Tight end Jermaine Gresham, a free agent, had been looking around. He talked to the Bears, he talked to the Jets. But multiple reports have Gresham choosing to stick with the Cardinals, at least for another season. More interestingly, Adam Schefter reported that Gresham passed up a four-year deal with $12 million in guaranteed money to return the the Cards for less.
Gresham’s return would seem to solidify the tight end position if the Cardinals decide not to draft one. Already back after signing their tender offers were Darren Fells and Ifeanyi Momah, while Gerald Christian is coming off a knee injury and former second-round pick Troy Niklas heads into his third season. Gresham did have a career-low of 18 catches last season, although a career-best 12.4 yards per reception. The Cardinals liked the job he did blocking as well.
Schefter is also reporting that the Cardinals are getting a visit from Panthers free-agent guard Amini Silatolu. Silatolu played in only nine games, starting three, in 2015. He is coming off an ACL tear in his left knee suffered in November, and would be depth potential on an offensive line that is likely to lose Ted Larsen in free agency.
Tags: Amini Silatolu, Bears, free agency, Jermaine Gresham, Jets, Panthers
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The initial wave of free agency is over, and the big money — for the most part — is gone. Now it’s a game of musical chairs, as the free agents left try to get in with teams that still have spots to fill. What money they can get, regardless of what is still a lot of cap space around the league, is to be debated. This is the area in which Cardinals GM Steve Keim thrives.
So comes the report that veteran Bengals cornerback Leon Hall is scheduled to visit Arizona Monday. Hall is 31, having played nine seasons, and has been solid in his career with 26 interceptions (including one of Carson Palmer last year). He’s had injury issues with a pair of torn Achilles, but he has played in 29 of 32 possible games the past two seasons. He would be a nice if short-term addition to a room with Patrick Peterson, Justin Bethel and 50 percent of the time, Tyrann Mathieu. If Hall were to sign, it would also seem to signal the end of Jerraud Powers’ time in Arizona. Again, free-agent musical chairs is real.
Of course, things can change over a weekend too. We’ll see where things stand by Monday.
By the way, the Cardinals, according to the NFL Players Association website, have about $16.8 million in salary cap space (I am guessing that is before the Tyvon Branch deal.) The NFLPA site had the wrong numbers earlier in the week, after accidentally putting Mario Williams and Leodis McKelvin on the Cardinals’ roster following their free-agent deals.
Tags: free agency, Jerraud Powers, Leon Hall, salary cap
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Steve Keim has proved excellent at bringing in players on one-year deals and having them make an impact: Eric Winston, Matt Shaughnessy, Karlos Dansby, Antonio Cromartie, Larry Foote, Chris Johnson, Dwight Freeney. They won’t all work out, though, and Sean Weatherspoon — which looked so promising when it happened — did not work out.
Weatherspoon is re-signing with the Falcons after his one year out West. Weatherspoon only had 12 tackles in an extremely limited defensive role (he played just 125 snaps all season) over 14 games. He needed to show he could stay healthy again and he did that, although it was a red flag to his time in Arizona when he was active but didn’t play against the Rams in October and then the next week, was a healthy scratch against the Lions.
It’s hard to believe that Weatherspoon played with the first unit through the entire offseason work, although at that point, Deone Bucannon was working a lot at safety too. But training camp came, Weatherspoon’s hamstring became a problem, and when he missed most of the month, he had dug himself a hole he could never escape — especially after Kevin Minter showed more than expected when he was on the field.
To Spoon’s credit, he never sulked (although he did seem resigned to the fact early on he wasn’t moving up the depth chart). It was clear he wouldn’t be around in 2016. And that’s the upside about seeking one-year deals. Yes, sometimes a guy like a Dansby blows up and leaves for another team. Then you have a “miss” like Weatherspoon who creates no issue because his contract is up and both sides can just move on.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Chris Johnson, Dwight Freeney, Eric Winston, Falcons, free agency, Karlos Dansby, Larry Foote, Matt Shaughnessy, Sean Weatherspoon, Steve Keim
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Dwight Freeney was thisclose to retiring last season before the Cardinals called to ask him to play five games into the season. After leading the Cards with eight sacks in only 11 games — and adding another sack in the playoffs — he said he wanted to take some time to decide what he wanted to do going forward. At age 36, that is apparently playing another season.
Freeney, during an interview on Sirius XM NFL radio Wednesday night, said he wanted to play in 2016. The free agent would like to return to the Cardinals, he said, but if he does play, it’s “going to have to be the right situation.”
“Hopefully we can come to an agreement,” Freeney said about the Cardinals. “But they need to see what they need to do too. I understand this business. It’s a young man’s game. I’m here if they need me.”
Freeney wants a chance to win. Freeney made it clear that he had more interest last year but he wasn’t going to play for a middling team. Certainly, Freeney showed the Cards he was worthy of having around. He not only performed in the pass rush, he was a good influence in the locker room and a teacher to young linebackers like Markus Golden. The fact the Cardinals have yet to land a pass rusher in free agency could make a Freeney return make even more sense.
Now, the price isn’t going to change much I wouldn’t think. The Cardinals could make a similar offer to Freeney that they did last year, with a lower salary with sack incentives. In terms of fit, Freeney knows it might not get much better than Arizona — but I wouldn’t be surprised if “the right situation” also included how the money shakes out.
Tags: Dwight Freeney
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Nothing official yet, but multiple reports have veteran safety Tyvon Branch agreeing with the Cardinals on a two-year contract. Branch, who was in Kansas City one year after seven years in Oakland, is 6-foot, 210 pounds and also ran a 4.26 40-yard dash when he first came into the league. GM Steve Keim had said he wanted to add speed in the secondary.
In 16 games – one start – for the Chiefs last season, Branch had 43 tackles, a sack and an interception. Branch, 29, was a long-time starter with the Raiders, but played in just five games his final two seasons in Oakland because of injuries.
The safety position is one in flux for the Cardinals right now. Rashad Johnson is a free agent, and his spot is the one most likely taken by Branch as free agency gets underway. Tony Jefferson is a restricted free agent who could still sign an offer sheet elsewhere — the Cardinals have the right to match any offer — and Wednesday was the first day Jefferson was able to discuss options with other teams.
Tags: Chiefs, Raiders, Rashad Johnson, Tony Jefferson, Tyvon Branch
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Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul re-signed with the Giants today on a one-year deal, ahead of officially becoming a free agent. But the Cardinals apparently were in the mix for his services, as was pointed out on Pierre-Paul’s statement distributed on social media.
“I would like to thank each and every organization that reached out to my agent during this process especially the Arizona Cardinals,” Pierre-Paul wrote. “It was hard to decide, but me and my family decided that it’s best for me to stay in New York.”
The Cards reportedly offered more money than the $10.5 million Pierre-Paul will get on the one-year contract.
The Cardinals have reportedly been in talks with Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin as well (along with Rams defensive lineman William Hayes) as the team tries to upgrade the pass rush. Pierre-Paul, for all his issues last year after his fireworks accident, was still attractive (and he’s counting on his one-year deal to allow him to hit the open market and get paid big next offseason, so he could be available again.) Meanwhile, the Cards continue to talk with agents as the official opening of free agency approaches at 2 p.m. Arizona time Wednesday.
Tags: free agency, Giants, Jason Pierre-Paul
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So teams could legally start talking to free agents Monday. No deals can be executed before Wednesday (at 2 p.m. Arizona time). Any of the rumors floating around today and until then are mainly that, especially since it is agents who are getting most of the information that is being reported and agents have a reason to drive up interest in their particular clients.
The biggest name floated by multiple reports Monday was linebacker Bruce Irvin, who has played for the Seahawks. He’s young and rushes the passer, although his production on that front has only been OK. He’s wanted (former Seahawks coordinators are now head coaches in Jacksonville and Atlanta are reportedly interested, and Jacksonville in particular has a LOT of money.) Kent Somers noted that the Cards have interest in Rams defensive lineman William Hayes as well.
Kent also tweeted Drew Stanton’s return might be iffy, after Bruce Arians just said on Arizona Sports 98.7 Monday morning he was hoping Stanton would be back in place as Palmer’s backup. Stanton just said last week he wasn’t sure what was going to happen — which, for a guy who was already able to talk to his own team about returning, does not sound all that optimistic if the guy was actually going to be returning. If Stanton left, it would certainly change up the urgency of looking for quarterbacks behind Carson Palmer.
Finally, Jason Cole suggested that interest in free-agent-to-be tackle Bobby Massie could push his contract to $8 million a year average. That’d be quite the windfall for Massie, who wasn’t expected to return anyway but certainly wouldn’t at $8M a year. That’d be more than Jared Veldheer is getting, and while it is two years later, I never would’ve expected that to be a possibility.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Bruce Irvin, Drew Stanton, free agency, William Hayes
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Peyton Manning did the expected. He is retiring from the NFL after his walk-off Super Bowl win last month. (He isn’t officially announcing it until Monday, but everyone — including the Denver Broncos — are congratulating him on his career today, so ..)
Manning is in the conversation for greatest player in league history. Considering he played for so long, he really didn’t cross paths with the Cardinals much. A quick aside: Manning went No. 1 overall in the 1998 draft. No.3 overall was the Cards’ pick of defensive end Andre Wadsworth.
In 18 years — 17 years of playing, plus that 2011 season he missed with the neck injury — Manning only played against the Cards three times. He started against the Cards in Indy in the 2005 season finale, completing 1-of-2 passes for 5 yards before leaving after one series. The prepping-for-the-playoffs Colts won anyway, 17-13. In 2009 he brought the Colts to University of Phoenix Stadium for “Sunday Night Football” and picked the Cards apart in a 31-10 Indy win, completing 24-for-35 passes for 379 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. In 2014, now playing for Denver, he ripped up the Cards again as the Broncos ran away with a 41-20 win. In that game, Manning completed 31-of-47 passes for 479 yards, four touchdowns, a pair of picks and one memorable tackle of defensive lineman Calais Campbell.
In between there, he of course considered playing for the Cardinals after the Colts cut him early in 2012. He chose the Broncos, which worked out pretty well for Denver and probably worked out the best for the Cardinals too. We will never know how the Whisenhunt-Manning Cards would have changed history, but the Cardinals are in good shape these days with Carson Palmer and Bruce Arians.
Arians, of course, was Manning’s first quarterbacks coach in the NFL.
“I called him the piranha,” Arians said in a statement Sunday morning. “I could never get him enough information, whether it was about the opponent or our game plan or anything else. We had him in for a pre-draft interview in’98 and he had a notebook full of questions for us, including one about the Indiana tax code. I remember thinking, ‘Who interviewed who here?’ He’s an absolutely tireless worker on the fundamentals and also one of the practical jokers in the world. I was proud to have him as a quarterback but I’m more proud to have him as a good friend. I wish him nothing but the best with whatever is ahead in the next chapters.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Peyton Manning
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No official announcements coming from the Cardinals today, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t a little news — or potential news — floating around. The most concrete were the multiple reports that the Cards tendered restricted free agent safety Tony Jefferson a right-of-first-refusal offer. That’s worth $1.67 million for 2016, and if Jefferson manages to sign an offer sheet for a long-term deal elsewhere, the Cardinals have the right to match.
But it carries ramifications. Jefferson was undrafted as a rookie. This tender offer means if another team signs Jefferson to an offer sheet and the Cardinals choose not to match, the Cards would get no compensation. They could have tendered Jefferson at the second-round pick level ($2.55M) and, if Jefferson signed/left, they would have gotten a second-round pick. This decision is a little surprising, especially given the free-agent status of fellow safety Rashad Johnson and the ACL rehab of safety Tyrann Mathieu, but I’m guessing the Cards believe they have a handle on what they think the market will bear.
Teams must officially tender their restricted free agents by March 9. Wideout Jaron Brown and safety D.J. Swearinger are the remaining RFAs; Punter Drew Butler already re-signed.
Then there was the chatter about the Cardinals considering the use of Jonathan Cooper at center. It isn’t that Cooper is definitely moving, and certainly at this point before free agency and the draft, a lot will have to do with who is brought in during those periods. But it could be an option. It isn’t a shocking thought; Cooper was the one taking third-string snaps through much of the 2014 season during warmup periods. I even asked Cooper in training camp last year if he could play center. He acknowledged he had done it a little in college, but also said the Cardinals had never really broached the subject with him. Certainly it would give the Cardinals flexibility in configuring the offensive line going forward.
Tags: free agency, Jonathan Cooper, Tony Jefferson
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A long, long time ago, when I was still in college, I was driving near campus one night while listening to the 620 Sportsline on the radio (was that Schulte and Roye at the time?) during basketball season. A caller wanted to know why the Suns couldn’t just trade for Hakeem Olajuwon. I mean, he was only the best big man in the game and one of the best of all time. The guy wanted to know why the Suns couldn’t get him for guard Negele Knight, forward Kurt Rambis and someone else (maybe center Andrew Lang? Trust me, it wasn’t a big name.)
I’ve heard similar trade suggestions in my years covering the Cardinals, sure. A certain player, while not needed/underperforming with the Cards can certainly fetch a second- or third-round draft pick, even though the Cards don’t want him. Right? (Uh, no.)
With the success of the one-year, prove-it-to-me contracts that Steve Keim has had in his tenure as GM, it feels like the one-year deal possibilities are veering into that territory. The Bills released defensive lineman Mario Williams, and certainly, that’s a name that draws interest. Would he fit in Arizona? He’s not exactly a 3-4 defensive end, and he’s already made noises that he’s not a fan of the idea that he’d ever have to drop into coverage as a 3-4 OLB. He only had five sacks last season, and while he could be used like Dwight Freeney in Arizona as a pass rusher, he’s going to want a lot more money and likely will get it somewhere in a NFL free-agent world flush with cap space.
So when I see suggestions — and I have had a few over the many platforms with which to reach me — that the Cardinals could lure Williams to the desert with a one-year contract, my first thought is, why would he do that? It’s early, and yes he underperformed in 2015, but it’s hard to believe someone won’t pony up some money for him this offseason. That could still be the Cards (although I do agree it’d have to be at the right price, which is not what he was getting in Buffalo.)
One-year deal guys don’t necessarily wait all the way until training camp, like Eric Winston or Chris Johnson or Jermaine Gresham. But if they sign earlier than that — Karlos Dansby, Antonio Cromartie — they wait out the market for a while to be absolutely sure they cannot get some significant cash. The Cards do have the ability these days to attract players because of the team and the destination. But money usually talks first, and short-term deals sometimes sound like Knight-for-Olajuwon.
Tags: free agency, Mario Williams
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