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Narrowing down where Cards are with cap

Posted by Darren Urban on February 24, 2015 – 11:37 am

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.


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Sorting out Dockett’s status

Posted by Darren Urban on February 22, 2015 – 9:54 pm

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:

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.


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With Fitzgerald done, next on to-do list

Posted by Darren Urban on February 18, 2015 – 2:10 pm

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.

Steve Keim

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New DC could impact Cardinals on the nose

Posted by Darren Urban on January 16, 2015 – 1:56 pm

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?


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Free agency looms big — next year

Posted by Darren Urban on January 6, 2015 – 4:21 pm

I have posted my annual roster breakdown, where you can see (right here) where everyone of note on the current roster stands in terms of how long their contract runs — at least right now, before guys are released or extended or otherwise restructured. If you want to see the details of this year’s free-agent concerns, here’s my story on that. But one of the things you notice when you peruse the list of players is just how many guys have their contracts expire after the 2015 season.

By my count, it’s 25 guys, and while that will most certainly change by this time next year — a rookie class will push some of those guys off the roster, for instance — it’s something to watch as General Manager Steve Keim maneuvers through this offseason. Many of these players are up so soon because they were found off the street or as undrafted rookies and had shorter-term contracts. But, at least for now, here are some of the names that are scheduled to be up after 2015:

— DT Darnell Dockett
— QB Drew Stanton
— WR Michael Floyd (who does have a 2016 team option)
— C Lyle Sendlein
— T Bobby Massie
— DE Frostee Rucker
— LB Matt Shaughnessy
— CB Justin Bethel
— CB Jerraud Powers
— S Rashad Johnson
— S Tony Jefferson

Again, I don’t expect all of them to remain on that schedule. The Cardinals will make an attempt to extend some of them. Others could be released as the normal roster overhaul takes place. But this is the way a team clears cap space and doesn’t get into cap problems, like Keim has worked to try and do. It means there are few real long-term deals. And more work every offseason.


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Cards feel the cost of injuries

Posted by Darren Urban on December 17, 2014 – 10:55 am

The Cardinals are not the most injured team in the league, although there has been little argument they have been undercut by the players they have lost. In the NFL, of course, anytime you lose a starting quarterback, that automatically puts you near the top of the list.

Quantifying that compared to other teams in virtually impossible. There are dozens of ways to look at it. But here is one. Spotrac.com has compiled a list that adds up the salary cap hits each team have sitting on injured reserve, and, no surprise, the Cardinals have landed in the top five. The Cards are fourth, with eight IR’d players taking up $28.8 million in cap space. The three teams ahead of them: the Giants with $34.7M, the Rams at $30.6M and the Bears at $29.9M. The Giants are there in part because they have a whopping 22 players on IR. The Rams have one less player on IR than the Cards, but with QB Sam Bradford’s huge contract ($17.6M himself) the total is slightly ajar.

The eight Cardinals on IR: Carson Palmer, John Abraham, Darnell Dockett, Troy Niklas, Ed Stinson, Dave Zastudil, Andre Ellington and Eddie Whitley. That total doesn’t include linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, who was out eight weeks when he was on IR/designated to return.

You can argue that the money could be weighted — the Bears, for instance, just put wide receiver Brandon Marshall on IR — but the overall totals do speak to the “importance” of the players on IR, because you figure the guys with the highest cap numbers are usually the most crucial.

As for the full list of walking wounded Cards, here are the guys who have missed games this season because of injuries, with the total games they have sat out thus far:

DT Dockett (14)
LB Abraham (13)
P Zastudil (12)
LB Shaughnessy (8)
QB Palmer (8)
TE Niklas (7)
DT Stinson (5)
S Tyrann Mathieu (3)
LB Alex Okafor (3)
LB Glenn Carson (3)
WR Larry Fitzgerald (2)
LB Desmond Bishop (2)
DE Calais Campbell (2)
RB Stepfan Taylor (2)
G Paul Fanaika (2)
RB Ellington (2)
DE Frostee Rucker (1)
TE Rob Housler (1)

We’ll see if the final two games bring any more surprises.


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Extending Palmer and the 2015 offseason

Posted by Darren Urban on October 17, 2014 – 10:21 am

It comes as no surprise that the Cardinals want to extend quarterback Carson Palmer. GM Steve Keim said he has had initial discussions with Palmer’s agent, and given the landscape, keeping Palmer around makes sense for both sides. For Palmer, who will turn 35 in December, he has found a comfort — and success — working in Bruce Arians’ system. Considering there probably aren’t many teams that are going to want to bring in a 35-year-old QB, at least not believing in him at the level the Cardinals do, Palmer wanting to remain is only logical.

The Cardinals have a quarterback who works for them, not only passing the ball but as a leader, a guy who easily was voted captain by his teammates. Palmer stands tall in that locker room, and it has nothing to do with his 6-foot-5 frame but the way he carries himself and plays off every guy in there. At some point, the Cardinals will have to find their long-term QB answer, and maybe it’s Logan Thomas and maybe Keim sees the franchise QB sitting there late in the first round this coming April, but there are no certainties and having Palmer in place is almost obvious for the team too.

The shoulder nerve issue probably threw a wrench into things somewhat. You have to believe Palmer will stay healthy. But assuming that, this should work. If it makes so much sense for both sides, it almost has to, right?

But that also leads into this incredibly interesting offseason to come for Keim. Last year, he said the 2015 season was really when the Cards would be in better shape in terms of the salary cap. You can only assume he was already taking into account the Larry Fitzgerald situation, and what he may or may not do with Darnell Dockett’s contract (a spot that’s gotten stickier now that Dockett, who turns 34 in May, will be coming off major knee surgery.)  That doesn’t include the scheduled free agents: Antonio Cromartie, Dan Williams, Sam Acho, Tommy Kelly, Larry Foote and Paul Fanaika among them.

If there is anything Keim has shown with a couple of offseasons under his belt, it’s that the Cardinals have a plan on how they spend. And going overboard isn’t part of it. There is a number the Cardinals have in mind they will want to give to any of these guys for 2015 — for a Fitz, for a Dan Williams. For a Palmer. Selling a chance to stay with a winner helps.

Of course, winning only happens when there is a QB in place. Palmer is that guy for the Cardinals. You want him to stick around.


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Oh, captain, my captain — you OK?

Posted by Darren Urban on October 9, 2014 – 10:32 am

See that photo at the bottom? It’s a picture from the coin toss before the Monday night season opener against the Chargers. It is also the last time the Cardinals’ captains will have all played together in a game in 2014. It feels like the role has been cursed, right?

I mean, punter Dave Zastudil was already hurt in that game — the only reason he was active was to hold on field goals, while Drew Butler did the punting. Zastudil punted in one game (Denver, last weekend) before going on IR with his persistent groin injury, ending his season. Palmer, as we all know, has been hurting since the Chargers game and there is still uncertainty he can come back. Calais Campbell is now down with a knee injury, something that’s been at the forefront of the NFL world for a couple of days.

Wait, am I automatically jinxing Lorenzo Alexander now? (That’s rhetorical, folks. I don’t believe in such things.) Besides, Alexander got his bad luck last year when he got hurt, so …

Still, you have to like how coach Bruce Arians approaches the situation. When Darnell Dockett went on IR, he stayed involved. While hurt, Zastudil and Palmer have still been serving as captains. I can only guess Campbell will continue to do the same, and Zastudil too. “Dave is going to be very, very involved, like Darnell,” Arians said. “He’ll go out for the coin toss and do the things that captains do.”

And at some point, the Cardinals are hoping the other three captains are out there ready to play together on Sundays. Sooner rather than later.




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Darnell Dockett’s rehab going better than expected? #iBELIEVEin90

Posted by since1898 on October 8, 2014 – 10:06 am


BACK TO #since1898

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At 3-0, Friday before the bye

Posted by Darren Urban on September 26, 2014 – 2:51 pm

There had to be some doubt, right? If not when Daryl Washington was suspended then when John Abraham didn’t show up to camp on time or Jonathan Cooper’s leg proved not-ready-for-primetime and for sure when Darnell Dockett went down. Maybe that was the day for me, when Dockett crumpled on the University of Phoenix Stadium turf during a run-of-the-mill training camp practice. At some point, it was all going to catch up with them, and maybe that was the day, with a guy who meant so much to the emotional tenor of the team and without whom depth was an issue.

That’s the day that keeps popping back into my head as the Cardinals sit here, going into a bye week, atop the NFC West standings at 3-0. Two wins over playoff teams. Two wins in games when starting quarterback Carson Palmer could not play, a mountain NFL teams these days often cannot climb. Where this goes isn’t easy to predict, but at the same time the belief is embedded by now.

The Cardinals won’t go undefeated. But at this point, there isn’t a game on the schedule – as difficult as it might be – that would cause someone to be surprised if the Cards won on that particular weekend.

— Since 1990, 75.2 percent of NFL teams that started 3-0 have made the postseason (91 of 121). Of course, we all know that one of those 30 teams was the 2012 Cardinals. But as I’ve said, this team is built much differently.

— In my eyes the biggest surprises? Well, beyond the play of Drew Stanton, which I really didn’t see coming, I’d say the defense as a whole. The pass rush, well, it is what it is, and in a vacuum, it’s not really that good. But defensive coordinator Todd Bowles makes it better with his schemes. I heard former offensive lineman/ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth on Arizona Sports’ “Bickley and Marotta” show today saying when watching video, he can’t believe how much the Cardinals actually blitz. Teams normally are burned by such maneuvering. The Cards are not, he said, because everyone is so in sync.

— I am a little surprised Jonathan Cooper is still on the bench. But Harold Goodwin is taking an if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it approach with the O-line. Bruce Arians said once the season started it’d be hard for Coop to get on the field. He wasn’t lying.

— I am surprised rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro has been this steady. He’s 9-for-9 on field goals, tying he-was-a-Cardinal-for-few-days Dan Carpenter – now in Buffalo – for most in the league. He drilled a 51-yarder, a franchise rookie record, and impressively, 14 of his 17 kickoffs have left the opponent at no better than the 20-yard line, including nine touchbacks.

— Deone Bucannon has looked pretty solid in his dollar linebacker role, although he definitely has room to improve in pass coverage. Fellow safety Tony Jefferson has been a revelation. When Tyrann Mathieu is back to full strength, what a secondary this will be.

— Although no more scares like that Cromartie knee injury thing last week. Between the end of last season and Dockett, this team has had its fill of ACL tears.

— Just in case you want to make that story even better when the Cardinals, with just nine players on the field, blocked the 49ers’ field goal last week, how about this: The Niners actually had a fake called on the play, and then changed their mind, and not everyone got the message.

— The 49ers ended up with a trio of fines from last Sunday’s penalty-fest against the Cardinals, although neither hit on Cardinals QB Drew Stanton by linebacker Dan Skuta or Patrick Willis drew a fine (nor did Willis’ penalty flag on his helmet-to-helmet hit on wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.)

San Francisco wide receiver Anquan Boldin was fined $8,263 for his headbutt on Jefferson. Tackle Jonathan Martin was fined $8,263 for clipping Bucannon, and safety Eric Reid fined $8.263 for facemasking wide receiver John Brown.

— Good story from Kyle Odegard on Cardinals’ VP of player personnel Terry McDonough and his brother Ryan, who is GM of the NBA team in town, the Phoenix Suns.

— So this is what it’s like to have an offensive line you’re not stressing about every game?

— I do expect the offense to get better as the season goes along, assuming health. Andre Ellington will be better. And yes, I think Fitz will eventually get the ball more often.

I’m going to go enjoy the bye weekend now. Practice resumes Monday.


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