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Cardinals get back on the field

Posted by Darren Urban on May 5, 2014 – 1:26 pm

It’s a holiday. Kind of. And not Cinco de Mayo, but instead that day in the offseason when the players officially return to the field for football. It’s called Phase 2 in the parlance of the collective bargaining agreement. The rules are simple: Coaches can finally talk to players on the field. Offense can work with offense, defense with defense. No mixing. No helmets. The hour allowed on the field looks a lot like the first chunk of a regular practice, with individual drills and walkthrough-type situations with each unit.

There will be two weeks of this before organized team activities — the ones with the helmets and portions that are offense versus defense — begin May 20. Had the draft happened 10 days ago as usual, the rookies could have been out here but instead, they must wait. It also remains a voluntary situation, so while there was good participation, some players were not here. Interestingly — and not surprisingly — it was Paul Fanaika at first-unit right guard and Bradley Sowell at first-team right tackle to open things up.

We’ll have a photo gallery and a video up later today.


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Extra money for lesser paid Cards

Posted by Darren Urban on March 24, 2014 – 1:59 pm

Part of the collective bargaining agreement is the performance-based pay system every season. Each team has a pool of money — this year it is $3.46 million — to distribute among all the players who played for it the previous season. The money is doled out based on playing time and the amount of money you made in the first place. In other words, think of the lesser paid players (rookies, cheap starters) who played a ton. They get the most cash. There is a caveat. Players don’t actually get the money until April 1, 2016, an agreement made by the players’ union in a trade to have a larger 2013 salary cap.

For the Cardinals, safety Yeremiah Bell made the most. Bell was paid just $905,000 last season (adjusted, with his veteran status, to a $621,000 salary cap hit) but played almost 80 percent of the defensive snaps. That earned him an extra $263,097.

Nine Cardinals total earned an extra six figures through the distribution:

— T Bradley Sowell $247,150 ($480,000 adjusted compensation last season)
— G Paul Fanaika $223,625 ($683,500)
— S Tyrann Mathieu $209,788 ($570,625)
— TE Jim Dray $165,375 ($647,850)
— S Tony Jefferson $131,510 ($408,366)
— WR Jaron Brown $125,954 ($408,000)
— RB Andre Ellington $125,680 ($430,966)
— DL Frostee Rucker $104,261 ($624,200)

Everybody who played in a game got something — even linebacker Vic So’oto, who signed in Week 4 and briefly played against Tampa Bay before suffering an injury that ended his Arizona tenure. Of the nine, Dray, of course, is gone, having signed with the Browns. Bell is unsigned but there is still a chance the Cards could bring him back. The other seven are on the roster and figure to be a part of the 2014 roster.


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The ’11 draft class, and that Peterson extension

Posted by Darren Urban on January 24, 2014 – 3:17 pm

Under the new collective bargaining agreement put together in 2011, draft picks must be in the league three years before they can negotiate a contract extension. That means that 2011 class — which features Patrick Peterson, Cam Newton, Von Miller, A.J.Green, Julio Jones, Aldon Smith, J.J. Watt and Robert Quinn, among others — are all now eligible for new contracts, and the assumption has long been that many of those will happen. Certainly that has been a subject of speculation with Peterson. The Cardinals want to keep Peterson long term (of course) and it was not a coincidence that Peterson recently changed agents with that opportunity now looming.

But, as usual when it comes to big-money deals, none of this is a simple process. Jason Cole wrote an interesting piece about the situation of the 2011 draft class (he never touched on Peterson, specifically). In it, he talked to 10 GMs and/or cap specialists, and all expected that instead of a long-term extension this year that teams will opt to invoke the fifth-year option on each contract. Every first-round contract now as a fifth-year team option that, inevitably, will be a more affordable (and non-guaranteed) salary. In the case of 2011 picks, all are locked up through 2014 and then the team can invoke a 2015 year. This doesn’t even include the option to franchise tag a player for 2016.

(Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick are in similar situations as a fifth- and second-round picks in 2011, except as non-first-rounders, teams do not have a fifth-year option on those players. It actually gives non-first-rounders more leverage this offseason.)

In short, there isn’t an incredible urgency to extend one of those 2011 contracts now, other than the fact some of those 2011 draft picks probably won’t be thrilled they wouldn’t be extended right away given the level of play many of them have reached already. It will make for an interesting offseason when it comes to those players — including Peterson.


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Anticipating practice

Posted by Darren Urban on August 4, 2011 – 12:13 pm

It looks like the CBA will be done in time for the Cards to have their full team practice today. Remember, an astounding 24 guys have been forced to sit at this point. Coach Ken Whisenhunt did say he would be willing to move practice a little later if the ratification was slow to happen, just to get practice in, but I’m not sure that will be necessary.

UPDATE: Player rep Jay Feely just tweeted out the Cards approved the CBA. Waiting for the rest of the league, but “practice will happen.”

Whisenhunt also said QB Kevin Kolb will definitely play in the preseason opener in Oakland despite short practice time. Today, Whiz said it was a “good question” what he’d be looking for from Kolb, but he stressed he’d be realistic with the whole team.

“I know at times it’s going to be ugly,” Whisenhunt said. “But I know at times guys will make plays.”

— Whiz said he wasn’t sure how much Patrick Peterson would be involved in the return game, but it sounds like he will get in there some. “He’s a natural,” Whisenhunt said.

— The first unit will get extra reps once they practice. It’s necessary given the way things have gone, and it will take reps away from some of the young guys trying to make an impression.

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Waiting on CBA, and other notes

Posted by Darren Urban on August 3, 2011 – 12:44 pm

Everyone has been waiting for Thursday, because practice  begins for all the players who just signed contracts.


The Thursday deadline was based on the idea the new collective bargaining agreement would be ratified. It has not been yet.

“Everybody wants to get out there and everyone is chomping at the bit,” said kicker Jay Feely, the Cardinals’ union representative. “No one wants to sit on the sidelines. But they can’t get out there until it is done. We’ve been shooting for tomorrow all along and as of (Tuesday) I was still being told it would be tomorrow hopefully. But we don’t have anything definitive yet.”

There were issues left that couldn’t be bargained until the union recertified, like drug policies, benefits and player conduct policies. That is what is still being dealt with. One thing is for certain — no one wants to wait.

— Rookie CB Patrick Peterson is changing his jersey number to 21, with safety Hamza Abdullah switching from 21 to 23. A couple other holdovers are also switching, with WR Max Komar going from 18 to 10 and Stephen Williams from 14 to 18.

— Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he doesn’t questions the toughness of RB Beanie Wells. But when it came to dealing with the knee injury last season and the aftereffects, “quite frankly, he didn’t handle it as well as he could have.”

— I know a lot of people keep asking about the backup nose tackle behind Dan Williams. Having looked at new defensive lineman Nick Eason, he definitely could fill in at the spot if needed. He’s a wide-body. And again, rookie David Carter is taking snaps there.

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March madness

Posted by Darren Urban on March 11, 2011 – 9:30 am

A couple of days ago, I saw wide receiver Max Komar down in the weight room. “Just trying to get in a workout while I can,” Komar said.

We’ll see where the NFL labor talks take us today (today’s expiration of the CBA, negotiated last week as an extension, is 5 p.m. EST, or 3 p.m. Arizona time still 9:59 p.m. Az time, but 3 p.m. Az time is expected to be important when it comes to the union possibly decertifying). We’ll see if Komar will be around next week, or offensive linemen Levi Brown and Lyle Sendlein, who were working out together a couple of times this week too. But what makes someone stir crazy — like me — is the inability to talk about what we’re normally talking about right now. Free agent speculation (and, obviously, trades would be a bigger part of it too) that fuel March. Who is visiting? Who might sign? What are the pros and cons? These are the things that fill up a blog this month and, in a lot of ways, is what makes the offseason fun.

That’s all in a holding pattern, regardless of what happens in a few hours.

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Tags, tenders like normal

Posted by Darren Urban on March 1, 2011 – 10:36 am

Both general manager Rod Graves and coach Ken Whisenhunt have said more than a few times they are going through this offseason as if there will not be a work stoppage, so they will be ready by the end of this week when the league year officially ends late Thursday night. That’s why the Cardinals — and every other team — were considering use of the franchise tags even though with labor uncertainty no one knows if they will matter on the other side (The Cardinals, as expected, didn’t use the franchise tag).

The same goes for restricted free-agent tender offers, which teams are using — as usual — at this time with free agency still schedule to arrive. The Cardinals are no different, apparently. Wide receiver Steve Breaston confirmed an ESPN report he has been extended a tender offer, and I would assume the Cards are doing that for a handful of guys who potentially could qualify as restricted free agents. Again, it’s housekeeping in a way, since everyone is in limbo until a new CBA is reached.

— XTRA’s Mike Jurecki is reporting safety Adrian Wilson has had surgery for a torn abductor muscle (in the hip area) with which he had been playing. No word yet on the length of rehab, but I’d assume he’d be ready for the season.

— If you’re looking for an aggregate site of stories on the labor talks, nfllabor.com has a bunch of info as we head deeper into the offseason of unknowns.

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Feely goes into labor

Posted by Darren Urban on February 15, 2011 – 3:07 pm

Cardinals kicker Jay Feely, the team’s player representative, has been part of some of the talks thus far this offseason regarding the NFL’s labor issues (including an NFLPA press conference at the Super Bowl pictured below; that’s Feely in the back row just over the left shoulder of Kevin Mawae — sorry Jay, it’s the only picture out there that included you). Some of Feely’s comments about the talks and, specifically, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson to a New York radio station, grabbed headlines. But his theme has been fairly straight-forward, a hope that reasonable minds on both sides will eventually help complete a new CBA.

That continued Tuesday when he appeared on Pro Football Talk Live, a webcasted TV show through profootballtalk.com with Mike Florio. The vast majority of Feely’s interview was about the labor situation, and he reiterated several times the need to take emotions/egos out of the discussion.

“If you go through each issue and you do it logically, you and I could sit there and we could find a way to come up with answers,” Feely said. “I did an event last week with (Cardinals president) Mr. (Michael) Bidwill after the Super Bowl out in Arizona.  We were presenting to the state legislature on a concussions bill that they are going to bring before the state senate on a return to play guideline.  Jeff Miller, who is one of the lawyers for the NFL, was out there as well.  Obviously, he and I had a lot of time to sit and talk.  You could sit there in a logical setting where you don’t have any emotions and where there are not the lawyers on both sides and come up with ideas that would be able to bridge the gap.  I just hope we are able to do that in the setting of the negotiations.”

Florio asked Feely — who is signed through the 2011 season — if he expected to return to the Cardinals. Feely said he “absolutely” did (it was a little bit of a weird question, because I don’t think there has ever been any doubt Feely will be back, especially after his excellent season) and then talked about himself in the bigger picture, having played for the Falcons, Giants and Jets, among others.

“This is interesting because I have had a great relationship with a lot of the owners on the teams that I played on,” Feely said. “I consider (Atlanta owner) Arthur Blank a friend of mine.  I consider Michael Bidwill a friend of mine.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for the Maras and for (Jets owner) Woody Johnson.

“It has changed – the feelings from 1987 to 1993 in those strike years and when that CBA was finally agreed upon.  The stories I heard from those players, there was so much hate and vitriol on both sides and so much animosity but you don’t have that anymore, for the most part, between owners and players.  You have a lot of respect.  You have a lot of mutual admiration.  You have a lot of owners and players who work together to get things done, both in the community as well as within advertising and the team structure. I am hopeful that we can go through this process without ruining these relationships.  That is part of what has made the NFL so successful is the ability for the owners and for the players to connect and to work together.”

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For now, business as usual — mostly

Posted by Darren Urban on February 14, 2011 – 9:55 am

Last week, the scouts for the Cardinals all came to Tempe for their normal pre-combine meetings. The pro personnel department still is meeting daily to talk about potential free agents, and coaches are prepping as if there will be a minicamp after the April draft. At this point, they can’t do anything else.

Obviously, there is a lot of talk of what is — and what isn’t — being accomplished between the NFL owners and players when it comes to a new collective bargaining agreement. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel pessimistic about a work stoppage. But until there actually is such a thing, each team (including the Cardinals) has to prep like free agency, for example is going to start at 10 p.m. Arizona time the night of March 3.

(Draft prep wouldn’t change anyway, because there will be a draft regardless — although it will be interesting to see if the back part of the draft changes at all. Since no players would be able to sign a contract in the event of a lack of a CBA, there would be no undrafted rookie classes until that was worked out. Each team would have their draft picks, and every other rookie would remain in limbo.)

Because there is prepping as usual, I suppose in that light it still makes sense to speculate about trades, like the fact Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb now is on record as saying he’d like for the Cardinals to be a part of trade talks for him. So speculation and preparation will remain. Until it doesn’t.

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Expiring minds want to know

Posted by Darren Urban on June 30, 2010 – 10:02 am

If the NBA has the Summer of 2010, the NFL – right now – is staring at the Summer of 2011.

The lack of a new collective bargaining agreement and the possibility of a work stoppage after the 2010 season has slowed the talk of contract extensions throughout the league. Judgments aside, that’s just a fact. Teams and players don’t know what free agency will look like next March (or later; until a new CBA is put in place, there will be no free agency movement). It’ll affect every team around the league. That is also a fact.

Closer to home, though, it looks like it’ll make for one, um, let’s say interesting offseason for the Cardinals. Here are the key players on the team right now who are not under contract past 2010 and are scheduled to have their contracts expire after this season:

  • P Ben Graham
  • WR Steve Breaston
  • S Matt Ware
  • CB Michael Adams
  • RB Jason Wright
  • RB Tim Hightower
  • LB Monty Beisel
  • C Lyle Sendlein
  • G Alan Faneca
  • T Brandon Keith
  • G Reggie Wells
  • G Deuce Lutui
  • DT Alan Branch
  • WR Early Doucet
  • TE Anthony Becht
  • TE Ben Patrick
  • DE Kenny Iwebema
  • DT Bryan Robinson
  • DT Gabe Watson

Obviously, some players are more important that others. Some may not even make the roster this season. And some figure to be still under restricted FA status next season even with a new CBA (guys like Doucet, Keith and Iwebema, for instance). But again, you don’t know how it turns out. That also doesn’t include three major key players who, while all under contract through 2011, will need extensions by next offseason to make sure they stay in Arizona: WR Larry Fitzgerald, DL Darnell Dockett and (assuming he plays as the Cards hope) QB Matt Leinart.

It’s quite the list. I find it hard to believe, if there is a delay in free agency that there won’t be some short moratorium to let teams get their FA ducks in a row before the market is flooded with UFAs. But you never know.

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