The spring owners meetings get underway Monday here in town at the Biltmore, and among the many things that will go on will be the annual reveal of the compensatory picks for April’s draft.
A quick refresher for those who don’t know about comp picks: Each year, there are a bunch of extra draft picks sprinkled in through the draft (starting in the third round) that are awarded to teams with a net loss of free agents from the year before. The exact formula for doling out picks isn’t public, but it’s a mixture of the player, his free agent contract and performance. Basically, if you lose more free agents than you sign, you’ll get an extra pick or two.
(Or more, perhaps. Baltimore often lets players leave as free agents with the idea of stockpiling comp picks to replenish the roster with cheap labor. It’s great if you hit on many draft picks. The Ravens have made it an art form.)
As for the Cardinals, overthecap.com has estimated that the Cards are in line for an extra seventh-round pick. Now, there are caveats to the various qualifying players in this admittedly complicated guesswork. The Cards could conceivably get an extra fifth-rounder instead of a seventh or maybe no comp pick at all. As it stands, the Cardinals have their seven original draft picks, starting with the 24th overall in the first round. Last season, the Cardinals added tackle Jared Veldheer, wide receiver Ted Ginn, guard Ted Larsen and running back Jonathan Dwyer in free agency. They lost linebacker Karlos Dansby, wide receiver Andre Roberts, tight end Jim Dray and cornerbacks Antoine Cason and Javier Arenas. (Players that are cut by their previous team do not factor in the equation, which is why bringing in Antonio Cromartie did not hurt the Cards in this example and why losing Darnell Dockett this year will not help in next year’s comp equation.)
Tags: Andre Roberts, Antoine Cason, Antonio Cromartie, compensatory picks, Darnell Dockett, draft, Jared Veldheer, Javier Arenas, Jim Dray, Jonathan Dwyer, Karlos Dansby, Ravens, Ted Ginn, Ted Larsen
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In a division where keeping up with the Joneses is important just to have a chance at the playoffs — and goodness knows the Seahawks have been the Joneses for a couple of seasons now — the Cardinals feel like they have made strides to compete with Seattle. Their free agent class filled holes in the front seven of the defense and on the interior of the offensive line. More importantly, their quarterback is doing well in rehab. The Seahawks, meanwhile, added arguably the most dangerous tight end in the NFL. The Rams bolstered their defensive line with Nick Fairley and think they have upgraded at quarterback with Nick Foles (at least, he should be healthy enough to play.)
Then there are the 49ers, who have gone through one rough offseason, which started when they moved on from successful coach Jim Harbaugh.
The Niners got the shocking news young linebacker Chris Borland decided to leave the game instead of risking his long-term health to play. Borland was supposed to be the guy who filled in for Pro Bowler Patrick Willis, who retired because his oft-injured feet ended his hopes for a comeback. Defensive lineman Justin Smith likely will retire. Then they allowed multiple free agents to leave, like running back Frank Gore, guard Mike Iupati (who came to Arizona), linebacker Dan Skuta and cornerbacks Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox. They probably won’t bring back Michael Crabtree either.
Now, the Niners have added some pieces. Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith. Darnell Dockett. Lions running back Reggie Bush (although he may be beyond his productive years.) But the way things have gone, it’ll be tough for the 49ers to right the decline they went through in 2014. That comes with the QB caveat all teams have — if Colin Kaepernick emerges as a star, that covers most issues.
While it could be considered the “offseason from hell,” the Cardinals did have one of recent vintage that they could put up in any argument. It’s tough to forget the offseason after 2009. In case you have forgotten, a refresher: quarterback Kurt Warner retired, safety Antrel Rolle was released for cap reasons (and subsequently signed with the Giants), linebacker Karlos Dansby left as a free agent and Anquan Boldin was traded. All were still playing at high/Pro Bowl levels. Those were a gut punch of transactions that eventually took out a coaching staff and brought the Cardinals to the Bruce Arians/Steve Keim era.
Tags: 49ers, Anquan Boldin, Antrel Rolle, Chris Borland, Chris Culliver, Colin Kaepernick, Dan Skuta, Darnell Dockett, Frank Gore, Justin Smith, Karlos Dansby, Kurt Warner, Michael Crabtree, Mike Iupati, NFC West, Patrick Willis, Perrish Cox, Rams, Reggie Bush, Seahawks, Torrey Smith
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I guess March 5th is a day that will live in Cardinals’ infamy, huh? At least when it comes to two of the bigger names on the Super Bowl team. It was on March 5 that Anquan Boldin was traded to the Ravens in 2010. And it was on March 5 — today — that Darnell Dockett chose to sign with the 49ers (and coincidentally, current 49ers Boldin) and not return to the Cards.
The emotions are pouring out as I write this, my Twitter feed blowing up with fans angry at the team for letting Dockett get away (not as many) or at Dockett for signing with an NFC West rival (the vast majority). They are mad he seemed to make a decision based on money after chiding Karlos Dansby for doing the same last offseason.
(Later Thursday, Dockett said the two situations between he and Dansby were “night and day.”)
I’ll say this on the latter — Darnell said many, many things in his decade-plus with the Cards. Heck, he tweeted in 2010 (from his old Twitter account) that he’d play for less money to go to the Seahawks than play for the 49ers should the Cardinals let him go. Obviously, things have changed. From my perspective, you cannot blame Dockett. He wanted the most money with his career coming to an end and him turning 34 in May. That’s the direction he decided to go. Perhaps getting cut stung Dockett enough, but in the end, this just feels like it was about cold, hard cash, and when you are still young in life terms, it’s hard to blame a guy for that. It’s why the Dansby criticism didn’t make much sense — I remember at the time thinking it could come back to haunt Dockett this offseason, because of exactly this. Jim Trotter of ESPN, who texted with Dockett, also said it was about “disrespect” of the Cards’ contract offer. Knowing how Dockett reacts to many things, that kind of blowback isn’t surprising either.
But we can parse this forever. Bottom line, Dockett is not coming back to the Cardinals. The Cardinals knew this could happen. Multiple reports say Dockett gave the Cards a chance to match the offer, but it doesn’t surprise me the Cards didn’t. They had the number at which they valued Dockett for 2015 given his age and knee injury.
None of this, however, should impact how Dockett’s career in Arizona is viewed. By any measure Dockett was an excellent draft pick and when you point out he was a third-round pick, it makes it an even better selection. So many guys talk about making teams regret passing them in the draft when they go in later rounds. Dockett said that, and he backed it up.
He was an emotional tornado. Sure, that got him into hot water at times on the field, and when mixed with social media and Twitter, it caused a headache or two within the Cardinals’ facility. In his heyday, he could be dominant. His performance in the Super Bowl was MVP-worthy, getting after Ben Roethlisberger as few have. There was little measured about him in the heat of battle, but he was the passion bellwether for the defense. And he was always there. He missed just two games before last season and, more impressively, just 13 practices in 10 years. Dockett was always there, an anchor.
But this is what happens with older players in this league. The happy ending is the outlier, like what the Cards are trying to have with Larry Fitzgerald. In this case, Dockett gets his money, and gets his chance to play the Cardinals twice a season. That’ll be interesting, right?
Tags: 49ers, Anquan Boldin, Darnell Dockett, Karlos Dansby
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UPDATE: Thursday morning, Dockett signed with the 49ers.
It sounded good when it came over Twitter a little after 6 a.m. Arizona time. Adam Schefter reported that Darnell Dockett’s decision on a new team would come at some point today.
Former Cardinals DT Darnell Dockett expected to decide today between 49ers and Cardinals, though Rams and Seahawks also interested.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 4, 2015
It hasn’t happened, at least not yet. #DockettWatch2015 is ongoing. ESPN’s Jim Trotter, who has a good relationship with Dockett, said this afternoon it’s still possible Dockett takes another visit or two. Don’t know if that means the Rams and Seahawks — why wouldn’t he just cover the whole NFC West, right? — or elsewhere. No, I don’t know which way he is leaning, although you’d think if someone had really wowed him with an offer, he’d probably have taken it. It would also seem to me the Cardinals’ offer — reportedly $2.5 million for 2015, plus incentives — would at least be competitive to whatever else he has heard.
Could this stretch into Friday? Saturday? Maybe. You’d think some decision would come down by the start of next week, though, because free agency will start and other players will hit the market. Dockett’s early release leverage will be gone. And usually, teams will start moving on from (most) players if they haven’t gotten an answer. If you need a defensive lineman and are in on Dockett and he hasn’t committed, it’s probably necessary to go to Plan B.
Tags: 49ers, Darnell Dockett, free agency, Rams, Seahawks
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Earlier today Darnell Dockett agent Drew Rosenhaus told Kent Somers he expected Dockett to be signed somewhere by the end of the week. Now comes news that Dockett will visit the 49ers and arrives in San Franci … err, Santa Clara, tonight. Kent is reporting the Cardinals have offered a one-year, $2.5 million deal to Dockett. We’ll see if the 49ers — or someone else — want to top that. The hard part for Dockett will be the fact he is still rehabbing from his knee injury. His timetable to get back on the field is up in the air. That’s a tough way to try and find a new deal.
It’s also interesting that it is the 49ers Dockett visits first. He is close with tight end Vernon Davis — they are both from around the Washington, D.C. area — but he’s spent a decade working up, not a hate for the Niners, but intense emotion against that team. The same would go for the Seahawks. That said, for someone like Dockett, especially after being released and surely not being pleased about it, going to an NFC West rival and getting to play the Cardinals twice in a season would be attractive.
Just because Dockett is going on a visit doesn’t mean he’ll sign there. There are a lot of moving parts here and the door is still open in Arizona. You figure the Niners and Rosenhaus have at least have some broad outline of money for Dockett to make the trip though, right? It will be interesting to see how this week unfolds.
Whatever team Im on, we will WIN!!!!……. That’s all I know. That’s all I think about. “I love you all” ✌️
— DARNELL DOCKETT (@ddockett) March 2, 2015
Tags: 49ers, Darnell Dockett, Seahawks
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Free agency officially begins March 10, when the NFL’s new league year starts. Now, the parameters of how that period will play out have been set, now that the salary cap has been set by the NFL for 2015. This year’s cap is officially $143.28 million per team, a jump of about $10 million from last season. That alone is helpful. But the Cardinals also carried over about $4.2 million in cap space from 2014, and have other adjustments (according to an NFL players association release) that give them almost another $1 million in room. So, according to the NFLPA, the Cardinals’ official salary cap for 2015 is $148,515,866.
That number places the Cardinals somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of the cap this season (The Jaguars, through carryover and a lack of committed contracts, have a cap of a whopping $168.5M to top the NFL.) As for the Cardinals’ cap space, overthecap.com has the Cards with about $133.6M for their top 51 contracts as of Monday morning. That means the Cardinals have about $15 million in cap space coming. (In the offseason, only the top 51 cap numbers on the roster count toward the cap; that changes to everyone on the roster, including IR and practice squad, once the regular season arrives.)
That’s not a small amount of space and it should allow GM Steve Keim to be aggressive in free agency as promised, although most teams have a lot of cap space if they want to do FA damage. Ken Whisenhunt’s Titans, for instance, will reportedly have around $43M of cap space. That also would change if players are signed between now and the start of free agency — for instance, if the Cards brought back Darnell Dockett, whose agent said Monday he expects Dockett to have a new contract by the end of the week.
Tags: Darnell Dockett, salary cap, Steve Keim
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The Cardinals have saved about $15.3 million in cap space for 2015 with just two moves thus far this offseason: Re-doing Larry Fitzgerald’s contract and releasing Ted Ginn. More moves are inevitable (the Cardinals are talking with Darnell Dockett now in an effort to re-do his deal and lower his cap number.)
Where are the Cards cap-wise? Right now, it’s kind of a moot point.
We still do not know what the salary cap will even be in 2015. Most estimates put it around $143M, but it won’t be finalized until we come upon the new league year March 10. (In 2014, the cap was $133M.) On top of that, the Cardinals will carry over about $4.2M of cap space from last season, meaning their cap number for 2015 (assuming the $143M number is correct) will be slightly north of $147 million.
When the league year opens, it’s only the top 51 cap numbers on the roster that count. That’s how a team’s cap number is determined until we get to the first week of the regular season (when everyone, even on the practice squad and injured reserve, counts on the cap.) In the always murky world of constantly changing cap numbers, the Cardinals apparently are going to have about $139M or $140M in their top 51 as of today.
Again, that’s before any other moves — before a Dockett decision is reached, before any other players are cut and before any free agents on the street right now (there was a report tight end James Casey, cut by Philly, will visit the Cardinals) might sign prior to March 10. Team president Michael Bidwill reiterated the Cardinals plan to be aggressive in free agency, so freeing up more cap space seems a foregone conclusion.
Tags: Darnell Dockett, James Casey, salary cap
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General Manager Steve Keim said last week he would be talking to defensive lineman Darnell Dockett (and his agent) about his contract, which has one year left to run and is scheduled to pay Dockett $6.5 million this season. It made sense, with Dockett carrying a $9.8M cap charge in 2015 and with he being a candidate, like Larry Fitzgerald, to re-do his contract in one way, shape or form.
“We will have conversations with Darnell moving forward,” Keim said.
The next day, Keim said in a radio interview that conversation was coming by the weekend. Now, Dockett has tweeted a couple of things in the past couple of days that indicate the talks have started, and may have left in question Dockett’s status for 2015. The latest came Sunday night:
No matter the logo Im gonna win that comeback player of the year….
— DARNELL DOCKETT (@ddockett) February 23, 2015
We’ll see how this might play out. Like Fitzgerald, it can always play out a little differently with each player when it comes to contract negotiations. Dockett has made clear how he feels he has been loyal to the Cardinals and wants to be here. Dockett is going to be 34 in May and is coming off a major knee injury and a pay reduction would likely be in play. One way or another, this — like Fitz’s situation — figures to be sorted out by March 10 when the new league year begins.
Tags: Darnell Dockett, salary cap
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The first thing the Cardinals needed to get done was re-doing Larry Fitzgerald’s contract. That’s done. Cap space has been cleared. But the Cardinals probably will look for more.
GM Steve Keim said today he will be talking to DT Darnell Dockett about his contract, which has one year left and a cap number of $9.8 million. That’s lofty anyway, but especially for an older player who is coming off major knee surgery. Ted Ginn, who sunk to the fifth receiver by year’s end, is another player who seems likely to be looked at, contract-wise. There are other veterans with higher cap numbers who could get a look from Keim. But there are lines to walk; CB Jerraud Powers is due more than $4 million in salary this season, for example, but if Antonio Cromartie leaves in free agency, you have to make sure you have the depth you want. A total of 13 Cardinals carry cap numbers of more than $3 million for 2015, including Powers ($5.3M), C Lyle Sendlein ($4.3M), Ginn ($4M), and QB Drew Stanton ($3.9M).
Keim’s point that the Cardinals, with Fitz’s new contract, will allow the Cards to be active in free agency is crucial. There is little doubt the Cardinals need to upgrade, but what will the market bear? I could see the Cardinals looking heavily at running back, at linebacker (both inside and outside), perhaps interior offensive line. If Cromartie doesn’t return, they could look at cornerback. And one of the quieter stories of the offseason is the potential loss of nose tackle Dan Williams and what the Cards do if Williams does not return.
Fixing the Fitz situation was important. But it wasn’t the only thing in front of Keim that needs tending.
“There are some additional tough decisions we will have to make,” Keim said.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, Drew Stanton, Jerraud Powers, Larry Fitzgerald, Lyle Sendlein, Steve Keim, Ted Ginn
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I don’t think we’ll be hearing anything about the Cardinals’ vacant defensive coordinator job until next week (the coaches remain off, although former defensive coordinator/new Jets coach Todd Bowles did drop by Thursday and again Friday as he settled his affairs with the organization and said goodbyes.) We’ll wait to see if the Dick LeBeau rumors come to pass of him joining the Cardinals’ staff, and who else might be impacted (if LeBeau is a consultant, does outside linebackers James Bettcher become defensive coordinator? Or defensive backs coach Nick Rapone? Or someone else?)
What kind of scheme the Cardinals use will be the first question everyone will want to know, and if LeBeau arrives, whether it’s he dealing with what the Cardinals have been running or vice versa. The scheme of LeBeau and the scheme of Bowles have some parallels but they were definitely different — especially up front, where LeBeau (and disciple Ray Horton when he was DC of the Cardinals) look to have the linemen “two-gap” and allow the linebackers to roam and make plays. Bowles was willing to let his lineman just head one way and make a play. It’s a big reason why Darnell Dockett was so happy when Bowles arrived, as I mentioned the other day, although LeBeau had used more one-gap in the last couple of years and let his 3-4 ends rush the passer more often.
Either way, a good nose tackle is important. And the Cardinals face a crucial offseason when it comes to their nose tackles. Starter Dan Williams is an unrestricted free agent. Alameda Ta’amu, who had a disappointing season coming off a torn ACL, is a restricted free agent. Ta’amu is an interesting case, because he played well in 2013 and can be kept for a minimum of a restricted free agent tender offer. He didn’t tear up his knee until the season finale in 2013 and it wasn’t that shocking he was slow to recover, but the Cardinals were still expecting more from him this season. (It’s notable that LeBeau’s Steelers cut Ta’amu last year, which is how the Cardinals got him off waivers in the first place.)
Williams is more dicey. I’d think the Cardinals want him back. Williams said he would like to be back, but again, this is about money. What will the open market bring for Williams? Williams played pretty well this season and his weight isn’t the issue it used to be. But there is already a ton of money tied up in the defensive line (at least for now) with Calais Campbell and Dockett, and that also must fit into the equation. There was a reason the Cards drafted two defensive linemen last year.
Ed Stinson and veteran Tommy Kelly can play inside but it is Williams and/or Ta’amu who are the true nose tackles on the roster for now. Someone will need to be there in May too. If it isn’t Williams, can it be Ta’amu? Or someone else?
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, Dick LeBeau, James Bettcher, Nick Rapone
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