Appearing on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” today, free agent pass rusher Dwight Freeney said he definitely wants to play this season. Nothing is imminent in terms of signing — with any franchise — although the veteran made clear “Arizona would be a great team.”
“But if it doesn’t work out here, it could be anywhere,” said Freeney, who is in Arizona right now. “It just depends. It has to be a winning team. I’m used to winning.”
Freeney was highly complementary of the Cardinals, raving about their chances to contend even without being on the roster. He said he has had “some interest” on the market, but acknowledged that at this point, it’s wait-and-see for most teams.
“The thing is, when you are when you are as old as me … those teams want to figure out what they want to do,” Freeney said. “They have their young guys, they have their draft picks, so an older guy like me who’s been playing for a while, you know what, they want to take their time and that’s OK. I don’t mind.”
In the meantime, the 36-year-old — who led the Cardinals with eight sacks last season despite playing just 11 games after signing late — said he will stay focused and keep training. Interestingly, he did add that he doesn’t really want to do what he did last season and sign in-season. He’d rather be there for training camp.
“I know my body loved (signing late), but the anxiety mentally wasn’t good,” Freeney said. “So hopefully I can get signed before then.”
Tags: Dwight Freeney
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Roy Green’s press conference today as it was announced he was headed into the Cardinals’ Ring of Honor stretched to 30 minutes as Green told stories about his time with the Cardinals, about his famous catch to beat the powerful 49ers at Sun Devil Stadium in the team’s first season in Arizona, about ex-teammates like Stump Mitchell and Ron Wolfley, about the Cards’ killer loss to the Redskins to end 1984, about towel-whipping then-Cardinals ballboy Michael Bidwill when Bidwill was a teenager working training camp.
(Green, with Bidwill laughing beside him, joked he would have treated Michael better had he known he’d eventually run the team.)
But at one point, Green told a story about a contract negotiation with Bidwill’s father, Bill. At the time, Green was serving as his own agent. And he decided — in the era before modern free agency — it might be time to play out his option and improve his contract status following the 1989 season.
“I told Mr. B I wanted to talk to him,” Green remembered. “He was like, ‘Yeah, come on in.’ He asked, ‘What’s going on?’ I said, ‘You know what, Mr. B? I’m looking for a raise, actually. I think that I’ve played well, blah, blah, blah.’ He looks at me and says, ‘Roy, you’re overpaid right now.’
“I wanted to laugh at that very moment but I had to keep my lawyer’s face on. I’m negotiating. In a few minutes after I got out of the office, I was dying. I couldn’t wait to go tell the guys what he had told me.”
Tags: Michael Bidwill, Roy Green
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The Cardinals have signed everyone. Their six draft picks are under contract and they have their current 90-man roster. Any moves from here have to be one-for-one on the roster, and whether they impact the offseason salary cap would depend on who they bring in (A reminder: Only the top 51 count against the cap until the first week of the regular season.)
As of Wednesday, the NFLPA website has the Cardinals with about $4.9 million in cap space and the most current contracts in the league (91 — which includes the suspended Daryl Washington.) That’s not a ton of room, although, as always, there are moves that can be made to create space if needed. Many have asked if the Cardinals are going to sign a veteran cornerback (Jerraud Powers most often comes up) or vet pass rusher Dwight Freeney. I could still see either, but at this point, I’d expect it to be one of those Keim Time deals around camp for minimum or close to it, if it were to happen.
In the meantime, I’d think the Cardinals will use the offseason work of OTAs and minicamp to figure out if there is a big need at either of those spots, or perhaps a veteran backup offensive tackle. To bring in a vet means one less spot for a young player. If you believe in the two cornerbacks you just drafted, for instance, it’s much harder to keep both on the roster if a guy like Powers comes back.
The Cardinals also have to figure within the cap any potential contract extensions, which could add to the cap crunch (Tyrann Mathieu) or ease it (Calais Campbell), although Kent Somers noted no new deals are close.
Tags: Calais Campbell, contracts, Dwight Freeney, Jerraud Powers, salary cap, Tyrann Mathieu
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Awards are handed out in many professions. As someone who has written for a living, I always thought there was one simple truth to such awards — it starts with the subject. You can write the heck out of a story, but if the subject wasn’t interesting to begin with, it’s tough to make it so.
Tuesday night the annual Sports Emmys were handed out, and the Cardinals found themselves mentioned. NBC won the Emmy for Outstanding Playoff Coverage after its broadcast of the Cardinals-Packers divisional playoff game. NBC did a great job that night, obviously, but the story — including Aaron Rodgers’ Hail Mary miracle and then Larry Fitzgerald’s own electrifying catch-and-run — was certainly interesting to begin with.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Larry Fitzgerald, NBC, Packers
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It’s not hard to remember, not if you have been following the Cardinals for any length of time, but signing draft picks used to be much, much more difficult. Yes, the ease in which picks are signed these days is rules-related — once the new collective bargaining agreement essentially slotted each pick’s money and took the hardest part (money) out of the negotiating equation, things were going to speed up.
But to think the Cardinals already have all of their draft picks under contract on May 9 is impressive. The time frame to finish up since 2011, when the new CBA went into effect, has gotten earlier and earlier:
2011: Amid the chaos of so many signings as the CBA was ratified post-lockout just as training camp was starting, first-rounder Patrick Peterson and second-rounder Ryan Williams signed July 31.
2012: First-rounder Michael Floyd and third-rounder Jamell Fleming signed June 11.
2013: First-rounder Jonathan Cooper signed July 29.
2014: First-rounder Deone Bucannon signed June 5.
2015: First-rounder D.J. Humphries signed June 1.
2016: Sixth-rounder Harlan Miller, third-rounder Brandon Williams and fourth-rounder Evan Boehm sign May 9.
The Cardinals aren’t unique — the Bears have been signing their entire draft class within a couple days of the draft the last couple of seasons, for instance — but to have all those deals done not only before the players break prior to camp but before OTAs have even begun is a good thing. The days of the Cards having their first-round pick sit out at least a few days of training camp — or more, Wendell Bryant — are long over.
Tags: Brandon Williams, CBA, contract, D.J. Humphries, Deone Bucannon, draft, Evan Boehm, Harlan Miller, Jamell Fleming, Jonathan Cooper, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Ryan Williams
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Former NFL quarterback Byron Leftwich is the latest ex-player Bruce Arians has brought in as a coaching intern. Leftwich, who played for the Jaguars, Falcons, Buccaneers and Steelers during his nine seasons — including working with Arians in Pittsburgh — was helping quarterbacks coach Freddie Kitchens with Jake Coker and Stephen Rivers Friday during rookie minicamp. He also has been out working with the regular roster during the week.
(The Cardinals also have former NFL cornerback Willie Williams working with them.)
“I love the game,” Leftwich said. “This is just the next transition from player to coach and (Arians) allowed me to come down and be a part of it. I’ll take advantage of it, and we’ll see.”
Leftwich will be with the team throughout the offseason and through training camp.
“After that, we’ll see,” Arians said. “Hopefully I can keep him all year. I think he’s got a great, bright future in coaching.”
Leftwich said Arians didn’t really reach out to him to coach since the two talk frequently anyway.
“There’s no reaching out — we’re always in touch,” Leftwich said with a chuckle. “Opportunity came about.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Byron Leftwich, coaching staff
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The NFL Players Association often puts out a list of the top 50 players who sell the most merchandise; Larry Fitzgerald has been on that list multiple times. But the NFLPA also annually puts out a “Rising 50” ranking, which rates players based on last season’s performance, fantasy popularity, demand from sponsors, and new faces in strong markets that would bode well for the future for those players.
The Cardinals have three players on the latest list, with a slight surprise as the highest ranked (No. 11 overall): Running back David Johnson.
It’s not that Johnson shouldn’t be that high. But safety Tyrann Mathieu is 14th and cornerback Patrick Peterson is 29th, which is the surprising part. Both those guys already have a high national profile, but it’s Johnson that gets the nod over both.
The list is interesting to peruse. Rams running back Todd Gurley is top ranked; Washington QB Kirk Cousins and Seahawks RB Thomas Rawls round out the top three. There are plenty of rookies drafted last weekend on the list, and interestingly, 49ers QB Blaine Gabbert is actually on the list.
It is safe to say this: Johnson is poised for a big year in 2016, in how the Cardinals use him, in the numbers Johnson could potentially pile up after his excellent stretch as a starter late in his rookie season, and how his profile should grow in front of what should be one of the NFL’s better teams. I am curious to see how Johnson might embrace such a rise. He’s a pretty quiet guy and is about the last person that will be looking for the spotlight. Then again, the spotlight might come looking for him.
Tags: David Johnson, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu
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Thursday, the Cardinals’ rookies arrive in Tempe. That’s the six-man draft class and the undrafted rookies (as well as a bunch of guys in on a tryout basis for the weekend. QB Philip Sims was among a few guys kept on last year after such a tryout.) We will see, as the offseason and training camp goes, who will make an impression. There has been a lot of talk about QB Jake Coker, but it’s much too early to assume he can supplant Matt Barkley as even a third-stringer much less anything else (and don’t forget, after the Logan Thomas-Sims battle all last year, neither one made the team).
There are guys that intrigue. Canadian cornerback Eli Bouka, who is coming off an Achilles injury, has the size (6-foot-1) and tape that has impressed from afar. We’ll see if punter Garrett Swanson can give Drew Butler a run. And it certainly seems like there will be one undrafted on the roster, since the Cardinals’ only current choices for a long snapper are undrafted rookies Kameron Canaday and Daniel Dillon.
Here is a list of the undrafted rookies to make the roster out of training camp since 2007 (many undrafted rookies have made it to the practice squad and were promoted at some point, but these are the guys from the 53 to start the season:
2015 LB Alani Fua, DT Xavier Williams
2014 K Chandler Catanzaro, LB Glenn Carson
2013 WR Jaron Brown, LB Kenny Demens, S Tony Jefferson
2012 WR LaRon Byrd
2010 QB Max Hall, CB A.J. Jefferson, WR Max Komar, WR Stephen Williams
2009 LB Reggie Walker
2008 LB Ali Highsmith
2007 FB Tim Castille, C Lyle Sendlein
Tags: A.J. Jefferson, Alani Fua, Ali Highsmith, Chandler Catanzaro, Daniel Dillon, Drew Butler, Eli Bouka, Garrett Swanson, Glenn Carson, Jake Coker, Jaron Brown, Kameron Canaday, Kenny Demens, LaRon Byrd, Lyle Sendlein, Matt Barkley, Max Hall, Max Komar, Reggie Walker, Stephen Williams, Tim Castille, Tony Jefferson, undrafted rookie free agents, Xavier Williams
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For a long time now NFL Films has produced a series called “Hey Rookie,” following players as they get to the NFL. Anquan Boldin was one of the first players featured back in the day. The Cardinals have another player in the mix now that they have drafted Robert Nkemdiche, who was part of this year’s stories (unlike the past, Nkemdiche’s appearance apparently ends with the draft, instead of the post-draft. All four episodes from this spring air tonight (Tuesday) at 7 p.m. Arizona time (10 p.m. EST) on ESPN2.
Of course, if you want to know what happens with Nkemdiche after the draft, there is always the video when he arrived for his press conference and then, starting Friday with rookie minicamp, Nkemdiche will be in Tempe for good working with the rest of the team.
Tags: Robert Nkemdiche
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The Cardinals made no more trades. And they didn’t get a quarterback.
Those were the top two things on the possibilities list going into the draft, in part because of Paxton Lynch and his presence at the back half of the first round. If Lynch had been on the board for the Cardinals, it would have been intriguing — would a team tried to trade up for him with a sweet deal? Or might the Cardinals go ahead and take him as that long-awaited shot at a QB of the future? But it became moot when the Broncos traded up to 26 to get Lynch.
After that, the Cards didn’t have the capital to trade up into the second round and didn’t see a reason to move back. Meanwhile, if there were other quarterbacks around in whom the Cards had interest, they didn’t excite them enough to pull the trigger. And frankly, once you get to the fourth or fifth round, those QBs left are likely backups at best.
Instead, the Cards went heavy on defense, and heavy on the secondary. You can say what you want about needs and best player available, but often for teams those things dovetail as they set their draft board and it’s really not a surprise the Cards ended up with a potential starting center and depth in the secondary, in addition to an upgrade on special teams.
— All things considered, Robert Nkemdiche should be an excellent piece if he can go hard and stay away from any off-field issues. There’s a reason someone so physically gifted was there at No. 29. The reality is he would have gone soon after if the Cards hadn’t picked him, so the Cardinals didn’t stretch to take him. But they need something out of him this season, and he he needs to become that guy on the defensive line as that position evolves over the next couple of seasons.
— All three of the defensive backs taken are in the same mold: Brandon Williams, Marqui Christian and Harlan Miller have speed, can significantly help on special teams, and aren’t ready to drop in and play a major role on defense yet. The Cards have had success in this area with Justin Bethel, but in truth they still need Bethel to become a better cornerback and not just a Pro Bowl special teams guy.
— I like that Christian won the Cliff Harris award for the nation’s best defensive player in small college (Divisions II, III and NAIA) and I like that Adrian Wilson was impressed by him at a college all-star game. Wilson has a talent for scouting — Keim wouldn’t have given him this job if he didn’t believe that — and we will see if he has forecasted correctly.
— Would the Cardinals have liked Ryan Kelly at center? I’m sure. But I think the pick of Evan Boehm makes so much sense. He’s got the credentials, even as a fourth-rounder, and he’s got the mentality that not only fits Bruce Arians but Harold Goodwin. Lyle Sendlein started for many years as an undrafted rookie. It’s easy to picture Boehm doing the same.
— Does the youth at cornerback mean the Cardinals bring back Jerraud Powers? Arians said they don’t need to add any vets. If he did come back, do they keep five cornerbacks (Peterson, Bethel, Powers and the two draftees)? Last year they only had three cornerbacks on the roster because they kept five safeties.
— Among the positions I’d expect the Cards to hit in the undrafted rookie market: long snapper, quarterback, wide receiver. All three things weren’t hit in the draft. They will need another arm behind center and they certainly need a long snapper.
— That’s it. We’ll see how this draft class truly pans out around the 2019 season. In the meantime, rookie minicamp is next weekend.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Brandon Williams, Broncos, draft, Evan Boehm, Harlan Miller, Jerraud Powers, Marqui Christian, Paxton Lynch, Robert Nkemdiche, Ryan Kelly
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