While the reports are out there that VP of player personnel Steve Keim is negotiating to become the next Cardinals’ general manager, the next GM — whether it was going to be Keim or someone else — will have some work to do.
According to figures reported by John Clayton, the Cards are currently set to come in around $720,000 above the 2013 salary cap. That means at the very least there will be some restructuring to do. To have any flexibility for free agents or the like will take some paperwork. That’s why, beyond Kevin Kolb’s injuries, it will be important to try and restructure his deal (his cap number is around $13 million this coming season), or extend safety Kerry Rhodes ($6M), or make a call on linebacker Stewart Bradley ($6.5M). The cap numbers of Larry Fitzgerald (more than $10M), Darnell Dockett ($7.7M) and Adrian Wilson (more than $5M) also could be looked at in some way, shape or form.
Cap space can be found quickly if necessary, and it doesn’t have to be at the cost of losing a player outright, necessarily. Sometimes it just is a matter of shifting contract language. But there is little question there is work to be done.
Most cap space to come, according to Clayton? The Bengals, with more than $55 million. The least? The Jets, at more than $19M on the negative side.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bengals, Darnell Dockett, Jets, Kerry Rhodes, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald, salary cap, Stewart Bradley
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The combination of a 5-11 record and change with both the general manager and head coach usually leads to one thing: Roster turnover. Of course, none of that happens until the new GM and head coach are in place, and that isn’t happening tomorrow.
(Reiterating from Michael Bidwill on Monday: “It’s not going to move at lightning speed. You don’t want it to, because you learn a lot during your due diligence period.” Remember that concept.)
In the meantime, there are things to speculate upon. With that, here is my annual overview of the roster and where players stand contract-wise heading into the offseason. Free agency begins at 2 p.m. Arizona time on March 12. Until then, the Cardinals have the ability to re-sign any of their own players set to hit the market. With the shift in giving all draft picks at least four-year contracts, the shrinking of the restricted free agent market continues; the only RFA the Cards have is linebacker Brandon Williams, who was so far off the radar after being waived-injured back after training camp that he didn’t appear on the roster.
There are some key decisions to make:
– In terms of unrestricted free agents, it seems probable that all of them would choose to at least reach the market. At this point, there is probably nothing to lose, and would want to see their market value. The Cardinals need to figure out whether they want to lock down these guys. Of the 13 unrestricted guys on the market, the most intriguing include safety Rashad Johnson (given the looming decision on Adrian Wilson), linebacker Quentin Groves, running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, linebacker Paris Lenon and cornerback Greg Toler. I would not be shocked, especially with roster change, to see any of them leave. Lenon’s age works against him. Johnson’s future may be tied to whomever is coach.
– Of the players under contract, money may dictate change. We’ve covered QB Kevin Kolb’s situation plenty, but that will have to be figured out. I think the Cardinals would like to extend safety Kerry Rhodes, who has one more season, but he’s also due a $4.5 million salary and a $1 million reporting bonus next year and that might be too pricey for the team. I’d think they’d want to extend Rhodes and restructure the deal. He may end up in a Wilson situation from camp. Speaking of Wilson, does the team bring him back for a 13th season? That too may depend on the new decision-makers. Wilson is due a roster bonus in March so we may know soon. Curious to know what the Cards do with running back Beanie Wells, if anything.
Lots of questions like that. Obviously I’ve barely touched on most of them. It’s difficult to get too much of a read on them until those making the choices are in place. I think there are going to be plenty of comings and goings, and it won’t just be relegated to the coaching and GM searches.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Beanie Wells, Brandon Williams, Greg Toler, Kerry Rhodes, Kevin Kolb, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Michael Bidwill, Paris Lenon, Quentin Groves, Rashad Johnson
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Larry Fitzgerald has done en excellent job managing whatever frustrations he might have during this season with the Cardinals. Anyone who has been around him the last few years can’t be surprised.
“I keep everything in perspective,” Fitzgerald said. “At the end of the day, I’m living a dream. I have an NFL jersey on, an Arizona Cardinals jersey, only 1,500 men around the world that can say they are playing in this league. That’s an exclusive group. It doesn’t feel good to fall short of your goals but we still have one more game against a really good opponent. It’ll be a test of our resolve.”
As usual, Fitz was asked team-wide-type questions about change and, specifically, about whether he wanted to see quarterback Kevin Kolb return. Fitzgerald handled them with his usual grace.
“You’re asking me questions above my pay grade,” Fitzgerald said. “I saw (president) Michael Bidwill, I saw (VP of player personnel) Steve Keim, I saw (general manager) Rod Graves, those guys might have some answers for you. Those are the decision-makers. I’m just a number.”
Fitz mentioned that he has a personal relationship with all his teammates and he’d like to bring them all back. He clearly didn’t want to get into such a discussion.
“I don’t like to play the GM game,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s not my role.”
(I know there are thoughts out there that Fitzgerald has some kind of sway when it comes to some decisions, but that is overblown. The Cards aren’t making decisions based on Fitz’s desires. Nor should they.)
One thing Fitz does understand — as do most players — is that change comes every offseason, and when a team struggles as much as the Cardinals have, it usually leads to more change than usual.
“Unfortunately that’s the nature of our business,” Fitzgerald said. “(There is) 30 percent turnover every year across the league, from draft to trades to cuts to guys retiring. It’s part of our game. I look around the locker room and see Adrian (Wilson) and Darnell (Dockett) and that’s about it being around as long as I have been.”
There was a funny moment as someone tried to delve into Fitzgerald’s thoughts about a 5-10 record. After Fitz said his role wasn’t as GM, it was asked, “But you want to win?”
“I definitely want to win, no question,” Fitzgerald said, which drew the response of “But that hasn’t been happening.”
Fitzgerald looked up and couldn’t help but smile. It was like a grooved fastball for Fitzgerald to hammer out of the park. “That hasn’t been happening. You’re right. Did you have an epiphany today with that?”
Fitzgerald chuckled as he delivered the line, and so did everyone in the group.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Bidwill, Rod Graves, Steve Keim
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One more to go. No more at home. And as I write this the 49ers-Seahawks game is on in the background, and the Seahawks continue to look like the real deal –while the Niners are, one way or the other, going to need that game next week against the Cardinals. Once there was thought it could be about resting. Not anymore. That’s going to make it even more of a difficult finale for the Cards.
Who will coach Ken Whisenhunt go with at quarterback? My money is on Brian Hoyer but since it’s not really my money, who knows. I thought Hoyer looked decent and surprisingly comfortable out there, although he didn’t produce any points and still threw an interception. No one is sitting there saying he’s the answer and the likelihood he’s a long-term solution is small, but again, it’s about looking at every option because, well, why wouldn’t you?
– Seems like forever ago the Cards last blocked a field goal, and then Adrian Wilson got one that Justin Bethel turned into points (below). Fitting that it came at the end of Wilson’s game, which could be his final one at UoP? Well, Wilson wasn’t in the mood to go there. Not really.
Wilson was asked about that final game. “I haven’t thought about it one bit, until (the media) continuously bring it up,” Wilson said. “If they make a decision, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be pretty quick. If they don’t, OK. Either way I go, I’m a good player. We’ll see what happens.”
– Whisenhunt noted that the pick-6s are really hurting the Cards. After Sunday’s TD by the Bears’ Charles Tillman, the Cards have given up five of them this season – way too many. As for trying to find a QB, “it’s not fun, but we keep working at it,” Whisenhunt said.
– The relationship between Whiz and running back Beanie Wells probably wasn’t helped by Beanie’s fumble on his own 1-yard line, which was recovered by the Bears for a touchdown. Beanie slipped – that happens – but he dropped the ball as he slipped without being hit. He got a talking-to by Whisenhunt afterward.
Whiz said he couldn’t explain it. “From what I saw, obviously you can’t put the ball on the ground, especially not there,” Whisenhunt said. Beanie said he didn’t get hurt on the play, and as for what Whiz told him, “It is what it is,” Wells said. “Who knows how it’s going to turn out from here.”
– How it turned out Sunday was that Wells got exactly one more carry the rest of the game as the Cards instead used LaRod Stephens-Howling and William Powell at running back. Beanie noted that everyone on the Cards is “fighting for jobs, whether it’s going to be here or somewhere else.” Wells is under contract for 2013 and with a lot of uncertainty (Ryan Williams health, Stephens-Howling free agency) the Cards wouldn’t just let him go even if they wanted to make a change. But it’s fair to wonder about Wells’ future.
– Given the Cards’ offense, I really didn’t have an issue trying a fake punt. Not sure I’d be comfortable with Feely rolling left, but really, with that offense, you aren’t expecting many points. Field goals weren’t going to do it.
– I know ultimately it came too little too late, but it was nice to see Fitz get more than 100 yards, and it was nice to see some accurate passes thrown in his direction.
– Dave Zastudil, current NFL record holder. Can he hold on to his two-punts-downed-inside-the-20 lead over Kansas City’s Dustin Colquitt and keep that record? Who says there won’t be Week 17 suspense?
OK. A normal Monday coming up, even if it is Christmas Eve. We’ll be working it, and then enjoying the holiday. Hope you all do too. One more to go in the 2012 season.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Beanie Wells, Bears, Brian Hoyer, Charles Tillman, Dave Zastudil, Justin Bethel, Ken Whisenhunt, LaRod Stephens-Howling, William Powell
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Brian Hoyer is active as the backup quarterback today with John Skelton inactive against the Bears. Ryan Lindley starts, but Hoyer will be available if coach Ken Whisenhunt wants to play him. It’s not a surprise, but for Skelton to open the season as starter and now be inactive with Kevin Kolb also out is an amazing journey.
Safety Rashad Johnson (hamstring) will sit out, meaning Adrian Wilson could get extended time beyond his play in the base defense, although James Sanders is available. This, again, could end up being Wilson’s final home game with the Cards depending on what the Cards do with him this offseason.
– G Senio Kelemete
– OL Mike Gibson (calf)
– TE Kory Sperry
– WR Early Doucet (concussion)
– DE Ronald Talley (ankle)
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Brian Hoyer, Early Doucet, inactives, James Sanders, John Skelton, Kory Sperry, Mike Gibson, Rashad Johnson, Ronald Talley, Senio Kelemete
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Here’s one benefit of playing the Lions and Bears in back-to-back weeks: The blueprint was already there for the defense, after covering Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, to deal with the Bears’ Brandon Marshall. Johnson has been a beast this season, no question, but Marshall has been fairly beastly himself, with 107 catches, 1,398 yards and 10 touchdowns already himself.
Now, that doesn’t mean the Cards will necessarily give Marshall the “vice” look they gave Johnson at times last week – when Johnson was in the slot, safety Kerry Rhodes and cornerback William Gay would basically double-team him at the line, like Johnson was a gunner on punt coverage. But who knows? We could see it again. It’ll be fun to watch this defense regardless, against a struggling offensive line and against a quarterback who has shown he can be harassed into bad decisions.
– We do know we’ll see Patrick Peterson on Marshall , as Peterson keeps making his late-season push. I don’t think he’s getting double-digit picks, but he’s closer than I thought he’d get earlier in the season. He also talked a little this week about his confidence which is obvious.
“All the good corners have confidence in their ability to go out and make plays for their team,” Peterson said. “I believe the confidence started in high school. It was something my Dad always instilled in me growing up – ‘Always be confident in your ability, confident in what you are doing at all times.’ Not cocky. There is definitely a difference.
“I’m not a guy who’s going to go out and boast and brag about my ability, but if I feel like I am doing something better than another guy or doing something at the top level, I’ll definitely let you guys know.”
Peterson added, in a question about whether he was the best in the game, “I believe I am playing at a top level right now.”
– Both Rashad Johnson (hamstring) and James Sanders (calf) returned to practice on a limited basis Friday for the first time this week. Both are questionable. I would guess at least one will play Sunday, if not both, but starter Adrian Wilson could get more playing time, defensive coordinator Ray Horton said.
“There’s never been a question of Adrian’s ability,” said Horton, although Wilson has lost snaps since the bye. Horton said Friday part of the reason for that was to reward the good play of Johnson and Sanders.
Nevertheless, Wilson understands – as do many – there is a chance this could be Wilson’s final home game Sunday, with his future with the team murky right now. Horton was asked about calling the blitz last weekend that got Wilson the sack he needed to reach the 25-25 club.
“I was aware of where he was in the (historical rankings) in the league and it was a perfect opportunity to do it,” Horton said. “It was kind of called for him.”
– If the Cardinals win Sunday, it will be Ken Whisenhunt’s 50th victory as Cardinals’ head coach including playoffs.
– Given the problems with the Bears’ offensive line and the way the 49ers play offense, this might be the week linebacker Daryl Washington wants to get that elusive 10th sack of the season. Time is running out for him to his double-digits.
– Nothing official, but yes, I expect the roof open Sunday.
– Don’t know what’s going to happen with quarterback Brian Hoyer. I still think he ends up active in one of the final two games, if not both. Does that mean he plays? Not necessarily. Whisenhunt made it plain he wouldn’t change things up and jeopardize winning just to look at Hoyer, so my guess would be if a game got out of hand, then he might be willing to test-drive the new guy. But again, he’s got to be active for that to happen. Which likely means John Skelton would be made inactive.
– While Sunday’s game doesn’t kick off until 2:25 p.m., the plaza at University of Phoenix Stadium will open early, at 10:45 a.m., so fans can get through screening. The stadium still does not open until 90 minutes prior to kickoff for non-premium seat holders, but food and beverage options will be available on the plaza, in addition to entertainment at Gate 2. Anyone with food or beverage purchased on the plaza can bring it into the stadium when the doors open.
We come to the end of another home schedule. Seems like we were just showing up for that Seahawks game in early September. Back then, Ryan Williams, Kevin Kolb and Lyle Sendlein were still around (playing, I mean) and so were hopes for the season. Now the Cards just want to finish above .500 at UoP.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bears, Brandon Marshall, Brian Hoyer, Calvin Johnson, Daryl Washington, James Sanders, John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, Kerry Rhodes, Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, William Gay
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Hard to believe this Sunday will be the first time since 2006 that the Bears have visited University of Phoenix Stadium.
“You know, I’m getting up in age … it’s hard for me to remember some things,” Bears coach Lovie Smith deadpanned, “but I do remember we came back and were able to win a big game out there.”
We won’t go over every detail — especially since I’ve done it before — but needless to say, that evening lives in infamy, at least around here. The defense dominated, and while the offense made crucial turnovers, everything that could go exactly wrong did for the Cards on a night where that was the only way the Bears were going to win.
The team coming in this year is in a much different place. That 2006 Bears team was 5-0 and later appeared in the Super Bowl. This year’s squad was 7-1 and is now 8-6, scrambling to make the playoffs and possibly save Smith’s job. The Cards, meanwhile, have just three players left on the roster from that long-ago evening: Larry Fitzgerald, Darnell Dockett and Adrian Wilson (pictured here emoting against the Bears during the better part of that night.)
UPDATE: Here’s some Fitz — who was inactive that night and didn’t play — on the subject: “I remember everything about it. That was a rough one. We had ‘em.” Someone said “Were they who you thought they were?” Fitz smiled. “I’m not going to touch that. You know I love Denny Green. I’m not going to touch that.”
(An aside — the Cards started in a four-receiver set that night: Anquan Boldin, Bryant Johnson, Troy Walters and Carlyle Holiday.)
Times change. The Cards are a lot different than even the last time these teams met, a 41-21 Cardinals’ thrashing of the Bears in Chicago in 2009 when Kurt Warner sliced-and-diced Smith’s Cover 2. Now, we’re talking about Wilson’s future now, and even if the Bears make the postseason I don’t think anyone is expecting them to topple the NFC’s best and make it to another Super Bowl.
And I’m guessing, regardless of what happens, we won’t see a Ken Whisenhunt version of this, either.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bears, Darnell Dockett, Larry Fitzgerald, Lovie Smith
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We’ve covered this before, but seriously, the interceptions keep piling up for the Cardinals. They now lead the NFL with 22 interceptions, one more than the team that comes in to visit University of Phoenix Stadium this weekend, the Chicago Bears. (The Cards, with 32 total takeaways, are fourth in the league in that department, with Chicago’s 37 topping the list.) Remember this team had only 10 interceptions all of last season.
And in all honesty, the Cardinals could have more this year. There was the one Adrian Wilson couldn’t quite hold on to against the Dolphins this year (although that would have been a spectacular effort and it certainly wouldn’t be considered a drop), and I can think of at least three that I remember in the hands of William Gay that he couldn’t quite snare. That’s just off the top of my head. Patrick Peterson gets the headlines with his seven, and deservedly so. But Kerry Rhodes has four, Gay, Rashad Johnson and Greg Toler two each.
“I wish we could lead the league in a number of different categories,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said Monday. “Maybe that would help us be a little bit better record-wise.”
They even punctuated this weekend’s trio with 186 return yards, the fifth-most interception return yards for an NFL team since 1970 and 66 more yards than the Cards had totaled on their first 19 picks of the season. The interceptions are a big reason the Cardinals are tops in the NFL when it comes to passer rating-against (68.0) and third in the NFL in completion percentage-against with 54.5.
“When you have 22, obviously it’s not going to be one guy or otherwise he’d be defensive MVP,” Whisenhunt said. “You’ve got a number of different guys that are making those kinds of plays.
“You think about the interceptions Patrick has had, some of those acrobatic ones down the field and even (Sunday’s) was another one like that. Our guys believe in what they are doing and they’re playing hard, and it’s nice to see them making some plays.”
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Greg Toler, Ken Whisenhunt, Kerry Rhodes, Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, William Gay
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Adrian Wilson was one of the players from the very first Cardinals’ draft class I covered from draft day on (I began chronicling the Cards right before training camp the year before). I’ve known him his whole NFL career. It made me smile Sunday when, as he began to cry during his press conference – not waterworks, mind you, but clearly tearing up – and said “Believe it or not, I’m a very emotional person.”
Maybe those who see him from afar only on the field might think that, might think he’s one of those stereotypical players who crush opponents for a living without feeling. Anyone who has been around him at all knows he’s the ultimate emotional guy. It’s always on his sleeve. Sometimes he may not want to talk about whatever publicly (and even then, the message is sent) but you never once are doubting what kind of mood he is in.
Those tears Sunday represented relief and sadness at once. His lost playing time has been hard on him, and that caught up to him after notching his sack Sunday that made him the sixth member of the 25-25 club (Wilson has 27 interceptions and 25½ sacks). His NFL mortality crawls closer, and he knows what that means. But it was also about the weight lifted off the shoulders of a team burdened by a nine-game losing streak. The game in Seattle was a bomb dropped on a team and a defense that was already reeling. The Cards recovered nicely Sunday.
And it wasn’t a surprise to see A-Dub a little overwhelmed because of it.
– Calais Campbell was a monster against the Lions, and believe it or not, he said he’s still not 100 percent. It just shows how much he means to this defense when he is playing well, and how well he fits into this scheme. After everything that has happened the last couple of weeks, it was noticeable that, when asked about Campbell’s dominance, coach Ken Whisenhunt also said Darnell Dockett played well too.
– Patrick Peterson got his shot at Calvin Johnson and did very well. Johnson got his numbers but Peterson’s one interception was a bigger play than anything Johnson did and of course, Peterson got the win.
– Yes, the Cardinals “hurt” their draft status with a win. But please, spare me the “they can’t even lose right” comments. They are in this to win games. It’s one of the reasons I have no desire to get into draft talk until the season is over. Let’s see where everything settles, and then we can discuss what players might be available, etc.
– It’s not why the Pick-6s happened, but noteworthy that both players who returned interceptions for touchdowns Sunday – cornerback Greg Toler and safety Rashad Johnson (below) – are going to be unrestricted free agents after the season. The Cardinals have to make a decision on whether they want to bring either back.
– Easily the hardest I’ve seen Beanie Wells run this season, and that’s not a knock on effort but a note on health. He had a couple runs where he just moved the pile. His per-carry average wasn’t great (3.9) but he scored three touchdowns and again, gained yards in short-yardage situations.
– Punter Dave Zastudil, who has been a workhorse because of the offensive struggles this season, has been fantastic this year. He set a team record Sunday with six punts downed inside the 20-yard line.
– Ryan Lindley really didn’t play that much different than he had previous. He had 104 yards passing, and after an early bad interception, he didn’t turn the ball over. The reshuffled offensive line kept him upright (one sack). He didn’t do anything to make you think he’s the QB of the future, but he didn’t do anything to make you think he won’t start against the Bears next week.
– Fitz did get four catches after just six in the previous four games. It was just for 22 yards, but baby steps. Besides, Fitz was happy. “Christmas came early here in the desert,” Fitz said. “Santa made a delivery at University of Phoenix Stadium and we are all happy with the gift we received. It’s incomprehensible what we’ve been going through the last couple of weeks. Nine weeks in a row to not come out with a win, it feels good to be back home and get a win.”
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Beanie Wells, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Dave Zastudil, Larry Fitzgerald, Lions, Patrick Peterson, Ryan Lindley
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As the future of the Cardinals and possible change became the top topic as the season heads toward its finish, it’s interesting that two of the team’s long-time stars also have their futures as topics. What happens with Darnell Dockett and Adrian Wilson, however, is far from determined.
With Wilson, it’s been a tough season. It started with a restructuring of his contract, which Wilson accepted because it is was so important to remain part of the Cardinals. Wilson talked about his legacy, and has never made any bones about his desire to play his entire career with the Cardinals. Then, during the bye, defensive coordinator Ray Horton restructured his lineup, taking Wilson out of packages that weren’t the base defense. Wilson still plays the majority of the time, but his playing time has definitely been cut — which, not surprisingly, hasn’t thrilled him.
He acknowledged to Kent Somers after the Seattle game the change and the Cards’ struggles “definitely makes me ponder about my future.” Could Wilson, who is still under contract through 2015, be gone after the season? The Cardinals might be willing to move on from the 33-year-old safety. But the men playing instead of Wilson on certain downs, Rashad Johnson and James Sanders, are both unrestricted free agents after the season. And Wilson is still playing most of the time. I don’t think, from my perspective, it is cut and dried.
The same goes for Dockett, who is in a different position. Dockett matter of factly talked to the media Monday, answering some direct questions after being benched from the starting lineup in Seattle and being fined for the previous week’s incident in New York. It wasn’t hard to figure out Dockett isn’t thrilled with how that turned out, and was asked if he saw himself playing in Arizona next season.
“I don’t know. I don’t know,” Dockett said. “I can only speak for myself. I am a hell of a competitor, I love what I do, I take what I do serious, I hold a lot of guys accountable, and if whatever situation comes my way, I will be prepared for it.”
Dockett, like Wilson, is under contract through 2015. It’s not like he is a free agent. And there is a lot that needs to first be sorted — again, if there is any coach or front office change — before player moves could even begin. Dockett did make clear he was going to keep playing hard — for DC Ray Horton and his teammates, Dockett said. I don’t see Wilson doing anything other than that either. Answers aren’t coming for a few months. It’ll be something to watch in the offseason.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett
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