With “official” talks with free agents allowed March 8 and actually agreements allowed March 11, the time when teams will actually be able to start finalizing such things is still more than a week away. Players are dropping off the “He’s going to be a free agent” list daily, like with the litany of Philadelphia Eagles who have signed extensions the past couple of days. That can still happen to any of these potential free agents being talked about.
It hasn’t cooled the speculation, however. Greg Bedard of SI.com’s MMQB ranked the top 100 free-agents-to-be and also listed what he thought would be the best fits. The Cardinals find themselves mentioned a few times.
– The only current Cardinal scheduled to be a free agent that made the list was linebacker Karlos Dansby. He was at No. 34. Not surprisingly, Bedard’s call for Dansby’s best fit was remaining with the Cardinals. I agree with that. Not only does the system best fit Karlos, but so does his working relationship next to Daryl Washington.
– There are three left tackles on the list from other teams: Kansas City’s Branden Albert (No. 7), Baltimore’s Eugene Monroe (No. 8) and Cincinnati’s Anthony Collins (No. 60). For both Albert and Collins, the Cardinals are listed as the best fit and the Cards are also noted for Monroe along with Miami. Obviously the Cardinals would sign more than one, but it’s obvious to the NFL world this team should be a landing spot for at least one. It will definitely be one of the more intriguing storylines of that first week (or less) of free agency.
– Packers DE/OLB Mike Neal was 95th on the list and the Cards were called his best fit. Neal’s name has already been floated as a potential Arizona target. It makes all the sense in the world if Matt Shaughnessy leaves as a free agent.
– In the most surprising post, for Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, 57th on the list, the Cards are called the best fit. I get it with the possibility free agent Rashard Mendenhall might not return. But the way Bruce Arians and Steve Keim think about running backs, and with Ryan Williams and Stepfan Taylor still around along with Andre Ellington (and we aren’t even talking about someone popping up draft-wise) I don’t see the Cards even thinking about a guy like MJD. Or more specifically, his price tag.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Anthony Collins, Branden Albert, Daryl Washington, Eugene Monroe, free agency, Karlos Dansby, Maurice Jones-Drew, Mike Neal, offensive line, Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Williams, Stepfan Taylor
Posted in Blog | 32 Comments »
In much different ways, the immediate football future of both running back Ryan Williams and linebacker Daryl Washington remains in a bit of limbo. Williams, the 2011 second-round pick whose first two seasons were all but a wash because of injuries, barely made the roster this season but ended up inactive for all 16 games. Washington, who was suspended for the first four games of the season after violating the league’s substance abuse policy, came back to play well and help anchor the league’s sixth-ranked defense. But Washington was arrested for assault of an ex-girlfriend last offseason, and the case is still winding its way through the court system. Washington’s next court date is scheduled for April and he could face a league suspension again depending on the result — but he also has a big bonus due him next month.
With each of those situations in context, General Manager Steve Keim talked about each with azcardinals.com:
– On Ryan Williams: “Ryan is a tremendous talent,” Keim said. “He’s a guy who still, on the practice field, shows us the movement skills, the run ability, the change of direction is fantastic. Obviously he has had to battle injuries, which has probably been his biggest issue. And last year, bringing in Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington and the impact both of those players made instantly put Ryan on the backburner.
“He’s a guy we still have hopes for. He’s still got the ability and I think Bruce (Arians) just wants him to put it all together.”
Williams is due a salary just north of $1 million this season, with a cap hit of $1.5M. Releasing him would save $1 million. Keim talked up Taylor Thursday, and it seems at this point an Ellington/Taylor duo is more probable than Ellington/Williams, but Keim made it sound like Williams isn’t going anywhere for now.
– As for Washington, “Nothing new,” Keim said. “We monitor everything when it comes to his off-field stuff. Rick Knight, our (vice president) of security, handles a lot of that. Daryl was a guy who made mistakes in the past and he’s (owned) up to those. He’s done a fantastic job in terms of his work ethic and being accountable. We hope to get everything resolved shortly and look forward to a huge year out of Daryl in 2014.”
That the Cardinals would have no doubt of keeping around one of their best players is not a surprise. Washington said after the season he was hoping it would get cleared up soon, but he always talked like he planned on being a long-term Cardinal and that shouldn’t change.
Tags: Daryl Washington, Ryan Williams, Steve Keim
Posted in Blog | 25 Comments »
This time around, the Cardinals aren’t going to be looking for a coach or general manager, so this early part of the offseason figures to be much more quiet than it was in January of 2013. But there is still plenty for GM Steve Keim and his people to work on, because the combine is in less than two months, free agency is soon after that, and it’s time to focus on what the offseason roster in 2014 will look like.
That starts, of course, with figuring out what they liked and didn’t like with the roster from 2013. It also comes down to budget, and contracts, and how many of these unrestricted free agents-to-be want to come back to Arizona based on the deals Keim wants to/is willing to offer. These are not always simple solutions but it is why Keim, as they say, earns the big bucks. When I talked to Keim as early as the week in Florida prior to the Week 4 game at Tampa, Keim was already acknowledging the work that had to go into this offseason.
“There are going to be some tough decisions to be made after the season based on the numbers, just looking at the three-year view,” Keim said then. “We will obviously have to make some tough decisions like we did this past year after the season. The one thing fans and other people don’t realize (is) there are certain contracts that bind you and you can’t do anything (with) and you have the dead money factor.
“Once we get to 2015 I feel really good where we are going to be from a salary-cap standpoint.”
With that all in mind, here is my annual roster breakdown, with most players by position, when their contracts expires and a quick comment on each. There are a lot of choices to be made, and not just by Keim. If you are Karlos Dansby, for instance, do you like the scheme Todd Bowles has put you in — and like playing next to someone like Daryl Washington enough — to want to stay? Money, as always, talks. Dansby did not get the kind of interest he expected last offseason in the market. He had a better year this season, but will that translate for a player who will be 33? These are the things the Cardinals, and Dansby, must balance.
The Larry Fitzgerald situation, and a looming $18 million salary cap number, is another touchpoint. The Cardinals really need to get it lower. How they can work with Fitzgerald on that impacts a lot of things, including, for instance, any potential Patrick Peterson contract extension. When you start mulling all these numbers, you start seeing why Keim is targeting 2015 for salary cap comfort.
There are other key things the Cards must look at roster-wise, aside from the draft. Other key free agents like Matt Shaughnessy, Rashard Mendenhall or Andre Roberts. Other contracts, like perhaps those of Daryn Colledge or Darnell Dockett. Other issues, like the long-term rehab of Tyrann Mathieu and Alameda Ta’amu, or a possible suspension of Daryl Washington, and whether absences at the beginning of the season could make a difference on who is needed on the roster for depth.
The offseason is just beginning. So too is the job of the Cardinals to get ready for 2014.
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Andre Roberts, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Daryn Colledge, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Shaughnessy, Patrick Peterson, Rashard Mendenhall, Roster, Steve Keim, Tyrann Mathieu
Posted in Blog | 39 Comments »
The Cardinals as a group haven’t just moved far forward from this time last year. So too has Darnell Dockett. The trip to Seattle was the back end of a very rocky week for the defensive tackle last season, after his sideline confrontation with Kerry Rhodes at the end of the Jets game and the let-them-score issue. Dockett was demoted that week in practice and then came off the bench in Seattle. It was a bad time for both him and the team.
“Mentally for me, I wasn’t in the right place, our team wasn’t in the right place in the middle of that losing streak,” Dockett said.
Dockett has bounced back, of course. He was happy with the new scheme that Todd Bowles brought in. He has 4½ sacks, and is coming off – according to profootballfocus.com – two of his best games of the season. The Cardinals need him to play well Sunday in Seattle during this return trip. Dockett sure remembers the last time.
“They had a team that was struggling in every phase and they took full advantage of it,” Dockett said. “They ran the score up. Passing the ball with five minutes left. But that’s cool. I’m not mad. As a team, we have to understand the environment we are going into and we have to understand what is at stake. We have to understand we will face adversity there. Every team that goes there faces adversity. You will have to overcome it real fast.”
Can the Cardinals do that? An excellent question. When Bruce Arians calls this a barometer of where his team is at, that’s a guarantee.
– Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles was disappointed in his unit last week, not necessarily because they played poorly but because for the first time this season, he felt the players began watching the clock instead of playing the game once the Cards took a 34-17 lead.
“I thought we shut it down,” Bowles said.
I doubt that will be a problem Sunday, nor a possibility, but it’s always good to learn such a lesson in a win.
– As for the rash of penalties the Cards had in the second half, Bowles said “I thought we lost our composure.” Some flags might have been questionable, but Bowles is right, the Cards have to make sure they keep it together.
– Speaking of penalties, fines were handed out from the Titans game. Tennessee linebacker Kamerion Wimbley was hit for $10,000 for his low hit on Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, the one that left Palmer with a sprained left ankle (and luckily nothing else.) Titans running back Jackie Battle was not fined for his concussion-inducing hit on Larry Fitzgerald, although it wasn’t a foul and I didn’t even think it was that big of a hit.
Two Cardinals were fined. Linebacker Marcus Benard was docked $15,750 for his roughing the passer penalty on Ryan Fitzpatrick. And linebacker Daryl Washington paid $5,000 after his taunting penalty. Safety Rashad Johnson and defensive end Calais Campbell were not fined for their personal fouls.
– I think Larry Fitzgerald plays. He said he’s never missed a division game and that’s true. He’s missed only four games in 10 seasons, against Cleveland in 2007 and against Chicago, Oakland and Green Bay in 2006.
– A bigger concern is the ankle of Palmer. With all those pass rushers, you want your quarterback as mobile as possible. Coach Bruce Arians didn’t sound concerned. We will see how that plays out. Palmer has played at a high level which is why the Cards are doing so well. He hasn’t seen a defense like the Seahawks though, since, well, the Seahawks game.
– Won’t go through all the playoff permutations again but again, a Cards’ loss and a Carolina win and it’s over. Otherwise, the Cardinals are still breathing.
– Finally, below is a message from Tyrann Mathieu that he wanted to make sure the fans saw.
On to Seattle.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Larry Fitzgerald, Marcus Benard, playoffs, Todd Bowles, Tyrann Mathieu
Posted in Blog | 34 Comments »
It’s hard to get away from what is the main storyline for Sunday: Is Carson Palmer going to be the quarterback?
Coach Bruce Arians sounded pretty confident Friday talking about it and was in a pretty good mood too after practice. If the key starting QB had been hurt in this way under the old regime, playing or not, you could usually tell on the face of former coach Ken Whisenhunt. But Arians is a true believer in next man up – he was the same way with Andre Ellington’s injury on Thanksgiving – and he does have Drew Stanton, a man to whom Arians was prepared to start before the Palmer trade happened.
And again, Palmer may indeed be playing and the limited work all week comes down to making sure the vet was rested. I did think it was interesting that Arians made it clear that he thought the two interceptions Palmer threw had nothing to do with a sore elbow. And Palmer, who was hurt on his first drop-back in Philly, did throw for 302 yards and three touchdowns after that.
The Cards need Palmer. That’s no slight to Stanton but instead the acknowledgement that for whatever issues Palmer has had with turnovers this season, the offense has clicked a lot more of late and that is necessary going into a crucial game with the Rams Sunday.
– The Cardinals will have Andre Ellington back and that’s a huge deal. Pairing him with an improving Rashard Mendenhall means the Cardinals have a formidable tandem with which to run – meaning that whether you have Palmer and an iffy elbow or Stanton playing QB, the Cards have good options on offense upon which to lean.
– It’s been an eternity since the Cards went to St. Louis to play. “It’s funny to watch them on film,” Palmer said. “It seems so long ago.” What doesn’t seem so long ago was the loss incurred that day – because the eventual 27-24 decision in which the Cardinals led by 11 in the fourth quarter is hurting the team big right now in the playoff chase. The swing that would have happened in the overall, conference and division records would have been momentous.
– Eagles tight ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek scored three touchdowns last week against Arizona, and we know all about tight end issues against the Cards’ defense (remember St. Louis’ Jared Cook in Week One, getting it started?) There’s a give-and-take there, though.
“Going into a ballgame, you try to take away (LeSean) McCoy, try to take away (Desean) Jackson, try to take away (Riley) Cooper, and you try to maintain and limit what the tight ends can do,” defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. “You don’t let the big three beat you. We accomplished that. The tight ends got loose for a couple balls inside the red zone. I think we need to play better red zone coverage. The 24-yard touchdown pass there was some technical issues we need to clean up. But going into the game, (tight end) was probably fourth on the totem pole.”
Said linebacker Daryl Washington on the tight end subject, “I think it’s a small adjustment. I don’t think it’s a major issue.”
– I don’t think there is any question that as good as Cook was the first time around, the Cardinals are going to want to make sure Tavon Austin and Chris Givens don’t break off big plays. So we’ll see how that develops when it comes to Cook.
– Speaking of Washington, remember, he didn’t play the first time these teams met. That would seem to be a major factor in the Cards’ favor.
– No one is going out on a limb here, but Eric Winston vs. Chris Long and Robert Quinn vs. Bradley Sowell matchups are probably the key to the game.
– Speaking of the offensive line, the Cardinals used Bobby Massie for 11 offensive snaps last week in Philly as a jumbo tight end in running packages. I don’t think Massie would ever be thrown a pass — “I’m athletic enough to do anything,” Massie said with a smile – but his presence has helped the running game.
“It’s a good thing getting a chance to play,” Massie said. “It’s better than standing on the sideline watching.”
Until Sunday …
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bobby Massie, Bradley Sowell, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Chris Long, Daryl Washington, Drew Stanton, Eric Winston, Rams, Rashard Mendenhall, Robert Quinn, Todd Bowles
Posted in Blog | 11 Comments »
Some notes after Wednesday availability (and as the Cardinals practice):
– Not surprisingly, coach Bruce Arians isn’t about to talk ill of the 1-8 Jaguars. “You better bring your big-boy pants when you play against Jacksonville,” Arians said.
– Arians reiterated — yet again — that his running back situation isn’t going to change. Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Ellington are going to split time. Sometimes, it’s going to be impacted by the flow of the game. Arians lamented again the inability to get the ball to Ellington as a receiver, missed opportunities because of pass protection issues and/or Carson Palmer’s decisions.
– Arians was asked about the criticism Mendenhall is now receiving from the fans, and by extension, the criticism Arians gets for playing Mendenhall. “That’s fine,” Arians said. “Rashard can handle it. I can handle it.”
– Arians did say most “don’t sit in the room” with the running backs to see what Mendenhall is bringing to the team and to his teammates. “Ask (running backs coach) Stump (Mitchell),” Arians said. “Having been a veteran player in that room, he knows what that brings.”
– Linebacker John Abraham, coming off a three-sack game, was padless and on a bike during the open portion of practice. The injury report is out later today, but the way Abraham is playing (six sacks in the last three games), the Cards would be hurt without him. Also sitting out, as expected, were wide receivers Michael Floyd (shoulder sprain) and Brittan Golden (hamstring).
– In case you missed my tweet yesterday, the assault trial of linebacker Daryl Washington, which remains in the pre-trial phase, doesn’t have its next scheduled pretrial conference until January 23. Which means whatever the outcome, it is not going to affect the 2013 season.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Daryl Washington, John Abraham, Rashard Mendenhall
Posted in Blog | 27 Comments »
The Cardinals were down 17-14 at halftime Sunday, thanks to the blocked field goal of Justin Bethel on the final play of the second quarter. At that point, linebacker Daryl Washington said, the defense as a unit committed to the idea 17 points was the most it could allow. A lofty goal. But if Rashard Mendenhall doesn’t fumble the ball away late inside the 10 — and if Andre Johnson doesn’t make yet another spectacular toe-tapping touchdown on fourth down for the Texans — the Cardinals’ defense would have pulled it off.
The Texans gained just 41 net yards in the second half and had zero net yards in the third quarter. In the second half, Houston had just three plays of at least 10 yards — two 11-yard passes and an 11-yard run. And in their five wins, the Cardinals — who were down at halftime in four of those games — have allowed just 21 points in the second half. They have 20 turnovers, which is tied for fifth in the league (and it should be higher if Karlos Dansby could hang on to the ball — more on that later today.)
– As of now, Elias is checking out whether John Abraham and not Frostee Rucker should get the late 23-yard sack of Case Keenum. It’s tough to tell on replay if Keenum lost his balance because of Rucker or because he was trying to dive out of the way of Abraham. Even if Abraham “only” ends up with two sacks yesterday, he’s one of only seven players this season with five sacks and three forced fumbles — nice production and exactly what the Cards were hoping for.
– Bethel’s block was the Cards’ 16th blocked field-goal attempt since 2008, by far the best in the NFL. Seattle is second with 10.
– Carson Palmer’s TD pass to Rob Housler was Palmer’s 200th in his career.
– RB Andre Ellington and his 7.19-per-carry rush average remains second in the league behind Oakland QB Terrelle Pryor (7.41) and by far the best running back with at least 50 rushing attempts.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Carson Palmer, Daryl Washington, Frostee Rucker, John Abraham, Justin Bethel, Rashard Mendenhall, Texans
Posted in Blog | 24 Comments »
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Daryl Washington, Houston Texans, NFL, Salute to Service, Texans
Posted in Since1898 | 3 Comments »
In training camp, a couple of defensive players kept saying they thought the defense of Todd Bowles was actually more aggressive than that of Ray Horton, which frankly surprised me. I wasn’t sure that was possible. Late last week (sorry, with the bye weekend I’m just catching up) profootballfocus.com did research on teams — both offensively and defensively — who had allowed and created the most unblocked pressure on the quarterback. Guess who was at the top of the defensive list.
Again, these are the games charted prior to this weekend, but the Cardinals had managed to get unblocked pressure 49 times in eight games, tops in the league, and were able to hit the quarterback 61.2 percent of the time, which was the third-highest percentage. What does it mean? It means Bowles and his defense have been able to create enough confusion with their rushes/blitzes that guys are coming free (linebackers Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington are among the top individual players).
Also interesting to me: On the other side of the ball, the Cardinals have allowed 18 unblocked pressures, tied for sixth-fewest in the NFL — meaning that for all the faults of the pass protection, the scheme is at least accounting for the pass rushers most of the time. (And yes, it probably means the opposition blitzes less because they think they can beat the blockers with a four-man rush too.)
This week will be a test. Watching the Texans’ defensive line attack Indy’s Andrew Luck Sunday night with J.J. Watt and former Cardinal Antonio Smith, among others, was eye-opening. On the other side of the ball, Houston QB Case Keenum can certainly move around. But the Cards will have had two weeks to prep. And the Texans have to be reeling after another crushing loss.
Tags: Daryl Washington, Karlos Dansby, Pro Football Focus, Texans, Todd Bowles
Posted in Blog | 11 Comments »
This isn’t going to be lengthy, not with the bye weekend here and time off embraced. But here at the halfway point, I was trying to consider team MVP candidates from either side of the ball. Defensively, there are choices. Linebacker Daryl Washington may have only played four games, but he’s quickly shown why he is so important and he’s in the mix. Defensive end Calais Campbell has been outstanding, and I think given the matchups he is faced with each week, cornerback Patrick Peterson has been pretty good too. Veterans Karlos Dansby and Darnell Dockett have been solid as well.
Offensively, though, um, I’m not sure there is one. I guess you’d go with Andre Ellington at this point, even though he hasn’t gotten the ball a ton. Larry Fitzgerald hasn’t made enough of an impact in that regard, it doesn’t seem. Neither has Michael Floyd. I will say, I am very, very interested to see if this offense can make some steps forward in the second half of the season (especially with the schedule upcoming) or if they just are who they are.
– Congrats to Ellington, by the way, for winning the NFL’s Fed Ex Ground player of the week award, voted on by the fans.
– Tyrann Mathieu has been outstanding, and we don’t need national awards to prove it. Yes, I think the safety has a chance to win defensive rookie of the year. He already is making the move to displace Rashad Johnson as a starter. I’ll be curious to know if that stays the same against Houston. Another thing the first half has shown me: Mathieu is a great tackler. Not good, great. He’s the best tackler on the team (and no, Tyrann, I’m not just talking pound-for-pound). That’s been the most impressive part of his game for me.
– Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin can quip with the best of them, and the de facto offensive line coach was talking about that unit when he mentioned left tackle Bradley Sowell. “He didn’t give up a sack, thank God.” There was a little sarcasm there for all the Sowell questions he gets, and some truth too. But Profootballfocus.com not only graded Sowell with having his best game against Atlanta last week in not giving up a sack, PFF said Sowell didn’t even allow a QB pressure.
– Both Fitzgerald and Floyd rank high on PFF’s drop-rate list, so that’s good. They just have to see more catchable passes.
– Amazing. A future opponent loses another good player, with the news today Jaguars WR Justin Blackmon is suspended indefinitely for violating the substance-abuse policy. Blackmon had already been suspended the first four games of the season. What a waste.
– OK, that’s enough. Back to the regular season next week. And in the meantime, here’s a very cool slow-motion capture of that rumblin’, stumblin’ run of Stepfan Taylor against the Falcons. The play gained 15 yards, and he earned every one of them.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bradley Sowell, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Harold Goodwin, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, Stepfan Taylor, Tyrann Mathieu
Posted in Blog | 12 Comments »