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Coming Up
  • Mon., Apr. 21, 2014 8:00AM MST Start of offseason workouts Clubs with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs.
  • Wed., Apr. 23, 2014 8:00AM MST Cardinals Charities Golf Tournament Cardinals Charities Golf Tournament at Whirlwind Golf Club (5692 W North Loop Rd, Chandler, AZ 85226).
  • Thu., Apr. 24, 2014 5:00PM - 9:00PM MST "Spring Tailgate" at the Big Red Rib and Music Festival The Cardinals are hosting a live TV special, as team president Michael Bidwill, general manager Steve Keim, and coach Bruce Arians preview the 2014 Draft and season with hosts Paul Calvisi and Ron Wolfley. There will be players in attendance.
  • Mon., May. 05, 2014 8:00AM MST On-field work Players allowed on-field football work with coaching (no helmets, no contact, no offense vs. defense)
  • Thu., May. 08, 2014 5:00PM MST NFL Draft First round of the NFL draft.
  • Fri., May. 09, 2014 3:30PM MST NFL Draft Second and third rounds of the NFL draft.
  • Sat., May. 10, 2014 9:00AM MST NFL Draft Fourth through seventh rounds of the NFL draft.
  • Tue., May. 20, 2014 8:00AM MST Organized Team Activities Players allowed on-field football work with coaching. Helmets allowed, as is offense vs. defense.
  • Wed., May. 21, 2014 8:00AM MST Organized Team Activities Players allowed on-field football work with coaching. Helmets allowed, as is offense vs. defense.
  • Thu., May. 22, 2014 8:00AM MST Organized Team Activities Players allowed on-field football work with coaching. Helmets allowed, as is offense vs. defense.

Blogs

An award for former Cardinal mainstay

Posted by Darren Urban on February 19, 2014 – 4:16 pm

For 42 seasons and 838 games, John Omohundro worked as an athletic trainer for the Cardinals. In 36 of those seasons as the head athletic trainer. His final game, with his last season spent as a consultant to the team, was the Super Bowl. Part of the reason Omohundro retired when he did was to take care of his wife, Martha, who suffered from Alzheimer’s before passing away last year.

Wednesday here in Indianapolis at the Scouting combine, the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society (PFATS) — of which Omohundro was a charter member when it was created in 1982 — gave Omohundro their annual alumni award. It’s given every year to a former member who has contributed to the profession and in life after the NFL. Not only did Omohundro remain loyal to the Cardinals all those years, he did the same with his wife through her difficult time.

PFATS has also decided to create a new honor in his name to go toward those who show such compassion, and will call it the “John Omohundro Big Heart Award.”

That only makes sense for a guy who spent his entire professional life taking care of others — like he did with Kurt Warner in 2007, fitting the quarterback with a special elbow brace so Warner wouldn’t miss a start despite an ugly Julius Peppers-induced injury.

JohnOhmsAward

 

 


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Inside the Mathieu rehab

Posted by Darren Urban on February 18, 2014 – 12:57 pm

Now posted is the second installment of the “Tenacious” video series (click here), which follows the rehab of safety Tyrann Mathieu. This episode is titled “No Room For Pity,” which is essentially Mathieu’s attitude toward many things in his life. A couple of interesting quotes:

– Mathieu said that, even at age 14, he “always believed” he’d be a star. “Even if it was (as) a garbageman or a teacher, I was going to be one hell of a garbageman.”

– Mathieu, on mentally dealing with the injury: “I don’t feel the need to cry. I haven’t reached that moment where I am depressed and bummed out. Hopefully I can stay intact mentally.”


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The Combine and asking for questions

Posted by Darren Urban on February 18, 2014 – 11:19 am

It’s that time of year again — the Scouting combine begins this week, the unofficial beginning of the 2014 season. I and a few of my azcardinals.com cohorts leave for Indianapolis tomorrow, with media access beginning Thursday. Cardinals GM Steve Keim will be at the podium Thursday morning (11:30 Indy time) and coach Bruce Arians will go Friday morning (10:15 Indy time.)

As we did last year, I will host a pair of short video chats with each man while in Indy, asking questions from the fans. If you’d like to submit a question, you can do so in the comments below, you can submit it via Twitter using the hashtag #CardsCombine or you can email me at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Make sure you specify for whom the question is intended.

Speaking of questions, I will host a pre-combine chat today at 1 p.m. The link is available by clicking here. Feel free to stop by and ask whatever as we are about to head hip-deep into free agency in early March.

As for Indy, it’ll be 57 degrees (allegedly) on Thursday, a somewhat surprising turn of events considering how it usually is this time of year. The interview portion starts Thursday while the on-field (and on NFL Network stuff) starts full bore on Saturday. The draft becomes the focus for a week or so, before backing off for the free agency portion of the offseason. Remember, the draft is later this year — May 8-10 — so there will be plenty of time to think about and dissect the draft. For those wondering, the players officially can return to the voluntary offseason program April 21. It’ll be interesting to see what the roster looks like by then.


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Dance of free agency

Posted by Darren Urban on February 17, 2014 – 10:18 am

The twitter question was straightforward, not unlike many I get: What are the chances Karlos Dansby re-signs with the Cardinals? The answer is, right now, you can’t answer. (It’s kind of like the question about what position the Cardinals will draft with their first pick. You can’t say. Not even the Cards can.)

Free agency comes down to, really, two things: Leverage and money. The money a player can get is directly proportional to the amount of leverage he has. Sometimes, that’s easy to figure out. Usually, it’s a little more complicated than that, because both the team and player like to play a little poker so they can get the best deal they can. (Agent Jack Bechta wrote a fascinating piece on how free agency works.)

Sometimes, teams really don’t want a player to reach unrestricted free agency because you never know who is going to swoop in and wow a player with a unreal deal. And the reality is, if a player does reach unrestricted status it usually means one of three things (or some combination of the three): Either the team doesn’t want the player anymore, the team’s cap situation won’t allow the team to make a competitive offer, or the player has overestimated his worth in the market/team has underestimated it.

Cardinals GM Steve Keim has said the team has already made offers to some of the team’s pending free-agents-to-be. At this point, only punter Dave Zastudil has re-upped. What does that mean for a guy like Dansby? No way to know for sure. I think Dansby wants to return and the Cardinals definitely want him back. But it really isn’t that surprising that Dansby could hit the open market. He was admittedly disappointed at being cut by Miami last year and then the interest he got from other teams. He is hoping his big season translates into a bigger offer but it’s not like he was coming off a poor season in Miami in 2012.

So he will try and figure out if he can get a substantially better deal elsewhere. All things being equal, I think Dansby sticks around. But with him and all these free agents, if you think you can improve on your contract offer by getting to March 11 and the start of free agency, you’d do it, right? I mean, you can’t get injured anymore, so there is really nothing stopping you. Then again, there is an element of a game of chicken here. If a team has a backup plan in place and you drag your feet too long, whatever interest there might be could dry up.

The Cardinals and Keim worked this dance expertly last offseason. That’s how they got Dansby and Eric Winston and John Abraham and others. And it will make for a fascinating journey as the Scouting combine comes this week and free agency arrives around the corner.


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Keim addresses Michael Sam situation

Posted by Darren Urban on February 14, 2014 – 9:14 am

If you are an NFL or even a sports follower, you have had to be living under a rock not to know that Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, the co-defensive player of the year in the SEC, came out Sunday publicly as a gay man. It spawned countless articles/talk show conversations/tweets on the subject, what it meant, and how the NFL might accept Sam as he enters the NFL draft.

Sam, at 6-1 1/2 and 260 pounds, would project to an outside linebacker in the Cards’ system. Cardinals general manager Steve Keim, during an appearance on the “Doug and Wolf Show” Friday morning on Arizona Sports 98.7, was asked how the Cardinals would interpret the Sam news when it came to evaluating him.

“Let me say this, and I want to make this clear,” Keim said. “Every player we evaluate for the upcoming draft, we judge them on their physical skill-set, we judge them on their football character, we judge them on their ability to learn the (playbook), and we judge them on their medical history. Race, religion, sexual orientation, those aspects are never even brought into the process. What I am concerned about is, ‘How talented is Michael Sam?’ That’s number one. Is he a good teammate? Is he good in the locker room? Is he smart? Is he competitive? And what does his medical history look like?

“If he is a good teammate, and he’s a good person, he’s going to be fine in your locker room. You teammates are going to accept him because of the person and player he is. Not those other things. We will look at Michael Sam no differently than any other player in this draft.”

Whether the Cardinals go after Sam is to be determined. I don’t know much about Sam the football player, but MMQB.com did a very good and extensive video breakdown of his season and made it sound like, as a player, he would be a project. The Cardinals, don’t forget, already have one of those at outside linebacker, after drafting Alex Okafor last season and then having Okafor lose most of his rookie season after an injury. They also are on the constant lookout for depth at that position. Forget Sam’s big announcement. The Cards need draft picks that can contribute — which goes to the point Keim was making.

Personally, I don’t see why Sam’s orientation would be an issue. It obviously hasn’t held him back up until this point. Why would that change now?

SamAPshotSIZED


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Free-agent targets and their board

Posted by Darren Urban on February 13, 2014 – 12:00 pm

That the Cardinals will likely consider signing a left tackle in free agency would be no surprise. Who the targets might be remain mostly speculation, especially since there is still a chance some of them won’t make it to the open market, whether they are signed to an extension before March 11 or are given the franchise tag. Kansas City’s Branden Albert is the most notable choice (and there was a report out of Kansas City that the Chiefs will let Albert walk). There is also the Ravens’ Eugene Monroe, the Raiders’ Jared Veldheer or the Bengals’ Anthony Collins.

Whatever the Cards decide to do — at tackle or another spot — they will be prepared. That’s what General Manager Steve Keim and his front office group have been doing in the run-up to the Scouting combine, building their free-agent board for a second straight season. Last year, the Cards did the same, and ended up signing seven of the top nine players they had listed (which included one of their own free agents, safety Rashad Johnson.)

That board is more complicated than just listing the top talent on the market. It takes into account positions of need, of course, in addition to estimated salaries of what these players might want, what they should be worth when it comes to metrics, and what the Cards would be willing to offer. It delivers a blueprint so the Cards are prepared when free agency begins.

As the Cardinals proved last season, they have numbers in mind for all their offers. It doesn’t sound like Keim likes to do a ton of negotiating. Last season, for many free agents early in the process, the Cardinals told visiting players their offer could very well be off the table if they left without signing. That proved fruitful. The Cards didn’t sign everyone they went after last season, but that’s where the board helps.

“It will help us move on to the next guy if a guy decides to drag his feet or to not take the deal,” Keim said.

A lot can still change until March 11, because of the Cards’ own free agents that may or may not re-sign. The board, though, will be a crucial part of the process going forward.

FAboardbloguse


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With free agency, Roberts in a tough spot

Posted by Darren Urban on February 12, 2014 – 10:03 am

Andre Roberts had a solid year in 2013, considering he played about 140 fewer snaps from the season before and he was behind Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd at wideout. He still had 43 receptions (for 471 yards and a couple of touchdowns.) He also smartly never complained about his situation. He certainly wished he could be a bigger part of the offense, especially headed into free agency, but the Cardinals were winning and you can’t raise a ruckus when things are working.

That didn’t help him personally, though. And this morning, it’s easier to see what a daunting situation Roberts is looking at in a month, when the market will be flooded with wide receivers. Profootballtalk.com posted about it this morning, and a quick perusal of the list of available wideouts is going to make it a buyer’s market indeed. PFT lists the top 10 most “intriguing” names to watch as Anquan Boldin, Riley Cooper, Eric Decker, Julian Edelman, Jacoby Jones, Jeremy Maclin, Dexter McCluster, Hakeem Nicks, Emmanuel Sanders, and Golden Tate. That’s a formidable group and Roberts isn’t on it. Roberts is better than many guys on the list, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll see a larger demand.

Roberts’ best course of action might be to do what many free agents did last season — take a one-year deal in a good situation, have a good season, and then try the free-agent thing again in a year. The problem with that is there are no guarantees he’ll be able to improve his lot. What will be really interesting is whether Roberts, in this spot, has a chance to return to the Cardinals. Here, he will be third on the depth chart again, and with the desire to use tight ends by Bruce Arians, Roberts probably isn’t going to get more snaps barring injuries.


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No need for the franchise tag

Posted by Darren Urban on February 11, 2014 – 4:54 pm

During this slow time of the NFL year, it’s hard not to notice little things, like the comments of Karlos Dansby saying he expects to remain a Cardinal. Big news? Not really. But it’s more defined than Dansby was at the end of the season, so that, to me, breeds more optimism. Dansby is probably the most high-profile free-agent-to-be the Cards want to re-sign. Which got me thinking of the franchise tag, because of all the free agents the Cards have (and in part because the Cards, Dansby and the franchise tag were synonymous for a while.)

Teams can use the franchise tag as early as Monday. The tag, for those unfamiliar, is a set number for each position based on the top five or top 10 salaries at that position the previous year. It’s a guaranteed salary as soon as the player signs it. If a player is tagged, he can still sign elsewhere, but his original team has a chance to match, and if they don’t, there is a heavy price to pay — usually a pair of first-round picks. The chances are good right now, for instance, that Saints tight end Jimmy Graham will be tagged so he doesn’t hit the open market in March.

The Cardinals, however, don’t have that issue. Dansby is not going to be franchise tagged (at a projected $10.9 million for linebackers for one season.) None of the Cards’ free-agents-to-be fall into that category, in fact. Even for players the Cardinals could want to re-sign — linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, wide receiver Andre Roberts, tackle Eric Winston, for instance — aren’t going to command the kind of money nor get from the Cards anywhere close to the kind of money the tag dictates. There is a reason it is called the “franchise” tag because it is supposed to be for franchise-type players.

UPDATE: I was reminded of a ruling in a case of Drew Brees, who was once franchised by San Diego and later by New Orleans, that tags are considered cumulatively over a player’s entire career, not just if they are in consecutive years. So Dansby, since he was already franchised twice in his career, would be considered tagged for a third time if the Cards were to do so, making his salary an average of the top five salaries in the league. That’s quarterback money, and only underscores why Dansby wouldn’t be tagged again.

The last time the Cardinals used a franchise tag, it was on defensive end Calais Campbell in 2012. That time, the tag did exactly what it was supposed to do — buy the two sides extra time to negotiate a long-term deal. Before that, the last tagged guy was Dansby. He got it two years in a row, and then, well, we know how that turned out. Funny that now that the Cards won’t be tagging him again, he probably has a better chance of sticking around.


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Ranking positions of need

Posted by Darren Urban on February 10, 2014 – 1:01 pm

Next week, the decision-makers for the Cardinals and the rest of the NFL will head to Indianapolis for the annual Scouting combine. Already teams, including the Cards, have been meeting and ranking their rosters and figuring out what direction they will need to go in. Free agency, which begins March 11 officially (although teams came start to talk to guys from other teams a couple of days before that), will impact what happens in the draft and the rest of the offseason.

But before all that, and before the Cardinals re-sign any more of their own players, here are — in my opinion — the positions that need to be addressed the most over the next few months:

1) Offensive line: It doesn’t hurt that this encompasses multiple positions. Ultimately, it is left tackle that the Cardinals likely need to go after the most. I have no doubt Bradley Sowell can be depth at the position, but clearly the Cards would like to upgrade there. Easier said than done, of course, and we’ll see if it comes in free agency or the draft.

2) Defensive line: You’re not going to win in the NFC West unless both lines of scrimmage are fortified. As it stands now, the defensive line seems to be OK, with Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett and Dan Williams. But Alameda Ta’amu was an important co-nose tackle with Williams, and he is coming off ACL surgery. Dockett’s age and contract will likely call into question his future after 2014. And with Frostee Rucker a free agent, the Cardinals need depth there, especially after using rotations during the season.

3) Linebacker: This is in part a continuation of the defensive line issue, because whether you consider a pass rusher a linebacker or a defensive end in nickel situations, the Cards still need pass rushers. John Abraham was a godsend in 2013 but he is not getting younger, even if he has another double-digit sack year in his arsenal. Alex Okafor is an unknown quantity at outside linebacker after his lost rookie season, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Matt Shaughnessy get away as a free agent. It’s hard to tell, since both missed most of the season, how well Lorenzo Alexander and Sam Acho fit in the defense as well. That doesn’t even include the inside, where Karlos Dansby could still leave.

4) Tight end: This position probably should be higher on the list, considering all the free agents the Cardinals have. Then again, maybe I’m just used to the Cards just getting along the best they can at tight end to make sure other spots are taken care of first. But Bruce Arians likes to use the tight end in multiple ways and use multiple tight ends. The Cards need bodies, and that’s even if Jim Dray returns. Rob Housler had flashes again last season but this is likely a make-or-break season for him to stay healthy and be consistent.

5) Safety: Even if Yeremiah Bell returns he is older. Tyrann Mathieu is coming off major knee surgery. The depth is thin, and the Cardinals, as you might have heard, had some issues covering tight ends last season. As good as Richard Sherman is, a big reason why the Seahawks secondary is so good is because Earl Thomas is backstopping Sherman and all those corners. Getting a safety like that wouldn’t be too bad.

Bonus) Quarterback: There’s no reason to list QB in the top five because the Cardinals are fine going into next season playing with Carson Palmer. There’s no argument there, really. But reality says the future QB has to be acquired sooner rather than later. This is a draft-only kind of scenario. I don’t see the Cards seeking another trade or anything. But at some point, GM Steve Keim is going to come across a quarterback he likes very much when the Cards are on the clock. And he needs to pull that trigger for down the road.

NeedTEBlog


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The need for speed (receiver)

Posted by Darren Urban on February 7, 2014 – 2:25 pm

As the Cardinals head toward the draft — a week later, May 8-10 this year — there will be a lot of talk about what positions will be targeted. There will be discussion about offensive tackles, defensive linemen, pass rushers, tight ends and defensive backs. But one thing that can’t be dismissed is the quest for a speed receiver.

The Cardinals can’t overlook the position anyway, given the impending free agent status of Andre Roberts (who likely will want to look what’s available on the open market since he’s destined to stay behind Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd) and the ongoing desire to have someone be able to run down the field and take the top off the defense. It was a constant quest last season. The Cards took a draft risk on Ryan Swope, and that didn’t work. Robert Gill was a track guy who they hoped would work out. Later, it was Brittan Golden and Teddy Williams.

According to profootballfocus.com, quarterback Carson Palmer threw 74 passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air last season. He completed only 23 of them, and while longer passes will inevitably have a lower completion percentage, coach Bruce Arians does want to get more production out of those six deep shots a game he’d like to take. The Cards didn’t take as many as that as the season went along, in part because there was an understanding the protection wasn’t always good enough for such long plays and in part because the was a search for the right target. Floyd and Fitz can do the jump ball thing, but to be able to just tell a guy to go long and watch him speed by in one-on-one coverage would be ideal.

Where that guy will come from isn’t set in stone. Will the Cardinals draft one? I wouldn’t be surprised. But Steve Keim will comb other options too. Williams and Golden are still around and in the mix (although they have to stay healthy.) It’s an Arians want, and an Arians need, and that isn’t going to change until the Cards find their answer.


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