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Warner in, so who’s next for Ring of Honor?

Posted by Darren Urban on June 18, 2014 – 4:37 pm

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.

JackInTheADub

 


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Cardinals take Bucannon in first round

Posted by Darren Urban on May 8, 2014 – 8:23 pm

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.

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.

DeoneUSE

 


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Keim with an eye on 2015

Posted by Darren Urban on September 24, 2013 – 3:40 pm

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.

KeimpicUSE


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Abraham has Cards living on the edge

Posted by Darren Urban on July 29, 2013 – 10:02 am

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.”

AbBlog3USE


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1 down, 11 to go for Fitz?

Posted by Darren Urban on July 2, 2013 – 11:04 am

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.

FitzPittUSE


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Bell is a thoroughbred

Posted by Darren Urban on May 17, 2013 – 11:32 am

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.”

BellBicepBlog


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One team isn’t realistic

Posted by Darren Urban on March 22, 2013 – 3:02 pm

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.


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Belichick talks A-Dub (a little)

Posted by Darren Urban on March 19, 2013 – 4:05 pm

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).”

DubBelichickUSE


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The market and the Cards’ newest additions

Posted by Darren Urban on March 15, 2013 – 4:52 pm

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.


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Odds and ends as Cards maneuver free agency

Posted by Darren Urban on March 14, 2013 – 9:05 pm

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.


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