With the season halfway over and talk here and there about possible contract extensions, it felt like a good time to note who is scheduled to have their contract run out after the season ends. We’ve talked for a while about the secondary decisions that are coming, but in terms of players that are making an impact, it’s a lengthy list. This is only the players set to be free agents; There have been some of you wondering if, for instance, Tyrann Mathieu could get an extension. He is under contract through 2016, so I don’t expect anything soon. The Cardinals, according to the NFLPA, have about $5.3 million of cap space right now.
CB Justin Bethel
LB Dwight Freeney
TE Jermaine Gresham
RB Chris Johnson
S Rashad Johnson
G Ted Larsen
LS Mike Leach
T Bobby Massie
CB Jerraud Powers
C Lyle Sendlein
T Bradley Sowell
QB Drew Stanton
LB Sean Weatherspoon
LB LaMarr Woodley
WR Jaron Brown
P Drew Butler
LB Kenny Demens
S Tony Jefferson
(Tight ends Darren Fells and Ifeanyi Momah and defensive tackle Josh Mauro are all exclusive rights free agents, meaning they can be tendered and not go anywhere.)
Again, a long list. The restricted free agents, if you want to prevent them from hitting the market unfettered, can be tendered with one of three designations: A first-round tender (a one-year contract of about $3.3M), a second-round tender (about $2.3M) or the original draft spot ($1.5M). That means, if tendered, if another team signs them away, that team owes the Cardinals the tendered pick. Given that all those guys were undrafted, the Cards would get nothing for the low tender. It makes for hard decisions on a Tony Jefferson, and even to Jaron Brown.
As for the unrestricted guys …
It seems likely that the older one-year guys — Chris Johnson, Gresham, Freeney — would want to see what they might get on the open market. The secondary is the most intriguing area. It wouldn’t be a surprise that some team might want to swoop in and Greg Toler-contract a guy like Bethel, especially if they’d want him to start right away at CB. The Cardinals like Powers. They like Rashad Johnson too, but with all the safeties around, what will be the offer? What does the future hold (or rather, where is the future) for Deone Bucannon? Is he a linebacker or safety? That’ll come into play.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Bradley Sowell, Chris Johnson, Darren Fells, Drew Butler, Drew Stanton, Dwight Freeney, free agency, Ifeanyi Momah, Jaron Brown, Jermaine Gresham, Jerraud Powers, Josh Mauro, Justin Bethel, Kenny Demens, LaMarr Woodley, Lyle Sendlein, Mike Leach, Rashad Johnson, Sean Weatherspoon, Ted Larsen, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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The roster will change. Now that the Cardinals are down to 53 players, the chances of it staying the same by the time the team comes back together Tuesday isn’t great. GM Steve Keim seems almost a lock to make at least one waiver claim that comes through. But for now, here’s some of the highlights to Saturday’s choices:
— The breakdown by position looks like this:
— The Cardinals will have four cornerbacks at some point. I don’t see how they don’t. It might not be until after the first game, but I am confident they will keep the search going.
— The trade for Matt Barkley ended the chances for Logan Thomas and Phillip Sims. I don’t see them keeping a fourth QB on the practice squad.
— Two undrafted rookies make the roster in nose tackle Xavier Williams and Alani Fua. Fua, at 6-foot-5, is one of those choices Keim wanted to make the team longer and more athletic. It’s why they still like Shaq Riddick even though Riddick has been hurt so much.
— Stepfan Taylor is your “big” back with the cut of Robert Hughes. Kerwynn Williams is a fan favorite but his skill-set is just too close to Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson.
— With the suspension of Bobby Massie, it might have saved Bradley Sowell a roster spot for now. When Massie returns, we’ll see what happens. By then, the Cards might have a better sense of who they want at center, or maybe they let a tackle go.
Tags: Alani Fua, Bobby Massie, Bradley Sowell, Matt Barkley, Roster, Shaq Riddick, Stepfan Taylor, Steve Keim, Xavier Williams
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We’ve talked about, in this space, how the depth chart doesn’t necessarily mean much — especially in the preseason. Lorenzo Alexander was listed as a second-teamer last week, and we know how that turned out. But after Bruce Arians said Earl Watford was going to get a chance to start at right tackle Thursday night and Bradley Sowell was moved to left tackle, Watford then showed up as the first-team right tackle on the depth chart. Bobby Massie was second team, and Sowell was moved to backup left tackle (D.J. Humphries remains listed third-team right tackle).
“I’ve tried to put the negative stuff behind me and just be positive the whole way through, to fight my way and seize these opportunities,” Watford said.
Whether Massie might be unavailable for the start of the season — nothing official has been announced about Massie missing games — is beside the point for now. Maybe this is a one-game thing, but even Arians said that battle between Watford — drafted as a guard — and Sowell on the right side has heated up and then, you start wondering about the numbers. How many offensive linemen are the Cardinals going to keep? If you include Massie, there is a case to be made for 10 of those guys. That’s too many, really.
Watford, meanwhile, has kept his head down and continues to insist he just wants to work. There have been no bold proclamations. He knows, in his third year, he’s running out of time to make an impression to stick around. This camp, he has made an impression. He handled Khalil Mack pretty well Sunday. To see him possibly be a Week 1 starter at right tackle would be something of an upset thinking back to the spring — yet a good story.
“Everyone needs a little confident boost once in a while, right?” Watford said. “It was good to go out there and do well and put myself in this position to hopefully start.”
Tags: Bradley Sowell, Bruce Arians, D.J. Humphries, depth chart, Earl Watford
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It was a long presser from Bruce Arians today after no morning walkthrough. Here are some of the highlights before I head down to practice:
— The injury list right now includes cornerback Jerraud Powers, who is now dealing with a hamstring issue of his own and will be “shut down” for a few days. Arians did not sound concerned. Good news, though, running back Chris Johnson is actually better than Arians originally thought with his hamstring and is day to day. Arians said Saturday he thought Johnson would missed a week or two. OL Earl Watford had a shot in his troublesome ankle and gets a rest day (the Cards are off Tuesday too), and will be back Wednesday, as will TE Jermaine Gresham (back) and WR Brittan Golden (sore after taking a big hit Saturday.)
— OLB Shaq Riddick is finally back at practice. So is CB Jonte Green and T Rob Crisp.
— Arians said it was “discouraging” ILB Sean Weatherspoon is still out with his bad hamstring. There is a hope he’ll return to practice this week, but we’ll see.
— The coaches have talked as a staff about playing the starters less Sunday in Oakland in light of all the injuries around the NFL. Arians said each guy will be gauged differently, based on practice and the need for reps.
— When Watford comes back, he’ll work at right tackle and have the chance to battle Bradley Sowell for the starting job. D.J. Humphries will spend the week at left tackle to get some work there; Arians wants him to be able to play both sides as a backup — which he will be to start the season almost assuredly.
— Arians praised Alani Fua and, to a lesser extent, Gabe Martin, at inside linebacker. Arians intrigued by Fua’s length.
— After video watching, Arians still said there is no leader at third QB between Sims and Thomas.
— Although Mike Leach already took the blame on Twitter, Arians reiterated it was Leach snapping the ball too soon to holder Dave Zastudil that caused the botched PAT in the game. “A 25-year-vet, whatever he is, snapping to a 30-year vet, and one wasn’t looking,” Arians said. “You would not anticpate that happening out of thise two guys, but it did happen.”
— Arians liked the game starting left guard Ted Larsen had a lot, but “he blew it with one dumb penalty,” Arians lamented of Larsen’s 15-yarder for jumping on a pile. Still, he said he liked Larsen’s game, and that of Jonathan Cooper’s too.
— The starting center job between A.Q. Shipley and Lyle Sendlein is “heavily contested.” Arians added that Carson Palmer gets no say in the matter. “Their butts are about the same,” Arians quipped.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Alani Fua, Bradley Sowell, Chris Johnson, D.J. Humphries, Earl Watford, Gabe Martin, Jerraud Powers, Jonathan Cooper, Lyle Sendlein, Mike Leach, Sean Weatherspoon, Shaq Riddick, Ted Larsen
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The Cardinals enter the dog days of training camp with one final week at University of Phoenix Stadium beginning today. And as GM Steve Keim talked about the Cards’ most recent performance, there was no eye-popping news — which, in a preseason where injuries are usually the biggest news, Keim noted correctly that coming out relatively healthy was the top story.
Otherwise, Keim’s thoughts when talking on the “Doug and Wolf Show” on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM:
— He likes the weapons on offense, with the speed at receiver and the versatility at running back, “if we can protect Carson,” Keim said.
“There’s no question in my mind there are some concerns,” Keim said.
Keim said the offensive line messed up a couple of times on combo moves from the defense. Watching the game back myself, it definitely looked like backs Andre Ellington and David Johnson at least once each (and possibly more) missed on chances either to pick up a blitzer or help chip block, one of the reasons there were multiple hits and six first-half sacks by the Chargers.
“It’s one thing to be beat physically, but to blow assignments mentally is unacceptable,” Keim said.
— Keim said he thinks new defensive coordinator James Bettcher is “doing an excellent job,” noting all the blitzing the Cards have done. It did seem like the Cards blitzed almost every play in the last half of the fourth quarter.
— Another Keim shoutout for undrafted rookie defensive tackle Xavier Williams. I will be shocked if Williams does not make this roster.
— Keim thought, other that one sack allowed, that right tackle Bradley Sowell played “pretty good” as a starter. D.J. Humphries, not as much. “He’s a guy on one play looks exactly like the first round pick we selected” and others, not very good, Keim said. “The bottom line is his consistency.” The Cardinals want more — much more — from Humphries. But Keim noted it’s still very early in Humphries’ process. (In other words, he’s not close to a bust.)
— Natural praise for running back David Johnson after that performance.
— There is no leader for the No. 3 quarterback job, although Keim said “Phillip (Sims) looked really patient and poised in the pocket.” I don’t think we’ll ever hear that one is ahead of the other one, not before a decision is made. Keim said both still aren’t consistent enough. And there is still the chance the Cards carry only two QBs on the 53=man roster.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bradley Sowell, D.J. Humphries, David Johnson, James Bettcher, Phillip Sims, Steve Keim, Xavier Williams
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Bruce Arians mentioned early in training camp he would have liked to have a joint practice with another team in training camp, to break up the monotony and to raise the level of practice that inevitably comes with going against another team rather than teammates. Given how averse Arians is to training camp fights, however, maybe it’s good that the Cardinals never did work that out.
The Rams-Cowboys joint practice donnybrook Tuesday was just the latest in joint practice battles. The Redskins and Texans got into it earlier this month and last training camp, it was the Cowboys and Raiders. The two this month were bad enough that the joint practices were called off and the teams went to practice on separate fields.
It would be interesting to see what Arians would do if his players got into a training camp tussle with another team. He’s made no bones about it happening with his own team — last summer’s Darnell Dockett/Bradley Sowell laps and then a separate abrupt end to practice underscored the head coach’s feelings on the subject. (The apple doesn’t fall far from the coaching tree either. Todd Bowles made the Jets run because of a practice fight recently.)
And while there are plenty that feel there is good that can come out of a camp scrap — ask Ron Wolfley — there is tangible evidence the downside is too great. The Cardinals know about injuries. Back in 2003, guard Leonard Davis broke his hand punching defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch. (Amazingly, my story at the time is still floating around on the internet.) That’s never good.
Tags: Bradley Sowell, Bruce Arians, Cowboys, Darnell Dockett, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Leonard Davis, Rams, Redskins, Texans, Todd Bowles, training camp
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General Manager Steve Keim is still looking at his roster. That can’t be a surprise. He said this morning during his weekly appearance on Arizona Sports’ “Doug and Wolf” show that the Cardinals will bring in “four or five” tryout players on Wednesday — this week’s “Tuesday,” given the Monday night opener next week — to see if any are worth signing. That thing about none of the bottom five guys on the roster getting comfortable? That’s serious reality.
— Keim acknowledged it’s a little bit of a concern there are only eight offensive linemen on the roster, but that’s what the Cardinals have right now. Nate Potter hurt his shoulder so there was really no choice but to keep Bradley Sowell. Interestingly, Keim said the Cardinals will begin trying Earl Watford at right tackle a little bit and see if he can be a help there as well as both guard positions. This is a big year for Watford. At some point, the Cards are going to want to see him step forward when he gets a chance.
— It sounds like one of the roster spots came down to sixth-round pick wide receiver Walt Powell and undrafted linebacker Glenn Carson. Carson is on the roster; Powell made it for a day and then when the Cardinals claimed outside linebacker Thomas Keiser, Powell was cut. He did not make it through waivers, getting claimed by the Jets. “There was a time when Walt Powell did a few nice things (in camp), but when we looked at Glenn versus Walt, we felt Glenn outperformed him and earned a spot on this team,” Keim said.
— Keim was happy to be able to get Keiser, who provides a natural pass rusher, “one thing I felt we were missing.” That speaks again to the concern about individual pass rush ability (although Keim said he is happy where John Abraham is going into the season.) The Keiser move was long hoped for, as Keim said he had been targeted for a long time if he was released by San Diego. The Cards did not get him just for Chargers’ intel going into the opener, Keim said, and Keim added that he doesn’t think the Chargers — who only carry two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster — signed Ryan Lindley to the practice squad for such purposes either. The Chargers’ QB coach is Frank Reich, who had been on the Cards’ staff with Lindley.
— Only eight defensive backs is no big deal, Keim said, because of how versatile the eight guys are. Tyrann Mathieu, as noted last week, will get some contact this week and it’s stil a we’ll-see situation for Mathieu in the opener.
— Some teams see the practice squad for just practice help but Keim said he sees the practice squad as a developmental extension of the roster, for guys who can eventually get on and help with the 53. Keep that in mind when you see who is put there. The final four PS names should be released soon.
Tags: Bradley Sowell, Earl Watford, Glenn Carson, practice squad, Steve Keim, Thomas Keiser
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We’ll try not to get too verbose here. It’s late and in a matter of hours, the Cardinals are going to at least begin the process of making the final cuts to the 53-man roster. I’m just thrilled to have a computer to type this on, after leaving it in the taxi and watching it drive away before the game. But that turned out OK — obviously I got it back — and maybe it’s good the preseason is over for me as well.
Bruce Arians rarely pulls punches. He didn’t tonight saying some of the play was “disturbing” and that it will make some of the roster choices easy. We’ll see how it filters out. I don’t know if injuries will affect anything. Safety Eddie Whitley, with a potential broken foot, wasn’t going to make the team. Safety Curtis Taylor, who may have broken his arm, was trying to make a push, especially with the iffy status of Tyrann Mathieu. That option is now gone. Nate Potter was trying to make the team as a backup tackle — maybe, just maybe, the Cards would keep an extra two tackles — but hurt his shoulder. (I don’t know how Bradley Sowell did either; it’ll be interesting to see if Max Starks is ever brought back like Arians said he might be.)
I expect some cuts Friday, some Saturday. And then we’ll see what else comes in the form of waiver claims, maybe another signing. We have a long 10 days before the opener.
— The big mystery was whether Tyrann Mathieu would play. He did not, and yes, if you take Arians’ word for it, he won’t play in the opener. I’m beginning to think that’s not just lip service. Look, Arians can change his mind, but it’s feeling more and more like the Cardinals are going to handle this with kid gloves. And really, why not? Here’s the interesting question — does Mathieu come back after the bye (three games into the season), like Arians always thought he would?
— No way to know how they looked at the battles for spots. Undrafted linebacker Glenn Carson played well with 10 tackles and could’ve (should’ve?) had a leaping interception late in the game. That would have looked good on the résumé. You can’t help but notice the kid out there. Can he edge out a vet like Desmond Bishop? Carson said he’s done all he can do — “It’s in the hands of the coaches now,” he said — but he’s made a nice case. Practice squad certainly.
— Felt the same about Walt Powell. He looked good on kickoff returns and made a nice move after a catch to avoid tacklers and get a first down. Brittan Golden dropped a deep ball. One play does not a roster spot make, but if it’s close, you have to wonder (although Golden did make a nice play to open the second half and force a fumble on a San Diego kickoff return.)
— I agree with linebacker Kevin Minter that he looked OK. At least he was back on the field. Jonathan Cooper looked a little more shaky, but in his case, Ted Larsen is starting for the time being anyway. It’s going to take some time for Cooper, clearly. That’s just reality.
— Love the way Deone Bucannon hits. That is a physical aspect the Cards need in the secondary, their answer to Kam Chancellor. He got lost in tight end coverage once though, losing his man as he stared too long in the backfield. Got to be careful on that.
— The way Arians sounded talking about Tommy Kelly’s 15 or so plays, I got the impression he’s got a good chance to make the roster. Isaac Sopoaga, who had been battling an oblique strain, didn’t play. Will be interesting to see how the defensive line plays out.
OK, that’s a wrap. We’ll have some news tomorrow. I don’t know how headline-grabbing it will be, but the next two days will go a long way in shaping the roster for the season.
Tags: Bradley Sowell, Bruce Arians, Chargers, Curtis Taylor, Deone Bucannon, Eddie Whitley, Glenn Carson, Jonathan Cooper, Kevin Minter, Max Starks, Nate Potter, Tommy Kelly, Tyrann Mathieu, Walt Powell
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The fourth preseason game is what it is. Teams are leery about playing anyone of any starting importance, because whatever little you might gain in a few more game reps is highly outweighed by the opportunity to get injured. How the actual game plays out — like the Cardinals going against the Chargers — means nothing. This one may mean even less, since the two teams have to play their very next game against each other. No reason to show anyone anything. At all.
That being said, there are some things to watch in the game tomorrow night, thanks to injuries, a new quarterback and a couple of roster spots that look like they could go either way:
— Logan Thomas is going to get to play the whole game, for the first time in the NFL and likely for the last time in a long time. The rookie fourth-round quarterback looked really good in his debut against Houston, he looked less comfortable against Cincinnati. He gets 60 minutes now, though. Bruce Arians said he just wants to see Thomas be efficient and take care of the ball. Thomas admitted he already has become more settled now since arriving in Arizona, and he knows he’s about to sit and not play (and really, not practice much either) for a long time. He has the right attitude. There’s really nothing on the line since he’s a lock to be on this roster. Take the pressure off, and let’s see what he can do.
— Very curious to see if S Tyrann Mathieu plays. I have long felt that the Cardinals are OK in the secondary to not have any reason to want/need to rush Mathieu back. I don’t think they will rush him. The question is how comfortable/confident Mathieu is to get back into live action. This is about mental as much as physical by now.
— The other guys coming off injuries all are also worth watching. We know the story of Jonathan Cooper at this point, and dealing with his turf toe. The Cardinals are probably best suited to deal with his recovery too with the way Ted Larsen is playing. The team needs Kevin Minter at inside linebacker, and we will see how he can perform. Minter seemed very confident earlier this week. That’s a good sign. Like Mathieu, you want to see nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu in real game action — especially where he plays and how there are always bodies down by your legs — a scary thought for a guy coming off a torn ACL. Again, mental as much as physical.
— As for the battles for rosters spots, these are the ones I see out there (and the ones to watch in the game): The backup tackle spot between Bradley Sowell and Nate Potter, both who figure to start. Potter will be on the left and Sowell on the right Thursday, but it’ll be surprising if both can make the cut. The special teams/cornerback slot with Teddy Williams and Bryan McCann. It figures one will be in, the other out. McCann is a little more polished as a cornerback, but Williams definitely can be more physical. This comes down to who they like better for special teams. And then there are the many linebackers who seem to be on the bubble. Desmond Bishop. Alex Okafor. Lorenzo Alexander. Marcus Benard. Glenn Carson too. You’ve only got so many spots. Pay attention to their play.
— Finally, reports are that the Cardinals will at least work out veteran linebacker James Harrison. Sounds like it’ll be less about anything immediate and instead seeing what is available. Veteran defensive lineman Tommy Kelly may be the same situation. Something to keep in mind this time of year, signing a veteran after Week One means the salary is not guaranteed, so there will be some vets signed after the first game around the league — especially those who might not have a lot left in the tank.
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Alex Okafor, Bradley Sowell, Bryan McCann, Chargers, Desmond Bishop, Glenn Carson, James Harrison, Jonathan Cooper, Kevin Minter, Logan Thomas, Lorenzo Alexander, Marcus Benard, Nate Potter, Ted Larsen, Teddy Williams, Tyrann Mathieu
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No reason to overanalyze here tonight, not with Bruce Arians talking to the media again just 14 hours from now and a short week ahead. This is going to go quickly, from the 13 cuts that are coming in the next day or so (officially, they must be done by Tuesday at 1 p.m. Arizona time) to the “practices” the Cardinals will try and hold Monday and Tuesday even though everyone is beat up from Sunday night’s game and more football is on the horizon Thursday.
The big concern/talking point again was Carson Palmer. He deserved praise the first two games. He was not nearly as good against the Bengals, and even he would admit that. But watching the game, while Palmer wasn’t good enough for this team to keep up in the NFC West I did not think he was terrible. Arians backed that up afterward. “Carson is going to take the blame and the heat for his quarterback rating but there are two drops that are wide open,” Arians said. “I don’t put a lot of stock in that one.”
Arians said Palmer made the right read on his interception and that it was the receiver (who was Larry Fitzgerald) who made the mistake but not cutting across the face of the defender. Fitz owned up to it as well. Truth be told, it looked like there were so many defenders in the area maybe the throw was ill-advised, but it’s got zero chance if the receiver isn’t where the QB thinks he’ll be. Palmer can’t miss a wide-open Michael Floyd either — and when we say wide open, it is literal. The Bengals just forgot to cover him deep. That said, I saw a replay where Floyd stopped near his defender and then started running again, and if Floyd runs full out the whole time, maybe the ball is in the right place for the TD.
Doesn’t really matter. No one will remember this in a few days. The Cardinals will fix some things. It wasn’t a terrible game. It wasn’t what they wanted, but it wasn’t unforgivable.
— The run defense was impressive. Arians did say he is worried about the pass rush when it’s only four players, and that’s been an issue for a long time. LB John Abraham played for the first time and Arians said he actually played more than expected. Abraham also drew a holding penalty. But it can’t be all about Abraham when the Cards are trying to get non-blitz pass rush.
— It certainly looks like rookie John Brown is this team’s third wide receiver. And if a fourth is needed, it looks like Jaron Brown will get the call more often than Ted Ginn. There will be plays for Ginn in three-receiver sets I am sure, but right now, if I had to put together a depth chart, I’d peg Ginn as behind the Brown boys. Ginn is the return man and the “get deep” threat.
— Other notable spots on the live depth chart watching the game. UDFA Glenn Carson was with Desmond Bishop as second-unit ILBs, with Larry Foote and Kenny Demens starting. Kevin Minter is still out; Carson could be a practice squad candidate. Jonathan Dwyer is pretty clearly the No. 2 running back. Bradley Sowell was the second-unit right tackle, and Max Starks worked third team. Arians said Sowell had been doing better the last couple of weeks. It’ll be interesting to see if Starks or Sowell are kept, because the swing tackle backup job is between those two.
— No injuries Sunday night? That’s the best news of all.
— The offensive line played well. In protection and the run game. That’s an excellent development.
That’s good for now. I’ll make a stab at guessing the 53-man roster in the next couple of days. Time to go home. Back to work in a few hours.
Tags: Bengals, Bradley Sowell, Carson Palmer, Glenn Carson, Jaron Brown, John Abraham, John Brown, Jonathan Dwyer, Kenny Demens, Larry Fitzgerald, Larry Foote, Michael Floyd, Ted Ginn
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