The “soft” opening of free agency this weekend has provided plenty in the way of speculation and prediction, especially when it comes to the hot left tackle market. While much was discussed over the last few weeks with the Cards possibly looking at Chiefs free-agent-to-be Branden Albert. But late Saturday night/Sunday morning the idea the Cardinals might instead look at Raiders left tackle Jared Valdheer picked up steam. By Sunday afternoon, a report out of Baltimore — where the Ravens are trying to bring back their own left tackle Eugene Monroe — handicapped the landing spots for all the premium left tackles about to be available. Multiple sources (which usually is a euphemism for “agents”) pegged Veldheer as a Cardinal once free agency began this week. Albert is apparently headed for Miami.
Again, during this “pre” period of free agency — which takes teams up until the official opening Tuesday at 1 p.m. Arizona time — teams can speak to agents of players but not the players themselves. And while parameters of contracts can be discussed, no contract can be executed until Tuesday. So we’re still a couple days away from knowing for sure on any of this (and physicals still have to be passed for all these players on all these teams.)
As for Veldheer specifically, he does make sense on multiple fronts. He’s young — just 27, younger than Albert — and he’s protected Carson Palmer previously. That means he could get info about the Cards from Palmer, and it means Palmer will have a comfort level with an otherwise new tackle. He did miss 11 games last season with a tricep injury, but he’s otherwise been durable. And it sounds like he’ll come just a tad cheaper than a couple other of those tackles. (Here is an article from overthecap.com from late last season estimating Veldheer’s next deal.)
Many were surprised the Raiders didn’t use a franchise tag on Veldheer, and it is interesting they’d let go someone they know and presumably saw play well like this, especially now that the Rams’ Rodger Saffold is definitely leaving St. Louis and the assumption is he will be going to Oakland. But most reports had the Raiders trying hard to re-sign Veldheer but he wanted to see his worth. We’ll see if it is the Cardinals that end up finding him worthy.
Tags: Branden Albert, Carson Palmer, Eugene Monroe, Jared Veldheer, Rodger Saffold
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Today was the deadline for teams to use the franchise tag. There is still a week before free agency officially begins — although teams and free-agents-to-be can start talking Saturday — and there is still time for any of these players who are set to become free to still sign extensions and avoid hitting the market. That said, the tag was a possibility for a handful of prospective left tackle free agents, and all of them ended up dodging that tag Monday.
That means the left tackle market, barring a late extension, will include Kansas City’s Branden Albert, Baltimore’s Eugene Monroe, St. Louis’ Rodger Saffold, Oakland’s Jared Valdheer and Cincinnati’s Anthony Collins. (There are reports out of Oakland that think Valdheer’s non-tagging means he’s close to a deal, but if that is true, why not tag him just in case?)
Profootballfocus.com ranked the tackles on the market in this order: Monroe, Albert, Veldheer, Collins, Saffold. The money to sign these guys will not be insignificant, and the need remains high for such players across the league. But if the Cardinals are looking to grab a vet to plug in, there not only will be options but the ability to have a solid backup choice. That can’t be a bad thing.
Tags: Anthony Collins, Branden Albert, Eugene Monroe, free agency, Jared Valdheer, offensive line, Rodger Saffold
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With “official” talks with free agents allowed March 8 and actually agreements allowed March 11, the time when teams will actually be able to start finalizing such things is still more than a week away. Players are dropping off the “He’s going to be a free agent” list daily, like with the litany of Philadelphia Eagles who have signed extensions the past couple of days. That can still happen to any of these potential free agents being talked about.
It hasn’t cooled the speculation, however. Greg Bedard of SI.com’s MMQB ranked the top 100 free-agents-to-be and also listed what he thought would be the best fits. The Cardinals find themselves mentioned a few times.
– The only current Cardinal scheduled to be a free agent that made the list was linebacker Karlos Dansby. He was at No. 34. Not surprisingly, Bedard’s call for Dansby’s best fit was remaining with the Cardinals. I agree with that. Not only does the system best fit Karlos, but so does his working relationship next to Daryl Washington.
– There are three left tackles on the list from other teams: Kansas City’s Branden Albert (No. 7), Baltimore’s Eugene Monroe (No. 8) and Cincinnati’s Anthony Collins (No. 60). For both Albert and Collins, the Cardinals are listed as the best fit and the Cards are also noted for Monroe along with Miami. Obviously the Cardinals would sign more than one, but it’s obvious to the NFL world this team should be a landing spot for at least one. It will definitely be one of the more intriguing storylines of that first week (or less) of free agency.
– Packers DE/OLB Mike Neal was 95th on the list and the Cards were called his best fit. Neal’s name has already been floated as a potential Arizona target. It makes all the sense in the world if Matt Shaughnessy leaves as a free agent.
– In the most surprising post, for Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, 57th on the list, the Cards are called the best fit. I get it with the possibility free agent Rashard Mendenhall might not return. But the way Bruce Arians and Steve Keim think about running backs, and with Ryan Williams and Stepfan Taylor still around along with Andre Ellington (and we aren’t even talking about someone popping up draft-wise) I don’t see the Cards even thinking about a guy like MJD. Or more specifically, his price tag.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Anthony Collins, Branden Albert, Daryl Washington, Eugene Monroe, free agency, Karlos Dansby, Maurice Jones-Drew, Mike Neal, offensive line, Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Williams, Stepfan Taylor
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It’s been circulating in the media for a few weeks now that if the Chiefs let left tackle Branden Albert reach free agency, the Cardinals are expected to be one of the teams that would pursue him. And there have been other names floating out there in connection to the Cards, like offensive lineman Rodger Saffold or defensive lineman Mike Neal. As free agency approaches March 11 (and even before that, when teams can “officially” start talking to FAs-to-be a couple of days before that) there will be more names that float out there, no doubt.
Some teams might leak interest in guys. Many agents have no problem leaking what teams might have interest. After all, the more interest for a player, his price goes up. Even if the interest isn’t that big of interest at all. That’s the key to this whole thing. Take the Cardinals. They have a free-agent board ranking their targets. But things can and often will change on a daily basis according to who is signing where, whom might re-sign, and how much these players might want. I’m sure that whatever team is interested in Albert understands he won’t come cheap.
Yet that board the Cardinals build includes the metrics of a player, where they are in age and their worth. Would the Cards go above and beyond? For the right player, they just might. But Steve Keim and company aren’t going to toss aside their game plan/philosophy for one player. They won’t cripple the salary cap out of need or panic. It’s the same sort of thought process they will have with a guy like Karlos Dansby, whom they want back but won’t foil the big picture in that quest.
So every time a name is floated, sure, there might be interest. But that would merely the first step in a process. Like last year, I expect the Cards to push hard for a guy to sign a contract if they get him to Tempe for a visit — no need to let other teams woo a guy away — but there are a lot of variables before a guy actually inks a deal.
Tags: Branden Albert, free agency, Karlos Dansby, Mike Neal, Rodger Saffold
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Bobby Massie finished his 2012 rookie season playing pretty well at right tackle after a horrendous start to his career. He seemed like a natural piece of the 2013 offensive line, until the Cards signed veteran Eric Winston as training camp began. Over the season, Massie eventually got a few snaps at right tackle, but he never displaced Winston, who is an unrestricted free agent. If Winston comes back, Massie will be his competition. Massie isn’t playing guard or on the left side, as the Cardinals try to improve the offensive line.
“(Bobby) is a right tackle,” Arians said. “He’s not a left tackle. We experimented with that and he struggled with it. He’s a right tackle and he’s talented. The biggest thing right now is to be more consistent every day in his work habits.”
Does Massie fit in to the 2014 starting line? He very well could. But so much is up in the air, and it goes well beyond Massie and Winston. It’s assumed, and probably not incorrectly, that the Cardinals will seek an offensive lineman or two in free agency. It’s likely they will look into Chiefs left tackle Branden Albert if he reaches free agency (Kansas City GM John Dorsey said Friday the Chiefs have talked to Albert’s agent at the combine about an extension) and reports surfaced Friday that the Cards might also look into Rams tackle.guard Rodger Saffold (Rams GM Les Snead said Friday re-signing Saffold was a priority.)
It is realistic to think the Cards could have new starters at four of five positions on the line by the time games count in 2014 (center Lyle Sendlein is likely safe.). It’s also possible the line doesn’t change. Friday, Arians wouldn’t commit to the Cards having a new player in the lineup (other than the return of injured guard Jonathan Cooper), saying only the line needed to get bigger and stronger.
“Whether it is adding pieces to the puzzle or improving the players we have, we have Coop back, Earl (Watford) to the development, you add those two young guards will make us more athletic and create good competition with the veterans,” Arians said. “We are looking at adding pieces, one tackle, two, whatever we find is best to fit our locker room.”
The Cardinals also probably want to get cheaper at parts of the line, especially if they pay a premium for a free agent. That too can impact the equation — and make a guy like Massie more attractive.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Branden Albert, Bruce Arians, Eric Winston, offensive line, Rodger Saffold, Scouting combine
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That the Cardinals will likely consider signing a left tackle in free agency would be no surprise. Who the targets might be remain mostly speculation, especially since there is still a chance some of them won’t make it to the open market, whether they are signed to an extension before March 11 or are given the franchise tag. Kansas City’s Branden Albert is the most notable choice (and there was a report out of Kansas City that the Chiefs will let Albert walk). There is also the Ravens’ Eugene Monroe, the Raiders’ Jared Veldheer or the Bengals’ Anthony Collins.
Whatever the Cards decide to do — at tackle or another spot — they will be prepared. That’s what General Manager Steve Keim and his front office group have been doing in the run-up to the Scouting combine, building their free-agent board for a second straight season. Last year, the Cards did the same, and ended up signing seven of the top nine players they had listed (which included one of their own free agents, safety Rashad Johnson.)
That board is more complicated than just listing the top talent on the market. It takes into account positions of need, of course, in addition to estimated salaries of what these players might want, what they should be worth when it comes to metrics, and what the Cards would be willing to offer. It delivers a blueprint so the Cards are prepared when free agency begins.
As the Cardinals proved last season, they have numbers in mind for all their offers. It doesn’t sound like Keim likes to do a ton of negotiating. Last season, for many free agents early in the process, the Cardinals told visiting players their offer could very well be off the table if they left without signing. That proved fruitful. The Cards didn’t sign everyone they went after last season, but that’s where the board helps.
“It will help us move on to the next guy if a guy decides to drag his feet or to not take the deal,” Keim said.
A lot can still change until March 11, because of the Cards’ own free agents that may or may not re-sign. The board, though, will be a crucial part of the process going forward.
Tags: Anthony Collins, Branden Albert, Eugene Monroe, free agency, Jared Veldheer, Rashad Johnson, Steve Keim
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There are plenty of realistic scenarios where none of the top three rated offensive tackles are left on the draft board by the time the Cardinals pick at No. 7. It’s been suggested by some that the Cards could think about trading up in that situation. I just don’t see it. I didn’t before, and I don’t now after GM Steve Keim said “I’m not in the business of giving away picks.”
Smartly, Keim isn’t going to rule anything out. But moving up from 7 is going to be too expensive, even if it was just a spot or two. And frankly, the Cards can’t afford to give up a second or a third right now when those guys have a chance to turn into starters on a team that needs to fill holes. (Mike Jurecki reported the Cards have discussed the possibility of trading for disgruntled franchised Chiefs tackle Branden Albert, but I don’t see that either. If the money he wants on a long-term deal is scaring the Dolphins away, I don’t see how it makes more sense here.)
So maybe the Cards don’t trade up, or trade for Albert. But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t trade. One thing I can definitely see is Keim willing to trade down, especially in this draft. He may not want to give away picks, but stockpiling them I’m sure is of interest, especially for a draft guy like him. Of course, there has to be someone on the board at 7 someone feels the need to come up and get, which could be a long shot. And who, exactly are the Cards going to seek? Offensive line and pass rusher remain the most obvious choices, and there are a handful that have been discussed not only top 10 but into the 11-15 range that make sense.
I do see Keim being aggressive in such draft moves, willing to move up and back if necessary. That second round pick, in fact, could be interesting in that regard. In the first round, though, I’m thinking back and not forward — if the Cards move at all.
Tags: Branden Albert, Chiefs, Dolphins, draft, Steve Keim
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The day Steve Keim was named general manager, the one-time offensive lineman spoke about his offensive line — the much-maligned line in 2012, for a variety of reasons.
“I think we have some pieces in place,” Keim said. “The level of physicality, the ability to run the ball consistently, that is a huge issue and that needs to be fixed.”
Last week before the Super Bowl, new head coach Bruce Arians said the offensive line situations is “not as dire as some might make it out to be.”
So what does that all mean? Certainly, injuries took their toll on the unit last season. Reading between the lines — and that’s all it is right now — it seems to me there is a good chance Levi Brown will be part of the unit in some way, shape or form. I don’t know if that means at guard or tackle. It would seem to be Bobby Massie has a chance to be a tackle going forward after he finished well in his rookie year after a difficult start. Where does Nate Potter fit in? And how do the current interior starters — guards Daryn Colledge and Adam Snyder, with center Lyle Sendlein — fit?
It’s still early. First, the new staff, which will have multiple coaches that will teach the offensive line, need to go through the video and analyze what players are already in place. Free agency gives the Cards some options, especially at tackle, although the cap implications of a big-dollar signing will have to be carefully considered. (Among the tackles currently slated for free agency — knowing a couple could get the franchise tag — include Denver’s Ryan Clady, Kansas City’s Branden Albert, New Orleans’ Jerrod Bushrod and the Giants’ Will Beatty.)
As for the guys already on the roster, the 2013 salary cap numbers for the four vets are as follows: Brown $7.65M, Colledge $7.3M, Snyder $4M, Sendlein $3.1M. (And before you ask, the “dead” money if those players were released would be $5.6M, $4.5M, $4M and $2.1M, respectively.) The draft seems like a more likely spot to add a piece, but whether that would be a tackle (like Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher) or guard (like Alabama’s Chance Warmack) or even after the first round, well, it’s way to early to have a good sense of that. The Cards have to have their meetings and again, the coaches need to evaluate what they have.
There has been a lot of talk about the quarterback and what the Cards will do about it, and that’s clearly the top topic. But what happens with the offensive line — and how that unit is addressed by Keim and Arians — will play into the quarterback story as well.
Tags: Adam Snyder, Bobby Massie, Branden Albert, Bruce Arians, Chance Warmack, Daryn Colledge, Eric Fisher, Jerrod Bushrod, Levi Brown, Lyle Sendlein, Nate Potter, offensive line, Ryan Clady, Steve Keim, Will Beatty
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