The Cardinals have a three-year outlook for their roster, the prism in which the front office and General Manager Steve Keim views the team. That’s how they look at the salary cap, and how they evaluate contracts.
Not surprisingly, the sorting of big contracts that occurred this past offseason, contracts that were put in place before he became GM, will happen again after this season. And Keim thinks the Cards are still an offseason away from being able to get where the Cards want to be.
“There are going to be some tough decisions to be made after the season based on the numbers, just looking at the three-year view,” Keim said on a special edition of the Cardinals Underground podcast. “We will obviously have to make some tough decisions like we did this past year after the season. The one thing fans and other people don’t realize (is) there are certain contracts that bind you and you can’t do anything (with) and you have the dead money factor.
“Once we get to 2015 I feel really good where we are going to be from a salary-cap standpoint.”
Keim made tough decisions this past offseason, jettisoning Adrian Wilson, among many others. He didn’t name names. But the contracts that will likely be under the microscope aren’t hard to narrow down. Big money is owed to offensive linemen Daryn Colledge (with Earl Watford, Nate Potter and Paul Fanaika as cheaper options) and Levi Brown. Darnell Dockett is due a lot of money, although he just had a big three-sack game and dominated. Patrick Peterson is in line for an expensive extension. Larry Fitzgerald and his $18 million salary cap number might have to be reworked. None of this means the Cards have to cut people, but guys might be asked to take pay cuts. There are minefields to maneuver for Keim, and he acknowledged, the Cards are “handicapped to a degree.”
Philosophy-wise, it dovetails with Keim’s thoughts anyway. “I’ve always felt it was more important to get rid of a player a year too early than a year too late, because when players get to a certain point in his career and he starts to decline it can have a negative effect on your football team.”
(There’s Keim below, talking to Tyrann Mathieu’s parents before the Saints game. I feel confident Mathieu will not be going anywhere next year.)
The full Cardinals Underground podcast is posted right here.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett, Daryn Colledge, Earl Watford, Larry Fitzgerald, Nate Potter, Patrick Peterson, Paul Fanaika, salary cap, Steve Keim
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Steve Keim, speaking for the first time since the Cards’ flurry of roster activity at the outset of camp, mentioned the obvious when talking about newly-acquired John Abraham.
“John obviously brings an element that we don’t and have not had,” the general manager said.
The Cardinals haven’t had a double-digit sack guy since Bertrand Berry had 14.5 in 2004. In the eight seasons since, nine is the top individual number. Safety Adrian Wilson had eight one year to lead the team. Chike Okeafor had 8.5 in 2006 and he was an edge defensive end, but no one was adjusting their protection schemes for Chike. Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell have taken their turns too, but even when Campbell was operating as a 4-3 DE he wasn’t the guy who was going to turn the corner and constantly wreak havoc.
Often the Cards have made it work through blitzes and schemes. But to add a guy like Abraham potentially changes that for the better.
The Cards have tried this recently, as I’ve mentioned before. Joey Porter was coming off a nine-sack season with the Dolphins when the Cards signed him in 2010; Porter had 17.5 sacks the year before that. (By contrast, Abraham has 19.5 sacks the past two seasons). At 33, Porter clearly was out of gas, which is why Miami let him go in favor of the up-and-coming Cameron Wake and why Porter never made an impact in Arizona.
The way the Cards scout and break down players now, though, they are certain Abraham — at 35 — is in a much better place to produce. The previous staff tried to play Porter every down (and Porter made that a problem, fighting tooth and nail never to come out) and that wasn’t going to work. Abraham made it clear he wanted to be every down but also said he understood he might be used more in pass-rushing situations.
Clarity with Abraham is easy to see for Keim, too.
“Sometimes when you study a 35-year-old on tape, he looks like a 35-year-old,” Keim said. “I don’t know if they put this guy in wax, I don’t know what it was, but this guy can still get off the rock. He had had 10 sacks last year, seven forced fumbles. His ‘get-off’ to this day is still what I remember when I scouted him at South Carolina. There are some areas of his game where he would probably admit his skills have declined, but to pick a player up of this caliber at this time excites us all.”
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bertrand Berry, Calais Campbell, Chike Okeafor, Darnell Dockett, Joey Porter, John Abraham, Steve Keim
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The University of Pittsburgh announced yesterday that it would be retiring the No. 1 jersey in honor of Larry Fitzgerald’s tenure as a Panther, a pretty remarkable achievement when you consider Fitz played just two seasons in college. (Because Fitz went to prep school for a year after high school to improve his grades, he was able to go to the NFL after his true sophomore season.) Fitzgerald was a beast in college. In his final Pitt season in 2003, despite playing for a Pitt team with limited weapons and drawing all the attention of every opponent, Fitz had 92 catches for 1,672 yards (for an 18.2 avg.) and 22 touchdowns. Guess being the No. 3 pick overall was kind of a no-brainer, even if it meant passing on some quarterbacks that turned out to be pretty good themselves.
No word in the announcement, by the way, when the jersey retiring will take place. (And, as a side note, when talking to Larry Fitzgerald Sr. last year for a Fitz story I was working on, he said his son thought about not going to Pitt but Michigan State. “He thought real hard,” Fitzgerald Sr. said, “because his girlfriend was there.”)
Anyway, Fitz’s number being retired usually brings up the secondary question: Would, somewhere down the road, the Cardinals retire No. 11? The answer is probably not. And it doesn’t have anything to do with how great Fitzgerald’s career ends up.
The Cardinals simply don’t retire many numbers. They put players in the Ring of Honor, which doesn’t take their jersey number off the market. Hall of Famers like Dan Dierdorf and Roger Wehrli are in the Ring of Honor yet their Nos. 72 and 22, respectively, have been worn often (of late, Brandon Keith and currently DE Everrette Thompson have had 72 and 22 has been worn by Duane Starks, Emmitt Smith and, today, CB Bryan McCann.)
The Cardinals have retired five jersey numbers since the organization started in 1898. Hall of Fame safety Larry Wilson (8), all-around star back and war hero Marshall Goldberg (99), safety/war hero Pat Tillman (40), and two players who died while on the roster, tight end J.V. Cain (88) and tackle Stan Mauldin (77). There are 13 people in the team’s Ring of Honor, including Wilson, Tillman and Goldberg but not Cain or Mauldin. That RoH number will rise when safety Adrian Wilson goes in, and I’d expect Fitz to be there someday as well. He just might not be able to take 11 with him, at least not permanently.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Brandon Keith, Bryan McCann, Dan Dierdorf, Duane Starks, Emmitt Smith, Everrette Thompson, J.V. Cain, Larry Fitzgerald, Larry Wilson, Marshall Goldberg, Pat Tillman, Ring of Honor, Roger Wehrli, Stan Mauldin
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Yeremiah Bell has flown under the radar a bit since his arrival in Arizona. He signed a one-year contract for the veteran minimum, his signing was the only one not leaked early on a day when the Cards signed five and cut Kerry Rhodes. Now that he is on the field, though, it’s hard to miss Bell. He technically has been a free safety in his career, but to look at him certainly screams strong safety. Literally. Just look at those arms.
“I guess over the years, it’s just from lifting weights,” Bell said. He doesn’t mind talking about his physique but he clearly isn’t someone who is looking to brag. “Everyone always gets on me because my legs are small,” Bell added. “I was born with club feet, so it’s a little difficult for me to get my legs like my arms. I guess I just built over time. Everyone starting admiring them, so of course I started work them a little harder. It’s fun. Guys mess with me.”
That’s hard to believe. The Cardinals had another safety who treated his body as a temple — perhaps you remember Adrian Wilson? — and nobody was going to mess with him.
“When I was in Miami (with the Dolphins), the guys always used to get on me, saying I looked like a linebacker up top and a receiver down low,” Bell said, chuckling. “I told them it was good, because I’m from Kentucky. I asked them if they had ever seen a thoroughbred horse. A thoroughbred horse has little bitty legs and is big up top. I am a thoroughbred from Kentucky. That’s how I explain it to them.”
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Yeremiah Bell
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Some quick tidbits as I try to sneak in a day off (because I just can’t leave you hanging):
– As painful as the decision to move on with Adrian Wilson was for the Cardinals, obviously the team was not alone. The perfect story is for the star player to come in and play his entire career with one franchise. Wilson wanted to do that with the Cardinals. You know Ed Reed and Brian Urlacher wanted to do the same and yet, Reed is now a Texan and Urlacher is looking for work unsure what options might come about. Wilson is now a Patriot. It just drives home what happens in the NFL. Those Ray Lewis storybook endings just aren’t realistic.
– In case you missed it yesterday, reserve center/guard Rich Ohrnberger signed a one-year contract with the Chargers to reunite with Ken Whisenhunt, who is San Diego’s offensive coordinator.
– Josh Weinfuss did a good piece on Honey Badger and how Patrick Peterson has taken Tyrann Mathieu under his wing as Mathieu tries to re-start his football career in the NFL. It’s been said a few times, but Peterson’s maturity at such a young age is amazing.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Brian Urlacher, Ed Reed, Patrick Peterson, Patriots, Ray Lewis, Rich Ohrnberger, Tyrann Mathieu
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While the decision to move on from Adrian Wilson has created what will likely be only a bridge for the safety to eventually come back to the franchise in some capacity (even if it is mainly about going into the Ring of Honor), his new gig with the New England Patriots will bear watching given Wilson’s large fan base on this side of the NFL. How does Wilson — who signed a team-friendly contract with a $1 million salary in 2013 and a $1 million signing bonus — fit there? Well, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked about it — a couple of times — this morning. It wasn’t particularly illuminating.
The first attempt at asking about Wilson, Belichick — who was well known to have admired Ravens safety Ed Reed, for instance — was asked if he had similar thoughts on Wilson.
“He’s been very productive in the league,” Belichick said. “Look forward to working with him. We’ll see how it goes.” Asked about Wilson’s role, Belichick said, “I don’t know.”
Later, there was another attempt at getting some words about Wilson. Again, he mentioned Wilson was productive. Again, he was asked about his potential role.
“Whatever role he creates for himself with his performance and his production, same as everybody else,” Belichick said.
The best insight came from Belichick responding to the comparison of Wilson to former Pats safety Rodney Harrison, another guy who was let go (by the Chargers) but had a rebirth in New England.
“I understand the question,” Belichick said. ” I mean, Rodney Harrison’s one of the greatest players ever to play for the New England Patriots, one of the greatest players, I think, to play his position in the National Football League. Pretty high comparison. I’m not saying (Wilson) isn’t, but you’re talking about a great player (in Harrison).”
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bill Belichick, Rodney Harrison
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The Cardinals not only let Kevin Kolb go today, but they added a couple of defensive pieces needed: Defensive end Matt Shaughnessy, who provides depth behind Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell, and Antoine Cason, who will join Patrick Peterson and Jerraud Powers as the Cards’ top three cornerbacks in all probability.
Both men are coming in on one-year deals. As did Rashard Mendenhall and Yeremiah Bell earlier in the week. Bell isn’t a shock, because as an older veteran, he’s probably in a year-to-year status in his career. The rest just speaks to where we are in the NFL marketplace. Look around the league. There are a ton of one- and two-year deals being signed. The big money just isn’t there and it’s a buyer’s market. So Mendenhall, Shaughnessy and Cason will come in, hope to play well and then test out free agency again next offseason. The Cardinals get decent parts at the right price, with no hiccups to future salary caps if the players don’t work out.
Obviously, the downside is that if they play well, trying to re-sign them could get harder. But it’s a price the Cardinals will pay for flexibility.
I do think it’s going to get a little more quiet out there for the Cards. Owners’ meetings are at the beginning of next week. Are the Cards done? Maybe not. But it will be slow. Then again, there are still a lot of players out there looking for work and I think the money is drying up.
And no, I haven’t heard anything more on Josh Cribbs.
– On a separate note, Adrian Wilson signed with the Patriots on a three-year contract Friday, a not unexpected turn of events. Happy for Wilson, who will get his chance to chase a ring. Mike Jurecki, who broke the news, also said Wilson heard from 10 teams once he was released. Good luck to A-Dub. I’ll try not to call him Rodney (Harrison) the next time I see him.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Antoine Cason, free agency, Josh Cribbs, Matt Shaughnessy, Rashard Mendenhall, Yeremiah Bell
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A few kibbles and bits while we all wait for the Kevin Kolb decision to come down (and if you want to have a chuckle and are on Twitter, check out the hashtag #whilewaiting4jake, which Rams fans have come up with some pretty funny quips as they wonder why they haven’t heard about Jake Long signing there yet.)
– Some kind of Kolb decision will have to come by 1 p.m. Friday, which is 4 p.m. at the league office in New York and close of business until Monday. Kolb’s $2 million bonus is due over the weekend, which is why it has to happen now. As I’ve mentioned before, the arrival of Drew Stanton pointed to the release of Kolb. The roster numbers — figuring Hoyer, Stanton and a draft pick, not to mention either Lindley or Skelton, if not both — don’t work as much as Kolb’s $9 million salary. With so much salary cap space that can be saved (at least $7.5 million and as much as $11.5 million if Kolb is designated a “June 1″ cut) that’s the reality.
– The addition of inside linebacker Jasper Brinkley seems to fit perfectly with the Cardinals’ 3-4 scheme. He played well in Minnesota but the Cards should be able to drop him right next Daryl Washington. The book on Brinkley is that he is a two-down linebacker, but with Washington out there and assuming the Cards collect more defensive backs, Brinkley won’t be needed on passing downs anyway.
– Adrian Wilson is making his first free agent visit to the Patriots. I won’t be surprised if that’s where he lands. The Patriots have done a similar move in the past, in 2003 with Rodney Harrison. That worked out pretty good for New England. If anyone would know how to get the best out of Wilson 12 years in, it’d be Bill Belichick.
– Didn’t hear one thing about Josh Cribbs today. Because I know someone will want to ask.
– Kerry Rhodes, released Wednesday, released a statement Thursday saying goodbye. “Playing with the Cardinals has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. I want to thank my coaches, teammates and Arizona fans everywhere for making the last three years truly remarkable. Change is always exciting and I’m optimistic about what the future holds. Wherever I go or whatever I do, I look forward to working hard and giving 110%, as always.”
– The Cardinals hosted free agent cornerback Antoine Cason Thursday and reportedly will host defensive end Matt Shaughnessy of the Raiders tomorrow. I don’t think the Cards are done in free agency yet. Shaughnessy is in demand.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Antoine Cason, free agency, Jasper Brinkley, Josh Cribbs, Kerry Rhodes, Kevin Kolb, Matt Shaughnessy
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In February, general manager Steve Keim was talking about what he wanted to accomplish in his new job. One of them had to do with a big picture view of free agency and the draft in tandem.
“I wanted to spend more time forecasting, as in taking a deeper look at the free agency market and the depth at each position as opposed to the draft at each position and have a little more calculated plan as far as how we approach those from an evaluation standpoint,” Keim said. “We’d weigh that against the financial part of it.”
It sounds reasonable and sound, and it also could give some insight into how this free agent period is playing out for the Cardinals.
Two of the positions considered the deepest in this draft? Offensive line and safety. Those are positions that might not be fully addressed until draft time. So the lack of free agent chase for a lineman, or the decision to release both Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes and sign only Yeremiah Bell could very well just be playing into Keim’s big-picture view. Again, I could see Bell being this year’s starter, and I can see him being this year’s James Sanders. (Heck, for the $840,000 he is reportedly getting, and a $65,000 signing bonus, he could eventually be this year’s Keith Lewis, a veteran safety signed in 2009 who ended up being cut at the end of camp when it was all said and done.)
I do expect more free agent signings. At what position, we will see, but there are reasons to think the Cards will wait at certain positions.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, free agency, Keith Lewis, Kerry Rhodes, offensive line, Steve Keim, Yeremiah Bell
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The end really wasn’t a surprise, with the way things were going. From the time Steve Keim said to me back in February that “you have to put personal feelings aside, and you have to do what’s best for the organization” when it came to the roster, it was impossible not to think about Adrian Wilson first.
And it’s hard not to think how weird it will be without Wilson around. I mean, we’re talking about someone who came to Arizona when Jake Plummer was still the quarterback. Before Emmitt Smith even dreamed about swapping his Cowboy blue for Cardinal red. Before Larry Fitzgerald was even playing for the University of Pittsburgh, much less the Cards. He was there through the too many lows and then was the soul of that magical 2008 postseason.
Wilson — who wore No. 22 that first season in the old Cards unis that weren’t changed until A-Dub was going into his fifth season — was the definition of the raw talent coming out of college. He was ticked he lasted until the third round and it fueled him. It also seemed like the Wilson story every year those first three years was about “Wilson is about to make the jump” and he didn’t quite get there. But then Wilson blossomed, learned the league, and became a giant pain in the rear for offenses.
He was linked to Pat Tillman in his early days. He was drafted to replace Tillman, and had Tillman re-signed with the Cards instead of joining the Army back in 2002, Wilson would have surpassed him on the depth chart. As the years passed, in my time first as a newspaper reporter and then once I came on board with the team, I was able to learn more of what made A-Dub tick.
He was remarkably blunt. He could lean glass half-empty, but he was driven by the idea he could lead this franchise out of the doldrums. He did, and the scene of Dub, amidst the chaos right after the NFC Championship, emotional and in near daze, sticks with me to this day. I remember how giddy he was when he made his first Pro Bowl, and how, after promising a then-young media relations man Chris Melvin he’d pay for him to go to Hawaii too if he got there, Wilson did just that. Sometimes it seemed he wasn’t happy about people who criticized him, yet he often criticized himself without prompting. And the man can hit — ask Todd Heap or Trent Edwards.
(The Edwards hit in 2008, which knocked Edwards out of the game, was one of just six plays Wilson played because of a bad hamstring. I’ve never seen a player affect a game so greatly in such little playing time.)
Oh, the man could make you jump through hoops. The man could be intimidating and he knew it, even for someone like me who knew him so well. Sometimes he’d be tough to read, and in difficult times, you never knew if you might be stepping on a land mine in an interview. There were plenty of times the look he gave wasn’t a good one when I asked for a moment — and then he’d break into a smile, unable to keep up the ruse.
Mostly though, I remember a player who so desperately wanted to be a Cardinal for life. It’s why he took a big pay cut last season and why he wasn’t going to rock the boat last season when he lost playing time — and make no mistake, Wilson was disappointed that happened. Today’s move just underscores how way more often than not, a team’s plan and a player’s plan don’t mesh. The Cards would have loved to have Wilson retire a Cardinal. But if it wasn’t going to happen now, and Wilson plans to keep playing, they were going to do what they felt they needed to do today. It happens. It doesn’t make it any easier. I know a lot of fans are upset today — some are even angry — but this is what happens in this league. It had to be an incredibly difficult phone call for Keim. There was no one closer to Wilson in the organization.
Last summer, Wilson said he could see himself working for the organization in some capacity when his career was over. That’s not yet, but I can totally see that possibility. I can see too — and no one has said anything, but I can speculate — Wilson one day signing one of those ceremonial contracts to retire as a Cardinal.
I could write 10,000 words about 12 years with A-Dub. Safe to say I’ll miss the guy. The Cardinals will too.
Tags: Adrian Wilson
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