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The tao of Arians: “Dude, you got a cup”

Posted by Darren Urban on March 25, 2015 – 8:39 am

Bruce Arians talked for an hour today on a lot of subjects at the NFC coaches breakfast during the NFL spring meetings. We’ll have a lot of stories and video on the various topics today and in the coming days. Among the things Arians touched on:

— The Cardinals would still like to bring back Lyle Sendlein to compete for the center position;

— Logan Thomas will get a ton of reps in the offseason and could even get some “field one” work (the Cards have players working on two fields) depending on the health of Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton;

— There was nothing to say on Adrian Peterson (“Are you trying to get me fined?” he said);

— The Cardinals will look at Kareem Martin at outside linebacker. Arians thinks Martin has the body-type of Aldon Smith.

— He wants DE Calais Campbell to be more consistent, saying “he disappears too much.”

There was much more. But the line of the day came when Arians was talking about the reluctance of General Manager Steve Keim to accept his award for Executive of the Year from the Sporting News the other day in front of the other GMs and coaches. The trophy itself was a big glass vase-looking thing.

“You check your ego at the door, because everything is for the Cardinals,” Arians said. “We’ve both been fortunate enough to get some accolades. You can’t take them. The entire room got you there. Don’t think you’re special. We both laughed, he was embarrassed as hell the other day to get his. I said, ‘Dude, you got a cup. We can drink out of that.”


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The speculation on Adrian Peterson

Posted by Darren Urban on March 16, 2015 – 10:09 am

It was quite the weekend, with free agency around the league slowing down and some tidbits floated here and there about the Cardinals and Adrian Peterson. No, I don’t think anything is imminent and I continue to hold to my original thought — that the Vikings will find a way to keep him. Keeping him, even at his salary, to help with young QB Teddy Bridgewater, is in my opinion the best football decision for the Vikings. Maybe Peterson is unhappy and doesn’t want to stay. But I don’t see them just cutting him, and the reality is, Peterson only has so much leverage. What’s he going to do — sit out a second straight season in his prime? That doesn’t make sense to me.

As for some of the other stuff that’s been said:

— Peter King is saying the Cardinals haven’t even had any discussions with the Vikings.

— Charles Robinson, who certainly seems to be talking someone in Peterson’s camp, keeps saying Peterson wants $25 million guaranteed over three years. OK. If you are just doing the guaranteed money, that’s a little more than $8M a year, but it’d be all guaranteed. Most deals have money beyond guaranteed too. Do you do that for a guy who will be 30 next week? Yes, it’s less than what he’s making, but …

— Robinson says Peterson is willing to restructure. What Carson Palmer did was restructure. Is Peterson willing to take a pay cut? If so, how much?

The draft is full of prospects. Cheap prospects. If you still like Andre Ellington — and there is no reason to think the Cardinals do not — the Cards could pick up a good between-the-tackles guy in the first or second round and pair him with Ellington and still be left with cap room.

— Everyone assumed the Palmer restructure was a harbinger of something. It still could be. But the Cards might have just been getting low on cap space — they have, according to the NFLPA, about $9.9 million in space, and Palmer’s move created about $7M — and if they were going to do something with Palmer’s deal they had to when they did because his bonus was due last week. It might’ve been as simple as that. The Cards need around $4 million in cap space to bring in their top draft picks. Without Palmer’s move, they had about $3 million.

Fitz isn’t being traded. Period. Forget the logistics or cap hit or anything. Ownership wanted Larry Fitzgerald in a Cardinals uniform. He is an important face of the franchise, and that’s why this new deal was done. The Cardinals aren’t going to let him go.

Again, I’m not saying a Peterson trade could not happen. But there are so many moving parts, between what his contract would be, what the Vikings might want in trade, whether the Vikings would even want to part with him, and what other teams around the league might offer (just because Peterson says he wants to go to this team or that doesn’t mean the Vikings have to accommodate him) it’s tough to get a true handle where this will go.

As far as “going for it,” I just keep coming back to this thought from GM Steve Keim, who has said a version of this to me many times: “You always have to think about the long-term health of the organization.” He’s talking in terms of the salary cap. Keim often mentions “sustained success.” That doesn’t mean you can’t add a veteran who costs some money. But any undertaking will have some deep thought, and deep research, behind it.

Adrian Peterson, Richard Marshall


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Cap space gained as Palmer deal restructured

Posted by Darren Urban on March 12, 2015 – 5:26 pm

Remember that contract restructuring that Carson Palmer said recently he had given, only to clarify that it hadn’t been finalized yet? It was officially finalized Thursday.

Palmer was due a roster bonus of $9.5 million, and it was converted into a signing bonus. What it means is that the bonus money can be prorated over the life of his current contract, dropping his salary cap number $7.1 million (and clearing that space for the Cardinals.) That’s a big help in trying to maneuver through free agency. His cap number for 2015 dropped from more than $14 million to $7.4 million.

(This is the classic NFL restructure as opposed to any pay cut; it impacts Palmer zero. He gets all the money he was going to get anyway. It’s just the way the Cardinals account for it with their cap.)

Of course, that also means the rest of that prorated bonus balloons his future cap numbers. Palmer now has a cap number of $19 million in 2016 and $22.7 million in 2017 (including some heavy dead money if for some reason he isn’t playing.) That will be something GM Steve Keim will have to deal with at some point, you would think. In the short term, however, the Cardinals have more flexibility right now, especially after the release of center Lyle Sendlein created another $3 million of cap space. No way to know how much room they currently have, but the Palmer/Sendlein moves alone freed up around $10 million for Keim to continue to reshuffle his roster.

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Clarifying Palmer’s (near) restructure

Posted by Darren Urban on March 6, 2015 – 9:42 am

Carson Palmer raised some eyebrows when he mentioned Thursday he had restructured his contract to help the Cardinals create salary cap space. It wasn’t that the idea was a shock — indeed, the notion was out there – but the fact Palmer said it was done.

Turns out, Palmer wasn’t quite on point, of which he was informed after the fact. Palmer has indeed agreed to a restructure — which likely would include turning an option bonus into signing bonus, clearing about $7 million of cap space — but it has not yet been executed. So the Cardinals still figure to have around $14 million of cap space heading into next week. What it does mean is that the Cardinals and GM Steve Keim have some reserves in their back pocket if the team were to need more cap space during free agency. (And there are probably a couple of other players who might also be in that position to restructure if needed too.) If the Cardinals don’t need the space, they would hold off on doing the restructure, because any restructure would push dead money into future caps, and you want to avoid that if possible.

The question becomes, just who might the Cardinals be eyeing on the market that Keim would want to have such flexibility? That’s where these next couple of weeks turn fun. Let the speculation begin.

 PalmerRestrucpart2use


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Possible Palmer restructure as Cards cut cap

Posted by Darren Urban on February 25, 2015 – 4:10 pm

Carson Palmer didn’t even get to play a full game after signing his contract extension late last season. Now, before the first season of that extension kicks in, Palmer reportedly could be restructuring it to ease his salary cap number of $14.5 million. Mike Jurecki first reported Palmer the possibility.

Palmer is due a roster bonus of $9.5 million (in addition to a $1M salary) this season. Add in his current $4M of bonus proration of $4M, and that’s his $14.5M cap hit. If the Cardinals were to turn the roster bonus into a signing bonus — which would then be distributed evenly over the remaining four years of the contract in terms of the cap — it’d take his cap number all the way down to about $7.4M for 2015. Of course, that also pushes more dead money on to future caps as well.

These are the choices a team makes, however, especially when it feels it can compete — as long as everyone stays healthy. Like Palmer. We’ll see if his contract gets an update. With more and more players getting released around the NFL and the market already flooded with players, there will be opportunities to sign contributors for reasonable prices. That’s why the Cardinals are trying to loosen more cap room. Neither General Manager Steve Keim or president Michael Bidwill has been shy of sharing the concept of the Cardinals being aggressive in free agency.

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Palmer health and an offseason of Logan Thomas

Posted by Darren Urban on February 20, 2015 – 11:27 am

Someone asked Bruce Arians how Carson Palmer was progressing in his knee rehab, noting by all accounts Palmer was doing well.

“Don’t jinx me, baby,” Arians said with a grin.

Palmer is doing well, Arians acknowledged, and Palmer is apparently still making noise that he hopes to be back for some offseason work. That, Arians added, is no lock if the Cardinals decide it might not be worth it. It’s not like they don’t already know what Palmer can do, and having Palmer available for training camp is much more important. Drew Stanton is also doing “extremely well,” his own knee issues nowhere near as severe as Palmer. Both are ahead of schedule, Arians said.

And if the Cardinals are limited in their quarterback availability this offseason? Not a problem, Arians said, because this will be the offseason of Logan Thomas.

“This will be a big spring for Logan because of the two guys,” Arians said. “We’ll see how much Drew can do. But I want to give Logan a ton of work anyway. If Carson is cleared and ready to go, we’ll put him out there.”

This is a big spring for Thomas regardless of where the other QBs were health-wise anyway. His rookie year is over. This is the offseason in which Thomas should be able to make the largest strides learning the offense. There is no transition to the NFL like he had as a rookie. He’s been around it for a year. His accuracy remains a question mark and while the Cardinals do not need him right now — again, assuming health for both Palmer and Stanton — there is in today’s NFL a short shelf life for “potential” and how long you work with it to see if it can eventually pay off.

LoganWorkinguse


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Larry Fitzgerald, his contract and “it takes two”

Posted by Darren Urban on February 12, 2015 – 1:45 pm

Back in 2008, Bertrand Berry was asked to take a pay cut to remain with the Cardinals. He decided to do so. In 2012, Adrian Wilson was asked to take a pay cut to remain with the Cardinals. He did so (and that didn’t save him from being released after the season.) The only leverage either player had was to say, “I’ll leave” if they didn’t like the offer. It’s not ideal, but it was reality.

That’s where we are with Larry Fitzgerald and the Cardinals. This is not a surprise, not with a $23.6 million salary cap number, an actual payout of a scheduled $8M salary and another $8M roster bonus due in about a month. Not with the Cardinals, even with a carryover of $4.2M from last year’s cap to tag on to a projected $140M salary cap for 2015, around $11M over the cap at this point (according to ESPN) and needing to get to at least even by March 10. Regardless of specific numbers, the Cards need to slice some cap money.

Again, none of this is new.

I’ll be honest – I listened to Michael Bidwill’s interview Wednesday morning on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 and nothing stood out. When he talked about bringing Fitzgerald back and working out a contract, it was the things you’d expect to hear.

At one point, Bidwill did say “it takes two” to reach a deal. That raised eyebrows. But should it? At some point, the Cardinals and General Manager Steve Keim were going to want to harness the salary cap, and that was going to start with Fitz’s current deal. I thought for a while that might come last offseason, but instead, the Cards — and Fitz — kicked the can down the road a season with a simple restructure to buy cap space. We have come to the rip-the-band-aid-clean-off stage of this thing.

There are 10 wide receivers right now averaging at least $9M on their contracts. Only three — Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson and maybe Vincent Jackson, given all the Buccaneers’ cap space — aren’t serious candidates to renegotiate/restructure/get released this offseason (and Johnson, as good as he is, is headed that way in the next year or two himself, given his cap numbers.) Fitzgerald’s situation, especially at his position, is not unique.

Like Berry, like Wilson, the ball will be in Fitz’s court, basically. Yes, there are salary numbers to figure out — as always — but the Cards aren’t going to change their thought process. Carson Palmer was asked to do something similar in Oakland; he declined and was traded to Arizona. Maybe that’s what Fitz will want to do. Maybe a new deal will work for him, and maybe the other benefits of being in Arizona on a personal level make it worth an agreement. Maybe a different opportunity is more intriguing, or maybe the numbers just won’t be good enough, and Fitz uses what leverage he has. But there are really no new angles that can come out on this thing. It’s not hard to analyze.

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“One of the young guys” will be defensive coordinator

Posted by Darren Urban on January 26, 2015 – 1:56 pm

The announcement won’t come until after the Super Bowl, Bruce Arians said Monday, but he knows who his defensive coordinator is going to be — and it’ll be, as expected, a in-house hire.

“The defensive coordinator will come off our staff,” Arians said during an appearance on ESPN’s “NFL Insiders” show. “It’ll be one of the young guys. And we’ll bring in some guys to help him.

“We’ll wait until the Super Bowl is over but we’ve got everything in place and we’re ready to go.”

Looking at the “young guys” on the Cardinals’ staff — and young can be a moving target on a staff that features the 62-year-old Arians and a couple of coaches well into their 70s — the possibility of outside linebackers coach James Bettcher seems to fit the bill. Bettcher has long been highly thought of among the coaches he has worked for. (Along the “young” lines, defensive line coach Brentson Buckner would also qualify, but I’d think Bettcher would be the candidate.)

As for bringing in “some guys to help,” that could be anyone now that Dick LeBeau has passed up the chance to come to the Cardinals. But again, that’s been the thought this whole time, that the Cards would have a younger DC and have a mentor with him. It now just sounds like it’ll be a waiting game until next week — Monday maybe? — to get official word.

— Arians reiterated he hopes Carson Palmer is the quarterback for the Cardinals “for about three more years,” and that he again really likes the future potential of Logan Thomas. Arians added that Palmer is about a month ahead of schedule coming back from his ACL injury.

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Keim talks Bowles interest and QB status

Posted by Darren Urban on December 29, 2014 – 8:25 am

The playoffs are here, but for 20 non-playoff teams, the business of the NFL does not stop. Black Monday arrived in the NFL and already there are five teams with head coaching openings: The 49ers, Raiders, Jets, Falcons and Bears. Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is expected to generate interest in that market, and while the Cards gave Bowles a big raise this season, they also know there is the possibility Bowles could be offered and accept a head coaching job. It has always felt more like a question of when rather than if.

“Our expectations are that several teams will reach out to us,” General Manager Steve Keim said Monday during his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “Now, it remains to be seen whether there will be mutual interest or not, but Todd has done an excellent job and at some point he deserve an opportunity. Hopefully for us we can keep him in place for a little while longer.”

The defense has had its issues the past two games but I do not expect that to undercut Bowles’ potential candidacy. I also think Bowles likes it in Arizona, and have always believed he will be very choosy in what jobs he may or may not want.

As for Keim, some of the other topics he covered the day after the Cardinals finished the regular season with an 11-5 record:

— The fact the Cardinals won 11 games playing four quarterbacks “is a testament to the coaching staff and their flexibility and quite frankly some of the young players who have stepped up,” Keim said.

The Cardinals are “the epitome of team,” Keim added.

— As for the status of quarterback Drew Stanton, he is “day to day and we’re hopeful” he can play this week, Keim said. Certainly the GM gave no indication Stanton was anything of a sure bet to be back. Keim said it was still unknown if Stanton could practice Tuesday.

— Even without Stanton, Keim (not surprisingly) professed confidence in Ryan Lindley’s ability to start. “I thought Ryan played a good game” Sunday, Keim said.

— Keim said rehabbing quarterback Carson Palmer is doing well and is “as fired up as ever” to play in 2015. “He’s very excited about the future here,” Keim said. “I think it goes back to show you, when you go through some injuries, how valuable Carson Palmer really was. The guy was having an excellent year. I think he’ll have a little bit of a chip on his shoulder, and he’ll be ready to prove some people wrong.”

I think it’s pretty clear that Palmer will be the No. 1 in 2015, barring something crazy happening in the offseason.

— Keim, like coach Bruce Arians, wasn’t happy with the tackling. “The tackling in general was unacceptable,” Keim said. He went on to say that he tends to be old school on the subject, and that tackling does have a technique to it, it is “mostly want-to.” He reiterated he had been disappointed Sunday. “(The 49ers) made us look extremely bad in space,” said, noting that against the Panthers in the playoffs, “we’re going to have to get that fixed in a hurry.”

— Guard Jonathan Cooper (wrist) will also be day-to-day, Keim said.


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Friday before the Niners, the Cards’ playoff primer

Posted by Darren Urban on December 26, 2014 – 4:08 pm

It seems like a lifetime ago when the Cardinals first met the 49ers this season. The Cardinals got behind 14-6 at halftime and then shut the Niners down, winning 23-14 behind the defense and two Drew Stanton-to-Smokey Brown touchdown passes. That was when the worst thing that had happened to Carson Palmer was a nerve issue in his arm, but at least he was coming back at some point. Jonathan Dwyer had just left the team but Andre Ellington was playing well. Stanton was doing great and the offense was at least generating points.

Yes, a lifetime ago.

The wins piled up this season but the injuries have certainly tried to keep up. If you would have asked anyone with the team back after that win over the Niners if they’d be OK with an 11-4 record the next time they’d see their division rivals, they would’ve taken it – even with the caveat of injury after injury. But when you take out the quarterback, the equation does not compute well. Not in this league.

For now, though, I’m quarterbacked out. It seems like it’s been the only topic around this team for two weeks, and obviously, it’ll be one next week too as the Cardinals (likely) go into a wildcard game. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are taking on a San Francisco team that’s been shredded by injuries too and have bent under the weight of the inevitable coaching change from Jim Harbaugh (did I mention it’s been a lifetime since the Cards saw the Niners?)

This team has never won 12 games as a franchise. If they can find a way to get one Sunday, regardless of all the other noise, it’d be a great accomplishment. Certainly one I never would have thought possible if you would have told me Carson Palmer would only play in six games.

— It’s hard to know if linebacker Larry Foote is hurting that much or if they want to make sure he is ready for the playoffs, but his knee likely will keep him out of Sunday’s game – after he has missed just one defensive snap all season thus far. It’s possible the knee impacted his play last week against Seattle, when he had trouble in coverage, but it’s irrefutable that his play was huge for a defense that needed it because of injuries and suspensions.

— As bad as the defensive performance was last week, the Cardinals remain fourth in the NFL in scoring defense (18.6 points a game). You know they’d like to stay in the top five.

— After getting away from the run in the Seattle game, I don’t think there’s any question Arians will make sure to run more in San Francisco. And yes, that means more (and maybe a lot more) Kerwynn Williams.

Long snapper Mike Leach will play in his 200th consecutive game Sunday.

— Arians hasn’t lost his sense of humor, even with all the quarterback drama. He waited for the media to arrive post-practice, and the last to arrive was veteran Associated Press writer Bob Baum, huffing and puffing as he jogged toward the group hoping not to miss anything.

“Easy, brother,” Arians said. “You ain’t getting no mouth-to-mouth around here!”

— A heartfelt congratulations to media relations assistant Allison LeClair and her significant other, Cameron, for getting engaged this holiday season. Always good to remember there are things in life beyond football.

— Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch was fined $11,050 for grabbing his crotch at the end of his 79-yard run against the Cardinals last week.

— On a personal level, I don’t love having a game in San Jose/Santa Clara and being so far away from San Francisco, but there is no question I look forward to checking out the new stadium (and not going back to a not-very-pleasant Candlestick Park.)

— Harbaugh has never been very good on the conference calls over the years, but he had a couple of funny answers in what looks like his swan song with us this week, at least as the 49ers coach. If you missed it, he was asked what the season has been like with so many rumors floating around about his future.

“The interesting thing is if you don’t look at the Internet and you don’t watch TV, you really do not know that it’s going on,” Harbaugh said. “That has been exactly what I have done. … On the way home, you don’t turn on the talk radio and you don’t look at the Internet, you can be completely unaware that anything is swirling. I walk by people and I see their faces (and) I know something is going on.”

Someone then told Harbaugh he may be the only American who doesn’t watch TV or go on the internet.

“There has to be another American beside myself. Don’t you think? Yeah, I bet there is,” he said. “I would think there would be plenty of Americans who probably focus on another task at hand and dedicated to the mission they have and excelling and not having distraction.”

But there are always distractions, even if you pretend they aren’t there. We’ll see which team deals with them the best Sunday.

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