Today was the deadline for teams to use the franchise tag. There is still a week before free agency officially begins — although teams and free-agents-to-be can start talking Saturday — and there is still time for any of these players who are set to become free to still sign extensions and avoid hitting the market. That said, the tag was a possibility for a handful of prospective left tackle free agents, and all of them ended up dodging that tag Monday.
That means the left tackle market, barring a late extension, will include Kansas City’s Branden Albert, Baltimore’s Eugene Monroe, St. Louis’ Rodger Saffold, Oakland’s Jared Valdheer and Cincinnati’s Anthony Collins. (There are reports out of Oakland that think Valdheer’s non-tagging means he’s close to a deal, but if that is true, why not tag him just in case?)
Profootballfocus.com ranked the tackles on the market in this order: Monroe, Albert, Veldheer, Collins, Saffold. The money to sign these guys will not be insignificant, and the need remains high for such players across the league. But if the Cardinals are looking to grab a vet to plug in, there not only will be options but the ability to have a solid backup choice. That can’t be a bad thing.
Tags: Anthony Collins, Branden Albert, Eugene Monroe, free agency, Jared Valdheer, offensive line, Rodger Saffold
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Once, Bertrand Berry left, but he came back.
Having covered the Cardinals either for the East Valley Tribune or here at azcardinals.com for years, I’ve been through a lot of free-agent signing periods and watched the team have a lot of interest in various players. Sometimes they signed. Sometimes they didn’t. And those times pop into my head with the new philosophy of the front office. It isn’t necessarily take it or leave it, but it is close. The Cardinals these days have a number in mind to spend on each particular free agent and definitely a ranking system where they want a certain player first over others. But if there is hesitation, the Cards are ready to move on. They won’t be used as leverage, and that’s a good thing.
The Cards were frequently the team used for leverage once upon a time (the brief Joe Montana courtship is one I remember, but that was before my time on the beat.) There have been others, and that’s one reason why it’s good to see GM Steve Keim get past that. More importantly, it’s good to see the confidence the team has in its plan. The Cards want, for instance, Karlos Dansby to come back. But the possibility of him leaving breeds no panic. As Bruce Arians likes to say, next man up, and that’s an incredibly liberating stance to take this time of year. The Cards will reach out to a left tackle in free agency, I’d guess, and if whoever it is doesn’t like the offer or hedges, the Cards will move on to the next choice. I have no doubt of that. The Cardinals aren’t going to be cheap, but they are going to structure deal on their terms.
(This doesn’t mean the Cards won’t bargain shop later, like they did with Dansby/Winston/Abraham last year. Float a number, wait a guy out and if he’s willing to come in for a bargain, you put him on the roster.)
That brings me back to Berry, who the Cardinals really wanted as a pass rusher in 2004. The offer was on the table and the Cardinals really wanted him to agree to it that day when he visited the team. Berry told them he probably would agree, but he wanted to sleep on it. Fair, although it could have been a leverage ploy. It wasn’t. Berry came back the next day to sign, and proved to be one of the best free-agent signings the team has made, with 14.5 sacks and a Pro Bowl that year before injuries derailed his Arizona tenure.
I don’t see the current Cards letting that happen much at all. A free agent who won’t agree right away is risking that deal being yanked off the table quickly. Keim is going to be in control of this process.
Tags: Bertrand Berry, Bruce Arians, free agency, Karlos Dansby, Steve Kiem
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The salary cap for 2014 was officially set at $133 million this season, a jump of $10 million over last season — huge for any team looking for flexibility to do business (and a boon for those hoping for big-time extensions like Patrick Peterson). And Adam Schefter reported this morning that the cap will be more than $140M next year and then $150M by 2016. All great news for the Cards, with Steve Keim already working hard to get the cap situation under control by next year anyway.
I’ve had a few ask me about Cards’ cap space now. With a $133M and the Jasper Brinkley release today (creating $2M in cap space), the Cards should have a little more than $18M of space.
Some suggested to me earlier today, after the Schefter report, that it will make things easier with Larry Fitzgerald going forward. That probably is true. But with that bloated $23.6M cap figure for 2015, it still stands to reason that a major decision is coming after this year for both the Cardinals and Fitzgerald. Keim reiterated for the umpteenth time at the Scouting combine the plan is for Fitzgerald to remain a Cardinal for his whole career. But the reality is this, and it’s been covered many times as well — with a big roster bonus due, that unwieldy cap number, and the unrealistic idea that the Cards can simply keep kicking Fitz’s cap pain into future years as he gets older, Fitzgerald is probably going to have to agree to take less money in 2015 than he is now currently scheduled. If he says no, that puts the ball back in the Cardinals’ court with Keim facing one of his famous “tough decisions.”
But that’s another reason why the news the cap is growing so quickly can benefit the Cardinals. Keim has been adept already at maneuvering the roster anyway. To be able to have more space to really stretch his legs and build how he wants to build plays into that sustained success he so often speaks about. The Cards want to build with draft picks and lock up young stars. That’s the plan. That the Cards seemingly will have weathered their cap overhaul under Keim and stayed competitive is impressive.
Tags: Larry Fitzgerald, salary cap
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The Cardinals parted ways with strength and conditioning coordinator John Lott Friday, a little bit of a surprise. The Cards confirmed the move in a statement.
“Coach (Bruce) Arians let John know this morning that he’s making a change and going in a different direction in that role. Everyone at the team is certainly grateful to John for his contributions and wish him nothing but the best moving forward. The search for a replacement is underway.”
Lott still has two years remaining on his contract, so financially he’s got time to search for a landing spot. Lott was just at the Scouting combine, reprising his role as the guy bellowing at prospects to encourage extra reps, after not going there in 2013. Lott was a holdover from the Ken Whisenhunt regime and didn’t have any ties to Arians, which made him different than say, Freddie Kitchens (who played for Arians in college). Lott’s profile shrunk this year as well. Normally out front at the beginning of practice at before games leading stretching, that duty was eliminated with Arians’ belief players needed to prep on their own and not stretch as a team. There was chatter earlier in the offseason Lott could end up with Whisenhunt in Tennessee after Whiz got the Titans job. The Titans, though, retained long-time strength coach Steve Watterson.
Assistant strength and conditioning coach Pete Alosi remains in place. The Cardinals don’t officially begin their offseason conditioning program until April 21.
Tags: Bruce Arians, John Lott, Ken Whisenhunt
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A couple of tidbits out there this morning. One, Adam Schefter reported that the Cardinals have reached out to veteran linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, just cut by the Browns, to see if they could line up a free-agent visit next week. Jackson, who already has reportedly be contacted by the Titans and Broncos, would be an inside linebacker for the Cardinals. Is he a backup plan in case Karlos Dansby chooses not to return?
Speaking of Dansby, not that this is a shock, but coach Bruce Arians said on Arizona Sports 98.7 this morning that the team offered Dansby a contract “the day after the season ended.” Negotiations are ongoing — and I still think Dansby wants to see what he can get on the open market — but I’ve had some ask if the Cards had made an offer. It was obvious, but here’s the proof.
In the same interview, Arians said the Cardinals “probably have five” immediate free agent targets when they can officially start calling players on 12:01 a.m. March 8 (deals cannot be finalized until March 11.) And in case you were wondering about that take-it-or-leave-it approach to free agents the Cardinals unveiled last offseason? Yeah, it’s still in place.
“Steve and I have the same philosophy,” Arians said. ” ‘Here it is, do you want it? I’m going to ask this guy in about a half an hour. If you don’t want it, I’m going to ask him. If he wants it, you’re out.’ It’s easy. We don’t play games.”
If nothing else, we’ll probably know what the Cards are doing free-agent wise — at least with the high-end names — quickly. Like the left tackle spot.
Tags: Bruce Arians, D'Qwell Jackson, free agency, Karlos Dansby
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With “official” talks with free agents allowed March 8 and actually agreements allowed March 11, the time when teams will actually be able to start finalizing such things is still more than a week away. Players are dropping off the “He’s going to be a free agent” list daily, like with the litany of Philadelphia Eagles who have signed extensions the past couple of days. That can still happen to any of these potential free agents being talked about.
It hasn’t cooled the speculation, however. Greg Bedard of SI.com’s MMQB ranked the top 100 free-agents-to-be and also listed what he thought would be the best fits. The Cardinals find themselves mentioned a few times.
– The only current Cardinal scheduled to be a free agent that made the list was linebacker Karlos Dansby. He was at No. 34. Not surprisingly, Bedard’s call for Dansby’s best fit was remaining with the Cardinals. I agree with that. Not only does the system best fit Karlos, but so does his working relationship next to Daryl Washington.
– There are three left tackles on the list from other teams: Kansas City’s Branden Albert (No. 7), Baltimore’s Eugene Monroe (No. 8) and Cincinnati’s Anthony Collins (No. 60). For both Albert and Collins, the Cardinals are listed as the best fit and the Cards are also noted for Monroe along with Miami. Obviously the Cardinals would sign more than one, but it’s obvious to the NFL world this team should be a landing spot for at least one. It will definitely be one of the more intriguing storylines of that first week (or less) of free agency.
– Packers DE/OLB Mike Neal was 95th on the list and the Cards were called his best fit. Neal’s name has already been floated as a potential Arizona target. It makes all the sense in the world if Matt Shaughnessy leaves as a free agent.
– In the most surprising post, for Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, 57th on the list, the Cards are called the best fit. I get it with the possibility free agent Rashard Mendenhall might not return. But the way Bruce Arians and Steve Keim think about running backs, and with Ryan Williams and Stepfan Taylor still around along with Andre Ellington (and we aren’t even talking about someone popping up draft-wise) I don’t see the Cards even thinking about a guy like MJD. Or more specifically, his price tag.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Anthony Collins, Branden Albert, Daryl Washington, Eugene Monroe, free agency, Karlos Dansby, Maurice Jones-Drew, Mike Neal, offensive line, Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Williams, Stepfan Taylor
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The news around the salary cap — which will be officially set closer to the start of the new league year/free agency on March 11 — continues to be an adjustment upward of its estimate. Now the possibility is that it is around $132 million, which of course means every team’s projected cap space continues to get bigger. Kevin Seifert has the Cardinals, with that $132M cap, with a projected $15.295 million of cap space. That’s not a bad number, although it ranks in the lower half of the league — 18th, to be exact. A whopping 13 teams are projected to have more than $22M of cap space, and the Raiders ($66.39M), Jaguars ($55.13M), Browns ($51.23M) and Colts ($40.01M) all have more than $40M in cap space.
So there will be the possibility for some big free agent deals.
The Cards are in the same stratosphere, but that’s OK. The Cards don’t want to get sideways with big commitments to players who shouldn’t get them. There is enough room, however, to make some things work. The other plus is that the Cards, right now, have the most cap space in the NFC West. The 49ers are next with $11.84M, then the Rams at $6.32M and then the Seahawks at $4.78M.
This is all fluid, of course, with Seattle able to cut players if they want, for example, or the Cardinals re-signing one of their own guys (Karlos Dansby, anyone?). The Cardinals could still also release a player or two that they know they won’t be moving forward with to create more cap room.
The Dansby situation is one that bears watching, in fact. There is enough cap room across the league that would allow more than a few other teams to money-whip Dansby if they so chose. Again, in the case of Dansby, I don’t see the Cardinals getting into a big bidding war. They will want to reward him, but within reason. Extra space also could play into potential Patrick Peterson negotiations.
Tags: 49ers, Karlos Dansby, NFC West, Patrick Peterson, Rams, salary cap, Seahawks
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A couple of years ago, the Pro Bowl was moved to Miami, which that year was also the site of the Super Bowl. The idea was to incorporate the Pro Bowl on the front end of the Super Bowl week to come. Now come multiple reports that next year’s Pro Bowl is being seriously considered to move to University of Phoenix Stadium, which also will be hosting the Super Bowl a week later. First reported by Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, it certainly would make the Valley king of the NFL in late January.
It’s an interesting concept. The NFL still sees a lot of players bail out for the Pro Bowl and the league would like to slow that down. By the same token, you’d think Hawaii would be a bigger draw for players than anywhere on the mainland. At least the Pro Bowl was more competitive and looked more like a football game this past season.
Cardinals players wouldn’t even have to go anywhere. Of course, they are hoping to not even get to play in the game because their season would still be alive — although they wouldn’t have to travel for that game either.
Tags: Pro Bowl, Super Bowl, University of Phoenix stadium
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Running back Rashard Mendenhall is going to be a free agent. He’s coming off a season in which he gained 687 yards on 217 carries, a sub-par 3.2 yards a carry. But he scored eight touchdowns, he had to fight through various injuries, and he had a big backer in coach Bruce Arians.
Mendenhall is also a writer. He frequently writes poetry and he also contributes to the Huffington Post. Today he posted (and then tweeted out) a piece called “The Vision.” It’s about Rashard having a vision while sitting on his couch once upon a time, and at the end of the post he notes it was the day after he tore knee ligaments. He talks about having to swim in dark waters towards “The Blessed Mother” even though he did not grow up Catholic.
“Through it all, I knew that after much toil — after I was all out of breath from the arduous swim, after my entire body felt fatigued from unceasing stroking, after I had evaded whatever distant creatures were peering and plotting attack — that undoubtedly I would reach her,” Mendenhall wrote. “And that once I had, this particular journey would be over for good. I would finally be at peace. Soon after to embark on a new voyage, hardened from the experience, and no longer alone, but with light by my side.
“That day I sat on my couch two years ago was the very next day after I tore my ACL in week 17. The journey I envisioned is the two years of rebuilding that would follow. And as I write this, today is the day that the journey is over and I am fully at peace. Eagerly looking to a new way, which lies ahead.”
Interesting, and even moreso when Mendenhall tweeted out an additional message:
— Rashard Mendenhall (@R_Mendenhall) February 25, 2014
There are different ways to interpret it, but certainly, retirement could be one of them. “The journey is over” certainly could mean his career. It of course could mean he’s finally past his injuries and ready to play full speed again, but that doesn’t ring as true. “I am fully at peace” doesn’t sound like a guy ready to head back into the gauntlet of the NFL.
Tags: Rashard Mendenhall
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It’s been circulating in the media for a few weeks now that if the Chiefs let left tackle Branden Albert reach free agency, the Cardinals are expected to be one of the teams that would pursue him. And there have been other names floating out there in connection to the Cards, like offensive lineman Rodger Saffold or defensive lineman Mike Neal. As free agency approaches March 11 (and even before that, when teams can “officially” start talking to FAs-to-be a couple of days before that) there will be more names that float out there, no doubt.
Some teams might leak interest in guys. Many agents have no problem leaking what teams might have interest. After all, the more interest for a player, his price goes up. Even if the interest isn’t that big of interest at all. That’s the key to this whole thing. Take the Cardinals. They have a free-agent board ranking their targets. But things can and often will change on a daily basis according to who is signing where, whom might re-sign, and how much these players might want. I’m sure that whatever team is interested in Albert understands he won’t come cheap.
Yet that board the Cardinals build includes the metrics of a player, where they are in age and their worth. Would the Cards go above and beyond? For the right player, they just might. But Steve Keim and company aren’t going to toss aside their game plan/philosophy for one player. They won’t cripple the salary cap out of need or panic. It’s the same sort of thought process they will have with a guy like Karlos Dansby, whom they want back but won’t foil the big picture in that quest.
So every time a name is floated, sure, there might be interest. But that would merely the first step in a process. Like last year, I expect the Cards to push hard for a guy to sign a contract if they get him to Tempe for a visit — no need to let other teams woo a guy away — but there are a lot of variables before a guy actually inks a deal.
Tags: Branden Albert, free agency, Karlos Dansby, Mike Neal, Rodger Saffold
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