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Freeney an option no longer

Posted by Darren Urban on August 2, 2016 – 1:50 pm

Many times it’s been asked if the Cardinals were going to re-sign Dwight Freeney. It was unlikely unless there was an injury, but until he signed somewhere, there was always a chance. That chance is gone now. Freeney is headed to Atlanta to sign with the Falcons, ending whatever opportunity there was for him to return to Arizona.

In truth, Freeney’s chance to come back dried up when the Cardinals traded for Chandler Jones in March. Jones is a three-down player and a guy who is younger and better than Freeney, even after Freeney’s excellent eight-sacks-in-11-games year for the Cards a year ago. Behind Jones are a bunch of younger outside linebackers and the truth is the Cardinals need to develop linebackers for the future. Freeney won’t be around for the future.

That doesn’t mean the Cardinals won’t see Freeney again. The Cardinals visit the Falcons Nov. 27. We’ll see how Jared Veldheer and/or D.J. Humphries deal with the spin move.

FreeneyDone


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Freeney’s visits and the roster wait

Posted by Darren Urban on May 25, 2016 – 2:06 pm

Would Dwight Freeney be brought back? Until he signs elsewhere, I suppose that’s possible. But he just visited the Bengals and news came today he’s going to visit the Falcons, and at some point, if he makes sense somewhere else, he may just come off the market. In the meantime, it’s understandable that the Cardinals don’t see a need to have him right now.

The trade for Chandler Jones obviously impacted the situation. If Freeney — who was originally signed because Alex Okafor got hurt, if you recall — was the lead pass rusher, well, that’s Jones’ job now. Markus Golden likely is the other starter, and a healthy Okafor is back and apparently past whatever was left from his playoff disappearance. Plus, the Cards want to see what they have in Tristan Okapalaugo, Shaq Riddick and Zack Wagenmann.

If we get to training camp and Freeney remains unsigned and the depth isn’t looking quite like what the Cardinals wanted, Freeney would be a natural option. This deep into the offseason, though, it feels like a long-term waiting game, if it were to happen at all.

OLBFreenyOkblog


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Freeney waits, for Cardinals, for “anywhere”

Posted by Darren Urban on May 12, 2016 – 7:35 am

Appearing on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” today, free agent pass rusher Dwight Freeney said he definitely wants to play this season. Nothing is imminent in terms of signing — with any franchise — although the veteran made clear “Arizona would be a great team.”

“But if it doesn’t work out here, it could be anywhere,”  said Freeney, who is in Arizona right now. “It just depends. It has to be a winning team. I’m used to winning.”

Freeney was highly complementary of the Cardinals, raving about their chances to contend even without being on the roster. He said he has had “some interest” on the market, but acknowledged that at this point, it’s wait-and-see for most teams.

“The thing is, when you are when you are as old as me … those teams want to figure out what they want to do,” Freeney said. “They have their young guys, they have their draft picks, so an older guy like me who’s been playing for a while, you know what, they want to take their time and that’s OK. I don’t mind.”

In the meantime, the 36-year-old — who led the Cardinals with eight sacks last season despite playing just 11 games after signing late — said he will stay focused and keep training. Interestingly, he did add that he doesn’t really want to do what he did last season and sign in-season. He’d rather be there for training camp.

“I know my body loved (signing late), but the anxiety mentally wasn’t good,” Freeney said. “So hopefully I can get signed before then.”

FreeneyUpdate


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A little cap space, and potential vets

Posted by Darren Urban on May 11, 2016 – 2:14 pm

The Cardinals have signed everyone. Their six draft picks are under contract and they have their current 90-man roster. Any moves from here have to be one-for-one on the roster, and whether they impact the offseason salary cap would depend on who they bring in (A reminder: Only the top 51 count against the cap until the first week of the regular season.)

As of Wednesday, the NFLPA website has the Cardinals with about $4.9 million in cap space and the most current contracts in the league (91 — which includes the suspended Daryl Washington.) That’s not a ton of room, although, as always, there are moves that can be made to create space if needed. Many have asked if the Cardinals are going to sign a veteran cornerback (Jerraud Powers most often comes up) or vet pass rusher Dwight Freeney. I could still see either, but at this point, I’d expect it to be one of those Keim Time deals around camp for minimum or close to it, if it were to happen.

In the meantime, I’d think the Cardinals will use the offseason work of OTAs and minicamp to figure out if there is a big need at either of those spots, or perhaps a veteran backup offensive tackle. To bring in a vet means one less spot for a young player. If you believe in the two cornerbacks you just drafted, for instance, it’s much harder to keep both on the roster if a guy like Powers comes back.

The Cardinals also have to figure within the cap any potential contract extensions, which could add to the cap crunch (Tyrann Mathieu) or ease it (Calais Campbell), although Kent Somers noted no new deals are close.


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First day back, but roster still evolving

Posted by Darren Urban on April 18, 2016 – 3:24 pm

The Cardinals returned en masse to the team facility Monday for the first day of the offseason program. The vibe is always a little different that first day, when many of these guys haven’t seen each other in a while and they are all happy to come back together (and Larry Fitzgerald gives Tyrann Mathieu a “tackle” to say hello.)

But the roster here on April 18 isn’t the roster that will be there at the end of training camp. It likely won’t even be the one that makes it to the start of organized team activities next month. There was a taste of that Monday when veteran defensive lineman Cory Redding was cut as the Cards saw a) the need for cap space (it freed up $3 million) and b) the depth on the defensive line. Right now, the Cardinals have 75 players on the roster. As of now, there will be six draft picks, leaving room — for now — for nine undrafted players. Usually the Cards want to bring on more undrafted guys, so I won’t be surprised to see more cuts post-draft.

(The undrafted guys don’t count against the roster until after they officially sign — which could be as late as Wednesday or Thursday after the draft — so there is a little wiggle room there roster-wise.)

I’ve had some ask me about guys like Jerraud Powers and Dwight Freeney. I don’t think the door has closed on either, but we’re likely in a spot now where the Cardinals will see how the draft plays out before making decisions. In Freeney’s case, given his age and the fact he was so effective with little prep last year, would anyone be surprised (assuming he came back) he didn’t sign until training camp starts?

FitzTyBLOG

 


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A pass rusher arrives as Coop leaves

Posted by Darren Urban on March 15, 2016 – 2:55 pm

Not even 24 hours had passed since the Cardinals had lost the NFC Championship, and Steve Keim made clear his offseason priority.

Create a pass rush,” the Cardinals GM said.

Easier said than done. There were a few pass rushers on the free agent market, although none were coming off eye-popping seasons. That didn’t stop the money from flowing, however, and the Cardinals tried to get into it, making a push for Jason Pierre-Paul that ultimately came up short. It didn’t look all that promising going forward, unless the Cardinals could grab someone with the 29th overall pick in the draft. Free agency overall was quiet for the Cards.

And then suddenly, the news broke Tuesday. A trade, and Keim had his pass rusher. Chandler Jones, who made the Pro Bowl with his 12.5 sacks in New England, was coming to Arizona (pending physicals, of course) in exchange for guard Jonathan Cooper and the Cards’ second-round draft pick in April. It’s hard not to see this as a huge win for the Cards. The reality was Cooper had never really developed into what the Cardinals wanted, and flipping a second-round pick for a proven pass rusher was simply a good move. This trade won’t be evaluated fully for a while, but on the day it happened, it is a Keim win.

Some other thoughts:

— Jones is going into the last year of his contract (making $7.8 million this season). That’s reportedly one of the reasons the Patriots were willing to deal him, because they have others who can do his job and they have so many players who need to be extended. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are in the same boat. The laundry list of scheduled free agents after this season is, right now, frighteningly long: Jones, Fitz, Floyd, Mathieu, Campbell, Rucker, Gresham, Minter, Ellington, Jefferson, Catanzaro and Fells, for starters. But I am guessing there will be an extension or two the Cardinals will be trying to get done.

— Jones was hospitalized in the postseason, reportedly after a bad reaction to synthetic marijuana (which, apparently, has no actual marijuana in it and is not illegal). It was a mistake, but one source in New England said it was not reflective of who Jones is and shouldn’t be an issue going forward.

— The addition of Jones shouldn’t rule out further pass rush help if the Cards find some in the draft or elsewhere. It will be interesting to see if Dwight Freeney will remain in play, and what this could mean for Alex Okafor, who had been starting along with Markus Golden.

— Cooper’s departure leaves a lot of unknowns on the offensive line. Center is still a mystery. With the possibility Ted Larsen could leave as a free agent, so is right guard. The assumption is D.J. Humphries can play right tackle, but that is no lock, especially with the news Andre Smith could still sign. Earl Watford could have a big chance to win a starting job, and the Cards have been intrigued by Antoine McClain on the practice squad. But there is still work to do to fill out the group next to Jared Veldheer and Mike Iupati.

UPDATE: This could change some things. Ian Rapoport reports veteran guard Evan Mathis visited the Cardinals and he was offered a contract. Rapoport also said veteran guard Geoff Schwartz is also supposed to visit the Cardinals.

— The saga of Cooper is over. He will not be playing center (I’m not sure that was ever really a serious option, to be honest). He will not be the guard, he will not be getting back to his pre-broken leg level, at least not with the Cardinals. Three years into his career, questions still swirled around Coop. He admitted after the season he struggled with criticism — including from coaches — which is tough in this business.

“I will work on that because that is a major key to me improving is me being able to have my headspace correct,” Cooper said. “Letting one or two mistakes snowball and keep me down, I can’t let that happen anymore. Even hearing negatively from outsiders, I can’t let than bring me down.”

CooperBlog


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Weatherspoon exits as rare one-year miss

Posted by Darren Urban on March 11, 2016 – 10:18 am

Steve Keim has proved excellent at bringing in players on one-year deals and having them make an impact: Eric Winston, Matt Shaughnessy, Karlos Dansby, Antonio Cromartie, Larry Foote, Chris Johnson, Dwight Freeney. They won’t all work out, though, and Sean Weatherspoon — which looked so promising when it happened — did not work out.

Weatherspoon is re-signing with the Falcons after his one year out West. Weatherspoon only had 12 tackles in an extremely limited defensive role (he played just 125 snaps all season) over 14 games. He needed to show he could stay healthy again and he did that, although it was a red flag to his time in Arizona when he was active but didn’t play against the Rams in October and then the next week, was a healthy scratch against the Lions.

It’s hard to believe that Weatherspoon played with the first unit through the entire offseason work, although at that point, Deone Bucannon was working a lot at safety too. But training camp came, Weatherspoon’s hamstring became a problem, and when he missed most of the month, he had dug himself a hole he could never escape — especially after Kevin Minter showed more than expected when he was on the field.

To Spoon’s credit, he never sulked (although he did seem resigned to the fact early on he wasn’t moving up the depth chart). It was clear he wouldn’t be around in 2016. And that’s the upside about seeking one-year deals. Yes, sometimes a guy like a Dansby blows up and leaves for another team. Then you have a “miss” like Weatherspoon who creates no issue because his contract is up and both sides can just move on.

SpoonBlog


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Freeney wants to play in 2016

Posted by Darren Urban on March 9, 2016 – 6:28 pm

Dwight Freeney was thisclose to retiring last season before the Cardinals called to ask him to play five games into the season. After leading the Cards with eight sacks in only 11 games — and adding another sack in the playoffs — he said he wanted to take some time to decide what he wanted to do going forward. At age 36, that is apparently playing another season.

Freeney, during an interview on Sirius XM NFL radio Wednesday night, said he wanted to play in 2016. The free agent would like to return to the Cardinals, he said, but if he does play, it’s “going to have to be the right situation.”

“Hopefully we can come to an agreement,” Freeney said about the Cardinals. “But they need to see what they need to do too. I understand this business. It’s a young man’s game. I’m here if they need me.”

Freeney wants a chance to win. Freeney made it clear that he had more interest last year but he wasn’t going to play for a middling team. Certainly, Freeney showed the Cards he was worthy of having around. He not only performed in the pass rush, he was a good influence in the locker room and a teacher to young linebackers like Markus Golden. The fact the Cardinals have yet to land a pass rusher in free agency could make a Freeney return make even more sense.

Now, the price isn’t going to change much I wouldn’t think. The Cardinals could make a similar offer to Freeney that they did last year, with a lower salary with sack incentives. In terms of fit, Freeney knows it might not get much better than Arizona — but I wouldn’t be surprised if “the right situation” also included how the money shakes out.

FreeneyBlog

 

 


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The case to keep Freeney

Posted by Darren Urban on February 10, 2016 – 10:58 am

There were so many reasons last year to think that a pairing of the Cardinals and veteran pass rusher Dwight Freeney made sense, long before it actually happened. (The fact it took an injury to starter Alex Okafor to make it happen, and then to have Freeney perform as he did while Okafor somehow got hurt away from the team on playoff bye week, probably isn’t lost on the Cardinals.)

Freeney is a free agent. At his age — he turns 36 on Feb. 19 — he made clear both during the season and after that he is in year-to-year mode. He didn’t know if he was going to try and play in 2016, and if he did, there’s a question of whether the Cardinals will want to bring him back. But ESPN did a list of 10 “sleeper” free agents, and of them Freeney is one. The site notes Freeney had 36 pressures in just 264 snaps (and eight sacks, which is a pretty nice number for 264 snaps). For a team that is still looking to upgrade its pass rush, having Freeney around certainly cannot hurt.

Would Freeney take another lower-salary deal with incentives like he signed this season? Possible. Freeney made it clear he doesn’t want to play for a non-contender, so a) money can’t be everything and b) he definitely likes being with the Cardinals and Bruce Arians. He brings so much to the team besides QB pressures too; his ability to be a role model for younger rushers like Markus Golden is invaluable.

Freeney first has to decide if he wants to play again. If he does, it’ll be interesting to see what money that season he just had can generate. It’s possible he could wait it out and be a just-before-camp guy for the Cardinals. But I’d think as they put together the roster, if they see Freeney as a key component, that signing would come much sooner.

FreeneyBlog


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Search for a pass rusher

Posted by Darren Urban on January 28, 2016 – 9:54 am

Steve Keim was blunt when bringing up his number one priority of the offseason: “Create a pass rush.” It’s nothing new. This is something the Cardinals have been talking about every offseason for a decade pretty much. Yes, John Abraham had a nice 2013 but he wasn’t brought in until training camp and it was always known he’d be a short-term solution.

It’s not like the Cardinals didn’t look at it last offseason. They tried to trade up in the draft to get one of the “name” pass rushers in the first round. They still took Markus Golden and Shaq Riddick among their seven picks. Golden was solid as a rookie. Is he ever going to be the dynamic edge guy every team wants/needs? Maybe not, but he’ll be an important cog. We’ll see on Riddick, who never got on the field as a rookie, but they love his size and speed if he can learn the game.

Going forward, the Cards still need much more. Dwight Freeney helped, but he isn’t the answer at this point even if he comes back. I thought it was interesting that Bruce Arians, talking on Arizona Sports 98.7 said of the edge rusher sought “I doubt it would be a free agent.” Now, if Von Miller were to actually hit the open market and not get the inevitable franchise tag from the Broncos, that might change but still — it says something about the potential available pass rushers (or those who could be available but likely won’t by March.)

The next three months leading into the draft will be interesting in that regard. But it was clear there were too many times when the Cardinals didn’t pressure the quarterback enough, even when they blitzed. That’s a tough way to live in the rarified air of the upper echelon teams in the NFL.

Rusherblog


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