A few days before Karlos Dansby made his first appearance at University of Phoenix Stadium after leaving the Cardinals – this past season when the Miami Dolphins visited – the veteran linebacker was asked his opinion of the man the Cards had drafted to replace him: Daryl Washington. Dansby replied in classic Dansby fashion.
“He’s a dynamic player, what more can I say about him,” Dansby said. “He’s very athletic, very fast. He reminds me of myself. They did a great job of getting the guy to fill that void.”
It was that moment when there was a little Dansby-envy swirling for those of us listening who had covered Los when he was in Arizona. He was always energetic and always could give a good quote. (One of the all-time favorites was when I was doing a story on teammate Sean Morey agreeing to donate his brain to science right at the beginning of the concussion talks first exploded. I asked Karlos what he thought: “That’s huge, man.” That was always one of his go-to expressions. Trust me, you had to be there.)
The man could play some football too. The Cards never wanted to let him go — they thought they had an extension ironed out before the 2009 season but that fizzled when Dansby changed agents — and his price tag got too high. His price tag might’ve been too high again (there was a reason he wasn’t signed yet) but Dansby’s chance to return home where he still has a home was too important. “I told my agent to bring (the salary) down,” Dansby said to me this morning, motioning his hands down like he was doing a version of his old dirty bird celebration. Dansby couldn’t stop smiling. Regardless of what the contract is, he is happy.
– He doesn’t have a jersey number yet. He won’t get 58. That’s Daryl Washington’s.
– No, his return doesn’t mean Washington is on his way out. Actually, you have to think the Cards have some decent plans to play them together. That would make sense, and Los could be a rusher from the outside if needed. He is versatile.
– DC Todd Bowles knows Dansby, because Bowles was in Miami in 2010 when Dansby was there. Bowles understands what Dansby can do.
– Between the addition of Kevin Minter in the draft and Jasper Brinkley and Dansby, the linebacker corps looks pretty decent right now, when it was a huge question mark back in early March.
– Only eight players remain on the roster that played with Dansby the first time around: Darnell Dockett, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Leach, Reggie Walker, Rashad Johnson, Calais Campbell, Levi Brown and Lyle Sendlein.
– It’d be great if Dansby comes full circle and could end his career here, but let’s remember this is a one-year contract. Right now, he’s in the same boat as guys like Rashard Mendenhall, Antoine Cason and Matt Shaughnessy. They all want to be getting paid more money, and are counting on good years to improve their stock and earn them that kind of contract. Dansby will be trying to do the same. We’ll see if Dansby-the-sequel has a long run in Arizona the second time around.
– That said, did I mention he was pretty happy?
Tags: Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Jasper Brinkley, Karlos Dansby, Kevin Minter, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Lyle Sendlein, Mike Leach, Rashad Johnson, Reggie Walker, Todd Bowles
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It didn’t take long before Bruce Arians made it known he was going to be comfortable playing young players after doing it last season in Indianapolis. Then, as March played out, the Cardinals either didn’t bring back older players who were free agents and released others who were on the wrong side of 30. Now, with the offseason roster nearly set, the numbers emphasize just how much younger General Manager Steve Keim has made his team.
The team’s 53-man roster by the end of last season — and that means younger players were on it in place of IR’d vets like Levi Brown, Kevin Kolb and Lyle Sendlein — had an average age of 29.7 years. The Cardinals’ current extended offseason roster (subtracting the 16 long-shot undrafted rookies who would obviously bring down the average age by their sheer numbers) features an average age of 25.8 years.
The Cards had 12 players 30 and older on their final 53. As of today, they have eight: Carson Palmer (33), Yeremiah Bell (35, pictured below), Daryn Colledge (31), Darnell Dockett (31), Jeff King (30), Jay Feely (36), Mike Leach (36) and Dave Zastudil (34). Take out those three specialists and the Cardinals’ current average age is 25.4.
The age could rise depending on how the roster is shaped going into the season, because of those 30-year-olds, I don’t right now see any of them being let go. But while Keim’s overhaul was in part about clearing salary cap room this offseason, it was also about an infusion of youth after a Ken Whisenhunt era that relied heavily on veterans.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Darnell Dockett, Daryn Colledge, Dave Zastudil, Jay Feely, Jeff King, Levi Brown, Lyle Sendlein, Mike Leach, Roster, Steve Keim, Yeremiah Bell
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In a moment, a couple of words about the Cardinals’ new Frostee, the defensive end that agreed to terms Thursday. First, though, the NFL officially released the order for April’s draft. The Cards, as we have said a few times, have seven picks: None in the seventh round, dealt away in the A.J. Jefferson trade, and two in the sixth round, received in the A.J. Jefferson trade. The lowdown:
– Round 1 – pick 7 overall
– Round 2 – pick 38 overall
– Round 3 – pick 69 overall
– Round 4 – pick 103 overall
– Round 5 – pick 140 overall
– Round 6 – pick 174 overall
– Round 6 – pick 176 overall (from the Titans through Minnesota).
I guess I could try and analyze those, but the picks are what they are, and all I can think of is the chance to get out of there somewhat early Saturday since (barring a trade, God, don’t let there be a trade) the Cards’ last choice is 176 and the draft runs 254 picks. No seventh rounder.
As for the Frostee Rucker signing, he brings a great name to the roster (it is indeed his given name) and some depth. It’s no coincidence that Rucker and Matt Shaughnessy, the two free agent defensive linemen signed, have been assigned uniform numbers 98 and 91, respectively, since they were worn by the men they are replacing, Nick Eason and Vonnie Holliday. They will rotate with Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett, and the Cards have Dan Williams and David Carter in the middle. Rucker can also play some tackle (a la Eason) and Shaughnessy can play some standup off the edge. The draft could also hold something as well. Many have asked if this means something for Dockett, but I believe Dockett is here to stay in 2013. They think he can be a difference-maker, and obviously Campbell has grown into that role.
Tags: Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, draft, Frostee Rucker, Matt Shaughnessy
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Are some difficult decisions coming with the roster for general manager Steve Keim?
“Absolutely,” Keim said.
In itself, that is no surprise. There are the reports the Cards are currently about $3.5 million over the salary cap (teams must be compliant by March 12) but that in itself isn’t a big deal. Contracts can easily enough be manipulated to make it work, especially that close to being OK. For instance, the Cards could work it just by, for example, releasing Kevin Kolb, because while Kolb will still count for $6 million of “dead” cap space if cut, his cap number currently is $13.5M so there would be a $7.5M savings on the cap alone. (Again, I expect the Cards to try and work out a new deal for Kolb, so if he came back, that too will clear space.)
But it’s the “tough” part of the tough decisions that Keim is considering that impacts the equation.
“Anytime you get attached to certain players it’s not only a tough decision from a business standpoint, but it’s a tough decision from a personal standpoint,” Keim said. “But you have to put personal feelings aside, and you have to do what’s best for the organization. But there are going to be some tough decisions, but at the same time, there will be some decisions we are excited about moving forward. Put young players in a position to grow and succeed.”
Keim, obviously, isn’t naming names right now. The first connect-the-dots that pops into your head when thinking about this is veteran safety Adrian Wilson, who carries a $5.4M cap number in 2013 and who himself wondered at the end of last season if his days in Arizona might be coming to an end. There is no player Keim is closer to than Wilson, after both attended North Carolina State and Keim was the one who scouted and pushed for Wilson in the 2001 draft.
As of now, the Cardinals have 10 players scheduled to have salary cap numbers in 2013 of at least $5M: Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald ($10.3), Calais Campbell ($8.8), Darnell Dockett ($7.7), Daryn Colledge ($7.3), Stewart Bradley ($6.5), Levi Brown ($6.4), Kerry Rhodes ($6.0), Wilson and Daryl Washington ($5.4). There are a host of moves any team can make, including extensions — for instance, with Rhodes, who is down to the final year of his deal — that can lower the cap number too.
But this is about more than just money and cap space. It factors in a new coaching staff, a new general manager, a team that went 5-11 and the reality rosters sometimes are purged in such a transition.
“Anytime you are in a position where you are dealing with the salary cap, you have some tough challenges financially, but at the same time, starting with (president) Michael Bidwill giving us the opportunity to do what is necessary to win, we won’t make decisions solely based on finances,” Keim said. “Now, what is hard in this business is that you have players making quite a bit of money and their production level doesn’t match their financial package.
“Those are the decisions where we’ll weigh the pros and the cons and make the tough decisions based on what are we getting out of this player. Does he schematically fit what we do? Are his finances in line for what we are getting from him?”
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Daryn Colledge, Kerry Rhodes, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, salary cap, Steve Keim, Stewart Bradley
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New defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said he doesn’t expect a dramatic change with the defense and that he will stay with the 3-4 base alignment as he takes over for Ray Horton, which makes a lot of sense on a couple of levels — not the least of which being personnel. And while he didn’t address Darnell Dockett specifically, I’d think the Cards may move Dockett around a little more to play to Dockett’s strengths.
Bowles didn’t come out with any predictions, a la Horton in 2011. As for his stint as interim Eagles defensive coordinator this past season — one that did not go well as Philadelphia struggled as a team — Bowles wasn’t fazed. “I don’t think one year makes you a bad coach or a good coach.”
Head coach Bruce Arians also made it plain Bowles was always going to be his guy as defensive coordinator if he ever was a head coach, so Horton being in Arizona was likely irrelevant.
Bowles hasn’t had time yet to watch much video, so his evaluation of his players is scarce at this point (although Arians did say that cornerback Patrick Peterson will most definitely remain the punt returner, since he is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.) Bowles isn’t going to provide the sound bites his predecessor did, but Arians is clearly confident in Bowles to continue the trend as a solid defense. Rankings don’t matter to Arians — He called yardage rankings “bogus” — but wins and losses do, so Bowles is charged with coming up with a defense that helps make victories happen. Sounds like the stat goals the defense had will be a thing of the past.
More coming soon on a story on azcardinals.com. (And here you go.)
Tags: Darnell Dockett, Patrick Peterson, Todd Bowles
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His first conversation with new head coach Bruce Arians sparked hope with defensive lineman Darnell Dockett that he will be used more in positions that will allow him to be more effective and make more plays, Dockett said Wednesday, making him sound a lot more optimistic about his future with the team than he did as the season was wrapping up.
“It was a great, positive conversation,” said Dockett during an XTRA 910 interview with “Bickley and MJ.” “He got me excited, not just or me personally, but for the team.
“He told me I was going to play some of my regular positions, positions I played when I was a dominant force in the middle, and that got me fired up.”
It was always known that Dockett’s role in Ray Horton’s scheme wasn’t what he really wanted to be doing — it took some doing to convince Dockett — and it probably didn’t play to Dockett’s true strengths. But the defense became successful and Dockett was able to
“When you play against teams the last couple years and you play against individuals you know you are better than, but you are neutralized, you can’t do what you normally do because of the scheme of the defense, people kind of forget about you,” Dockett said. “I never wanted to be an Albert Haynesworth, one of those guys who get paid a lot of money and get into the media and complain about his position. I sucked it up. I did my best at a position I was never really great at. I wanted to put the team first.”
Playing in a 4-3 or as a 4-3 under tackle, Dockett said, gives him chances to go 1-on-1 against a blocker, which didn’t happen a lot in Horton’s scheme. If Horton had remained in one way or the other, Dockett’s future with the Cardinals would have been a legitimate question. For the money he is making, the 1.5 sacks he produced probably wouldn’t have been enough even if he was doing exactly the job he was being asked to do. That changes now as Arians tries to figure out how his pieces fit.
Dockett also believes Calais Campbell would flourish more in a 4-3, even after Campbell played well in Horton’s scheme. Arians said the Cards weren’t committing to a 4-3 or a 3-4, but would use both. Dockett admitted he has yet to talk to defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and doesn’t know a lot about him, but he plans on doing that soon and is optimistic about his role. Dockett said he will be at the Super Bowl and meet with Arians in New Orleans as well.
Dockett did tell a funny story about getting a text from Arians: “Hey it’s BA, give me a call, I want to talk to you ASAP.” Dockett raised an eyebrow. “I’m looking at the text thinking, ‘I don’t even know who this is,’ ” Dockett said. “I’m not calling him back.” Arians tried again the next day, this time explaining he was the new head coach. Dockett realized his faux pas, and ended up talking to Arians for about a half-hour.
“I am training hard,” Dockett said. “I want to get back and I am doing everything I can to do that. I am coming back to my dominant ways. That’s what I am excited about.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Darnell Dockett, Todd Bowles
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We know that linebacker Daryl Washington was named second-team all-pro by the Associated Press — that’s the “big” one — but the Cardinals, at least defensively, did OK on a couple of recent all-NFC West teams that came out.
Defensive end Calais Campbell, cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Kerry Rhodes were all named to profootballfocus.com’s team, which isn’t a surprise. They had been pointing out the years of Campbell and Rhodes all season, pushing them for Pro Bowl status. And they had good things to say about Peterson, even if they didn’t see him as one of the top two corners in the conference. They acknowledged Daryl Washington’s big year, but didn’t pick him.
Mike Sando over at ESPN had the Peterson, Campbell and Washington, leaving off Rhodes. The play of that young trio is why people have such enthusiasm for the Cards’ defense, even as older vets like Adrian Wilson and Darnell Dockett move toward passing the torch.
– Ken Whisenhunt’s head coaching interview tour continued Monday. He had already talked to Buffalo, Cleveland (twice), San Diego and then Philadelphia on Monday.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Ken Whisenhunt, Kerry Rhodes, Patrick Peterson
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While the reports are out there that VP of player personnel Steve Keim is negotiating to become the next Cardinals’ general manager, the next GM — whether it was going to be Keim or someone else — will have some work to do.
According to figures reported by John Clayton, the Cards are currently set to come in around $720,000 above the 2013 salary cap. That means at the very least there will be some restructuring to do. To have any flexibility for free agents or the like will take some paperwork. That’s why, beyond Kevin Kolb’s injuries, it will be important to try and restructure his deal (his cap number is around $13 million this coming season), or extend safety Kerry Rhodes ($6M), or make a call on linebacker Stewart Bradley ($6.5M). The cap numbers of Larry Fitzgerald (more than $10M), Darnell Dockett ($7.7M) and Adrian Wilson (more than $5M) also could be looked at in some way, shape or form.
Cap space can be found quickly if necessary, and it doesn’t have to be at the cost of losing a player outright, necessarily. Sometimes it just is a matter of shifting contract language. But there is little question there is work to be done.
Most cap space to come, according to Clayton? The Bengals, with more than $55 million. The least? The Jets, at more than $19M on the negative side.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bengals, Darnell Dockett, Jets, Kerry Rhodes, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald, salary cap, Stewart Bradley
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Vonnie Holliday sat back a bit in his locker in the cramped, outdated visiting locker room at Candlestick Park. He hadn’t yet pulled off his uniform pants or his undershirt, quietly taking in the scene after Sunday’s loss.
Change is coming for the Cardinals. Holliday is part of the inevitable part of that change, even if the Cardinals were 11-5 and not 5-11. At 37, he sounds like he is leaning toward retirement. It was he and not Calais Campbell who was in the starting lineup Sunday at the insistence of his defensive linemates. They knew it was probably Holliday’s last NFL game.
“That’s the kind of guys we have in this room, on this team,” Holliday said. “Great character. Calais kind of joked about it on Saturday and then today, we came into the locker room and he said, ‘I want you to have it.’ It meant a lot to me.”
Holliday’s eyes welled up a bit as he told the story. He doesn’t know yet if he is retiring, but sure sounded like he might be leaning that way. “At some point, the sun sets on us all,” Holliday said. “It’s getting late in the evening for me.”
He mentioned to me last week he might actually want to coach – or more realistically, be a consultant. Already, he’s expecting some of the young defensive linemen to join him in Atlanta to train before the Cards’ offseason work begins.
“The season didn’t play out the way we wanted to play out, but it couldn’t be with a better group of guys,” Holliday said. “All the chances to point fingers or having a divide, guys never did that. It’s been a pleasure.”
Holliday is a class act. The Cards were better for him being in the locker room. Things must change to improve the team, but there was a universal feeling among the players that the character of the roster was impressive.
– As for the actual change that’s coming, I don’t know what will happen. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he expects to be back next season, which is what he should say. We will see how this sorts out and on what timeline upon which it happens. There is this assumption all kinds of things will happen Monday. I’m not saying they won’t, but I don’t know if it’s is a lock they do, either.
– The Cardinals will draft seventh. So there’s that.
– There are a lot of people wondering about the future of defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. Including, I would guess, Dockett.
“I’m not one of those guys who wants to play 15 or 16 years chasing a ring,” Dockett said. “Wherever God takes me, he’ll take me. If it’s here I’m going to give them everything I’ve got. I just want to be somewhere to win a championship and where I’m wanted. And I want to be somewhere where they are committed to winning, standards all the way around.”
But Dockett went on to talk like a guy who wasn’t trying to get out.
“At the end of the day my loyalty is with the Cardinals,” he said. “I have given this organization everything I’ve got. I love playing here. I love some of the talent we’ve got. At the end of the day, we have to find a way for us to compete for a championship.”
– Running back Beanie Wells wasn’t into analyzing why he didn’t play Sunday despite being active. His fumble last week didn’t help. Whiz said he wanted to ride William Powell’s hot hand, and Powell did start well (50 first-half yards on 12 carries). I’m not sure Wells’ thoughts that he’d be moving on from the Cards after the season helped the cause.
– There were a few times when left guard Daryn Colledge and left tackle D’Anthony Batise swapped places. “It was an opportunity to kind of keep him guessing on what was going on and keeping fresh legs on the guy,” Colledge said. “Just kind of change it up and see how they reacted to it.”
– A rough year for Larry Fitzgerald ended with a two-catch-for-13-yard game.
“Yeah, it wears your patience pretty thin,” Fitzgerald said of the season. “(But) acting out, being a jerk, causing a scene doesn’t make anything any better either so at this point it’s important to make sure you’re a part of the solution and not part of the problem, going out and working hard every day in practice and doing everything you can in your power to make this team better. I’m just trying to stay that course.”
– The team gets together for a final meeting Monday morning. We’ll see how the morning turns out. I’ll be on Twitter (@cardschatter) for immediate updates and azcardinals.com for all the news.
Tags: Beanie Wells, Calais Campbell, D'Anthony Batiste, Darnell Dockett, Daryn Colledge, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Fitzgerald, Vonnie Holliday, William Powell
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Larry Fitzgerald has done en excellent job managing whatever frustrations he might have during this season with the Cardinals. Anyone who has been around him the last few years can’t be surprised.
“I keep everything in perspective,” Fitzgerald said. “At the end of the day, I’m living a dream. I have an NFL jersey on, an Arizona Cardinals jersey, only 1,500 men around the world that can say they are playing in this league. That’s an exclusive group. It doesn’t feel good to fall short of your goals but we still have one more game against a really good opponent. It’ll be a test of our resolve.”
As usual, Fitz was asked team-wide-type questions about change and, specifically, about whether he wanted to see quarterback Kevin Kolb return. Fitzgerald handled them with his usual grace.
“You’re asking me questions above my pay grade,” Fitzgerald said. “I saw (president) Michael Bidwill, I saw (VP of player personnel) Steve Keim, I saw (general manager) Rod Graves, those guys might have some answers for you. Those are the decision-makers. I’m just a number.”
Fitz mentioned that he has a personal relationship with all his teammates and he’d like to bring them all back. He clearly didn’t want to get into such a discussion.
“I don’t like to play the GM game,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s not my role.”
(I know there are thoughts out there that Fitzgerald has some kind of sway when it comes to some decisions, but that is overblown. The Cards aren’t making decisions based on Fitz’s desires. Nor should they.)
One thing Fitz does understand — as do most players — is that change comes every offseason, and when a team struggles as much as the Cardinals have, it usually leads to more change than usual.
“Unfortunately that’s the nature of our business,” Fitzgerald said. “(There is) 30 percent turnover every year across the league, from draft to trades to cuts to guys retiring. It’s part of our game. I look around the locker room and see Adrian (Wilson) and Darnell (Dockett) and that’s about it being around as long as I have been.”
There was a funny moment as someone tried to delve into Fitzgerald’s thoughts about a 5-10 record. After Fitz said his role wasn’t as GM, it was asked, “But you want to win?”
“I definitely want to win, no question,” Fitzgerald said, which drew the response of “But that hasn’t been happening.”
Fitzgerald looked up and couldn’t help but smile. It was like a grooved fastball for Fitzgerald to hammer out of the park. “That hasn’t been happening. You’re right. Did you have an epiphany today with that?”
Fitzgerald chuckled as he delivered the line, and so did everyone in the group.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Bidwill, Rod Graves, Steve Keim
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