The Cardinals have signed everyone. Their six draft picks are under contract and they have their current 90-man roster. Any moves from here have to be one-for-one on the roster, and whether they impact the offseason salary cap would depend on who they bring in (A reminder: Only the top 51 count against the cap until the first week of the regular season.)
As of Wednesday, the NFLPA website has the Cardinals with about $4.9 million in cap space and the most current contracts in the league (91 — which includes the suspended Daryl Washington.) That’s not a ton of room, although, as always, there are moves that can be made to create space if needed. Many have asked if the Cardinals are going to sign a veteran cornerback (Jerraud Powers most often comes up) or vet pass rusher Dwight Freeney. I could still see either, but at this point, I’d expect it to be one of those Keim Time deals around camp for minimum or close to it, if it were to happen.
In the meantime, I’d think the Cardinals will use the offseason work of OTAs and minicamp to figure out if there is a big need at either of those spots, or perhaps a veteran backup offensive tackle. To bring in a vet means one less spot for a young player. If you believe in the two cornerbacks you just drafted, for instance, it’s much harder to keep both on the roster if a guy like Powers comes back.
The Cardinals also have to figure within the cap any potential contract extensions, which could add to the cap crunch (Tyrann Mathieu) or ease it (Calais Campbell), although Kent Somers noted no new deals are close.
Tags: Calais Campbell, contracts, Dwight Freeney, Jerraud Powers, salary cap, Tyrann Mathieu
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First-round draft pick D.J. Humphries signed his contract earlier this week, the last of the seven Cardinals draft picks to do so, and the June 1 date was a couple of days earlier than Deone Bucannon’s scribble on the dotted line in 2014. Clearly, the timetable has shifted with rookie signings, as we went over a few weeks ago. In the spirit of those one-time rookie signing sagas (and today being a Throwback Thursday and all) I recall one interesting moment in 2006 when Matt Leinart was still unsigned as a rookie, the Cardinals were in training camp and Denny Green — still two months from letting the world know the Bears may or may not need to be crowned — wasn’t all that thrilled.
So Green brought a memorable (if less publicized than the one about the Bears) rant, letting everyone know he wanted Leinart signed already. The question that elicited the response? Well of course, it was someone asking about how Karlos Dansby was doing with his nagging toe injury.
That’s why I remember it so much. The question was about Dansby.
Some quick background. The Cardinals were about to head to New England to play the Patriots in a Saturday night preseason game. On this Monday, someone wanted to see how Dansby was doing. Green, who may or may not have planned ahead of time to say something about Leinart one way or the other (rumors say he did), began his nearly four-minute monologue, which can be heard by clicking here. Measured to be sure (unlike that other answer) but sure in its tone. Green also made it his last comment of the presser — just like that night after the Bears.
A morsel from that day: “I look forward to going to New England. I look forward to Kurt Warner going on the field, looking over and seeing Tom Brady — who was not the 10th pick in the draft, he was in the (sixth) round, so it’s not always about the draft,” Green said. “It’d be a shame if Matt Leinart is still sitting there as the only guy in the National Football League who is not in the National Football League.”
It only mattered for about six hours. By the early evening, Leinart had agreed to terms. As you can see here in my story from the next morning (remember newspapers?) the quarterback’s side insisted Green’s comments had nothing to do with moving things along. Either way, it made for great theater.
Tags: contracts, Dennis Green, Matt Leinart
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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.
Tags: A.J. Green, Cam Newton, CBA, Colin Kaepernick, contracts, JJ Watt, Julio Jones, Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman, Robert Quinn, Von Miller
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Eric Winston, a player who when he was first released was expected to command a healthy contract for multiple years, signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals. It was another impressive step for GM Steve Keim, who has managed to corral quite a few players in one-year deals, providing flexibility going forward and incentive to those players to try and earn an extension.
It also has created quite a lengthy list of players that, as of now, are set to become unrestricted free agents after the season:
— S Jonathan Amaya
— CB Javier Arenas
— S Yeremiah Bell
— CB Antoine Cason
— LB Karlos Dansby
— TE Jim Dray
— K Jay Feely
— TE Jeff King
— RB Rashard Mendenhall
— G Chilo Rachal
— WR Andre Roberts
— DE Frostee Rucker
— DE/LB Matt Shaughnessy
— TE Kory Sperry
— S Curtis Taylor
— LB Reggie Walker
— T Eric Winston
— P Dave Zastudil
Obviously, not every name on that list is someone that the Cards are going to want to keep around long-term. Others will have to earn that right. It also doesn’t include other situations, like the inevitable Patrick Peterson extension that is assumed to be coming at some point after the season. The Cardinals definitely have a plan, however. Flexibility is key for Keim, who is trying to rebuild the roster.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Antoine Cason, Chilo Rachal, contracts, Curtis Taylor, Dave Zastudil, Eric Winston, Frostee Rucker, Javier Arenas, Jay Feely, Jeff King, Jim Dray, Jonathan Amaya, Karlos Dansby, Kory Sperry, Matt Shaughnessy, Rashard Mendenhall, Reggie Walker, salary cap, Steve Keim, Yeremiah Bell
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There was some early concern about how the Cardinals would structure the contract of Tyrann Mathieu, given Mathieu’s issues. But it didn’t seem to make a big difference. The slot at which Mathieu was chosen was scheduled to get a $662,500 signing bonus — obviously guaranteed money — and instead the deal is broken down with a smaller signing bonus ($265,000, according to Albert Breer) and then roster bonuses of $99,000 in 2014, $102,000 in 2015, $154,000 in 2016 (according to Adam Schefter.)
Breer also said that extra bonus money is guaranteed for skill and injury, which is contract lingo meaning Mathieu would get the money even if he isn’t good enough to make the team those years. But it covers the Cardinals if Mathieu isn’t on the roster because of drugs, which sounds like a fair way to resolve what could have been a complicated issue. (Breer has those details here.)
The contract has standard rookie minimum salaries of $405,000 this season, $495,000 in 2014, $585,000 in 2015 and $675,000 in 2016.
(UPDATE: A couple of days later, here is a full analysis of how the bonus system is structured for Mathieu.)
Mathieu called getting the deal done “a walk in the park.” He smiled as he said it. He knows many are paying attention — while he was waiting for team president Michael Bidwill to arrive to sign the deal, he noted the news would probably blow up on social media — and he knows everyone is aware of his story. He prefers to be thinking about football and learning how to play safety. It was interesting, however, to hear him talk about how he feels obligated to not only the organization but the community now that he’s signed a deal. His well-being is going to be an ongoing storyline for as long as he plays with the Cards (and in the league for that matter) since one slip-up will generate news. So far, though, Mathieu has gone through a pretty routine rookie transition.
— On a somewhat related note, the Cardinals had $7.88 million of cap space prior to Mathieu signing. I’m not sure if his deal would put him among the top 51 contracts or not, which would be the only way it would impact the cap right now.
Tags: contracts, Tyrann Mathieu
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The Cardinals have begun signing draft picks. The last four choices — fifth-round running back Stepfan Taylor, sixth-round wide receiver Ryan Swope, sixth-round running back Andre Ellington and seventh-round tight end D.C. Jefferson — have all signed their CBA-required slotted four-year contracts. Given that the rookies will be here until Sunday, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see more (if not all) of the draftees under contract by the time it is all said and done.
Rookie minicamp began today (and here’s a pic of Taylor, Earl Watford, Jonathan Cooper and Swope. What, you didn’t see the photo gallery yet?)
Tags: Andre Ellington, contracts, D.C. Jefferson, rookies, Ryan Swope, Stepfan Taylor
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With the news Daryl Washington got a contract extension, it changes the list of who might be next up for the Cardinals on the contract front. The obvious and probable choice is running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after the season and is a player whom general manager Rod Graves has already said is a target for a new deal. We’ll see if that comes to fruition, but the way the NFL is these days, a back who fills the Hyphen’s role is important to have.
Beyond that? The Cardinals have done a good job managing contracts at this point. Extensions are usually only there for younger players who you don’t want to hit the open market. Older veterans who play a role usually don’t get anything done until after the season and even then, after free agency arrives — if the team is going to bring them back at all. So some of the guys scheduled to be free agents after the season — defensive linemen Vonnie Holliday and Nick Eason, tight end Todd Heap, safety James Sanders, linebacker Quentin Groves, tackle D’Anthony Batiste — probably aren’t going to get into talks until later.
One intriguing name is linebacker Paris Lenon, but he likely falls into the previous category, even as he is about to start for a third straight season and was named captain again. Lenon said he thinks he has more in the tank for beyond 2012, but we’ll see if the Cards’ front office has thoughts that dovetail with that. Beyond Lenon, there are younger guys like linebacker Reggie Walker and defensive backs Rashad Johnson and Michael Adams. I don’t see any of them getting new deals in season.
Other than that, the Cards are in good shape through 2013 in terms of key guys under contract. I know some are asking about Patrick Peterson, but he’s already under contract through 2015. He’ll have to be locked up before then, but there is plenty of time for that.
Tags: contracts, D'Anthony Batiste, James Sanders, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Michael Adams, Nick Eason, Paris Lenon, Patrick Peterson, Quentin Groves, Rashad Johnson, Reggie Walker, Rod Graves, Todd Heap, Vonnie Holliday
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Once, the end of offseason work for the Cardinals wasn’t just a beginning but a much bigger deal, specifically when coach Dennis Green used it in his first season as a time to announce his starting lineup for the season. (That was a crazy time. It really was.)
Now, coach Ken Whisenhunt emphasizes competition and ongoing competition. Nothing up for grabs was going to be settled in a month’s worth of work in May and June. But there was one thing settled that is a significant step for the Cardinals — every draft pick was signed before the work ended. Michael Floyd and Jamell Fleming (below) signed on the dotted line, and just like that, a headache that had shrunk in recent years (yet still existed) was gone.
It’ll be league-wide, and it’s thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement. No longer will players be holding out. I’ve never thought, if a player missed a day or two of camp, it was a huge deal, but looking at the last 10 years and the number of picks that have missed at least some time in camp, this is a welcome change:
— 2011 Patrick Peterson, missed 1 day
— 2010 Dan Williams, 3 days
— 2009 Beanie Wells, 3 days
— 2008 Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, 2 days
— 2007 Levi Brown, 6 days
— 2006 Matt Leinart, 15 days
— 2005 Antrel Rolle, 8 days
— 2004 Larry Fitzgerald, 1 day
— 2003 Calvin Pace, 3 days; Bryant Johnson 4 days
— 2002 Wendell Bryant, all of training camp and two weeks of the regular season
“Knowing the first day of training camp you will have everyone there is a big deal,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “When they miss those first couple of days, it seems like they are always playing catch-up. It’s good we had all our guys here. It’ll be good to have everyone there from Day One. It’s great that our organization, (president) Michael (Bidwill) and (general manager) Rod (Graves), have been so proactive.”
Tags: Antrel Rolle, Beanie Wells, Bryant Johnson, Calvin Pace, contracts, Dan Williams, DRC, Jamell Fleming, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Matt Leinart, Michael Bidwill, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Rod Graves, Wendell Bryant
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There has been so much talk about the contract of linebacker Stewart Bradley. The news came down Tuesday, first reported by Adam Caplan, that Bradley had his $5 million salary reduced to $2.5M this season. Kent Somers added the detail that Bradley could recoup the money in incentives, but it is a cut. As we have talked about before (ironically, using Bradley as an example) a player doesn’t usually mind restructuring a contract because that doesn’t cost the player any money. In this case, Bradley does lose money. In reality, he probably wouldn’t get a $2.5M salary at this point on the open market so it’s still worth it for him to take a cut. And the last three years of his contract remain, for now, unchanged, meaning he can get back to a $5M salary next year if he plays well enough.
That’s the big question. He couldn’t beat out Paris Lenon last season. We will see what an offseason can do for Bradley, who right now is expected to help both outside and inside at linebacker. In some ways, he’s the defensive version of Kevin Kolb, both with the need of an offseason and the need for a rally year after 2011.
— Bradley can feel more comfortable in one way: He’s back to his familiar jersey No. 55 now that Joey Porter is gone. Cornerback William Gay also has switched already, getting No. 23 (from the original issue No. 29.) That probably doesn’t bode well for free-agent safety Hamza Abdullah. Wide receiver DeMarco Sampson switched from No. 89 to No. 10, and defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin went from No. 60 to No. 95.
Tags: contracts, Stewart Bradley
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Ran into general manager Rod Graves yesterday before he was going to start a lunchtime workout and we had a brief chat. The Cards still don’t have any of their seven draft picks under contract, but I expect that to change sooner rather than later. A couple of tidbits when talking to Graves came up. One, even with all the talk and concern about the state of the labor talks, he doesn’t think that will have a significant impact on the signing of first-round draft picks. There figure to be a handful of guys who go down to the wire (or even a few days into camp), but no more than normal.
The Cardinals also are changing the way they are approaching contract length. In the past, the first-rounder has always had a longer deal (usually six years), the second-rounder got a four-year deal, and everyone else signed for three seasons (with the team knowing the player would be a restricted free agent at that point and he could be tendered for one year, extended or just let go). Graves said the lower picks will now get four-year deals. It’s the wave of the NFL and few teams are still doing it the way the Cards have been, so the Cardinals are just going to go with the league’s flow.
Tags: contracts, draft, Rod Graves, rookies
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