The Cardinals, like every team, have a bunch of draft-eligible players visit this time of year. You can have up to 30 come to the team facility, and that doesn’t count players from local colleges or who already live in the area, nor does it count any private workouts a coach or a front-office exec might have by flying out to meet a player. This is, of course, on top of pro days and the combine, where teams have 15 minutes to meet with up to 60 players.
So what does it mean when a player visits Tempe before the draft? Odds are, nothing.
To be sure, players are coming through. (I ran into a couple downstairs the other day. No, I have no idea who they were.) But visits have never meant a ton to me. I remember Levi Brown saying he had no idea the Cards were going to draft him because they hadn’t talked to him beforehand. (No snide remarks, please.) If you just do the math — 25 or 30 visits, plus all the combine guys, plus private workouts, like the one recently by Bruce Arians of Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas that was put out there publicly by the school — that’s at least, what 65 or 70 (assuming possible duplicates)? All that for six draft picks, at least as of right now.
The Big Lead did an interesting article this morning about the topic. When you look at all the guys that are known to take visits last year, the vast majority are never drafted by teams. That’s not a surprise, but it’s also why it makes no sense to worry much about who is coming in. The “visit” tracker TBL used isn’t complete at all, it only listed 10 players the Cardinals met with pre-draft last year. But of the 10, the Cards took only one — Tyrann Mathieu. Quarterbacks were on the list, but the Cards passed on Ryan Nassib and Mike Glennon more than once. The Patriots had 43 players known on the visit list last year, and they drafted none of them.
(Quick side note: Some teams announce what players visit, some don’t. For some it’s easier to find out for reporters. When I first started covering the Cards, the team not only announced who visited, but we were allowed to interview them. I remember doing that on the 2001 visits of Leonard Davis and defensive lineman Gerard Warren.)
Again, visits may provide info, but it’s impossible to know what information a team is trying to glean. It’s even possible a team brings in a player to purposely intimate interest when there is none — love the draft smokescreens. In the end, the speculation can be fun but it’s usually fruitless, given all the variables involved.
Tags: draft, Levi Brown, Tyrann Mathieu
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The questions are constant, as soon as a veteran player with any kind of reputation is released or becomes available: Would the Cardinals be interested? Well, for one, those questions are asked within seconds of the news happening, so usually, it’s a little soon for a feeling (GM Steve Keim admitted when CB Antonio Cromartie was first released, for instance, the Cards hadn’t anticipated it and had to do some extra legwork to figure out whether to chase him or not.)
It isn’t hard to get a sense of where the Cards land on many such players, however. Keim wants his team to get younger. And at this point, he certainly isn’t paying a lot. That should always be the prism from which any player should be viewed when it comes to this team. There are always exceptions. John Abraham, it was determined by the front office, still could play the game even at his age. Now, the Cards had to wait him out last year until his price was worth it (and never underestimate a veteran willing to wait out the offseason so he can wait to go back to work until training camp), but they got their bargain. Same with Karlos Dansby. Eric Winston was even cheaper, and that should probably provide guidance of where his market was — and where it might be this offseason.
The key element to all this is not just about whether a vet is available and is willing to work for cheap. It’s mostly about if he can still play — or more importantly, play to the level that the Cardinals, in this case, need him to play. Just because a guy is on the market isn’t enough. There is a reason veteran players remain unsigned, especially after the draft. Yes, once in a while it’s about the asking price and circumstances can change if it drops. But there are guys out there who are willing to play for little just to get a job, and it’s been determined they aren’t good enough anymore, whether because of age or cumulative injuries or both.
The Cards likely will sign another veteran or two at some point. It’ll be after the draft, because there is no reason to make any more moves right now until you know what you’ve filled with your picks. But whoever Keim signs, it’ll be for someone that makes sense on a football-level in 2014. Remember, past results don’t necessarily indicate future performance. It’s the slogan by which every GM should live.
– I’ve never been to a Pro Bowl. I’m going to get to one now, although I was really hoping to get a trip to Hawaii when I finally attended. I’ll be curious to know where the teams practice; those workouts have always been fan-friendly events.
– Not a surprise that there is a “Sunday Night Football” telecast in the preseason against the Bengals at University of Phoenix Stadium. NBC is also televising the Super Bowl. Not a bad time to get a lay of the land. What I am curious about is whether “SNF” will pick a Cardinals’ game in the regular season.
Tags: Bengals, Eric Winston, free agency, John Abraham, Karlos Dansby, preseason, Pro Bowl
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It’ll be easier to see replays this season when you are watching at game at University of Phoenix Stadium. As part of an e-mail message sent to season-ticket holders Tuesday evening, team president Michael Bidwill announced the Cardinals’ home will have new videoboards this season.
Calling it a “collaborative effort” between the team and the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority, Bidwill said the screens at both the south and north ends will be improved. “At the south end of the stadium you will see an incredible, visually-stunning, high-definition LED board that is more than three times the size of the current one and with 75% higher resolution,” Bidwill wrote. “As part of this initial phase of stadium upgrades, the north end will now feature a scoreboard that is triple the current size.”
Bidwill also addresses WiFi at the stadium, calling enhancements a “priority” and saying there would be more specific information to be shared in the “very near future.”
Across the NFL teams have pushed to improve the in-stadium experience and the Cardinals are no different. In fact, Bidwill closes the note by saying the part of the organization’s mission is to give fans the “world-class stadium experience that you deserve.”
Tags: Michael Bidwill, University of Phoenix stadium
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Aeneas Williams will kick off the 2014 season for the Cardinals, in a manner of speaking, when he is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as training camps are just getting underway. Maybe the Cards will have a Hall of Fame connection as the season is wrapping up, and the NFL prepares to play the Super Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. That’s when Kurt Warner will be on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time.
If Williams is the best draft pick the organization has made since the franchise moved to Arizona, then it’s probably safe to say Warner was the best free-agent signing. His time with the Cardinals had an interesting arc, from veteran stop-gap to placeholder for Matt Leinart to franchise QB, all in the span of five seasons. As weird as it was, Warner wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame discussion without his Arizona rebirth. His major personal success (his Super Bowl win and two MVPs) came with the Rams, but he arguably had his greatest accomplishments leading the Cards.
(He definitely played more games in Arizona. He finished with 61 games as a Card, compared to 53 as a Ram and 10 as a Giant.)
So, with the fifth season about to start since Warner retired, the potential Hall of Fame call comes for the first time after the season. Warner, having watched one-time teammate Williams get in, admits he already thought about that possibility.
“It’s hard not to think about it because people always want to ask you about it,” Warner said. “But I try to be realistic. One of the things with athletes, we’re not very realistic with situations. We always think we are the best. But I am realistic with the route it took me to get here and maybe some of the strikes against me, that maybe I didn’t play as certain people or had some bumps in the road. I don’t know if (the Hall of Fame) is going to happen. I don’t know what really determines it. But the great thing is, I am so completely content with what I accomplished on the football field.
“I did some things no one has ever done before. I think I played at a Hall of Fame level, at least for a period of time. Does that constitute me being put in the Hall of Fame? I have no idea. I just know I put in the work, and now it’s up to somebody else to wade through and figure out what belongs there. Obviously, from the time you are little, you want to make your mark in whatever you do. For me, it was the National Football League. To finally be here, and to have a lot of people think you will finally get there, you can’t help but think about it and how special it would be.”
Tags: Aeneas Williams, Hall of Fame, Kurt Warner
Posted in Blog | 45 Comments »
The Cardinals brought Yeremiah Bell in for cheap last season, a minimum salary deal to have a smart presence both in the secondary (he started every game) and in the locker room. There was always the chance he could return, and indeed, Mike Jurecki reported the Cards have extended a one-year offer to Bell. Jurecki also reported Bell is leaning towards retirement.
Retiring wouldn’t be a shock given Bell’s age (36) but it does go against his thoughts the day after the season ended. “I’m glad I came here as a player,” Bell said. “I didn’t know a lot of these guys before I came here but to sit in this locker room and go through battle each week with these guys was really nice. Of course I’d love to be back here with these guys but this is a business. We’ll see how it goes.”
Things change, though, and sometimes, the effort and work required for an older player to get through another season isn’t worth the paycheck — however handsome it might look to someone who doesn’t play the game. The other factor is the reality that a safety spot would probably not be a lock for Bell if the Cards were able to find help in the draft. That’s something else that would need to be considered.
This is a draft where the Cards can find a safety. The Cards have been linked to potential first-round picks Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor, but they can probably nab one later if they go in a different first-round direction. It’s definitely a position in need of an upgrade. Coach Bruce Arians said late in the season he was generally pleased with Bell’s play, but there is no question the Cards’ inability to cover tight ends — a job that in part fell on Bell — was an Achilles’ heel all season. The Cards also have unknowns around the return of starter Tyrann Mathieu. Second-year man Tony Jefferson may be ready for a bigger role. Rashad Johnson remains a component of the rotation. Bell would probably be a fallback option at this point, but one that would allow more flexibility on draft day. We’ll have to see if his Arizona tenure has a chance to continue.
Tags: Calvin Pryor, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu, Yeremiah Bell
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The Cardinals made a pair of not-surprising moves Friday, cutting two players who missed all of 2013 because of injury: wide receiver LaRon Byrd and linebacker Dan Giordano. Byrd suffered a concussion in the preseason and was placed on injured reserve. Giordano, an undrafted rookie last year, suffered a toe injury during the offseason and was never able to come off the Physically Unable to Perform list.
Byrd had been waived-injured last season, but after he wasn’t picked up by anyone, he reverted back to injured reserve. He had been back at the facility working out recently. Giordano had been faithfully rehabbing daily since the season ended.
Both play positions that figure to be further addressed this offseason, either in the draft or otherwise. The Cards certainly will be adding some outside linebackers and seemingly are a lock to draft one at some point. Receiver is another spot where the Cards will add bodies, although with a top four right now of Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Ted Ginn and Jaron Brown, it isn’t a pressing need.
Tags: Dan Giordano, Jaron Brown, LaRon Byrd, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Ted Ginn
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The cliché has been around awhile, some version of “It’s not about the ‘Xs’ and ‘Os’ but the jimmys and joes.” And no, pizza has nothing to do with the conversation. It’s a simple concept really, one that emphasizes the reality that without players, you can draw up the best plays in the world and you still aren’t going to be successful. It came up in the context of profootballfocus.com releasing their full season stats from the NFL and the best defenses in producing unblocked pressure. The Cardinals were the best in the league midway through the season and held on to the top spot by season’s end with 82 unblocked pressures.
In the stats, the Cardinals were led by two players in particular — linebackers John Abraham and Karlos Dansby. Dansby had 13 total unblocked pressures and Abraham 12, and Dansby produced four sacks in those pressures (Abraham two). So it stands to reason with Dansby leaving for Cleveland, the Cards will be hurt in this regard in turning the role over to Kevin Minter — not as athletic as Karlos — or whomever. You lose a ‘joe,’ maybe the ‘O’ doesn’t hold up, right?
Or maybe not?
First of all, at least in this context of rushing the QB unblocked, scheme would seem to have a ton to do with it. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is doing something to confuse the other team, regardless of the players. Even “lesser” players are supposed to be accounted for every play by the offense. Of those 82 pressures, 23 came through an ‘A’ gap (the spots between the center and either guard). No one is supposed to forget the guy standing near the ball, even if he is a step or two off the line of scrimmage. Sometimes it was an overload on one side situation (35 of 82, according to PFF) and sometimes the offense simply didn’t block a guy even if there was someone there to do so (19 times).
Certainly, a talent like Dansby played into the equation, as did Abraham. You’d have to look at every play individually to really know if the result was a combination of factors, a Dansby “win” or a Bowles’ scheme result. You figure there is a mix. You figure Bowles knows what Minter can and can’t do, and while the Cardinals won’t run the same things exactly for him as Dansby, I’d guess if Minter comes free through the ‘A’ gap he’ll probably find a way to create some havoc. The Cards didn’t have the same ‘jimmys’ in the secondary once Tyrann Mathieu got hurt, but Bowles’ ‘Xs’ were good enough to fluster both the Seahawks and 49ers pretty good the final two weeks of the season.
There is a reason Steve Keim is always looking to upgrade the roster where he can. And you take Patrick Peterson and Daryl Washington off the defense, for instance, and the scheme is not going to look as good. But scheme matters too.
Tags: defense, John Abraham, Karlos Dansby, Pro Football Focus, scheme, Todd Bowles
Posted in Blog | 42 Comments »
A little of this, a little of that …
– Kurt Warner captured by TMZ talking about Arizona vs. St. Louis. “I probably feel more allegiance to Arizona than St. Louis, just because of the fact there are a number of people that are still there, teammates or in the upper levels (of the organization), being the last place I played, I still live there, there is probably a little more allegiance there,” Warner said. “But still a huge fan of St. Louis and I thank them for everything they gave me.”
I’ve been asked before whether Warner, if and when he goes into the Hall of Fame, would go in as a Cardinal or a Ram. Moot point. Players don’t pick a team for their bust, like you do in the baseball Hall. I just like the fact Warner showed up on TMZ.
– As far back as when Lorenzo Alexander signed with the Cards Bruce Arians was talking about how he had “inside and outside capabilities” at linebacker. Last year, the Cards needed him outside. Now, they need him inside, so it’s no surprise to hear that’s where they are going to play him. It’s highly likely the Cards look at outside linebacker/pass rusher again in the draft (you keep taking those guys when you are building a 3-4 and you don’t have a dynamic, young pass rusher) and depth is needed inside. You don’t know if/how long Daryl Washington might be suspended, you don’t know if Kevin Minter will be the answer. Alexander, who has played inside earlier in his career in Washington, provides depth and a guy who can spot start.
– I’ve been asked a couple of times whether the signings of LeQuan Lewis and Eddie Whitley means the Cards would be less likely to draft a cornerback. No. I thought that when they signed and that’s just underscored with the news yesterday that both two-year deals the players signed did not include a signing bonus. In other words, they can be released without any cap penalty, and in the offseason and a fluid roster, there are often a player or two signed that don’t even get to training camp. I’m not saying that’s Lewis or Whitley, but the bottom line, they are no locks either.
– Virginia Tech tweeted out photos of Arians working out QB Logan Thomas yesterday. What does it mean? It means the Cards are doing due diligence. Beyond that, please don’t get too riled up. I’d want to see what the kid could do too, especially since he’s about as raw as they come even with his considerable physical tools. The annual workout/pre-draft visit caveat: Just because the team meets/works out a guy, it doesn’t mean they are interested. I know of past connections done specifically when they knew they didn’t like the guy just as a smokescreen. And you never know how the meeting/workout went anyway — the Cards may find out they don’t like the kid for one reason or another.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Daryl Washington, draft, Eddie Whitley, Kevin Minter, Kurt Warner, LeQuan Lewis, Logan Thomas, Lorenzo Alexander, Roster
Posted in Blog | 31 Comments »
Andre Roberts got to be a No. 2 receiver for about three weeks.
He signed with the Redskins early in free agency and make no mistake, he got the big money he was hoping for, about $8 million guaranteed on a four-year contract. He also figured, given the rest of the receiving corps, to end up as the second wideout target behind the emerging Pierre Garçon. Then DeSean Jackson hit the market, Daniel Snyder jumped on that, and Jackson is now a Redskin. He’ll team up with Garçon, and while Roberts should remain an important cog it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize Roberts is the one most negatively affected by the Jackson signing. (Well, maybe not as much as the Philadelphia Eagles.)
One of the reasons Roberts wanted to leave Arizona was not only the money, and make no mistake, he wouldn’t have gotten anywhere close to the money he got in Washington here. But he also wanted to have more passes thrown his way. He said as much. And now, through a quirk of fate unseen by anyone at the time Roberts signed with Washington, that’s unlikely. It’s a difficult twist but the reality of the NFL: Teams are always looking to upgrade, and it usually costs someone else.
That’s what Kevin Minter went through last season. Obviously, it’s not the same situation. Minter was drafted, and he didn’t have the chance to pick and choose where he was going. But he couldn’t have ended up in a better place, which, frankly, is why the Cards took him. Sure Jasper Brinkley was signed here, but Minter was going to be the guy penciled in to play alongside Daryl Washington sooner rather than later. Then, again through unseen circumstances, Karlos Dansby was signed and Minter disappeared defensively, playing just one defensive snap all season. Now Minter is going to get his chance, but you never know what can happen — an unexpected release, a la Jackson, or a unexpected draft pick.
Things can change quickly in this league. The landscape is littered with examples.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Kevin Minter
Posted in Blog | 32 Comments »
There’s no getting around it: The Honey Badger sucked me in. I let my guard down on a day I should not have, and when Tyrann Mathieu tweeted out that he ran three miles today without a brace, I dutifully retweeted the good news. Of course, he then deleted it — not after I added my “good news” note and dozens of fans retweeted that — and then Mathieu delivered the “April Fools” punchline. I knew there was optimism in his rehab. But I should’ve known better about three miles of running in April after the nasty knee blowout he had. You live and you learn. I owe him one.
Anyway, there was something real to say about the Honey Badger Tuesday — there is a new episode of the web series “Tenacious,” which is chronicling Mathieu’s rehab from his knee injury.
In “The King In Me,” Mathieu talks about his belief in how everybody, including himself, is a “King.” “I try and inspire people to not run from the world,” Mathieu said.
He also touches on the monotony of rehab. “I don’t try to look at the (big) picture right now,” Mathieu said. “I try to keep my mind on the first game of the season, what I am going to do when I get back on the field. That’s what I think of, because thinking about this process, it can drive you crazy.”
Tags: Tyrann Mathieu
Posted in Blog | 13 Comments »