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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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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