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Blogs

No need for the franchise tag

Posted by Darren Urban on February 11, 2014 – 4:54 pm

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.


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Calais Campbell enjoys a relaxing vacation in Australia

Posted by since1898 on February 11, 2014 – 9:39 am

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Ranking positions of need

Posted by Darren Urban on February 10, 2014 – 1:01 pm

Next week, the decision-makers for the Cardinals and the rest of the NFL will head to Indianapolis for the annual Scouting combine. Already teams, including the Cards, have been meeting and ranking their rosters and figuring out what direction they will need to go in. Free agency, which begins March 11 officially (although teams came start to talk to guys from other teams a couple of days before that), will impact what happens in the draft and the rest of the offseason.

But before all that, and before the Cardinals re-sign any more of their own players, here are — in my opinion — the positions that need to be addressed the most over the next few months:

1) Offensive line: It doesn’t hurt that this encompasses multiple positions. Ultimately, it is left tackle that the Cardinals likely need to go after the most. I have no doubt Bradley Sowell can be depth at the position, but clearly the Cards would like to upgrade there. Easier said than done, of course, and we’ll see if it comes in free agency or the draft.

2) Defensive line: You’re not going to win in the NFC West unless both lines of scrimmage are fortified. As it stands now, the defensive line seems to be OK, with Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett and Dan Williams. But Alameda Ta’amu was an important co-nose tackle with Williams, and he is coming off ACL surgery. Dockett’s age and contract will likely call into question his future after 2014. And with Frostee Rucker a free agent, the Cardinals need depth there, especially after using rotations during the season.

3) Linebacker: This is in part a continuation of the defensive line issue, because whether you consider a pass rusher a linebacker or a defensive end in nickel situations, the Cards still need pass rushers. John Abraham was a godsend in 2013 but he is not getting younger, even if he has another double-digit sack year in his arsenal. Alex Okafor is an unknown quantity at outside linebacker after his lost rookie season, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Matt Shaughnessy get away as a free agent. It’s hard to tell, since both missed most of the season, how well Lorenzo Alexander and Sam Acho fit in the defense as well. That doesn’t even include the inside, where Karlos Dansby could still leave.

4) Tight end: This position probably should be higher on the list, considering all the free agents the Cardinals have. Then again, maybe I’m just used to the Cards just getting along the best they can at tight end to make sure other spots are taken care of first. But Bruce Arians likes to use the tight end in multiple ways and use multiple tight ends. The Cards need bodies, and that’s even if Jim Dray returns. Rob Housler had flashes again last season but this is likely a make-or-break season for him to stay healthy and be consistent.

5) Safety: Even if Yeremiah Bell returns he is older. Tyrann Mathieu is coming off major knee surgery. The depth is thin, and the Cardinals, as you might have heard, had some issues covering tight ends last season. As good as Richard Sherman is, a big reason why the Seahawks secondary is so good is because Earl Thomas is backstopping Sherman and all those corners. Getting a safety like that wouldn’t be too bad.

Bonus) Quarterback: There’s no reason to list QB in the top five because the Cardinals are fine going into next season playing with Carson Palmer. There’s no argument there, really. But reality says the future QB has to be acquired sooner rather than later. This is a draft-only kind of scenario. I don’t see the Cards seeking another trade or anything. But at some point, GM Steve Keim is going to come across a quarterback he likes very much when the Cards are on the clock. And he needs to pull that trigger for down the road.

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Calais Campbell appears on game show during Super Bowl week

Posted by since1898 on February 5, 2014 – 12:15 pm


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Campbell, Dansby aren’t overlooked everywhere

Posted by Darren Urban on January 24, 2014 – 10:17 am

Defensive end Calais Campbell had a Pro Bowl year, although he didn’t make the team. (He was an alternate, but alas, no bump up.) Linebacker Karlos Dansby had a Pro Bowl year (yet, stunningly, he wasn’t even an alternate). But they haven’t been completely overlooked, with both showing up on a couple of more all-star-type postseason lists.

Profootballfocus.com did their all-NFC West team, and given the strengths of the defenses in the division, cracking that lineup is impressive. Campbell and Dansby did, along with cornerback Patrick Peterson (and there was also a mention of Daryl Washington as a strong candidate, too.) Offensively, the Cardinals got wide receiver Michael Floyd and running back Andre Ellington on the team, as well as special teamer Justin Bethel, whom PFF considers the best special teams player in the NFL.

Meanwhile, the USA Today has put out its annual “All-Joe” team, which is a nod to the under-appreciated around the league. Two Cards found their way on to that list: Campbell and Dansby.

The line on Campbell: “The best 3-4 end in the NFL not named J.J. Watt, Campbell posted a career-best nine sacks while crushing tailbacks for the NFL’s top run defense. He also excels at blocking kicks with his 6-8 frame.” The line on Dansby: “Returned to the desert after three years in Miami and turned in his best season. His career-high 114 solo tackles complemented 6.5 sacks. He also picked off four passes (returning two for scores) and broke up 19 passes, tied for most among linebackers.”

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Niners (and a season) aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 29, 2013 – 8:56 pm

This is what happens, even after a 10-6 season and a finale that goes down to the final play of the game and an exciting trading of four scores in the last 3:30 of the fourth quarter. All of it seems so inconsequential, because immediately, your thoughts go to the future.

There will be lots and lots of time to speculate, break down and report on what is going to happen with the Cardinals this offseason. Certainly I won’t cover it all tonight or even tomorrow on the final day for the players. There are a lot of free agents-to-be, a lot of decisions that have to be made, and most guys are going to say they’d love to be back. Because of course they will, as long as the money is right, and I do not blame them. The shelf life is relatively short in this league. You don’t pass up a big contract elsewhere because you like the vibe your feeling in the current locker room. I mean, you can (and sometimes, you might), but you take the guaranteed money where you can get it. That’s the business.

So where does that put the Cardinals now, on Sunday night, after a finale that started terribly and ended almost magically and once again underscored just how far this team has come.

“This is a totally different ballclub (from 2012), not just looking at the wins and losses but with the mindset of the guys in the locker room,” safety Rashad Johnson said. “That starts with coach Arians. You can tell it’s a different feel with this team.”

– In a lot of ways, Sunday encapsulated the season. There was a slow start but ultimately, the Cards rallied. The defense played well against the run and gave up a crucial pass or two. Offensively the Cardinals threw an interception but did enough to keep the team in the game. If nothing else, the Cardinals showed the last two weeks they have nothing to fear from the Seahawks or 49ers. Remember that Arians’ training camp quote about how he didn’t see a dominate team in the division? Well, from the perspective of his team, he was right.

– Yeah, that Saints game went exactly how it looked like it was going to go. And the NaVorro Bowman pick against the Falcons was really the death knell.

– If you are looking for the Cardinals’ full list of 2014 opponents, click right here.

- -And as I mentioned in that post, the Cards will pick 20th in the draft.

– It’s been mentioned before but the Cardinals have got to find a way to stem the turnover tide against the Niners. In the last 10 games – nine losses – the Cards have turned the ball over 30 times and forced just seven.

– Linebacker Karlos Dansby, on his Pro Bowl snub: “(I’ve) got to do more. There’s always room for improvement.”

– Dan Williams played very well at nose tackle Sunday. But that ACL tear for Alameda Ta’amu hurts. The Williams/Ta’amu combo was a big reason the Cardinals finished with the best rush defense in the NFL. Ta’amu, if he does have an ACL tear, is gonna be down for a while.

– Speaking of that run defense, Frank Gore (14 yards on 13 carries) was absolutely stoned. The Niners got cutesy early with some impressive misdirection, running wide receivers Anquan Boldin (11-yard run) and Quinton Patton (26 yards) on the first drive on end arounds. That’s 37 of the 83 rushing yards the Cards gave up (and QB Colin Kaepernick had 24 himself.)

– Fitz finishes with a flourish, 113 yards on six catches. Couldn’t get the 160 he needed for 1,000, but a nice ending.

– Do the Cardinals draft a quarterback? Possibly. As I said before, Steve Keim won’t take a guy he doesn’t love. But I fully expect Carson Palmer to go into the offseason work as starter, and I expect if he plays next season to be more efficient (with fewer picks.)

– Defensive end Calais Campbell with his ninth sack. Here’s hoping, as an alternate, he ends up in that Pro Bowl. Because he really had a Pro Bowl season.

OK, that’s enough for now. More tomorrow as the Cardinals wrap up with exit physicals, and much more over the offseason. No one ask me what I do now that the season is over. There will be plenty to write about.

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Dansby, Bethel wait for Pro Bowl decision

Posted by Darren Urban on December 26, 2013 – 4:35 pm

The Pro Bowl players will be announced Friday night at 7 p.m. Arizona time during a special on NFL Network (and you’ll get the info here too, on azcardinals.com), but for now, the Cardinals hoping to go can only wait. Cornerback Patrick Peterson seems like a lock to make his Pro Bowl appearances three-for-three in his young career, and defensive end Calais Campbell is certainly deserving.

There are a couple of other deserving Cards too, and they might be the most intriguing storylines. One is special teamer Justin Bethel, who has had a fantastic season. So too has linebacker Karlos Dansby, who is seeking his first Pro Bowl bid in his 10th NFL season. Both are helped by the fact in the new Pro Bowl format in which conferences do not matter — all the choices from a position could conceivably come from just the NFC, which gives breathing room — but at this point, neither one is counting on anything.

“I’m kind of nervous, but I’ve done all I can do,” Bethel said. “Hopefully everyone saw (my play) and we will see what happens.”

It’s long been the Pro Bowl adage that a player ends up making the Pro Bowl a year after he deserves to go and at the end of a career, a year beyond he should have. Bethel knows such things, but he is hoping he showed enough as a rookie last season that this would be “the year after.”

“I was thinking about that last year, because at the end of the season I was playing at a high level,” Bethel said. “If it happens it happens. (Not making it) is not going to deter me from working harder.”

Dansby is in a slightly different spot. He wants to make the game, but he has made a lot of money and is confident in his play — and he also knows that Pro Bowl slots don’t always line up with the players that are most deserving.

“It’d be a great honor,” Dansby said. “But it ain’t going to crush me because my play speaks for itself. It always has. It’s just getting recognized now. Balled in the AFC too, different scheme, first time playing Mike linebacker (last season). This is my second year playing Mike. I’m having fun. I’m still learning the game from a different angle and I’m having fun. I can’t say that enough.”

– There are only a couple of hours left in this auction of Anquan Boldin’s game-worn jersey that December Sunday back in 2003 when he set the NFL record for receptions by a rookie in a season. If you’re up for trying for the jersey — with proceeds going to Cardinals Charities — click here.


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Vote Calais Campbell to the 2014 Pro Bowl

Posted by since1898 on December 26, 2013 – 8:25 am

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Vote for Calais Campbell in NFL.com’s #NFLUP campaign

Posted by since1898 on November 27, 2013 – 1:28 pm

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Friday before the Colts

Posted by Darren Urban on November 22, 2013 – 4:09 pm

The Cardinals have become stellar on defense in the second half – that’s well-chronicled and came to the forefront against last week in Jacksonville when the Cards shut out the Jaguars the final two quarters. The Colts have been a second-half kind of offense, most recently showing that off when they rallied a week ago from a 17-6 halftime deficit to beat the Titans.

So something has to give when the two teams play Sunday. Right?

“It’ll be a good matchup, two second-half teams going at it,” Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell said. “Hopefully  we can have a good start though. Hopefully we don’t wait until the second half again.”

I don’t think anyone will have to wait for the second half to get a feel for Sunday’s very large game between these teams. But these teams’ respective strengths will collide eventually, and we’ll have to see which comes out on top. The Colts are up three games in the AFC South and it would take an epic collapse for them not to win the division. This game is not as crucial to Indy as the Cards. Then again, the fact Bruce Arians is on the other sideline will mean something.

– That last thought reminds me of the game the Cardinals – and first-year coach Ken Whisenhunt – played against the Steelers at University of Phoenix Stadium in 2007. The Steelers were generally regarded as the better team, as the Colts are now. The Cards won the game, and you could tell it meant a ton to Whiz and his staff. I’d expect that emotion to flow from Arians and his staff too in a win.

– What, you say you don’t fully understand the Arians-Colts connection? Click here for the whole story.

– And if you missed it, this was a sad but important lesson learned by offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin.

– Linebacker John Abraham has been better than the Cardinals could have hoped. He’s playing nearly every snap, he’s defending the run, he’s been upgraded on the injury report so he’s been practicing full, and he’s the sack machine he’s always been. Shut out in the first six games, he’s had seven sacks in his last four games. That’s a franchise record for a four-game stretch, and it’d be tough to bet against him reaching Andrew Luck Sunday.

– Remember Patrick Peterson’s muffed punt in Jacksonville, the one where he somehow got it back and the Jaguars were angry and challenged the call? Yeah, they weren’t allowed to challenge the call. That’s been confirmed in the latest NFL officials video (which you can watch here, along with some more somehow-that-wasn’t-pass-interference call from Patriots-Panthers). At the time, it was pretty clear the muffed punt wasn’t reviewable. How an entire officials crew didn’t know that is surprising.

– Congrats to former Cardinals wide receiver Jerheme Urban, who at age 33 has been named the head football coach at his alma mater, Trinity University.

– It will be a blow if the Cardinals cannot get Justin Bethel back and healthy Sunday. You don’t want to mess with concussions, of course. But the Cards’ special teams clearly took a hit last weekend when Bethel went out of the game. Even Arians acknowledged no Bethel isn’t a good thing.

– At least the NFL recognized the problem with the play. Jaguars defensive back Will Blackmon, the player who hit Bethel with the illegal blindside block that caused the concussion, was hit with a $21,000 fine for the play.

– Don’t forget the Cardinals are going to wear red-on-red Sunday. Here are some images from past red-on-red games. And, against my better judgment, because I have zero belief in correlation of such things, note the Cards are 12-3 wearing red-on-red since 2005. That stat is courtesy of Cardinals’ VP of media relations Mark Dalton.

– If you are coming to the game Sunday, the annual holiday food drive to benefit St. Mary’s Food Bank is taking place. Please bring non-perishable food items to drop off at the gate so those less fortunate can be helped. (You can donate money if you want).

– No Reggie Wayne for the Colts. “It’s like taking out the heartbeat,” Arians said. But they do have tight end Coby Fleener, who has taken a bit to get rolling in the NFL but who is coming off his best game. And we know how the Cards have been with tight ends. Stop T.Y. Hilton first, of course, but they better watch Fleener.

Between the background between Arians and the Colts, the teams’ records, the Cards’ three-game winning streak, this is going to have a playoff feel to it Sunday.

But before that, we walk off with Carson Palmer’s Chronicles video: “My mustache is ginger, but very Tom Selleck.”


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