Deone Bucannon came along at the perfect time two years ago, when Daryl Washington got suspended and the Cardinals wanted someone quicker and rangier to play in the box — as a linebacker — than most linebackers. So they took their first-round pick, a safety, and in two seasons Bucannon has not only done well but has redefined in some ways what it means to be a front-seven defender in this league.
But Bucannon is not an outlier. Not on the Cardinals. As defensive coordinator James Bettcher continues to compose the defense, any question to how the Cards want to line up is underscored not only with Bucannon playing his spot but also because when the Cards go to the second unit, it is safety Chris Clemons who is playing the Bucannon role — not a linebacker by trade.
Clemons, who at 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds is a physical match for the 6-1, 220-pound Bucannon, has been around for the past couple of seasons. He was released early in the season after getting hurt, and then returned late with two games left and then played in the postseason.
Where guys are in the offseason isn’t necessarily permanent — if you recall, last offseason, Bucannon played true safety most of the time and Tyrann Mathieu was actually second-string — but again, it goes to how much Bettcher and the Cardinals like their versatility on defense, especially in the secondary. They like safeties who can play corner if needed (Mathieu, Marqui Christian, Tyvon Branch) and they like safeties that can drop into the box. Or in the case of Bucannon, stay in the box.
Tags: Chris Clemons, Deone Bucannon
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It’s that time of year when the NFL Network has begun their countdown of the top 100 players of the league, based on voting from players (I’m not sure how many vote; that’s always been a little bit of a mystery.) The first Cardinal showed up Wednesday at No. 71, when Calais Campbell — listed by the Cardinals as a defensive tackle, listed in the video as a defensive end — was named. It was a nice jump for Campbell, who was No. 99 on the same list this time last year.
Campbell should be the first of a handful of Cardinals on the list, based on what the team did last season. Patrick Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald will repeat on the list, Tyrann Mathieu should be on there and it’s hard to think Carson Palmer wouldn’t make an appearance. Ten more players are unveiled every Wednesday.
Tags: Calais Campbell, NFL Network
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Ever since Bruce Arians arrived in Arizona, he has made use of the second field during OTAs and minicamp. The concept is simple. With 90 players on the roster, and the veterans needing their time to learn, the third- and fourth-string players and others needing work head over to run the same script that the first two units run on the main field.
After the opening OTA, Arians said that meant 42 reps for each field, and significant work for the inexperienced.
“Most teams’ rookies got five or six reps if they were lucky,” Arians said. “Ours got 42. That’s one of the ways we try to bring young players along.”
Nowhere are those reps more important than at defensive back, with Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Justin Bethel all sidelined with injuries. The Cards are short enough that draft picks Brandon Williams and Harlan Miller, both cornerbacks, are getting their work on the main field thus far. Williams, not surprisingly, has a way to go given his inexperience at the position — Peterson has been working with him closely in practice. But reps against receivers like Larry Fitzgerald or Michael Floyd or Smokey Brown and even guys like J.J. Nelson will quickly show what needs to be learned.
There has been much speculation about whether the Cardinals will sign another cornerback. With the versatility on hand (safeties like Tyvon Branch and Marqui Christian will likely get some work there in practice) and the second field, the Cardinals will get a good sense of just what they have at cornerback on the roster — and whether they need to find someone else later.
Tags: Brandon Williams, Bruce Arians, Harlan Miller, Justin Bethel, Marqui Christian, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Tyvon Branch
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The Cardinals play in San Diego on Aug. 19 (a Friday) for their second preseason game. There’s a chance they will be in California a little longer than that. Coach Bruce Arians said today after the team’s first organized team activity of the offseason that the Cards are in discussions with the Chargers to practice in San Diego for the week of training camp leading into the game between the teams.
In the past, Arians has made it no secret he likes the idea of some camp work against another team. He said during camp last year the Cardinals had looked into the idea to no avail. We’ll see if it works out this year, but the Cards — who open the preseason Aug. 12 at home against Oakland — do have at least one day that week in between where they won’t be able to use University of Phoenix Stadium for practice. The band Guns N’ Roses have a concert in the building Aug. 15, which is that Monday.
The Cardinals have practiced in San Diego during camp before. That came way back in 2000, when Jake Plummer was behind center and Vince Tobin was coach.
— Arians also said the tempo was excellent for the first OTA. The Cardinals were off the field about 20 minutes ahead of schedule.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Chargers, preseason, training camp
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Tyrann Mathieu is going to get a contract extension. When, exactly, remains an unknown, although Ian Rapoport reported Monday the team and Mathieu are “deep in negotiations” toward a deal. I’ve long felt this was a matter of when and not if with the all-pro safety. For a multitude of reasons for both sides, it behooves both to get a new contract done.
But from the Cardinals’ end, a big reason to want to lock up Mathieu is because of the laundry list of players who, as of right now, are free agents after this upcoming season. It’s a subject we’ve talked about before, and the reality is not everyone will be with the Cardinals after this year. Still, if you have hope to having some guys around, you’d think the Cards would want to pare down the work facing them before this year ends. Here is the list — and it doesn’t include every single FA-to-be — of guys who are contract-less after 2016, as it stands right now:
— S Tyrann Mathieu
— WR Larry Fitzgerald
— OLB Chandler Jones
— DT Calais Campbell
— WR Michael Floyd
— G Evan Mathis
— DT Frostee Rucker
— RB Chris Johnson
— RB Andre Ellington
— S Tony Jefferson
— TE Jermaine Gresham
— OLB Alex Okafor
— ILB Kevin Minter
— WR Jaron Brown
— S D.J. Swearinger
— RB Stepfan Taylor
That isn’t the entire list, but those are the bigger names. Obviously, each are taken individually to an extent. Some guys the team will just move on from in the normal course of roster change in a salary-capped world. But big picture, it’s a puzzle GM Steve Keim and his department are working on as this season approaches.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Andre Ellington, Calais Campbell, Chandler Jones, Chris Johnson, D.J. Swearinger, Evan Mathis, Frostee Rucker, Jaron Brown, Jermaine Gresham, Kevin Minter, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Stepfan Taylor, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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It probably took him longer than he wanted, but cornerback Jerraud Powers has found a team for the 2016 season. As it had been apparent for a while, it isn’t the Cardinals. Powers signed a one-year contract with the Baltimore Ravens Friday, ending whatever possibility — at at this point, it probably was unlikely — that he return to the Cards for a fourth season.
It’s hard to imagine Powers thought he’d end up signing a one-year deal anywhere in mid-May when he was heading into free agency. He wanted to return, but said multiple times he knew it was a business. For a player who had already been a free agent once (the Cardinals made sure he didn’t leave on his 2013 visit, even though he was supposed to check out the Chargers as well), Powers knew exactly what the league is about.
While he was here, he was a solid piece in the secondary. No, he wasn’t Patrick Peterson. But he, along with Rashad Johnson, provided an important veteran presence and leadership back there. Now that he and Johnson are gone, that falls to Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu, in a secondary that will be much more inexperienced this season. That could still change if the Cards decide to try and find themselves another vet, but more likely, the team is going to try and grow with their youth. Meanwhile, Powers will play in Baltimore and try again at free agency in 2017.
Tags: Jerraud Powers, Ravens
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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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