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Who could work with Arians and (gasp!) QB talk

Posted by Darren Urban on March 6, 2013 – 4:54 pm

At some point, the constant offseason debate about who will be the Cardinals’ quarterback will end. In a perfect world, it’d be determined this offseason long-term somehow, but until then, I suppose a third of the posts here lean in that direction. So here’s a midweek base-touching on some quarterback-and-the-Cardinals topics:

— Former Colts general manager Bill Polian, now an ESPN analyst, was on a conference call the other day and gave his thoughts on what QB out there might be the best fit to work with new Cardinals coach Bruce Arians. Polian sounded somewhat optimistic Arians provided a little flexibility in that regard.

“I worked with Bruce for five years, and my feeling is that he can adapt his offensive scheme to pretty much any skill level at quarterback as long as the guy is a good decision maker, as long as he has the ability to see the receiver deliver the ball on time and do it accurately,” Polian said. “Those three things are a must for quarterback play.  I think whomever he has can do that, and he’ll adapt the rest of it.

“For him, that’s not hard at all.  He’s very adaptive and creative.  He’ll figure out a way to make virtually any system work, as long as the quarterback has those (three things) … well, actually it’s four things.  Process information, see the receiver, anticipate his coming open get it out quickly, and be accurate.”

Is that Kevin Kolb? Is that Brian Hoyer? Is that John Skelton or Chase Daniel or Drew Stanton? Is that/could it be Smith/Barkley/Glennon/someone else in the draft? That’s the mystery building up to these next seven weeks or so.

— Speaking of Hoyer, Peter Schrager writes that, given the QB market, Hoyer could be considered by multiple teams in free agency even as a restricted free agent. I went over this before that the Cards probably will tender Hoyer and thus would have a chance to match any contract offer he signs from other team. The soft QB market, both in free agency and the draft, obviously plays into Hoyer’s attractiveness but that doesn’t make him any less of a legit option. One nugget Schrager notes — Ken Whisenhunt was telling teams he would like to bring Hoyer with him in some role when Whiz was interview for head coaching jobs.

— As far as Kolb goes, the fact his roster bonus is reportedly due March 17 could make a big difference. It buys the Cards time if they want, or if Kolb doesn’t want to take as much of a cut as the Cards want him to take. Teams can talk to free agents starting Saturday. In that extra week, the Cards could know for sure if they have another veteran option in place instead of Kolb and let him go if they want. Or, after wading into the free agent pool, they decide Kolb is the guy they want, they can make moves then. I’m speculating on this right now — both sides have been tight-lipped over how this is going — but then again, it’s the season of speculation.

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A time for money moves

Posted by Darren Urban on March 1, 2013 – 11:44 am

The moves today to release cornerback William Gay and linebacker Stewart Bradley aren’t really shocking. This is what happens when salary exceeds production, as general manager Steve Keim was talking about just a couple of weeks ago. Bradley’s story is well known, and after he didn’t do much last season and with his salary back to $5 million, his future was all but written. Gay’s 2012 playing time escalated his salary from $1.475 million to $3.225 million, and that too probably cost Gay any chance of returning. With around $7 million of cap savings, the Cards are under the cap now.

There is still work to do, of course, the most glaring the contract of quarterback Kevin Kolb. There has been no word yet of any talks or movement in that area. The Cards have fit his giant $13.5M cap number in for now, but nothing has changed from the fact something has to happen. Kolb is due a $2M roster bonus soon (do not know the date, but anticipate it being the start of the league year on March 12 or right around there) and I can’t see it being paid unless a new deal is in place.

The Cards were about $1.2M over the cap prior to the cuts today according to Adam Schefter, so the savings should put them a little more than $5M under — decent breathing room in the short term, although a tender offer to QB Brian Hoyer would eat up some of that space if one were made. Are further moves, aside from Kolb, coming in the form of a cut or a restructure? Perhaps. Don’t forget, a restructure basically means giving the player more money now for the privilege of pushing cap space on to a future year’s cap. Eventually, it has to be paid. And if there is anything we have learned about the new collective bargaining agreement and the salary cap is that it was set up to no longer have giant spikes from year to year — making cap management for every team a little more challenging year-to-year. Bradley and Gay were not the only NFL veterans cut today, that’s for sure.

It also underscores another NFL reality — for all the gnashing of teeth that goes on when free agency starts about why the Cards (or any team) didn’t sign this guy or that guy — that the draft is the way to build a roster. Ultimately, teams don’t let players get away that they think they can’t afford to lose.

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A restricted Hoyer’s potential place

Posted by Darren Urban on February 28, 2013 – 1:05 pm

Through all the talk about what the Cardinals might do at quarterback and who their potential targets might be through trade and through the draft, one name has remained somewhat in limbo — Brian Hoyer. Hoyer flashed a bit at the end of the season for the Cardinals and he was a player new GM Steve Keim had long considered. With the Cardinals looking everywhere for QB answers, Hoyer likely remains a candidate for the roster in some capacity at this point.

Originally, Hoyer was thought to be an unrestricted free agent. But as free agency approaches in a couple of week, Hoyer instead ended up in restricted free agent limbo. A restricted free agent is a player with three accrued seasons. Hoyer was an RFA going into the offseason of 2012, and the New England Patriots tendered him a contract offer then, restricting him from shopping his services on the open market. Yet Hoyer was cut at the end of training camp in favor of Ryan Mallett — a signed tender offer still doesn’t make it a guaranteed deal — and Hoyer waited.

To get an accrued season — and a fourth would allow someone like Hoyer unrestricted free agent status — a player must spend six games on a 53-man roster during the season. As it turns out, Hoyer just missed. He was with the Cardinals for three games. Before that, and after the Patriots let him go, the Steelers signed him for two games. He was cut the Saturday before the third game. It led him to a better opportunity with the Cards when they claimed him off waivers the following Monday, but those two days off the roster also meant he compiled just five games on a roster total — and a second straight year of restricted status.

What it all means is that the Cards have control over Hoyer staying if they choose to. The Cards could tender Hoyer at the lowest RFA amount — about $1.3 million — and have the right to match any other offer Hoyer might get. (For another $700,000, the Cards could tender Hoyer so that any team signing him away would owe the Cards a second-round pick. I don’t see the Cards doing that, nor would I see a team giving up a pick for the one-time undrafted Hoyer.)

I do think Hoyer will be tendered an offer as the Cards search for a QB. It would have been easier for him to get away as an UFA, but I think the Cards will want to see more of what they got a glimpse of down the stretch last season.

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Exhausting QB possibilities and more scuttlebutt

Posted by Darren Urban on February 27, 2013 – 9:52 am

The idea that the Cardinals would explore the trade possibility for 49ers backup quarterback Alex Smith — as Kent Somers noted yesterday — shouldn’t be a shock (although I will admit I originally wasn’t sure if the Cards would surrender a pick for him). Nor would the idea that the Cardinals could/would/should look at a trade for Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett, a speculative concept that picked up steam yesterday after Tom Brady’s extension essentially made Mallett ever playing for the Patriots (barring an injury) unlikely.

The talk reminded me of something general manager Steve Keim recently said when it came to the QB search: “We will exhaust every resource we have.”

That, Keim said, included every draftable quarterback from the first round to the last, free agency and, of course, potential trade options around the league. There is a priority list. Given what is out there in both free agency and the draft (which, right now, doesn’t seem exciting), a trade isn’t a surprise. Besides, if the Cardinals were going to spend a draft pick on a quarterback this year anyway, why not deal one for, say, Smith?

A trade with the Niners seems unlikely, just because San Francisco would seem to have options and conventional wisdom says they’d probably rather not help a division foe. The latest out of San Francisco (via Matt Barrows) is that the Niners would want at least a high fourth-round pick for Smith. If the Chiefs offer one, that’s basically a late third, given their spot at the top of the draft. UPDATE: In the seconds after I posted this, Jay Glazer reported that the trade of Alex Smith to the Chiefs was done and would happen as soon as it could March 12. So there’s one resource off the board.

Mallett, given that the Patriots don’t have another QB right now and comes cheap, is going to cost more, I’d guess. At least a third, where he was drafted in the first place (and I have to wonder what the Cardinals thought of him just a couple of years ago in 2011, when he was available and this team passed on him three different times. Besides, his accuracy is a question despite his big arm and some in New England didn’t think he outplayed Brian Hoyer last preseason even though the Pats dumped Hoyer in favor of Mallett.)

Much will be speculated on right now and there will be a level of truth to most of it, because the Cards are as Keim said exhausting every path trying to fix this problem. No trades can come down until March 12, nor can any free agents be signed. The draft is two months away. If Kevin Kolb doesn’t return, I can see a draft pick and a veteran added. The QB question won’t be answered until it’s answered.

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Arians thinks accuracy can be helped — sometimes

Posted by Darren Urban on February 25, 2013 – 11:41 am

Larry Fitzgerald was targeted 156 times last season. He ended up with just 71 catches.

Now, that doesn’t mean there weren’t times when Fitz could’ve and should’ve come down with a pass and didn’t. That certainly happened, and more times last year, I think, than in the past (profootballfocus.com had him with five drops last season, Stats.inc credited him with three.) But there were many, many, many more times when the pass went to Fitzgerald and the ball simply wasn’t close enough to even make a play on it.

This isn’t about Fitz though but the ability to make sure whatever quarterback is behind center can be accurate. There are many factors that go into an incomplete pass, including the pass rush and pass protection. But last season, none of the four quarterbacks who played for the Cardinals completed 60 percent of their passes. Kevin Kolb was 59.6 percent, John Skelton was 54.2, Ryan Lindley 52.0 and Brian Hoyer 56.6. These days, if you aren’t completing between 62 to 65 percent of your passes — at least — you are going to have a hard time being successful. It’s something to watch for with the rookies too, although given the upgrade in speed and schemes in the NFL, accuracy can be a projection for those guys.

The question is whether it can be improved in a prospect — or with anyone.

“I think you can improve all phases of their mechanics,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “Some guys, if the flaw is so difficult in their throwing motion especially from the trunk up, it’s going to be hard. But the majority of accuracy problems are your legs. Guys overstride, they understride, they put themselves in bad positions and stress themselves. Fundamentals, that’s why golfers go to the driving range every day. Tiger (Woods) is a great player, Rory (Mcllroy)  is a great player, but they go to the driving range every day. Quarterbacks need to go to the driving range every day.

“You want to be more of a teacher than a swing coach. When you are a swing coach, you know you have problems.”

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Waiting game for Cards’ own free agents

Posted by Darren Urban on February 18, 2013 – 3:49 pm

The Scouting combine is usually when the talk of free agency begins to start to pick up. Free agency doesn’t start until March 12, although teams can start negotiating (although not sign) potential UFAs from other teams on March 9. Until then, each team has the exclusive chance to talk with and re-sign their own impending free agents.

The Cardinals have a handful of their own free agents and there are some you’d think the Cards might want to bring back. Given the position and circumstances, I’d peg cornerback Greg Toler and running back LaRod Stephens-Howling would be at the top of the list. Toler began to play better in the second half of last season after missing all of 2011 with a torn ACL and would be a nice piece to keep around. Stephens-Howling has been a steady contributor over the years and the old regime wanted him back. It’s hard to know exactly where Toler, Stephens-Howling or any of the free agents fit in the new scheme of things.

Could the Cardinals get a deal or two done before free agency? Maybe. But general manager Steve Keim didn’t sound like anyone should be holding their breath, either.

“It’s always the plan,” Keim said. “We want to be pro-active and aggressive in our decisions but at the same time, you’ve got to understand a lot of the time, these guys are trying to see what the market is going to bring and their representatives have the mindset of, ‘Let’s see what is out there and then we will come back and talk.’ Not that they want to leave the Cardinals because I know a lot of our player’s agents have made overtures to me or Bruce (Arians) that they want to be here. At the same time they want to get market value as well.”

Other possible returnees among the UFAs would include quarterback Brian Hoyer, linebackers Paris Lenon and Quentin Groves and safety Rashad Johnson. (Although during a conference call Monday NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said this was a deep draft for safeties, so that could change some potential decisions.)

Unless a player is going to get a good chunk of money from his old team, it is understandable they test free agency by now. There is a reason extensions often come down in-season, because by the time we get to the end of the season — and the potential free agents can’t get hurt playing anymore — why wouldn’t you wait for free agency to arrive and shop your talents.

(Then again, if agents start poking around and find out their guys aren’t going to have big deals waiting for them when free agency starts, the player may be motivated to get something done sooner.)

The franchise tag isn’t going to come into play, either. Last year it made a ton of sense to do it for defensive end Calais Campbell. You aren’t going to do it for a Hyphen or a Toler. So when free agency begins in early March, the Cardinals will likely be working on contracts for their own guys as well as anyone else on the market they will try to bring in.

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Hoyer in terms of 2013

Posted by Darren Urban on December 26, 2012 – 3:14 pm

Brian Hoyer will get his chance to start at quarterback for the Cardinals Sunday. Coach Ken Whisenhunt officially made that true Wednesday when he named Hoyer his starter in San Francisco, the fourth different guy to start at QB for the Cards this season. Whiz said Hoyer has earned the chance to play, but it doesn’t hurt to take a little bit of a longer look at someone who could be on the roster for the Cards going forward.

Hoyer’s contract will run out in March. I believe he will be a restricted free agent again — he was for the Patriots last offseason, but I don’t believe he will have earned an accrued season this year (three weeks each with Pittsburgh and Arizona but will have been active just four games) to reach unrestricted free agency. That would mean the Cards can tender him an offer to keep him around (and even if he would be unrestricted, the Cards could still try to re-sign him.) UPDATE: I was wrong. Hoyer will indeed be unrestricted.

Regardless, Hoyer wasn’t about to talk about that Wednesday. Not with his game against the 49ers on deck.

“I’m not really worried about that right now,” Hoyer said. “I’m worried about what play will be called on third-and 2-to-5. We’re not going to the playoffs and this is the last game and there will be plenty of time to worry about that after Sunday.”

— Whisenhunt said he didn’t know if running back Beanie Wells would start this week, noting it would be a “package-oriented” result. As for Wells’ comments that he was auditioning for other teams in the finale, Whisenhunt put it on the frustration of the season and nothing more than that. “When you’ve had individual players that have played certain ways, there’s going to be frustration,” Whisenhunt said. “Sometimes they’re going to make comments, so you don’t put a lot of stock in what they say.

“(Beanie) has a job to do for us. He’s got to do a better job than what he did last week. He understands that and that’s what you focus on.”

— Tight end Rob Housler (shoulder) was put on injured reserve Wednesday, ending his season. Wide receiver Kerry Taylor was promoted from the practice squad to take his place on the roster.


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No QB decision, Housler down and Beanie’s fumble

Posted by Darren Urban on December 24, 2012 – 11:38 am

Coach Ken Whisenhunt usually isn’t real forthcoming with injuries on Monday mornings, but he did say today that the shoulder injury suffered by tight end Rob Housler Sunday against the Bears is serious enough that Housler won’t be playing against the 49ers this week in the finale. On that topic, Whiz sounded pretty sure of himself. On the quarterback topic, his decision on whom to start not as much.

Whisenhunt praised Brian Hoyer’s play, given the circumstances. Hoyer remains a logical guess to be starter against the 49ers.

“We haven’t even watched the tape with the team yet,” Whisenhunt said. “I’m hesitant until we go through some of those things. There are always situations that come up where you want to find out what was going through the player’s mind, what they were thinking, that all goes into the decision part of it.”

Whiz acknowledged it is “unfortunate” the Cards are again unsure of who to play. “At that position, you have to have stability, you have to have consistency of play, and we haven’t had that,” Whisenhunt said.

— Finally, running back Beanie Wells lost playing time because of his fumble. That, Whisenhunt said, was a simple cause and effect.

“If you have the ball, that’s your responsibility,” Whisenhunt said. “You can’t turn it over. I don’t care who you are. I don’t care what position you play. In the NFL, if you turn the ball over, you’re not going to play. That’s the way it goes. And that’s through history. There are guys who are good players who can’t hold on to the football. Turnovers are something you can’t overcome.”

It didn’t help that the fumble came without Wells being hit, just him dropping the ball. But Whisenhunt was asked if he still has confidence in Beanie. “Sure,” he said. I still expect Beanie to have a role this week in San Francisco. UPDATE: Beanie just said in the locker room that he thinks it is “inevitable” that his days are numbered in Arizona and right now he is on an audition for 31 other teams. He admitted he hasn’t had conversations with anyone with the team saying that for sure, but he knows it is a production-based business and he hasn’t produced enough. Here’s the full story.

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Bears aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 23, 2012 – 8:25 pm

One more to go. No more at home. And as I write this the 49ers-Seahawks game is on in the background, and the Seahawks continue to look like the real deal –while the Niners are, one way or the other, going to need that game next week against the Cardinals. Once there was thought it could be about resting. Not anymore. That’s going to make it even more of a difficult finale for the Cards.

Who will coach Ken Whisenhunt go with at quarterback? My money is on Brian Hoyer but since it’s not really my money, who knows. I thought Hoyer looked decent and surprisingly comfortable out there, although he didn’t produce any points and still threw an interception. No one is sitting there saying he’s the answer and the likelihood he’s a long-term solution is small, but again, it’s about looking at every option because, well, why wouldn’t you?

— Seems like forever ago the Cards last blocked a field goal, and then Adrian Wilson got one that Justin Bethel turned into points (below). Fitting that it came at the end of Wilson’s game, which could be his final one at UoP? Well, Wilson wasn’t in the mood to go there. Not really.

Wilson was asked about that final game. “I haven’t thought about it one bit, until (the media) continuously bring it up,” Wilson said. “If they make a decision, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be pretty quick. If they don’t, OK. Either way I go, I’m a good player. We’ll see what happens.”

— Whisenhunt noted that the pick-6s are really hurting the Cards. After Sunday’s TD by the Bears’ Charles Tillman, the Cards have given up five of them this season – way too many. As for trying to find a QB, “it’s not fun, but we keep working at it,” Whisenhunt said.

— The relationship between Whiz and running back Beanie Wells probably wasn’t helped by Beanie’s fumble on his own 1-yard line, which was recovered by the Bears for a touchdown. Beanie slipped – that happens – but he dropped the ball as he slipped without being hit. He got a talking-to by Whisenhunt afterward.

Whiz said he couldn’t explain it. “From what I saw, obviously you can’t put the ball on the ground, especially not there,” Whisenhunt said. Beanie said he didn’t get hurt on the play, and as for what Whiz told him, “It is what it is,” Wells said. “Who knows how it’s going to turn out from here.”

— How it turned out Sunday was that Wells got exactly one more carry the rest of the game as the Cards instead used LaRod Stephens-Howling and William Powell at running back. Beanie noted that everyone on the Cards is “fighting for jobs, whether it’s going to be here or somewhere else.” Wells is under contract for 2013 and with a lot of uncertainty (Ryan Williams health, Stephens-Howling free agency) the Cards wouldn’t just let him go even if they wanted to make a change. But it’s fair to wonder about Wells’ future.

— Given the Cards’ offense, I really didn’t have an issue trying a fake punt. Not sure I’d be comfortable with Feely rolling left, but really, with that offense, you aren’t expecting many points. Field goals weren’t going to do it.

— I know ultimately it came too little too late, but it was nice to see Fitz get more than 100 yards, and it was nice to see some accurate passes thrown in his direction.

— Dave Zastudil, current NFL record holder. Can he hold on to his two-punts-downed-inside-the-20 lead over Kansas City’s Dustin Colquitt and keep that record? Who says there won’t be Week 17 suspense?

OK. A normal Monday coming up, even if it is Christmas Eve. We’ll be working it, and then enjoying the holiday. Hope you all do too. One more to go in the 2012 season.

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Hoyer active as backup QB; Rashad sits

Posted by Darren Urban on December 23, 2012 – 12:59 pm

Brian Hoyer is active as the backup quarterback today with John Skelton inactive against the Bears. Ryan Lindley starts, but Hoyer will be available if coach Ken Whisenhunt wants to play him. It’s not a surprise, but for Skelton to open the season as starter and now be inactive with Kevin Kolb also out is an amazing journey.

Safety Rashad Johnson (hamstring) will sit out, meaning Adrian Wilson could get extended time beyond his play in the base defense, although James Sanders is available. This, again, could end up being Wilson’s final home game with the Cards depending on what the Cards do with him this offseason.

Others inactive:

— G Senio Kelemete

— OL Mike Gibson (calf)

— TE Kory Sperry

— WR Early Doucet (concussion)

— DE Ronald Talley (ankle)


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