Dockett is released and I try to sum up his career in Arizona as his tenure comes to an end. Dockett certainly is one of those guys. But that plan is in a holding pattern now because, quite frankly, his tenure might not have come to an end yet. This has happened before; Levi Brown was released because of his big contract numbers, he spent a few days to explore what else might be out there for him, and he decided to return.

Dockett gets that chance. He’ll have more than a week’s jump on the scheduled free agents out there waiting for March 10 (although there are plenty of other veterans who have already been released) to see what is available. No reason to talk about Dockett as if he’s gone when it could turn out that he’s not.

In some ways, Dockett is in the same place Karlos Dansby was last year when Dansby became a free agent. Or Antonio Cromartie figures to be in this year. The Cardinals want such players, but with the way they have organized their roster and salary cap while using analytics, there are contract numbers the team can live with. In Dansby’s case, the money per year was about the same that he was offered from Cleveland, but the Browns offered four years (so naturally, more guaranteed money) and the Cardinals two. So Dansby went with Cleveland. Cromartie is expected to be in the same boat in terms of considering competing offers, and it makes sense that Dockett will too, judging by Steve Keim’s comments today.

Dockett has played a huge role in how this franchise has turned it around in the last decade. Team president Michael Bidwill has said that, like Larry Fitzgerald, he wants to have Dockett retire a Cardinal. I don’t think that thought has changed.

So if Dockett ends up signing elsewhere, then yes, I’ll post a retrospective. We’re not there yet.

DockettBlog


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The notion of Adrian Peterson

Posted by Darren Urban on February 27, 2015 – 10:26 am

I’m always hesitant to bring up Adrian Peterson in any context with this team because of the emotions it evokes. The story has been told countless times, how the Cardinals, picking fifth in 2007, passed up the chance to draft Adrian Peterson and instead took tackle Levi Brown. We all know how that worked out for both sides. The Cardinals had allowed Leonard Davis to leave in free agency and needed a left tackle. And Edgerrin James was coming off his first season in Arizona. Plus, new coach Ken Whisenhunt and offensive line coach Russ Grimm felt the Cardinals had to upgrade their offensive line because without that, it didn’t matter who might be behind that line carrying the ball.

Yeah, it didn’t quite work out. Did I mention that?

The other part of that story is that, while Whiz and Grimm ruled the day getting the tackle they wanted in that draft, that then-director of college scouting Steve Keim wanted to take Peterson. He felt Peterson was a difference maker.

(It’s fun to look back at that 2007 draft. Tampa could have had Peterson at No. 4, they went DE Gaines Adams. The just-cut Ted Ginn went ninth to the Dolphins. Meanwhile the Niners got Patrick Willis at 11 and Buffalo took Marshawn Lynch at 12. That seems so long ago.)

So we flash forward to 2015, and yesterday’s news that Peterson’s ongoing suspension, or whatever it might be, has been bounced back to an arbitrator after a judge ruled his ongoing punishment for last year’s issues with child discipline went too far. Peterson’s situation has not been resolved. That’s the most important part of this right now. It’s also important to note that a) Peterson is under contract with the Vikings and b) the Vikings continue to say they want Peterson on their team in 2015. So any speculation about him being anywhere but Minnesota this season is just that — speculation and guesswork.

There was a report that Peterson’s agent and someone from the Vikings got into a heated discussion at the Scouting combine and that Peterson’s agent wasn’t keen on Peterson staying a Viking. Then Peterson’s dad came out and said Peterson isn’t trying to leave Minnesota, although there is a chance the Vikings could part ways with him. Peterson does have three years left on his current contract (he turns 30 in a couple of weeks) and is due to make $12.75 million, $14.75 million and $16.75 million. Those numbers would seem to me to make a trade for Peterson for many teams cost-prohibitive without a significant restructuring and/or pay cut.

Someone suggested to me yesterday that Nelson Peterson (the father) said the Colts, Cowboys and Cardinals would be on Adrian’s short list if he left the Vikings. I haven’t seen that. The elder Peterson merely mentioned to the St. Paul Pioneer Press he had heard those teams as rumored destinations — and this time of year is king for NFL rumors.

But it was interesting to see Nelson Peterson go into some depth about the Cardinals and their near-miss on Peterson in 2007.

“Arizona had the opportunity to draft him and they didn’t,’’ said Nelson Peterson. “They had an opportunity to take him in 2007 with the No. (5) pick and they went and picked Levi Brown. If they would have taken Adrian Peterson, then (quarterback) Kurt Warner would probably still be playing and they probably would have numerous Super Bowls.

“Can you imagine (Peterson) with Kurt Warner and with Larry Fitzgerald in his prime? Oh, man, Arizona would probably have a couple of Super Bowls by now.’’

Keim is still around, although now he’s calling the shots. It’d make sense he probably still likes Peterson as a player. It’s not like he can comment on the possibility — that’s tampering — although I’ve heard him asked in a couple of interview situations. Until free agency starts though, such ideas are going to be bounced around. I’ve been bombarded with the question: Could I see Peterson as a Cardinal? Maybe, although there sure seem to be a lot of moving parts here. I will say this, with all the players around the league getting cut and with a free agent class with a lot of names in the first place — plus issues like Peterson’s future playing out — it’s going to be an interesting month of March.

Adrian Peterson


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Cardinals add a cornerback

Posted by Darren Urban on February 26, 2015 – 3:14 pm

The Cardinals have signed cornerback Damond Smith, a move that likely has more to do with building up to the 90-man roster, you’d think. Smith, who was in camp with Kansas City last season, also has played in the Canadian Football League. He has not appeared in an NFL game.

Until the Cards find out what will happen with free agent-to-be Antonio Cromartie, it’s hard to know exactly where the Cardinals need to go at the position this offseason. Cromartie figures to have a market, and it’s long felt he could be this offseason’s Karlos Dansby — the Cardinals want him back and have a price, and the player might just be money-whipped to go elsewhere. Cromartie also has made it clear he misses living back East, so that also could play a major role (the defensive coordinator he liked is now the head coach of the team he long played for, so you can connect some potential dots there.)

If Cromartie leaves, then with no additions you figure Justin Bethel is in probable line to get to play cornerback, with Jerraud Powers — whom Arians loved in 2014 — playing the slot and Patrick Peterson being the anchor, perhaps going back to following the No. 1 receiver all over the field. If Cro goes, though, it makes sense the Cardinals made an addition at the position at some point.


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The case for more speed and Daryl Washington

Posted by Darren Urban on February 26, 2015 – 9:39 am

It’s been repeated many times over the past few weeks, by both GM Steve Keim and especially coach Bruce Arians: The Cardinals are seeking more speed on defense. That was the first thing Arians mentioned at the recent Scouting combine, when he was asked what the team needed to do in rebuilding.

“We need speed at all our linebacker positions,” Arians said. “And continue to develop Kevin Minter into a better player. That’s important. But overall speed at all our linebacker positions.”

Minter is a key because he was a former second-round pick, but he was never drafted to be a speed guy. That was supposed to be Daryl Washington, whose game is predicated on speed. Washington’s future continues to be murky. According to the CBA, he can’t even begin the reinstatement process until sometime in early March, or 60 days before the end of what will be a year suspension. (The suspension was for at least a year; It was announced May 30 but the official notice might have come before that.) Then the NFL has to rule. Until then, the Cardinals say they aren’t even thinking about Washington and I would suppose they move forward in their defensive rebuild without him in mind. If he returns — remember, he still could face NFL punishment for his assault plea from last year — then it’s a bonus.

But in 2013, Arians saw first-hand what Washington’s speed could do. There is no denying Karlos Dansby had a fantastic season in 2013, but his play jumped another level when Washington returned from a four-game suspension that season. When you have guys that can cover ground sideline to sideline, when you have guys who can watch and keep up with someone like Russell Wilson if Wilson decides to scramble, then your defense has a different look.

That would seem to be a natural place for the Cardinals to start in free agency. How much speed might be available on the inside linebacker FA market is a different story. But when the first word out of the coach’s mouth each time he’s asked the question is “speed,” it’s obviously a priority.

Speed


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Possible Palmer restructure as Cards cut cap

Posted by Darren Urban on February 25, 2015 – 4:10 pm

Carson Palmer didn’t even get to play a full game after signing his contract extension late last season. Now, before the first season of that extension kicks in, Palmer reportedly could be restructuring it to ease his salary cap number of $14.5 million. Mike Jurecki first reported Palmer the possibility.

Palmer is due a roster bonus of $9.5 million (in addition to a $1M salary) this season. Add in his current $4M of bonus proration of $4M, and that’s his $14.5M cap hit. If the Cardinals were to turn the roster bonus into a signing bonus — which would then be distributed evenly over the remaining four years of the contract in terms of the cap — it’d take his cap number all the way down to about $7.4M for 2015. Of course, that also pushes more dead money on to future caps as well.

These are the choices a team makes, however, especially when it feels it can compete — as long as everyone stays healthy. Like Palmer. We’ll see if his contract gets an update. With more and more players getting released around the NFL and the market already flooded with players, there will be opportunities to sign contributors for reasonable prices. That’s why the Cardinals are trying to loosen more cap room. Neither General Manager Steve Keim or president Michael Bidwill has been shy of sharing the concept of the Cardinals being aggressive in free agency.

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A nice career on the money side for Fitz

Posted by Darren Urban on February 25, 2015 – 9:55 am

Larry Fitzgerald may be taking less money than was on his original contract, but many have noticed that the $22 million he’s getting guaranteed over the next two seasons is a great deal. That was Andrew Brandt’s theme as he analyzed the situation in a MMQB.com piece. Brandt’s thoughts — “With NFL finances clearly tilted towards management, there are few outliers who have ‘won’ on the business side like Fitzgerald” — took me back to something Fitz said during training camp.

It was the day Patrick Peterson had his press conference for his new lucrative contract, and Fitzgerald — as a veteran around the team — was asked his opinion of where the Cardinals were in terms of spending money.

I for one can tell you the Cardinals are not a cheap organization,” Fitzgerald said. “I will stand on a table and say all day long they are not. We can put that to bed.”

Indeed, Fitz has made around $120 million already from the Cardinals on his various contracts since 2004. That doesn’t include a dime he’s made in endorsements, just the cash he’s gotten from the team. Now he gets another $22M guaranteed. It also dovetails nicely with the first part of Brandt’s column, which explains how the salary cap — in the end — doesn’t have to kill a team in terms of getting players.

You want cap space, but in the end, when asking about a marriage between a player and a team, just know that if the team wants the player bad enough, it can happen — regardless of the cap space or how expensive the player might be. Now, there is a give and take. You might be causing cap complications down the road, or the player you want may want more than you are willing to give him. But it’s rare that a player simply can’t be fit under whatever cap you might have.

Bringing it back to Fitz, it would have been interesting to see what Fitzgerald might have been able to get on the open market. Conventional wisdom says it wouldn’t have been as much as the Cardinals gave him, but it was important on many levels to keep Fitzgerald around. The two sides made it work. The Cards are trying to do the same with Darnell Dockett — and GM Steve Keim said those talks are ongoing.

FitzcheapblogUSE


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Narrowing down where Cards are with cap

Posted by Darren Urban on February 24, 2015 – 11:37 am

The Cardinals have saved about $15.3 million in cap space for 2015 with just two moves thus far this offseason: Re-doing Larry Fitzgerald’s contract and releasing Ted Ginn. More moves are inevitable (the Cardinals are talking with Darnell Dockett now in an effort to re-do his deal and lower his cap number.)

Where are the Cards cap-wise? Right now, it’s kind of a moot point.

We still do not know what the salary cap will even be in 2015. Most estimates put it around $143M, but it won’t be finalized until we come upon the new league year March 10. (In 2014, the cap was $133M.) On top of that, the Cardinals will carry over about $4.2M of cap space from last season, meaning their cap number for 2015 (assuming the $143M number is correct) will be slightly north of $147 million.

When the league year opens, it’s only the top 51 cap numbers on the roster that count. That’s how a team’s cap number is determined until we get to the first week of the regular season (when everyone, even on the practice squad and injured reserve, counts on the cap.) In the always murky world of constantly changing cap numbers, the Cardinals apparently are going to have about $139M or $140M in their top 51 as of today.

Again, that’s before any other moves — before a Dockett decision is reached, before any other players are cut and before any free agents on the street right now (there was a report tight end James Casey, cut by Philly, will visit the Cardinals) might sign prior to March 10. Team president Michael Bidwill reiterated the Cardinals plan to be aggressive in free agency, so freeing up more cap space seems a foregone conclusion.

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Sorting out Dockett’s status

Posted by Darren Urban on February 22, 2015 – 9:54 pm

General Manager Steve Keim said last week he would be talking to defensive lineman Darnell Dockett (and his agent) about his contract, which has one year left to run and is scheduled to pay Dockett $6.5 million this season. It made sense, with Dockett carrying a $9.8M cap charge in 2015 and with he being a candidate, like Larry Fitzgerald, to re-do his contract in one way, shape or form.

“We will have conversations with Darnell moving forward,” Keim said.

The next day, Keim said in a radio interview that conversation was coming by the weekend. Now, Dockett has tweeted a couple of things in the past couple of days that indicate the talks have started, and may have left in question Dockett’s status for 2015. The latest came Sunday night:

We’ll see how this might play out. Like Fitzgerald, it can always play out a little differently with each player when it comes to contract negotiations. Dockett has made clear how he feels he has been loyal to the Cardinals and wants to be here. Dockett is going to be 34 in May and is coming off a major knee injury and a pay reduction would likely be in play. One way or another, this — like Fitz’s situation — figures to be sorted out by March 10 when the new league year begins.

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Peterson dealt with “blood issues”

Posted by Darren Urban on February 20, 2015 – 3:21 pm

There were a couple of times coach Bruce Arians noted this season that the cornerback had dealt with some health issues aside from the badly sprained ankle Peterson played through after the Denver game. Peterson never talked about it specifically. Then Arians mentioned it during an appearance on Pro Football Talk that Peterson had some “blood issues” early in 2014.

“(Patrick) needs to have a great offseason which he is determined to have,” Arians said. “But to me, he had a bad September and he was battling some blood issues at the time that no one would be aware of …”

Arians was cut off by host Mike Florio to ask about the blood issues at that point. Arians said it was a “blood sugar issue” and that Peterson is fine now.

“It was cleared up in October,” Arians said. “He played four of the greatest games I’ve seen (later in 2014).”

Arians said the issue was “borderline” diabetes and Peterson had to learn how to manage the situation, which he did. He praised both the Cardinals’ medical staff and Peterson for finding a solution, as well as Peterson’s wife, who is studying to be a doctor.

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Palmer health and an offseason of Logan Thomas

Posted by Darren Urban on February 20, 2015 – 11:27 am

Someone asked Bruce Arians how Carson Palmer was progressing in his knee rehab, noting by all accounts Palmer was doing well.

“Don’t jinx me, baby,” Arians said with a grin.

Palmer is doing well, Arians acknowledged, and Palmer is apparently still making noise that he hopes to be back for some offseason work. That, Arians added, is no lock if the Cardinals decide it might not be worth it. It’s not like they don’t already know what Palmer can do, and having Palmer available for training camp is much more important. Drew Stanton is also doing “extremely well,” his own knee issues nowhere near as severe as Palmer. Both are ahead of schedule, Arians said.

And if the Cardinals are limited in their quarterback availability this offseason? Not a problem, Arians said, because this will be the offseason of Logan Thomas.

“This will be a big spring for Logan because of the two guys,” Arians said. “We’ll see how much Drew can do. But I want to give Logan a ton of work anyway. If Carson is cleared and ready to go, we’ll put him out there.”

This is a big spring for Thomas regardless of where the other QBs were health-wise anyway. His rookie year is over. This is the offseason in which Thomas should be able to make the largest strides learning the offense. There is no transition to the NFL like he had as a rookie. He’s been around it for a year. His accuracy remains a question mark and while the Cardinals do not need him right now — again, assuming health for both Palmer and Stanton — there is in today’s NFL a short shelf life for “potential” and how long you work with it to see if it can eventually pay off.

LoganWorkinguse


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