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Comp picks look good after deadline

Posted by Darren Urban on May 9, 2017 – 4:23 pm

Tuesday was an important day for the Cardinals. In an offseason when the Cards seemed to play for the comp pick game — losing several key free agents, and signing back newcomers strategically — Tuesday marked the final day where the signing of someone on the open market would count against a team in the formula for compensatory draft picks.

Nick Korte over at overthecap.com has been following the comp pick situation. While the actual formula is a secret, some, including Korte, have seemingly gotten at least a little bit of a handle on it. As of now, the estimation is that for the 2018 draft the Cardinals will get an extra third-round pick (because of losing Calais Campbell), an extra fourth-round pick (for losing Tony Jefferson) and two extra sixth-round picks (for losing Marcus Cooper and D.J. Swearinger.)

The picks can shift based on playing time and other factors. If one of these players flames out and is cut by midseason, that will impact things. But for now, this is what it looks like. The hefty contracts received by Campbell and Jefferson likely lock in those picks — Campbell’s deal, actually, was the richest handed out in free agency. By far.

As a recap, the Cardinals currently have five of their own picks remaining for the 2018 draft: First, second, third, fifth and sixth rounds. They traded away their fourth-rounder in order to trade up for Budda Baker, and dealt the seventh-rounder last year when they acquired Cooper. So that would give them nine picks total if they get all four comp picks (the maximum number of comp picks a team can receive.)

Again, the most important part of the news now is that no more free agents (not players cut, which is why signing Antoine Bethea never counted against the Cardinals’ formula) the Cards sign will count against the equation. So if there are any Steve Keim specials from here on out, no comp pick impact.


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Power rankings and the Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on May 9, 2017 – 12:45 pm

I’ve left little doubt how I feel about NFL power rankings. They’re below mock drafts for me, so that’s saying something. But, like mock drafts, people can’t help but look, like a car wreck as you’re driving by on the highway. I thought it was interesting that not only did ESPN do some recent power rankings, but then they had an article disputing some of the rankings. More importantly for this discussion (on a slow news day), the Cardinals were involved.

In the “real” power rankings, the Cardinals were 18th post-draft. They are listed behind eight teams (who make up nine games) on the schedule. But Mike Clay wrote a follow-up article noting a handful of teams ranked too low or too high. The Cardinals made his list of a team ranked too low. He said they deserve to be eighth, not 18th.

This is where you’d normally say it’s hard to know where the Cards should be (but not me, really, since power rankings mean nothing in a playoffs-determine-your-worth league). It does underscore that, generally, no one really knows what to expect from the Cardinals. Sure, in part that’s because it’s May and the rookies haven’t even arrived and we are months from any sort of determination. But after a season of high expectations that weren’t met, analysts are going to feel burned. What will the offense look like — were the issues Palmer-related or more because of letdowns and injuries up front and among receivers (I lean toward the latter.) Can the defense recover from free-agent turnover?

Will the Cardinals be closer to 8 or 18?


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Spring Tailgate TV special, and “Groundwork”

Posted by Darren Urban on May 5, 2017 – 11:00 am

Couple of worthwhile projects put together by our excellent video department are finding their way to the public, so if you get a chance, take a look. The first is “Groundwork” a series of short web videos that will be rolled out from now (the initial piece features D.J. Humphries) through training camp. The synopsis, from our VP of broadcasting, Tim DeLaney:

“Groundwork is about the business of getting better from an individual’s perspective.  Each episode will focus on a player and what he is doing to prepare for the season – mentally and physically – in the weight room, the film room and on the field.  We’ll track the progress of the highlighted players through training camp.”

The other will be the Spring Tailgate TV special, shot the night of the third day of the draft and airing Saturday at approximately 8 p.m., following NBA playoff coverage on ABC 15. Hosted by Paul Calvisi and Ron Wolfley, the show features draft analysis from GM Steve Keim and team president Michael Bidwill, as well as talk about the revamped defense with linebackers Chandler Jones and Karlos Dansby.


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Keim seeks “educational briefing” with Washington

Posted by Darren Urban on May 4, 2017 – 9:34 am

Three years have passed since the Cardinals decision-makers have talked to Daryl Washington. Such is the rules of a suspended player, who in that situation is not allowed to have contact with his team. So, while there has been a conditional reinstatement of the linebacker, no, he is not at the facility working out. The next step, already anticipated and now publicly confirmed by General Manager Steve Keim, is a discussion first.

During an interview with Adam Schein on Sirius XM radio, Keim was asked about Washington.

“To be quite honest with you, we have had dialogue with his agent, but have not have had a chance to talk with Daryl yet, just because of how busy we have been,” Keim said. “We will attend to that in the near future and obviously get a chance to talk to Daryl and see what is going on.”

There are a lot of things that would figure to have to be ironed out with Washington — his contract, his physical shape, his mental shape for football, among others — and that can’t be determined without a conversation.

“There will be a sit-down with Michael Bidwill, our president and owner, and myself and Coach Arians, and again, more than anything, an educational briefing on ‘Just where have you been the last three years, what’s going on in your life?’ ” Keim said. “Once that meeting occurs, there will be a decision made (about Washington’s future with the team).

“It’s been three years, and the way the system is set up right now, there is a lot of unknown.”


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From here, the question of adding vets

Posted by Darren Urban on May 3, 2017 – 4:53 pm

The Cardinals got through the draft and made their picks. No QB. No cornerback drafted early, but the defense got some potential impact playmakers. They collected 17 undrafted rookies, adding an Ironhead and a Gump and QB was served by a Knight, although we’ll see what that truly means. The Cardinals are in the middle of Phase 2 work — that goes on exclusively for another week — and then OTAs will start May 16 and the meat of the offseason work will commence.

There will be moves here and there. There will be tryout players at the rookie minicamp next week and a couple will inevitably be signed, at the cost of a couple of other players on the roster. That’s happened every year in the Bruce Arians era. There will have to be a decision made about what to do with Daryl Washington (no, that has not yet happened.) And then there is the idea of a Keim Time Sign, a pickup of a veteran by GM Steve Keim anytime between now and into training camp that could end up making the roster by the beginning of September. A quick handicapping of the positions he could look at:

Offensive line: The Cards signed Tony Bergstrom Wednesday. He’s likely a depth guy rather than someone who figures to have a chance to start should he make the team. He’s played center of late, and with Evan Boehm working as the first-string right guard, the Cards needed someone to back up A.Q. Shipley, if not compete with him.

Quarterback: The news was out that the Cards at least worked out Blaine Gabbert. We’ll see if that turns into anything. It’d give them an extra arm with experience, and with as much as they have talked about managing Carson Palmer’s practice load, maybe adding another QB right now makes sense.

Running back: I don’t know if the draft closed the door on Chris Johnson, but it seems like it might have. T.J. Logan is young, fresh legs, and they like what they have seen out of Elijhaa Penny. Kerwynn Williams has shown he can run the ball, and after all, David Johnson is David Johnson.

Cornerback: This is the big position. Justin Bethel figures to run with the first unit, at least to begin with. It’ll be hard to see where Budda Baker fits in early because the Washington spring quarter doesn’t end until early June (the final minicamp day is June 8) and he’ll miss most offseason work. The Cards have some mix-and-match possibilities, but right now, it’s Bethel or Brandon Williams in line to start opposite Patrick Peterson. Could the Cards pick up a veteran cornerback? I wouldn’t rule it out, although they may want to see how the offseason plays out a bit.


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After Heap tragedy, “Hugs from Holly” day

Posted by Darren Urban on May 2, 2017 – 4:45 pm

In the aftermath of the tragedy with former Cardinals tight end Todd Heap and his daughter Holly, there is an inspirational message planned for tomorrow, May 3, deemed #hugsfromhollyday.

From the website hugsfromholly.com: “Holly was known to give the best hugs, and her love for everyone and everything in life was contagious.  Let’s spread this joy as we scatter sunshine in Holly’s honor on her birthday.” There are suggestions on how to be involved in Hugs From Holly, and there is also a donation button in order to give to the Baltimore Community Foundation, where Heap played the majority of his NFL career. People should wear pink, and generally do random acts of kindness.

It’s a way for something positive to come out of a terrible situation. Take part if you get a chance.


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On NFLN Top 100, Chandler Jones checks in

Posted by Darren Urban on May 1, 2017 – 6:51 pm

It’s that time of year again, when the NFL Network compiles a list of the Top 100 players in the league (based on the previous year, mind you) and opening up the door to debate all the way through. The first Cardinal showed up on tonight’s season premiere when linebacker Chandler Jones came in at No. 85.

Jones made the list last year too, although he was coming off a year with the Patriots. He was 48th last year, following his 12½-sack year in New England. So he tumbled quite a bit even though he still had 11 sacks. My guess is that had more to do with how the team did rather than Jones’ play in particular. It’ll be interesting to see if teammate Markus Golden, who had 12½ sacks, makes this list at some point.

Two former Cardinals made the list tonight as well. Defensive lineman Calais Campbell, coming off his solid final season with the Cards, was actually No. 83 on the list. And one-time linebacker Lorenzo Alexander turned his career year with the Bills into No. 91 on the list.


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Dorian Johnson, starting and rookies

Posted by Darren Urban on May 1, 2017 – 2:40 pm

Reading through some of the draft grades (and draft grades would be a whole different post for me, but like mocks, people eat them up, so …), I saw it suggested more than once that fourth-round guard Dorian Johnson might start right away, or at least sooner rather than later. To which I’m thinking it’s difficult to see that happening.

I’m not saying it won’t. Maybe Evan Boehm struggles that much at right guard and Johnson overtakes him. Maybe Johnson is a savant. Maybe playing a lot more pro-style offense will put him so far ahead of the curve. But offensive line coach (and offensive coordinator) Harold Goodwin hasn’t been keen on starting inexperienced guys up front when he has a choice.

Yes, Jonathan Cooper had been on track to start at left guard as a rookie in 2013 before he broke his leg. But Bobby Massie, who actually had a couple of years under his belt, was benched in favor of Eric Winston at right tackle in 2013. In 2015, Massie was always going to start at right tackle ahead of D.J. Humphries. Boehm never really had a shot at the starting center last year.

It’s hard to see any of the rookies starting right away. That doesn’t mean they don’t figure to play. Special teams will use many of them. And, as of now, I do see Haason Reddick and Budda Baker playing important defensive roles (although at this time last year, the Cardinals were planning on Robert Nkemdiche getting 30 snaps a game on defense, so there’s that.) Johnson’s potential seems to me the one draftee who has a chance — and again, I don’t see it as much of a chance. Who knows? There’s always a possibility they go through the offseason with options as a starter but decide to sign a veteran in camp to be the guy — like the Shipley/Larson-to-Sendlein situation in 2015.


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A draft of passion, speed — but no QB

Posted by Darren Urban on April 29, 2017 – 3:52 pm

The draft is over. So Bruce Arians summed it up plainly. “Passion and speed.”

The Cardinals also went for versatility, guys that could play in a couple of spots. And it was also about what they didn’t get. With the much-anticipated temptation of taking a quarterback, “we talked about a couple of guys, but they were all gone,” Arians said. “As far as a temptation, no.” (A QB is already in hand, though. See below.)

— It didn’t look like the Cardinals had drafted a cornerback either, until they did. Sixth-round pick Johnathan “Rudy” Ford was a safety as he wrapped up at Auburn, but he began his career as a cornerback and the Cardinals will use him at cornerback. He’s been training there already, with former Cardinals cornerback (and two-time offseason coaching intern) Rod Hood.

— Ford got his nickname because when he was little, he wouldn’t give up. And his uncle nicknamed him that, yes, after the movie.

— Special teams was not forgotten. Clearly, the Cardinals see big special teams play to come from multiple picks: Budda Baker, Haason Reddick, Rudy Ford, T.J. Logan.

— Arians described Logan as more Andre Ellington than David Johnson. If Logan clicks in the backfield, it will certainly free up Ellington to be more of a receiver, which Arians already said would be Ellington’s role.

— The liver condition of fourth-round guard Dorian Johnson is not a problem. Not to the Cardinals. “Some people think me and Coach have liver issues but we’re just fine,” GM Steve Keim deadpanned.

“Terrible joke, but he’s fine,” Keim said. “It’s not been an issue in the past.”

“(Dorian) knows how to manage it,” Arians said with a grin. “I’m still learning mine.”

— The two offensive linemen (Johnson and Will Holden) can play multiple positions. Keim loves that. They are also considered very smart. “Not to get too detailed, but the less time we have with these players, the less time we can develop them, and the less we can get them to understand what we are trying to get across from a schematical standpoint,” Keim said. “It’s important to draft smart players, it’s important to draft passionate players, and it’s important to draft players with positional flexibility.”

— The Cardinals will start to work on their undrafted rookie list now. The official list likely won’t be out until Monday, although I am sure some names will trickle out before then. There will be a quarterback on that list. The Cardinals have 14 spots open on the offseason 90-man roster (although that includes one for Daryl Washington, whose actual spot on the roster figures to be determined sooner rather than later.)

(UPDATE: And there’s your UDFA QB. Texas A&M’s Trevor Knight tweeted out he’s coming to the Cardinals.)

Keim said the plan is to sign 15 to 20 undrafted rookies. A team isn’t going to land all their targets usually, but if there are more than 14, there may be some roster moves early next week to make room for newbies.


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No QB yet — and perhaps none at all

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2017 – 9:57 pm

The Cardinals made a big trade to move up in the second round Friday. It gave everyone pause. Quarterback? Deshone Kizer was on the board. But then came safety Budda Baker. No QB there. In the third round, the Cardinals traded down, and still, no QB. Now there is a question of whether there will be one in this draft.

“Those guys aren’t always out there,” coach Bruce Arians said. What about the quarterbacks left on the board? “There are still a couple of quality arms out there,” Arians acknowledged. “Whether they are first-string arms or second-string arms is yet to be seen.”

It’s less than a ringing endorsement for a team looking for a quarterback of the future. But again, this class always was seen with warts, and the last thing the Cardinals have any desire to do is make a pick just because they feel they have to.

“Again, would you love to find one? Absolutely,” GM Steve Keim said. “But as I said, you can’t force a pick and you can’t leave better players on the board, and that would have done if we didn’t take the approach we did. It would be a disservice to the organization and everyone who works here if we were to press something that was out of the norm or to panic.”

The Cards pick eighth in the fourth round Saturday. They have five picks — one in the fourth, two each in the fifth and seventh. We will see if one is a QB.

— The Cardinals really, really wanted Budda Baker. And in the third round, they liked Chad Williams a lot. So it worked out for Keim to make the initial trade, however expensive as it might have seemed, to snare Baker. Because Williams was one of those players that the Cardinals liked probably more than most, they were able to drop down 21 spots in the third, still get him and get back a fourth-round pick.

— Arians believes with the addition of Baker, the Cardinals have one of the most dynamic secondaries in the league. He didn’t rule out drafting a cornerback Saturday — I would be a little surprised if they didn’t — but the addition of Baker gives the Cards flexibility even if there isn’t a ready-to-be-on-an-island corner across from Patrick Peterson.

 


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