Lyle Sendlein and Ted Larsen are gone. And while A.Q. Shipley remains and the Cardinals have signed a couple of other street free agents in Taylor Boggs and Valerian Ume-Ezeoke, it’s pretty clear the Cardinals are on course to draft a center at some point. Maybe it’s the first round, a guy like Alabama’s Ryan Kelly (who has been a favorite for mock drafters to scribble next to the Cardinals at 29th overall.) But it won’t be a surprise, even though the Cards don’t have a second-round pick, if they wait. After listening to both Steve Keim and Bruce Arians Tuesday, it shouldn’t even be a surprise if one comes later — and isn’t even technically a center. Not yet.
“In this draft, there are several opportunities to draft centers in all rounds,” Keim said. “Some of those guys are projections. There are some guys in the second, third, fourth rounds, who are going to be guys who played left tackle or they played guard at the collegiate level, who we worked out at center or they played center previously in their career that we think has the skill set. There are going to be opportunities to address that position if we feel necessary.”
Arians noted a couple of very good NFL centers like Jeff Hartings of the Steelers and Tim Grunhard of the Chiefs (Grunhard played guard in college, Hartings started his NFL career at guard before moving to center) that made the move. “When you say a college center, there might be three college centers, but there are 15 potential centers,” Arians said.
Options obviously open up a lot of possibilities for that first pick. Waiting on a center makes it easier to take a cornerback. Or a defensive lineman. Whatever Keim might want.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Bruce Arians, draft, Jeff Hartings, Lyle Sendlein, Steve Keim, Ted Larsen, Tim Grunhard
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The Cardinals returned en masse to the team facility Monday for the first day of the offseason program. The vibe is always a little different that first day, when many of these guys haven’t seen each other in a while and they are all happy to come back together (and Larry Fitzgerald gives Tyrann Mathieu a “tackle” to say hello.)
But the roster here on April 18 isn’t the roster that will be there at the end of training camp. It likely won’t even be the one that makes it to the start of organized team activities next month. There was a taste of that Monday when veteran defensive lineman Cory Redding was cut as the Cards saw a) the need for cap space (it freed up $3 million) and b) the depth on the defensive line. Right now, the Cardinals have 75 players on the roster. As of now, there will be six draft picks, leaving room — for now — for nine undrafted players. Usually the Cards want to bring on more undrafted guys, so I won’t be surprised to see more cuts post-draft.
(The undrafted guys don’t count against the roster until after they officially sign — which could be as late as Wednesday or Thursday after the draft — so there is a little wiggle room there roster-wise.)
I’ve had some ask me about guys like Jerraud Powers and Dwight Freeney. I don’t think the door has closed on either, but we’re likely in a spot now where the Cardinals will see how the draft plays out before making decisions. In Freeney’s case, given his age and the fact he was so effective with little prep last year, would anyone be surprised (assuming he came back) he didn’t sign until training camp starts?
Tags: Cory Redding, Dwight Freeney, free agency, Jerraud Powers
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The draft was changed significantly Thursday morning, and with it, so was the NFC West. The Rams, now in Los Angeles, completed a huge trade with the Tennessee Titans to acquire the No. 1 overall pick. It will be a quarterback, either Carson Wentz or Jared Goff (the conventional wisdom seems to be Wentz.) The Rams were picking 15th overall, so the price to move up 14 spots was hefty: The Titans get back not only L.A.’s first-round pick but also two second-round picks and a third-rounder this season, as well as the Rams’ 2017 first-round pick (which if the rookie QB struggles, could be pretty high.)
The Titans did add in a fourth- and sixth-rounder in the 2016 draft back to the Rams.
It’s a reverse of what the Rams did in 2012 when they shipped the No. 2 pick to the Redskins so Washington could take QB Robert Griffin III. RGIII flamed out after an excellent rookie year, but the Rams didn’t really benefit much from the trade either — they have yet to make the playoffs since then. Now coach Jeff Fisher and GM Les Snead have come to the point where they need to make a push or get pushed out of their jobs, so they pushed all their chips in for a QB. Neither Wentz or Goff have the same kind of buzz around them like a Cam Newton or Andrew Luck or Jameis Winston. Its a risk.
Meanwhile, you figure a No. 1 overall pick would play right away, meaning the Cardinals will be seeing a rookie QB twice this season. The Rams have two very good part in place to help a rookie QB — a running back who looks like he will be great in Todd Gurley, and a very good defense. If the QB pans out, the Rams will be in good shape over the next few years. If not, their roster will take a hit from giving up so many high picks. But like Cardinals GM Steve Keim says often, most of the time the QBs that become the “QB of the future” can only be found at the top of the draft. The Rams made sure they made it to that mountaintop, regardless of the price.
Tags: Carson Wentz, draft, Jared Goff, Jeff Fisher, Les Snead, NFC West, Rams
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A little over a week ago, free agent cornerback Jerraud Powers tweeted after a visit to the New York Giants that he was in no rush to find a new team. “Gotta make sure situation perfect for me,” Powers wrote. Maybe the perfect situation turns out to be coming right back to Arizona, with Powers still available after a month on the market.
While it seemed unlikely for a while that Powers would come back — he also tweeted back then when asked if the Cards had offered a contract, “not to my knowledge” — comes news that the veteran who has been with the Cards for three seasons is meeting with the team. The reality is that Powers has not yet found that perfect spot/contract (otherwise he’d be on a roster by now) and the Cardinals are still looking for a veteran cornerback. As always, it’s about the money, and what Powers thinks is right at this point in his career and this April market, and what the Cardinals are willing to pony up.
If Powers were to return, it would fortify a secondary that for a while there looked like it could have big upheaval. Rashad Johnson already left and there was the possibility Tony Jefferson could get an offer as a restricted free agent, in addition to a potential Powers departure. Jefferson hasn’t gotten an offer and now is expected to return (although April 22 is the deadline for RFA offer sheets) and now, Powers could come back. You’d think it’d be a solid possibility if Powers and the team are meeting.
(I would not rule out the Cards drafting a cornerback even if Powers does re-sign. The future is always on Steve Keim’s mind.)
Tags: free agency, Jerraud Powers
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It’s one of the favorite topics pre-draft for any team, and I have no doubt GM Steve Keim will be asked the question when he and coach Bruce Arians have their upcoming pre-draft press conference: What are the chances of trading up or back with that first-round pick, which is 29th overall?
(Of course, I expect an answer along the lines of, “We’ll consider both those options, depending on what deals are out there.”)
Given that the Cardinals already gave up their second-round pick in the Chandler Jones trade, however, I find it hard to believe there would be any trade up. Keim loves his draft picks, the Cardinals only have six right now, and to move up and give up yet another choice somewhere would seem to be cost-prohibitive (and also, I’m not sure there will be someone out there in the 24 or 25 range, which is probably about as far as the Cards would be able to maneuver without gutting the draft class.)
Trading down, though, that’s completely different. At 29 — just two picks from the end of the first round, thanks to the Patriots losing their choice in Deflategate — moving back into the second round isn’t a crazy thought. To move down a handful of spots and pick up, say, another fourth-round pick would be enticing (especially if, for example, there is a quarterback later on upon which the Cards might want to take a flier.)
There was talk about possibly trading up last year, to get a pass rusher, but in the end the Cardinals stayed put and took tackle D.J. Humphries. Two years ago, they traded down (from 20 to 27) with the Saints, taking linebacker Deone Bucannon and then snagging wide receiver Smokey Brown with the extra third-round pick.
It’s impossible to know if it will happen. Too many variables that come from being on the clock need to be filled in: Who is still on the board, what team might want to move up to get someone, and whether the Cardinals are OK with giving up a chance at whomever might be left. It would be interesting, though, to come in April 28 for the first round and have the story that night be that the Cardinals don’t have any players yet.
Tags: D.J. Humphries, Deone Bucannon, draft. Steve Keim, John Brown
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The tragic murder of former Saints defensive end Will Smith over the weekend has clearly impacted Cardinals safety and New Orleans native Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu has been everywhere over the past 24 hours, filling up his Twitter timeline with comments and doing multiple national interviews to talk about trying to change what he sees as an often-violent culture of his hometown.
On the NFL Network Monday afternoon, Mathieu said he is about to start a charitable foundation and he wanted to use it to spearhead change in New Orleans.
“We have to redirect, restructure these kids into thinking those things aren’t cool anymore,” Mathieu said. “Going to school is cool, being accountable is cool, being responsible is cool. Those things are the cool things to do. I ‘m going to use my platform, and I think this is the perfect time for me.”
Mathieu, who at 23 is not that far removed from being a kid himself, laments the lack of facilities for kids to be in, especially after hours when those in single parent homes don’t have a parent at home because mom or dad is working a night shift just to make a living.
“It’s about who we surround ourselves with,” Mathieu said. “Most of these kids surround themselves with the wrong people and form bad habits. For me, it’s about reaching out and getting them to understand that, formulating a legit plan, an honest plan for these kids, and a strategic one so we don’t lose these kids in the process.
“I am not the most talented guy to come out of New Orleans. There are guys that are more talented than me that just gave up on themselves. If I can lend a helping hand and get those guys to believe in themselves and see the bigger picture … if I can get through to one kid, then I can get through to a thousand kids. That’s my plan.”
Mathieu said in a couple of interviews he doesn’t spend much time in New Orleans when he goes there now — quick trips to visit family, and then leaving again, because of a concern the wrong crowd could come looking for him. The Smith murder was terrible, but so too are the many other tragic deaths that happen far too often in his hometown that often get overlooked, Mathieu said. That’s why helping kids when they are younger and trying to break the cycle is so important.
“They don’t think they can accomplish anything,” Mathieu said. “They do not think further than New Orleans. When I say that, I don’t exaggerate. For me, it’s getting them to believe there is a life outside of New Orleans, there is a life outside of that culture.”
Tags: Tyrann Mathieu
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NFL.com and the NFL Network compiled a ranking of the top 20 games of the 2015 season, and the Cardinals were part of the game picked as the best.
It probably shouldn’t be surprising that the Divisional playoff game between the Cards and Packers earned the top spot, although it took the Cards allowing an emotionally crushing Hail Mary to get there. It was played less than three months ago, so it’s not hard to remember the highlights, like Michael Floyd’s rebound TD catch, the Aaron Rodgers miracle and, of course, Larry being Larry. (I have to admit thought I had forgotten about Patrick Peterson’s 100-yard interception return that would have been legendary itself had it not been called back because of a hands-to-the-face penalty). A truly classic game with many twists and a heckuva ending.
The Cardinals actually appear on the top 20 list two other times. Their 24-22 home loss to the Rams, when Todd Gurley broke out for the first time, was No. 20. The Cards’ big win in Seattle, capped by Andre Ellington’s TD run, was picked as No. 12.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, NFL Network, Packers, Patrick Peterson, Rams, Seahawks, Todd Gurley
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One of the reasons Tyrann Mathieu resonates with not only fans but his coaches and his teammates is because the safety can’t help but be real. He has no problem talking about the truth, including the dark truths that he lived before he reached the NFL. He did again recently, talking with Pete Prisco of cbssports.com in a riveting video interview while Mathieu rehabs his right knee after an ACL tear. It’s definitely worth a watch.
The video shows Mathieu working out, including some of his treadmill running with the support of an upper body harness. Mathieu, who is in the process of becoming a vegan, also said he is able to work out five to six hours and has no doubt about his comeback. But the video, which is themed toward comebacks of all kinds, isn’t just about Mathieu’s current comeback but of the one everyone knows — after getting kicked out of LSU in college, later being arrested, and then recovering to set his life on track and turning into an NFL all-pro.
“I’ve been depressed before, trying to find every excuse in the world why I should not continue to go forward,” Mathieu said. “I probably smoked so much marijuana, you know what I mean, that I could just forget about it. Nowadays, that’s not my escape anymore.”
“I want to handle things head on,” Mathieu added. “I want to surround myself with people that have been in similar situations I’ve been in … and lean on those people.”
Once upon a time, Mathieu said, “I always felt like I had an excuse … doing the things knuckleheads do. He got to the point, right after he was arrested, that “I got tired of disrespecting myself.”
You know the story from there, coming to the Cardinals and a great support system, including teammate Patrick Peterson. (One interesting quote, about Mathieu’s contract negotiations heading into the last year of his deal after two ACL tears: “They have concerns, which is understandable. I’ve had two knee surgeries. At the same time, they know who I am as a teammate, as a football player, what I mean to the community and what I can do on the football field. The easiest thing is to pay me as a safety. But if Pat’s guy goes down, I have to check Pat’s guy. For me, it’s about me being compensated for everything I do.”)
Another notable part of the video, especially in light of the departure of coach-on-the-field Rashad Johnson. Mathieu said he is always asking for as much information about the defense that he can get and that he wants to know what every position on the defense is doing all the time. If anyone was unsure who is planning to become that new coach-on-the-field, it’s not a secret.
Tags: Tyrann Mathieu
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Larry Fitzgerald, in the offseason from football, took to the baseball field and throw the first pitch at the Diamondbacks game Monday night. He also took a moment to discuss a few football-related things when it comes to the Cardinals (and Tyrann Mathieu). Fitz’s offerings:
— On the ACL recovery of safety Tyrann Mathieu: “Ty’s running already. They’re having to hold him back. He heals like Wolverine. He’s so passionate and we love him dearly. We’re so happy to see he’s going to be ready to go for us in training camp. He can pick up right where he left off. He was defensive MVP – had he finished the season, he would have been right there in the conversation.”
— On where the Cardinals rank on paper going into 2016: “Coach (Bruce) Arians always says you can’t rank anybody on paper. We’ve got to see what we are when we get to training camp and continue to build. We have a long way to go.”
— On his hindsight impressions about the NFC Championship loss: “It sucks that we played the way we did at that time. It wasn’t a good game by any stretch of the imagination across the board. To work that hard to get to that position and not play up to your capabilities, it’s tough to digest. We know that we have pretty much the same nucleus of men coming back and the same coaching staff, and we’re really happy about that, and we’ve made some new acquisitions as well. We’re happy with where we are. We believe we have a good football team.
“I try to put it behind me. You’ve got to put games like that behind you because if you dwell on it it will drive you crazy.”
Tags: Diamondbacks, Larry Fitzgerald, Tyrann Mathieu
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With free agent Jerraud Powers visiting the Giants last week (and the increasing reality that he is likely to move on), it underscores the shift at cornerback the Cardinals are going through this offseason. Drafting a cornerback at some point seems inevitable, although you never know how the draft will fall. As it stands, Justin Bethel — he of the 2015 contract extension — is in line to start across from all-pro Patrick Peterson. Tyrann Mathieu, once he returns to health, is a candidate to play the slot if needed too, especially since the Cardinals have Tyvon Branch and Tony Jefferson — assuming he signs his tender — at safety.
(Powers tweeted he isn’t in a rush while looking for the right situation.)
Beyond Peterson and Bethel, the cornerbacks on the roster include a couple with some experience (Asa Jackson, Shawn Prater), a couple who were on the practice squad last season (Cariel Brooks, Kevin White and Carrington Byndom), and one giant unknown in Aussie Joel Wilkinson. Not exactly the depth the Cards would like, which is why they visited with veteran free agent Leon Hall — who remains unsigned — earlier this month.
There could be a good cornerback sitting there at 29th overall and that will be tempting as a draft pick. And even if the roster stays status quo through the draft, finding another vet at some point before training camp wouldn’t be a surprise. We’ll see how the market plays out.
Tags: Asa Jackson, Cariel Brooks, Carrington Byndom, Jerraud Powers, Joel Wilkinson, Kevin White, Leon Hall, Patrick Peterson, Shawn Prater, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu, Tyvon Branch
Posted in Blog | 17 Comments »