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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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.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Darnell Dockett, Drew Stanton, free agency, Frostee Rucker, Jerraud Powers, Justin Bethel, Lyle Sendlein, Matt Shaughnessy, Michael Floyd, Rashad Johnson, Tony Jefferson
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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.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Carson Palmer, Darnell Dockett, Dave Zastudil, Ed Stinson, Eddie Whitley, John Abraham, Matt Shaughnessy, salary cap, Troy Niklas
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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.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Carson Palmer, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, free agency, Larry Fitzgerald, Larry Foote, Logan Thomas, Paul Fanaika, Sam Acho, Steve Keim, Tommy Kelly
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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.
Tags: Calais Campbell, captains, Carson Palmer, Darnell Dockett, Dave Zastudil, Lorenzo Alexander
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Just rode 9 miles on my new bike.. Fastest recovery ever!! #ever
— DARNELL DOCKETT (@ddockett) October 8, 2014
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Darnell Dockett, Dockett, NFL, Rehab
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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.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Antonio Cromartie, Carson Palmer, Chandler Catanzaro, Darnell Dockett, Deone Bucannon, Drew Stanton, John Abraham, Jonathan Cooper, Larry Fitzgerald, NFC West, Todd Bowles, Tony Jefferson
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Will he or won’t he? I’m sure the last thing the Cardinals wanted going into the opener was having their key offensive piece be a game-day decision, but that’s where we are left with running back Andre Ellington and his pesky foot problem. Bruce Arians said Ellington did enough in practice Saturday (pictured right) to convince him that Ellington could possibly play Monday, so there is that.
“We can’t worry about injuries,” Arians said. “Nobody cares but us.”
Even if he doesn’t play, the beat moves on. If you look at the key guys not playing in total that you had hoped would – Washington and Mathieu and Dockett and Cooper, aside from Ellington – it can be a daunting list. But these are things that don’t make Bruce Arians flinch. He will forever have that 2012 season with the Colts burned on his brain, when everyone seemed to get hurt for Indy (except for Andrew Luck) and they still won 11 games. That will be the memory Arians will fall back upon, and why his “Next Man Up” battle cry isn’t just lip service. Whether the Cardinals can too make it work, we’ll see. The Chargers are just the first in a tough schedule.
— Punter Dave Zastudil was added to the injury list as questionable Saturday with a groin injury. That’s not good, obviously. The Cardinals did cut linebacker Desmond Bishop Saturday, so maybe the Cardinals fill that spot with a new punter if Zastudil can’t go. (Kicker Chandler Catanzaro punted once last season in college at Clemson.)
— If I had to pick just one major key to the game Monday, I’d have to go with the pressure the Cardinals need to put on Philip Rivers. There are other important aspects, of course. The Cardinals need to show they can stop the run again, and they need to protect Carson Palmer as promised. But after the vanilla preseason, it’s important that the Cards can hurry Rivers in the pocket. Once in a while without a blitz, preferably.
— Here is not a surprise in the least: The presence of new left tackle Jared Veldheer has completely changed the tension level for offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin.
“For me, for Carson, it’s about being comfortable,” Goodwin said. “For me, I can worry about other things. I don’t have to worry about chip-help for the tackle all the time. That relieves a whole lot of stress.”
No question Veldheer gives the Cardinals something Levi Brown simply did not, and that Bradley Sowell can not. In the end, Veldheer is seen by many fans as a savior to that position, although Veldheer isn’t all that comfortable with the notion.
“I guess that’s an OK thing, but to me, the biggest thing is being accountable to the guys on the line and the offense and the team,” he said. “And that’s me doing my job.”
— Got a chance to catch up briefly with Darnell Dockett yesterday, and he was as Darnell as always. He’s already pushing himself hard on his knee, even this early.
“You put the time in, got nothing else to do,” he said. “My coaches are supporting me, they know my work so they give me the green light to do everything I can to come back faster. There can’t be a better situation other than not being in this situation in the first place.”
— I’ve had many people ask me what the ramifications might be for suspended linebacker Daryl Washington if the new drug policy – rumored to be close – is passed. The truth is, I have no idea. Part of the problem is that it hasn’t publicly been said why Washington was suspended. He said in his statement it was for marijuana, but you’d need more details than that. Let’s put it this way, first this new policy actually has to be put in place – and it hasn’t yet. I still wouldn’t hold my breath for Washington even if it does.
— It’ll be an emotional night Monday. Aside from the game itself and the knowledge it is on national television, Kurt Warner gets inducted into the Ring of Honor at halftime. I’d guess there will be some well-remembered highlights played too. Don’t leave your seats.
— Carparks open at 3 p.m. Monday. Don’t forget your clear bags.
— With all the Ellington news, the possibility of Tyrann Mathieu playing has seemingly been pushed to the background. I still think the Cardinals are going to err on the side of caution and keep him out for now, but Arians said again it’ll be a game-day thing.
— Crazy to think Alameda Ta’amu is fine after tearing his ACL in the 2013 season finale, but the nose tackle should be in the defensive line rotation and his biggest issue is his stamina. “He’s full go. He runs on and off the field and gets out of gas. That’s a lot of ass to carry back and forth out there.”
So, on that note, on to Monday night.
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Andre Ellington, Chargers, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Dave Zastudil, Harold Goodwin, Jared Veldheer, Kurt Warner, Philip Rivers, Tyrann Mathieu
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The Wes Welker suspension bomb dropped yesterday, and that’s a great example of why all these game-by-game results guesses never made any sense to me. The Broncos wide receiver is gone for four games, and since the Broncos have a Week 4 bye (as do the Cardinals), the fourth and final game Welker will have to sit out will be the Cardinals’ visit to Denver. Will that impact the outcome? Maybe, maybe not. But you can’t predict because this game doesn’t allow that. Last year, when the schedule game out, the Cardinals were facing two tough playoff teams coming to Arizona in Houston and Atlanta. By the time the Texans and Falcons arrived, injuries had shredded them and they were bad teams. This year, the Broncos won’t have Welker (or kicker Matt Prater, who has also been suspended the first four games), the 49ers won’t have linebacker Aldon Smith in the first meeting with the Cards, and again, you just don’t know how these things will play out.
Random aside: That Oct. 5 game will be only the second time in Payton Manning’s career he will play an entire game against the Cardinals. He did so in a Sunday night game in 2009, but he sat out virtually all off the 2005 season finale. That is, of course, assuming Manning is healthy by that point. Because you just don’t know what will happen.
— The Cardinals picked captains and the results weren’t really surprising when you think of it. The biggest one, noted by many fans, is that Larry Fitzgerald is not a captain. This year’s offensive captain is Carson Palmer. But this should not shock. Palmer has really been the biggest offensive leader since he arrived, although there is something to be said about taking a bit of a backseat in the first year. Palmer did that, and Fitz was a 2013 captain. But Palmer is unquestionably the guy out front. Fitz has always been more of a lead-by-example guy. It was interesting that Calais Campbell is the defensive captain, but then again, maybe that shouldn’t be that surprising either. It’s hard to think of Campbell as a veteran leader — sometimes, it still feels like he just got here, especially since Darnell Dockett’s experience always overshadowed him on the line. But he’s a guy the defense can get behind.
— The Cardinals finished off their 10-man practice squad today by signing cornerback Anthony Gaitor. The 5-foot-10 Gaitor was among the Bucs’ final cuts. He was a seventh-round pick of Tampa in 2011, and missed all of last season with a knee injury. He joins rookie Jimmy Legree as the defensive backs on the practice squad, which gives the Cards some in-house possibilities for help if there are injuries with the eight men on the active roster.
Tags: Aldon Smith, Anthony Gaitor, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Darnell Dockett, Jimmy Legree, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Prater, Peyton Manning, Wes Welker
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