David Johnson talks coach, contract, Fitz

Posted by Darren Urban on January 18, 2018 – 4:44 pm

David Johnson’s wrist is healed, with his strength and full range of motion having returned, and he’s anxious to play again given that he doesn’t even feel like he played football in 2017. And like everyone else, the running back is paying attention to the Cardinals’ current search for a head coach.

“I’m definitely staying aware but I don’t know what (GM) Steve Keim and (president) Mike Bidwill are thinking,” Johnson said on the PFT PM podcast. “I know they will get a coach that fits the team and is going to be ready to elevate this team and get us to that Super Bowl.”

Johnson touched on a few subjects, including the possibility of a new contract. The 2015 third-round pick has a year left on his rookie deal and now is finally eligible for an extension. The collective bargaining agreement prevents extensions for players on rookie deals until after their third season.

“I hope so,” Johnson said about talks for a new deal. “But I’m really focusing more on getting this injury (healed) and making sure I’m ready to play in 2018, that I am healthy as possible. Especially with so much going on in the offseason with the coaches and the quarterback and stuff, I can’t really focus too much on the contract talk.”

— On the subject of Larry Fitzgerald’s potential return, Johnson was blunt. “Larry is going to come back,” Johnson said. “He’s still playing at a high level.”

Johnson rattled off Fitz’s stats, including another year of more than 100 catches and more than 1,000 yards. “He’s gotta come back,” Johnson added. “He’s got to help us get us to that Super Bowl we’re trying to get.” Along those lines, Johnson had been hoping quarterback Carson Palmer wouldn’t retire and tried to “recruit him to come back.”

— Johnson said he was “hit hard” by the retirement of Bruce Arians, and that he believes he and Adrian Peterson “can really elevate each other’s game” if they play together this season.

— The running back said he has no idea who the quarterback will be, but that he has confidence in both Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton if one of them is the starting signal-caller.

— His injury and season on the sideline left him more grateful to play the game. “Football can end in the blink of an eye,” Johnson said. “So I feel more grateful to where I’ll do as much as I can to stay on that field as long as I can.”

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Fitz closes in on contract extension

Posted by Darren Urban on November 16, 2017 – 5:25 pm

Multiple reports — first by Pro Football Talk — have Larry Fitzgerald closing in on a one-year contract extension with the Cardinals. (Pure coincidence, by the way, that I happened to touch on Fitz’s future — and his lack of a contract — this morning.) It’s no secret that retirement has begun to be a possibility for the wide receiver. Whether that has become less of a possibility for Fitz, I can’t say. He’s been steadfast in saying he will consider such things when the season is over.

What this move does tell me though is that the Cardinals want to make sure that if Fitz does decide to play in 2018, it is as a Cardinal. They made a similar move much earlier last year — training camp in 2016, for the one-year extension for 2017 — to get that certainty. You don’t want to be in a situation when the contract expires in the spring and Fitz doesn’t have a contract in place and he is a free agent. The Cardinals — and ownership — want to make sure Fitz stays right here as long as he is playing. We’ll see if the news comes out Friday. It would make some sense.

UPDATE: And the deal is now done.

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Keim: No such thing as disappointing win

Posted by Darren Urban on November 14, 2016 – 8:10 am

Steve Keim was blunt.

“I don’t think there are any disappointing wins,” the Cardinals GM said during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “The one thing I’ve learned in this position is to respect and appreciate every win.”

The Cardinals are back to .500 after beating the 49ers. They have huge games coming up, on the road, with playoff contenders Minnesota and Atlanta. The good news is that Keim said the Cards came out of the game “relatively healthy” — Keim was not asked about the status of Larry Fitzgerald — and in keeping with the theme of respecting every victory, he found the positives from his team’s first game of the second half of the season.

— Keim said he was encouraged by the play of two players who struggled in the first half of the season: wide receiver Michael Floyd and kicker Chandler Catanzaro. Both continued to work every day despite their issues, Keim said. Especially for Floyd, “to see a smile on his face in the locker room was exciting for all of us,” Keim said.

— The offensive line did OK. Keim said new left tackle John Wetzel “played good” although Keim acknowledged the 49ers don’t have much of an edge rush (Wetzel will most certainly face a harder test against the Vikings.) The 49ers came in with a plan to jam up the run, so even going against the NFL’s worst run defense, “do you want to run into a wall?” Keim asked rhetorically. Instead, the Cardinals threw the ball. It led to turnovers, all on passing plays — two interceptions, a fumble by Palmer trying to buy time to throw a pass, a fumble by J.J. Nelson after a catch. The turnovers are what made the game close, Keim said.

— He praised Fitzgerald. “Fitz continues to be a warrior, making plays in critical situations,” Keim said. Again, no comment (or question) about Fitz’s health.

— The big picture says the Cardinals “have opportunities ahead of us.” And the Cards did finish in a close game, something they didn’t do against New England or Seattle (or Los Angeles, for that matter.”

— Keim said there was a chance safety Tyrann Mathieu will be able to return either against the Vikings or the following week against the Falcons.

— Keim still doesn’t give much vibe one way or the other about the possibility of a Chandler Jones contract extension. “Without getting into the dialogue of negotiations, when you make a trade you’re not sure how its going to go,” Keim said. “But he’s been a great teammate, fantastic in locker room, he works hard on and off on field. He’s been great fit for us, and hopefully we can iron out something long term.”

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Fitz: Contract about keeping good thing going

Posted by Darren Urban on August 24, 2016 – 12:22 pm

The recent contract Larry Fitzgerald signed — keeping the wide receiver in Arizona in 2017, assuming he is still playing — wasn’t something he was looking for, but he emphasized that winning and the Cardinals’ ability to win played a role.

“It wasn’t my idea,” Fitzgerald said. “I didn’t go and stand on Steve (Keim)’s table and asked for an extension. If that’s what you’re asking, that wasn’t the case. I’m down for whatever is going to keep this thing going as long as we can.

“As you know, it goes in spurts in this league. A while back we had some teams that were pretty good, had a couple down years, and now we’re at that point where we have a really good thing going. We have a good mesh of older veteran guys and a mesh of good younger guys like Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Chandler Jones, D.J. Humphries. That’s a great blend to have.”

That wouldn’t be the only reason Fitz would want to play in 2017, but at this point in his career, it’s a must-have.

Other lunchtime stuff after a day off:

— WR Smokey Brown (headache) might not practice this afternoon. With Brown coming off a concussion, it’s something to watch.

— Fitzgerald isn’t practicing because of the slight MCL issue in his knee, but he waved off any concern. “I’m good,” he said. “I could probably go out there and be effective and do my job, but a setback now with less than two weeks to go would be less than ideal. I want to do what I can to help my team now but obviously Sept. 11 is when it really hits the fan.”

— QB Carson Palmer is getting a day off today. The injury list is pretty short right now, though. A good sign.

— Coach Bruce Arians shrugged off the idea the offense needs to get into a rhythm in a preseason game. “Not really,” he said. “I see it enough in practice.”

— Arians wouldn’t comment on the report he will be named the NFL’s competition committee. “Hasn’t been announced yet,” he said.

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Rookies signed at warp speed

Posted by Darren Urban on May 9, 2016 – 3:22 pm

It’s not hard to remember, not if you have been following the Cardinals for any length of time, but signing draft picks used to be much, much more difficult. Yes, the ease in which picks are signed these days is rules-related — once the new collective bargaining agreement essentially slotted each pick’s money and took the hardest part (money) out of the negotiating equation, things were going to speed up.

But to think the Cardinals already have all of their draft picks under contract on May 9 is impressive. The time frame to finish up since 2011, when the new CBA went into effect, has gotten earlier and earlier:

2011: Amid the chaos of so many signings as the CBA was ratified post-lockout just as training camp was starting, first-rounder Patrick Peterson and second-rounder Ryan Williams signed July 31.
2012: First-rounder Michael Floyd and third-rounder Jamell Fleming signed June 11.
2013: First-rounder Jonathan Cooper signed July 29.
2014: First-rounder Deone Bucannon signed June 5.
2015: First-rounder D.J. Humphries signed June 1.
2016: Sixth-rounder Harlan Miller, third-rounder Brandon Williams and fourth-rounder Evan Boehm sign May 9.

The Cardinals aren’t unique — the Bears have been signing their entire draft class within a couple days of the draft the last couple of seasons, for instance — but to have all those deals done not only before the players break prior to camp but before OTAs have even begun is a good thing. The days of the Cards having their first-round pick sit out at least a few days of training camp — or more, Wendell Bryant — are long over.


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Agent issue puts Campbell contract on hold

Posted by Darren Urban on March 17, 2016 – 3:29 pm

Right now, defensive tackle Calais Campbell is scheduled to enter the last year of his contract with a $9.5 million salary and a salary cap hit of $15.25M. Both are sizable numbers that would seem to be open for a contract extension to lessen such a burden.

As of now, the Cardinals have not broached that subject with Campbell. They might not. But they couldn’t even if they wanted to.

“I don’t have an agent yet,” Campbell said.

Campbell’s agent had been Ben Dogra. Dogra, after an investigation, was in January suspended by the NFLPA for three years. Dogra can represent players while he appeals, but Campbell believes it makes sense to make a switch so nothing could mess up upcoming negotiations. Campbell has been meeting with agents and thinks he is close to a decision. The Cardinals have asked Campbell who his agent is — he just doesn’t have an answer quite yet.

“Once I figure out what I want to do and tell (the team) things will probably move along,” Campbell said. “I haven’t really given them the chance, which kind of sucks. I feel bad. But it’s the way things have fallen together.”


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Frostee gets an extension

Posted by Darren Urban on June 1, 2015 – 4:27 pm

It was fitting that Frostee Rucker got a one-year contract extension Monday so quietly. The veteran defensive end, who had been scheduled to become a free agent after the 2015 season, stays clear of attention. That topic has been covered before. When he first signed, he was in the background, playing less than he would’ve liked in 2013 but understanding his role. The day Darnell Dockett got hurt last year in training camp, Rucker was suddenly thrust into a spotlight you could tell he could’ve done without.

But Rucker is a leader on a team that has a few, and you can tell that just by watching a game or two. I’m lucky enough to see a lot more of the interaction — during OTAs (like below, talking to fellow vet Cory Redding), around the locker room — and Frostee is the kind of professional you seek out for a roster. Plus, he’s coming off a career-high five sacks. He’s fits perfectly into a defensive line that is built to rotate early and often with versatile pieces. Rucker’s added year also takes one more thing off the to-do list after the season when it comes to potential free agents.


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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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Fitz, his contract and the Super Bowl firing line

Posted by Darren Urban on January 8, 2015 – 1:08 pm

The “deadline,” such that it is, comes on the fifth day of the NFL’s league year — which begins March 10 at 2 p.m. Arizona time. That’s when, if Larry Fitzgerald is still on the Cardinals’ roster and still has his current contract in place, he is owed $8 million. That’s the real date at which everyone is focused to see what happens with the wide receiver and whether he stays with the Cardinals and if so, what kind of contract he has.

GM Steve Keim has long acknowledged he has had ongoing discussions with Fitzgerald’s agent about redoing the contract and fixing that bloated $23.6 million salary cap number Fitz carries with him. There have been a couple of reports out there that the conversations toward a new deal have been positive. That’s good, although as we all know, something like this isn’t done until it’s done, and just because someone hasn’t hung up on someone else doesn’t guarantee anything.

Still, you start to think about that March deadline, and one other potentially artificial one: Super Bowl week.

Fitzgerald is usually a regular on radio row at Super Bowl week. Whether it’s for the company EAS or someone else for which he might be a spokesman, that’s the week where the sponsors want to capitalize on having the big name doing their work. When Fitz does a bunch of TV and radio interviews heading into the NFL’s biggest game, he’s answering a lot of questions.

And while Fitz always handles himself and his answers like a pro — he’s really, really good at that part of his job — it’s not always his favorite thing to talk about the more controversial of subjects (like, in years past, the chaotic quarterback situation with the Cardinals.) So what happens when he sits down for interview after interview and the first (and probably not the only) question he is asked is about whether he’ll be a Cardinal? His contract situation, which I know he’d rather not talk about, could end up taking up the entire segment.

(Except for the one EAS question at the very end, right?)

I’m not saying anything is going to get done with the Cardinals and Fitzgerald by Super Bowl week — to me, the only thing that would be done that quickly would be a way to keep him in Arizona, because a trade can’t happen until March 10 and they aren’t releasing him at that point — just because he’ll be doing some interviews. But it’s something to think about.


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The impact of losing Darnell Dockett

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2014 – 10:16 pm

Injuries happen every preseason. They are not all created equal.

Even the long-term injuries are not created equal. As much as Jonathan Cooper’s injury hurt the Cardinals last year — and at the time, GM Steve Keim felt Cooper was the Cardinals’ best offensive lineman — there is an jarring emotional slam with the news Darnell Dockett is done for the season. That comes on many levels. On a defense that already lost Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington from last year’s unit, losing Dockett is a difficult pill to swallow.

After Dockett was carted off and practice resumed with some 7-on-7 work, defensive line coach Brentson Buckner gathered his players on the field and they all took a knee. I don’t know exactly what was said, but it certainly looked like Buckner was helping his guys get through what already looked like a rough patch that was later confirmed.

Now though, it’s about moving on. It’s about the future, which is in the short-term the 2014 season and in the long-term where 2015 might take Dockett and the Cardinals. Veteran Frostee Rucker should move into Dockett’s starting role, but again, there was always going to be a rotation on the defensive line. There was a reason the Cardinals drafted Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson. Those rookies are going to have to play a bigger role. They are going to have to grow up very fast because Dockett won’t be there to anchor — along with Calais Campbell — the line. One potential free agent to look at is long-time 3-4 defensive end Brett Keisel, Keisel was cut by the Steelers this offseason but he knows Bruce Arians and Buckner from their time in Pittsburgh. I have no idea if it’s possible he could come — I have no idea what kind of money he might want — but the Cardinals will need to add someone.

What will happen next year becomes very interesting. Dockett will turn 34 in May. He will be coming off major knee surgery. He will be going into the last year of his contract and will be due $6.5 million in salary and will have a $9.8M cap hit. That’s a lot of money for an older lineman. Like Larry Fitzgerald and his $23.6M cap hit in 2015, Dockett’s bulky contract was always going to be an issue after this season. That certainly hasn’t changed, and perhaps, becomes more of an issue because of the injury.

In the moment, though, there is only the gut-punch to the Cardinals. And the long rehab Dockett faces while the Cards try to prepare for the season to come.

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