The spring owners meetings get underway Monday here in town at the Biltmore, and among the many things that will go on will be the annual reveal of the compensatory picks for April’s draft.
A quick refresher for those who don’t know about comp picks: Each year, there are a bunch of extra draft picks sprinkled in through the draft (starting in the third round) that are awarded to teams with a net loss of free agents from the year before. The exact formula for doling out picks isn’t public, but it’s a mixture of the player, his free agent contract and performance. Basically, if you lose more free agents than you sign, you’ll get an extra pick or two.
(Or more, perhaps. Baltimore often lets players leave as free agents with the idea of stockpiling comp picks to replenish the roster with cheap labor. It’s great if you hit on many draft picks. The Ravens have made it an art form.)
As for the Cardinals, overthecap.com has estimated that the Cards are in line for an extra seventh-round pick. Now, there are caveats to the various qualifying players in this admittedly complicated guesswork. The Cards could conceivably get an extra fifth-rounder instead of a seventh or maybe no comp pick at all. As it stands, the Cardinals have their seven original draft picks, starting with the 24th overall in the first round. Last season, the Cardinals added tackle Jared Veldheer, wide receiver Ted Ginn, guard Ted Larsen and running back Jonathan Dwyer in free agency. They lost linebacker Karlos Dansby, wide receiver Andre Roberts, tight end Jim Dray and cornerbacks Antoine Cason and Javier Arenas. (Players that are cut by their previous team do not factor in the equation, which is why bringing in Antonio Cromartie did not hurt the Cards in this example and why losing Darnell Dockett this year will not help in next year’s comp equation.)
Tags: Andre Roberts, Antoine Cason, Antonio Cromartie, compensatory picks, Darnell Dockett, draft, Jared Veldheer, Javier Arenas, Jim Dray, Jonathan Dwyer, Karlos Dansby, Ravens, Ted Ginn, Ted Larsen
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One year with Carson Palmer taking every snap, and it’s easy to forget what it can be like with quarterback uncertainty. Then a week like this happens and the memories all come crashing back. No one is saying this is like 2012 all over again, when Ken Whisenhunt, scrambling for a quarterback, kept mixing and matching. In fact, even that team never really had a situation like Bruce Arians is facing now, when injuries have precluded him from naming a starter here on Friday.
Realistically, both Carson Palmer and his funky shoulder and Drew Stanton, coming off a concussion, have injuries that could “go away” and then rear up again on Sunday morning. As of Friday afternoon, both guys are taking tests to see where they are in their recovery. It’s looked good up until this point, but it makes sense caution is the buzzword in this instance.
I will not be surprised if any of the three is behind center for the Cardinals’ first snap Sunday. There is still an eternity until 1:25 p.m. Sunday.
UPDATE: Multiple reports Friday night said Stanton passed his concussion test. That does not necessarily mean Stanton would start.
— If Logan Thomas does have to play? Larry Fitzgerald has one word: “Patience.”
“Got to be patient,” Fitz said. “Just try to make plays for them. Nothing more soothing for a young person than when you make a play and kind of be a security blanket.”
— Speaking of Fitz, he said he’s not thinking of his slow start. Of course he’s going to say that out loud. Of course I think he’s thinking about it. He’s a guy who wants to get to the Hall of Fame. A season playing out like this is not helping that cause.
— With everything going on around the quarterbacks and the injuries and the like, there’s been no room to mention the return of wide receiver Andre Roberts to University of Phoenix Stadium. Roberts signed with the Redskins as a free agent after four seasons in Arizona. “If something happens to Pierre (Garcon) or DeSean (Jackson), we feel just as good as him outside as our first or second guy,” Washington coach Jay Gruden said. “Really like him. Good kid, too.”
Roberts thought he was going to Washington to be the No. 2 behind Garcon. Then Jackson was acquired, and Roberts was stuck as the No. 3 guy again, exactly the situation he was trying to escape in Arizona.
— Last week’s offensive stats, thanks to needing to play the raw Thomas, were probably an outlier. But the Cardinals went just 3-for-16 on third downs last week. It was awful. That cannot happen. This defense needs time to rest on the sideline.
— Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin wasn’t thrilled with the run game last week. It’ll be more important if Thomas has to start, but even if Palmer or Stanton plays, the Cards need more on the ground.
“I don’t care who is playing quarterback,” Goodwin said. “We didn’t do a very good job last week. You’d get a positive run and then all of sudden you’d get minus-two on the next play.
“It’s going to take some of the pressure off (Logan) if he plays. Have to get positive yards on first and second downs. We had 12 runs of two (yards) or less. Not close to being good enough.”
— The Cardinals haven’t run enough, Arians said. Asked about getting more carries for Stepfan Taylor or even working Marion Grice, Arians said the Cards need to be more effective on the ground in the first place and then see where Andre Ellington is physically. Because at this point, Ellington is the man, Arians said. Ellington had 16 of the Cardinals’ 19 rushing attempts in Denver.
“(Andre) felt very, very fresh out there,” Arians said. “And if he’s fresh, he’s staying in.”
— Stanton and Redskins starting QB Kirk Cousins have a good relationship. Cousins was an incoming freshman at Michigan State at the same time Stanton was just leaving as QB. “Went out to dinner with him a couple of times when he was in school, talked with him on the phone and via text,” Stanton said. “I don’t want to be one of those guys who tries to tell him how to do everything.”
Said Cousins, “I’ve always looked up to him as a guy who had a lot of success at Michigan State and then as a high draft pick as somebody I could follow in the footsteps of,” Cousins said.
— The Redskins have beaten the Cardinals eight times in a row. The last Cardinals’ win? The game that might’ve clinched University of Phoenix Stadium.
— Hard to believe that before the Cardinals interviewed Arians for the head coaching job, they interviewed Gruden. Two things I remember from that day, when Gruden met with the media. If you closed your eyes, there were definitely times he sound like his brother Jon, and he didn’t exactly come across like he was super excited about the job. Now he’s got the Washington job and he’ll be on the opposite sideline.
Now, who he’ll be trying to defend as the Cardinals’ quarterback … well, I guess we’ll see, won’t we.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Andre Roberts, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Harold Goodwin, Jay Gruden, Kirk Cousins, Larry Fitzgerald, Logan Thomas, Redskins
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Andre Roberts got to be a No. 2 receiver for about three weeks.
He signed with the Redskins early in free agency and make no mistake, he got the big money he was hoping for, about $8 million guaranteed on a four-year contract. He also figured, given the rest of the receiving corps, to end up as the second wideout target behind the emerging Pierre Garçon. Then DeSean Jackson hit the market, Daniel Snyder jumped on that, and Jackson is now a Redskin. He’ll team up with Garçon, and while Roberts should remain an important cog it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize Roberts is the one most negatively affected by the Jackson signing. (Well, maybe not as much as the Philadelphia Eagles.)
One of the reasons Roberts wanted to leave Arizona was not only the money, and make no mistake, he wouldn’t have gotten anywhere close to the money he got in Washington here. But he also wanted to have more passes thrown his way. He said as much. And now, through a quirk of fate unseen by anyone at the time Roberts signed with Washington, that’s unlikely. It’s a difficult twist but the reality of the NFL: Teams are always looking to upgrade, and it usually costs someone else.
That’s what Kevin Minter went through last season. Obviously, it’s not the same situation. Minter was drafted, and he didn’t have the chance to pick and choose where he was going. But he couldn’t have ended up in a better place, which, frankly, is why the Cards took him. Sure Jasper Brinkley was signed here, but Minter was going to be the guy penciled in to play alongside Daryl Washington sooner rather than later. Then, again through unseen circumstances, Karlos Dansby was signed and Minter disappeared defensively, playing just one defensive snap all season. Now Minter is going to get his chance, but you never know what can happen — an unexpected release, a la Jackson, or a unexpected draft pick.
Things can change quickly in this league. The landscape is littered with examples.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Kevin Minter
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No, nothing is official. Free agent left tackle Jared Veldheer is not officially signed, instead headed here for an visit that will allow the Cardinals medical staff to check him out and for General Manager Steve Keim, team president Michael Bidwill and coach Bruce Arians — among others — to talk to the guy face to face. But multiple reports not only have Veldheer agreeing to a contract with the Cardinals but also details of a five-year deal. The main numbers are $17 million guaranteed and a $6.5 million bonus, and if true (and assuming Veldheer is the solid left tackle everyone expects) Keim once again weaved his magic for a reasonable deal that would be cheaper than the other top tackles on the market. All for a 6-foot-8, 320-pound behemoth who turns 27 in June.
Here is a contract breakdown (already) of Veldheer’s deal, courtesy of overthecap.com.
I don’t think there is any question quarterback Carson Palmer — who played with and was protected by Veldheer in Oakland — endorsed his former teammate. Bruce Arians has said the Cards get input on players from players once in a while. And there is no question Veldheer was an intriguing possibility because of his age and price tag. If all goes right in the visit (and there is no reason it shouldn’t) Veldheer should be holding a press conference sometime Wednesday. Certainly Veldheer is confident. Not only did he tweet a goodbye to Raider fans, but he also changed his Twitter description and avatar:
— In case you missed it, wide receiver Andre Roberts is headed to Washington on a four-year deal that reportedly has $8 million guaranteed. The wide receiver market hasn’t exactly opened with a bang like the tackle or defensive back positions have, so Roberts looks like he came out way ahead. Good for him. He’ll get a better opportunity to catch passes in Washington than he would have here behind Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Carson Palmer, free agency, Jared Veldheer, Raiders, Redskins
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The season started great for Andre Roberts. And it finished on a high note. In between, it wasn’t what Roberts wanted, and now it also looks like it was the last season for Roberts — at least as a Cardinal. This is not a shock. Roberts will be an unrestricted free agent in a week and the math has said for a while now it probably didn’t make much sense for the relationship to continue. The Cardinals, with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, don’t need anything more than a third receiver. Roberts would like to be at least a No. 2, and certainly wants to be paid like that. Parting ways seemed the logical conclusion, and Roberts drove that home during an interview Tuesday on NBCSN’s “Pro Football Talk.”
“I don’t think I’ll be back in Arizona,” Roberts said. “I haven’t received any phone calls from Arizona and free agency is coming up here in about a week. I definitely feel I did the most with my opportunities, but I thought I would get a little bit more coming my way balls-wise. It’s part of the business. But I don’t think I’ll be back in Arizona. I’ll be testing the market.”
Roberts had 43 receptions for 471 yards and two touchdowns in 2013, his numbers dropping with the emergence of Floyd. In Bruce Arians’ offense and the desire to use two tight ends, three receivers just weren’t used as much, and Roberts was the odd man out. Can Roberts get the contract he wants this spring, with numbers that were down and a glut of receivers destined to be available? Probably not. He’s probably in a position like many free agents last year (some who signed with the Cards) to be better off inking a one-year deal and playing in a place that could feed him the ball. Where that is — and whether that team wants Roberts — is TBD. Roberts grew close to Fitzgerald over the years, and in their friendship, I’m sure Fitz has given counsel to find the money.
The Cards, meanwhile, will need another wideout. But they probably will seek one with more speed, and certainly one that will be cheaper.
— Speaking of free agency, Kent Somers reported today that the Cards and the agent for free-agent-to-be Matt Shaughnessy have been negotiating. After Karlos Dansby, Shaughnessy made the most sense of a guy whom the Cards would like to re-sign.
Tags: Andre Roberts, free agency, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Shaughnessy, Michael Floyd
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Andre Roberts had a solid year in 2013, considering he played about 140 fewer snaps from the season before and he was behind Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd at wideout. He still had 43 receptions (for 471 yards and a couple of touchdowns.) He also smartly never complained about his situation. He certainly wished he could be a bigger part of the offense, especially headed into free agency, but the Cardinals were winning and you can’t raise a ruckus when things are working.
That didn’t help him personally, though. And this morning, it’s easier to see what a daunting situation Roberts is looking at in a month, when the market will be flooded with wide receivers. Profootballtalk.com posted about it this morning, and a quick perusal of the list of available wideouts is going to make it a buyer’s market indeed. PFT lists the top 10 most “intriguing” names to watch as Anquan Boldin, Riley Cooper, Eric Decker, Julian Edelman, Jacoby Jones, Jeremy Maclin, Dexter McCluster, Hakeem Nicks, Emmanuel Sanders, and Golden Tate. That’s a formidable group and Roberts isn’t on it. Roberts is better than many guys on the list, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll see a larger demand.
Roberts’ best course of action might be to do what many free agents did last season — take a one-year deal in a good situation, have a good season, and then try the free-agent thing again in a year. The problem with that is there are no guarantees he’ll be able to improve his lot. What will be really interesting is whether Roberts, in this spot, has a chance to return to the Cardinals. Here, he will be third on the depth chart again, and with the desire to use tight ends by Bruce Arians, Roberts probably isn’t going to get more snaps barring injuries.
Tags: Andre Roberts, free agency, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
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During this slow time of the NFL year, it’s hard not to notice little things, like the comments of Karlos Dansby saying he expects to remain a Cardinal. Big news? Not really. But it’s more defined than Dansby was at the end of the season, so that, to me, breeds more optimism. Dansby is probably the most high-profile free-agent-to-be the Cards want to re-sign. Which got me thinking of the franchise tag, because of all the free agents the Cards have (and in part because the Cards, Dansby and the franchise tag were synonymous for a while.)
Teams can use the franchise tag as early as Monday. The tag, for those unfamiliar, is a set number for each position based on the top five or top 10 salaries at that position the previous year. It’s a guaranteed salary as soon as the player signs it. If a player is tagged, he can still sign elsewhere, but his original team has a chance to match, and if they don’t, there is a heavy price to pay — usually a pair of first-round picks. The chances are good right now, for instance, that Saints tight end Jimmy Graham will be tagged so he doesn’t hit the open market in March.
The Cardinals, however, don’t have that issue. Dansby is not going to be franchise tagged (at a projected $10.9 million for linebackers for one season.) None of the Cards’ free-agents-to-be fall into that category, in fact. Even for players the Cardinals could want to re-sign — linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, wide receiver Andre Roberts, tackle Eric Winston, for instance — aren’t going to command the kind of money nor get from the Cards anywhere close to the kind of money the tag dictates. There is a reason it is called the “franchise” tag because it is supposed to be for franchise-type players.
UPDATE: I was reminded of a ruling in a case of Drew Brees, who was once franchised by San Diego and later by New Orleans, that tags are considered cumulatively over a player’s entire career, not just if they are in consecutive years. So Dansby, since he was already franchised twice in his career, would be considered tagged for a third time if the Cards were to do so, making his salary an average of the top five salaries in the league. That’s quarterback money, and only underscores why Dansby wouldn’t be tagged again.
The last time the Cardinals used a franchise tag, it was on defensive end Calais Campbell in 2012. That time, the tag did exactly what it was supposed to do — buy the two sides extra time to negotiate a long-term deal. Before that, the last tagged guy was Dansby. He got it two years in a row, and then, well, we know how that turned out. Funny that now that the Cards won’t be tagging him again, he probably has a better chance of sticking around.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Calais Campbell, Eric Winston, franchise tag, Karlos Dansby, Matt Shaughnessy
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As the Cardinals head toward the draft — a week later, May 8-10 this year — there will be a lot of talk about what positions will be targeted. There will be discussion about offensive tackles, defensive linemen, pass rushers, tight ends and defensive backs. But one thing that can’t be dismissed is the quest for a speed receiver.
The Cardinals can’t overlook the position anyway, given the impending free agent status of Andre Roberts (who likely will want to look what’s available on the open market since he’s destined to stay behind Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd) and the ongoing desire to have someone be able to run down the field and take the top off the defense. It was a constant quest last season. The Cards took a draft risk on Ryan Swope, and that didn’t work. Robert Gill was a track guy who they hoped would work out. Later, it was Brittan Golden and Teddy Williams.
According to profootballfocus.com, quarterback Carson Palmer threw 74 passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air last season. He completed only 23 of them, and while longer passes will inevitably have a lower completion percentage, coach Bruce Arians does want to get more production out of those six deep shots a game he’d like to take. The Cards didn’t take as many as that as the season went along, in part because there was an understanding the protection wasn’t always good enough for such long plays and in part because the was a search for the right target. Floyd and Fitz can do the jump ball thing, but to be able to just tell a guy to go long and watch him speed by in one-on-one coverage would be ideal.
Where that guy will come from isn’t set in stone. Will the Cardinals draft one? I wouldn’t be surprised. But Steve Keim will comb other options too. Williams and Golden are still around and in the mix (although they have to stay healthy.) It’s an Arians want, and an Arians need, and that isn’t going to change until the Cards find their answer.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Brittan Golden, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, draft, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Robert Gill, Ryan Swope, Steve Keim, Teddy Williams
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Every time General Manager Steve Keim talks about his roster, he talks about looking to improve everywhere. That’s always the default. While the Cardinals probably need, say, offensive linemen or tight ends more than, running backs, you don’t turn down chances to upgrade your team at any position. (As for the latest talk-radio conversation about quarterback, I feel confident that a) Carson Palmer is going to be the starter in 2014 and b) if Keim has a QB sitting on the board in the draft that he really, really likes — whenever that is — the Cardinals will likely take him.)
All that said, there are spots that need addressing just for the sheer numbers. I’ve already posted this once, but below is a link to a roster breakdown done right after the season. It has changed a bit — punter Dave Zastudil has re-signed by now — but the rest of the contract situations remain the same. Keim has a little more than six weeks before contracts officially expire. In terms of strictly numbers, here are how impending free agency impacts the positions (not including all the futures deals/low-end free agents that have signed):
— QB: Cards are fine with all three guys under contract. You’d expect a fourth camp arm to sign if one isn’t drafted.
— RB: Rashard Mendenhall is unrestricted and plays a big role, although if the Cards rode Andre Ellington/Stepfan Taylor in 2014, no one would be surprised.
— WR: Assuming the Cards can get comfortable (if they aren’t already) with Fitz’s contract, the position is probably OK. They need to add someone if Andre Roberts leaves as a free agent, but they can ride with Floyd/Fitz as a top two.
— TE: A major question. Only Rob Housler is under contract for next season. This has got to be a spot where the Cards draft, right?
— OL: Upgrades are necessary and will happen, but as of now, only Eric Winston is a free agent of guys who played at all.
— DL: Need depth here. Do you bring Frostee Rucker back? And that rehab needed for Alameda Ta’amu’s ACL tear hurts the team as much as Ta’amu.
— LB: It’s hard not to notice two starters in Karlos Dansby and Matt Shaughnessy who could potentially walk away.
— DB: The Cards could probably use another young safety, although they may be in good shape if Tony Jefferson can step forward. But what about cornerback, with Tyrann Mathieu coming back from injury and Javier Arenas/Antoine Cason/Bryan McCann scheduled to be free agents. Depth is needed there. It’ll be interesting to see if Justin Bethel ends up playing a bigger defensive role.
— Specialists: Zastudil is back. We’ll see what the Cardinals do at kicker and impending FA Jay Feely.
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Andre Ellington, Andre Roberts, Antoine Cason, Bryan McCann, Carson Palmer, Dave Zastudil, Eric Winston, Frostee Rucker, Javier Arenas, Jay Feely, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Shaughnessy, Rashard Mendenhall, Rob Housler, Roster, Stepfan Taylor, Steve Keim, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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This time around, the Cardinals aren’t going to be looking for a coach or general manager, so this early part of the offseason figures to be much more quiet than it was in January of 2013. But there is still plenty for GM Steve Keim and his people to work on, because the combine is in less than two months, free agency is soon after that, and it’s time to focus on what the offseason roster in 2014 will look like.
That starts, of course, with figuring out what they liked and didn’t like with the roster from 2013. It also comes down to budget, and contracts, and how many of these unrestricted free agents-to-be want to come back to Arizona based on the deals Keim wants to/is willing to offer. These are not always simple solutions but it is why Keim, as they say, earns the big bucks. When I talked to Keim as early as the week in Florida prior to the Week 4 game at Tampa, Keim was already acknowledging the work that had to go into this offseason.
“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 then. “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.”
With that all in mind, here is my annual roster breakdown, with most players by position, when their contracts expires and a quick comment on each. There are a lot of choices to be made, and not just by Keim. If you are Karlos Dansby, for instance, do you like the scheme Todd Bowles has put you in — and like playing next to someone like Daryl Washington enough — to want to stay? Money, as always, talks. Dansby did not get the kind of interest he expected last offseason in the market. He had a better year this season, but will that translate for a player who will be 33? These are the things the Cardinals, and Dansby, must balance.
The Larry Fitzgerald situation, and a looming $18 million salary cap number, is another touchpoint. The Cardinals really need to get it lower. How they can work with Fitzgerald on that impacts a lot of things, including, for instance, any potential Patrick Peterson contract extension. When you start mulling all these numbers, you start seeing why Keim is targeting 2015 for salary cap comfort.
There are other key things the Cards must look at roster-wise, aside from the draft. Other key free agents like Matt Shaughnessy, Rashard Mendenhall or Andre Roberts. Other contracts, like perhaps those of Daryn Colledge or Darnell Dockett. Other issues, like the long-term rehab of Tyrann Mathieu and Alameda Ta’amu, or a possible suspension of Daryl Washington, and whether absences at the beginning of the season could make a difference on who is needed on the roster for depth.
The offseason is just beginning. So too is the job of the Cardinals to get ready for 2014.
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Andre Roberts, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Daryn Colledge, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Shaughnessy, Patrick Peterson, Rashard Mendenhall, Roster, Steve Keim, Tyrann Mathieu
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