One of the things that frustrates Bruce Arians is the inability to talk football with players during certain parts of the offseason. It’s reality, though, under the current collective bargaining agreement. Today, those shackles come off.
The players have returned to begin Phase I of the offseason work. (It’s voluntary, don’t forget, although one player here was Patrick Peterson, as you can see below.) The big part of that is the strength and conditioning program, but it also includes meetings. Players can be around for four hours total (90 minutes on the field) so Arians and his coaches can finally start discussing the playbook. The new free agents can start getting the information about their duties. New defensive coordinator James Bettcher can start explaining his system and its tweaks from what Todd Bowles did.
The 2015 is here.
— The full NFL schedule will be released at 5 p.m. Arizona time on Tuesday.
— Meanwhile, the return of the players isn’t the biggest news of the day here at the team facility. There is a 1 p.m. press conference with Adrian Wilson, team president Michael Bidwill and GM Steve Keim. No official word on what it’s about.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bruce Arians, James Bettcher, NFL schedule, offseason
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Back in 2008, Bertrand Berry was asked to take a pay cut to remain with the Cardinals. He decided to do so. In 2012, Adrian Wilson was asked to take a pay cut to remain with the Cardinals. He did so (and that didn’t save him from being released after the season.) The only leverage either player had was to say, “I’ll leave” if they didn’t like the offer. It’s not ideal, but it was reality.
That’s where we are with Larry Fitzgerald and the Cardinals. This is not a surprise, not with a $23.6 million salary cap number, an actual payout of a scheduled $8M salary and another $8M roster bonus due in about a month. Not with the Cardinals, even with a carryover of $4.2M from last year’s cap to tag on to a projected $140M salary cap for 2015, around $11M over the cap at this point (according to ESPN) and needing to get to at least even by March 10. Regardless of specific numbers, the Cards need to slice some cap money.
Again, none of this is new.
I’ll be honest – I listened to Michael Bidwill’s interview Wednesday morning on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 and nothing stood out. When he talked about bringing Fitzgerald back and working out a contract, it was the things you’d expect to hear.
At one point, Bidwill did say “it takes two” to reach a deal. That raised eyebrows. But should it? At some point, the Cardinals and General Manager Steve Keim were going to want to harness the salary cap, and that was going to start with Fitz’s current deal. I thought for a while that might come last offseason, but instead, the Cards — and Fitz — kicked the can down the road a season with a simple restructure to buy cap space. We have come to the rip-the-band-aid-clean-off stage of this thing.
There are 10 wide receivers right now averaging at least $9M on their contracts. Only three — Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson and maybe Vincent Jackson, given all the Buccaneers’ cap space — aren’t serious candidates to renegotiate/restructure/get released this offseason (and Johnson, as good as he is, is headed that way in the next year or two himself, given his cap numbers.) Fitzgerald’s situation, especially at his position, is not unique.
Like Berry, like Wilson, the ball will be in Fitz’s court, basically. Yes, there are salary numbers to figure out — as always — but the Cards aren’t going to change their thought process. Carson Palmer was asked to do something similar in Oakland; he declined and was traded to Arizona. Maybe that’s what Fitz will want to do. Maybe a new deal will work for him, and maybe the other benefits of being in Arizona on a personal level make it worth an agreement. Maybe a different opportunity is more intriguing, or maybe the numbers just won’t be good enough, and Fitz uses what leverage he has. But there are really no new angles that can come out on this thing. It’s not hard to analyze.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bertrand Berry, Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Bidwill, Steve Keim
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Running back Andre Ellington is active tonight against the Chargers, which is a big deal for the Cardinals. Andre, as you see in the tweet below, forecasted the good news. We’ll see if he is limited or if he’s able to be a full part of the offense. Also active is punter Dave Zastudil, which means the Cardinals will have two active punters tonight. Zastudil could end up just holding on place kicks.
Of the inactives, one surprise is rookie defensive end Kareem Martin. The arrival of new defensive linemen Tommy Kelly and the waiver pickup of former Charger pass rusher Thomas Keiser, both of whom are playing, has impacted Martin’s situation.
One guy that is not a surprise to be sitting is safety Tyrann Mathieu, whose debut remains up in the air as he comes back from knee surgery. Aside from Martin and Mathieu, the inactive list:
— QB Logan Thomas
— LB Glenn Carson
— LB Alex Okafor (thigh)
— G Earl Watford
— TE Darren Fells
That leaves the Cardinals with three active tight ends too.
As a quick aside, not only is Kurt Warner going into the Ring of Honor at halftime, but the Cardinals have another former player cranking the “Big Red Siren” as kickoff approaches: Adrian Wilson, who was a practice visitor earlier this week.
I thank God for these blessings!
— Andre Ellington (@AEllington38) September 9, 2014
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Andre Ellington, Chargers, inactives, Tyrann Mathieu
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Before anyone takes this out of context, when veteran safety and ex-Cardinal Adrian Wilson came to visit practice today, it was just that — a visit. It wasn’t a tryout. Wilson wasn’t working out for General Manager Steve Keim but conversing with him, wearing — as A-Dub often does — a trendy outfit and carrying what looked to be a notebook and pen. He and Keim go way back, with both North Carolina State products and Keim the one who scouted Wilson and pushed for his selection in the 2001 draft.
I only got to talk to Wilson briefly, and he said he was doing well. There was no talk of football per se, or his recent release by the Bears. He, as you can see in the picture below, still very much looks the part. (One young Cardinal saw him from afar and noted, “I thought he’d look older than he does.” Take it as a compliment, Adrian.)
I’m not sure of the drop-by, but it isn’t surprising. Someday, Wilson will be going into the team’s Ring of Honor. That’s been known since it was put in the official press release the day Wilson was released. I am one of many who thinks that, whenever Wilson decides to retire, he could very well sign a one-day contract with the Cardinals to end it with this franchise. And I would not be surprised to see Wilson end up with some kind of role within the organization at some point. I think the organization thinks that much of Wilson, and I think Wilson thinks that much of this organization.
— The Cardinals had a another mini-practice Wednesday. With a Monday game, the real “week” of practice starts Thursday, with pads and hitting. That’s the day safety Tyrann Mathieu will give hitting a try.
— Arians said new defensive lineman Tommy Kelly is picking up the defense just fine — “Defensive line, the playbook isn’t real deep,” Arians quipped — and it looks like Kelly should slide in just fine into the defensive rotation.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Steve Keim, Tommy Kelly, Tyrann Mathieu
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It’s been a quick start to the news of the day, with the Cardinals releasing veteran linebacker Ernie Sims — whose last act as a Cardinal was intercepting a Drew Stanton pass during a drive drill at the end of practice Tuesday that deflected high in the air (picture below). It isn’t that surprising. If you have a veteran who doesn’t really have a chance of making the team — and Sims clearly wasn’t going to surpass Kevin Minter, Lorenzo Alexander, Larry Foote or Kenny Demens at inside linebacker at this point — you’d rather move on and not expose him to injury in a game that could cause an IR trip and/or a drain on the salary cap.
The Cardinals now have two open roster spots, after dropping Sims and the retirement of tight end Jake Ballard. We’ll see how those get filled. I assume they will be filled.
— Came across this article about Adrian Wilson in Chicago last night. Made me chuckle. A interview that lasted less than two minutes? An icy glare? Dismissing a question? Been there, done that with Dub. Plus, there’s a picture of him sporting jersey No. 44. My favorite part of the transcript:
“On whether he feels any differently at this point in training camp than he has in Pro Bowl seasons, health-wise:
(Wilson appeared annoyed. He ignored this question and turned to another reporter.)”
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Ernie Sims
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Many have asked me this offseason if Adrian Wilson was going to possibly re-sign with the Cardinals. He was not going to come back here, but I mentioned a couple of times he was not done playing and was still trying to find a job. Now, he has one. The Chicago Bears signed Wilson Monday. Wilson has tweeted a few times about his rehab from Achilles surgery and generally his prep for playing again in 2014. He hasn’t played in a game since doing it with the Cardinals at the end of the 2012 season, when his stint with the Patriots last season was cut short when he was hurt in the preseason finale.
I’ve been told Wilson is in fantastic shape (as usual — who would doubt him there?) and we will see if he can nail down a roster spot in Chicago. Last year’s starter at strong safety, Major Wright, went to the Buccaneers in free agency. They drafted Brock Vereen in the fourth round, although he’s more of a free safety. Veterans Chris Conte, M.D. Jennings and Ryan Mundy are also in the mix. It’s hard to know exactly where Wilson stands. Signing this late, he won’t get on the field with the Bears until training camp opens. Last season, Patriots observers believed Wilson was on the bubble to make the team before his injury.
But Wilson will get his chance, which is all that he ever wanted. At some point, the end will come (and he will go into the Cardinals’ Ring of Honor) but that’s on hold. Wilson didn’t want his career to end yet, he certainly didn’t want it to end after a season-long injury, and now, it doesn’t have to. (Too bad the Bears are not on the Cardinals’ schedule this year.)
So, do the Bears remember this classic A-Dub primal scream?
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bears
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The timing made all kinds of sense for the Cardinals to put Kurt Warner in the Ring of Honor this season. There is a high-profile “Monday Night Football” game in which to do the ceremony (if you have forgotten, Aeneas Williams also went in at halftime of an MNF game) and this is the first year Warner is eligible to be voted into the Hall of Fame — which would happen in downtown Phoenix the day before the Super Bowl here in Arizona, if it were to happen. In a lot of ways Warner was a supernova in Arizona considering he played just five seasons (and barely played in one of those, 2006, when Matt Leinart was trying to make his way in the league.) It was an incredible run though (as this timeline and this top 10 list of his best games says more tangibly.)
So who is next?
We already know Adrian Wilson will get there. Michael Bidwill has already said as much. First, though, Wilson has to retire, and he’s not ready to do that quite yet as he hopes to find a job somewhere in 2014. At some point, you figure Larry Fitzgerald is a lock, regardless of what happens in the future. Obviously the hope is that Fitzgerald plays out his career in Arizona, but the NFL is a business and Fitz staying is anything but a guarantee. Certainly, he’s done enough on and even off the field that he’ll be Ring-bound some day.
Beyond that, though, I don’t see any sure bets. It’s way too early to think about Patrick Peterson. Does Darnell Dockett warrant a discussion? Could Calais Campbell some day be worth it? I think Anquan Boldin was headed in that direction, but the way his tenure (and his last two seasons) ended in Arizona I’d call that a very long shot, which is too bad. He was a part of the renaissance of this franchise. I don’t know if some of the other guys from the 1998 team — a Larry Centers, a Jake Plummer — would fit.
Again, with Bidwill noting that 11 of the 13 previous Ring members before Warner are in the Hall of Fame, that means something. They are, Bidwill said, “the best of the best” and that’s a lofty ideal. The franchise has been around since 1898, and only 14 guys have gone in. It’s not an easy honor to obtain. It is a fun subject to debate.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Aeneas Williams, Darnell Dockett, Jake Plummer, Kurt Warner, Larry Centers, Matt Leinart, Michael Bidwill, Ring of Honor
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The Cardinals traded back and then grabbed a safety with their first pick of the draft, nabbing Washington State strong safety Deone Bucannon. GM Steve Keim had a chance to take safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix at 20, but instead he sent the 20th overall pick to the Saints for the 27th choice, pulling in an extra third-rounder (91 overall) for the swap. GM Steve Keim had said he wanted to get more picks, and the Cards now will have seven selections in the draft. Keim even said he didn’t want to compare him to Adrian Wilson … but then said there were similarities. Wilson noticed too.
— Adrian Wilson (@adrian_wilson24) May 9, 2014
Bucannon fills a need for a young safety who can team with free safety Tyrann Mathieu in future years to solidify the secondary. At 6-foot-1 and 211 pounds, Bucannon can hit and joins the 6-foot-plus cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie for a pretty sizable secondary. He’s a big-time tackler who should help in run support, and he’s improved in pass coverage and he had 15 career interceptions as a four-year starter in college. Six of those came last season.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Deone Bucannon, draft
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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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