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Free agency before free agency

Posted by Darren Urban on February 29, 2012 – 10:42 am

Free agents can’t sign anywhere but with their own teams until March 13, but that doesn’t mean free agency — from a certain perspective — isn’t already underway. With the final day teams can apply franchise tags coming Monday, we are now counting down the last handful of days that a deal can get done with possible tagged players. Of course, all a tag means in the short-term is that teams can buy time to negotiate with those players for a longer contract extension. If, for instance, defensive end Calais Campbell is tagged by the Cards, that’s the expectation. So too, as another example, with Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

But those things — along with deals/potential deals with guys who might not have had the tag, like 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks — will make an impact on “real” free agency. If the Saints have to tag Brees, for instance, Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks cannot be tagged and will be free to shop himself. And every non-tag guy who signs between now and March 13 obviously removes himself from the market and changes the possibilities. In some cases, it won’t mean anything to the Cards, in others, it might.

(And we won’t even get into any possible cuts for monetary reasons that teams will do for cap and other reasons, like speculated moves such as Raiders linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, any number of Steelers or some guy whose brother just won a second Super Bowl. All those change the landscape too.)


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Offensive Lining up options early on

Posted by Darren Urban on January 18, 2012 – 4:51 pm

Sometimes, all signs point to a blog post. So you see a handful of assistant coaches re-signing — including offensive line coach Russ Grimm — and then Mel Kiper unveiling his first-of-the-season mock first round — with the Cards taking Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin — and then some Twitter talk about expected-free-agents-to-be like Carl Nicks and Ben Grubbs — a pair of upper echelon guards — and two weeks gone apparently means it’s time to revisit for the first of many.

The news Grimm returned was not a surprise. I know it was floated nationally other teams might have an interest in hiring him away and that he has ties to other head coaches, but I personally never thought he was going to go anywhere. For those wanting to know why the Cardinals and Ken Whisenhunt didn’t make a change, well, signs never pointed that way. Whiz has, while noting a few times the offensive line needed more consistency, still made sure at every turn to stay positive about the unit. You never got the sense he wanted to make a change there, and ownership must have had been convinced because I don’t see them offering up a new contract otherwise.

The personnel Grimm is going to work with, however, certainly seems likely to change, and possibly change drastically. Is Martin the pick at No. 13? No way to know right now. You’d figure offensive line or defense would make the most sense with the first choice, but we are so, so early in the process. Stanford guard David DeCastro could be another possibility. You figure top tackles Matt Kalil and Riley Reiff will be gone by then. Kiper is high on Martin’s potential, but then again, many felt Levi Brown could develop into a high-end tackle too and that hasn’t played out.

(I do promise this: If Andrew Luck is there at 13, the Cards will take him.)

Of course, that takes us to questions about Nicks and Grubbs and the subject of free agency. I could see the Cards, if they decide they like a tackle in the draft better than what they see in free agency, considering a big-ticket guard. But they already did that last year with left guard Daryn Colledge (whose cap number will be $5.5M next season and $6.5M after that going forward) and I’m not sure you do that with a second guard — especially when there are so many unknowns at tackle.

I could see them bringing Brown back at a reduced rate, but as I have said many times, I expect Brown to want to get cut and test the market first if he is going to have to take a pay cut anyway. (By the way, the picture below is Brown shoving the heck out of Seattle’s Chris Clemons after Clemons got a little chippy with prone Cards QB John Skelton in the finale.) The desire to bring Brandon Keith back may hinge on what happens with Brown.

Free agency starts March 13, and we should have an idea where the Brown thing is headed — at least, whether a deal can be reached without a release — a little before then. Obviously, that’s almost two months away. Lots of time for more speculation (without any concrete answers).

– A couple of interesting links from Cardinals past. First, concerning one of the true good guys of that Super Bowl team, fullback Terrelle Smith has gotten into high school coaching in California. But for a great read, check out this feature about long-time (and long-time ago) Cardinals long snapper Trey Junkin, who had his stalled career briefly return in 1991 only to have it end on a bad snap the last time the Giants and 49ers met in the playoffs.


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