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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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Sendlein out three weeks and Abraham arrest

Posted by Darren Urban on July 29, 2014 – 12:29 pm

The Cardinals collected a handful of injuries on their first day of padded practice, the most serious of which is the left calf injury to starting center Lyle Sendlein that will sideline Sendlein for three weeks, coach Bruce Arians said. In his place, Ted Larsen will play center. It’s not a huge deal, since Sendlein will return in camp and is experienced enough to overcome missing practice.

Cornerback Antonio Cromartie is also expected to miss four or five days with a pectoral injury, while running back Andre Ellington (neck) will miss Tuesday’s work. Also hurting are linebacker Ernie Sims (back spasms), nose tackle Christian Topou (groin) and cornerback Todd Washington (groin). The Topou injury is interesting because fellow nose tackles Dan Williams (knee) and Alameda Ta’amu (PUP – knee) are already sitting. All hands on deck, Arians said, which means some mixing and matching on the defensive line.

— The news came out that linebacker John Abraham, who has been absent from training camp thus far, was arrested for a DUI in Georgia in late June. Arians had no comment, other than to say he knew of the arrest and was actually in Georgia at the same time. Arians also had no comment when asked if the arrest had anything to do with Abraham’s absence, and said he does not know when Abraham will show up to camp. Given Abraham’s experience, missing some training camp isn’t the worst thing in the world. But he barely was on the field all of the offseason too, and the sack production on the roster beyond him is extremely limited. His situation will be important to watch as the days pass.

— Arians said LB Sam Acho had a good day in his first padded practice with a couple of forced fumbles and with his pass rush, a big deal given the Abraham circumstances.

— The kicking rotation will remain with two guys going in a day and the third resting. As for Arians’ evaluation so far, “Cat (Chandler Catanzaro) has been perfect, that’s the only impression I can gather from it. The rest of the guys haven’t been. The numbers don’t lie.” As for the eventual decision, “We’ll see how they do in games. Practices are one thing, games are another. I’ve seen Jay in games for 12 years so I don’t need to see Jay in a lot of games. I know he’s got nerves. The other two guys, you want to see them do it in front of the crowd.”

— Former Cardinals tackle Eric Winston finally found a team Tuesday, signing with the Seahawks.


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The roster heading into camp

Posted by Darren Urban on July 15, 2014 – 3:55 pm

Next week is the week.

With the Cardinals’ decision-makers trickling back into the building, the end of minicamp has been a moratorium of sorts. Time off is the important thing, and with no football-related things going on, there was no reason to make any roster changes over the last month-plus. But that potentially changes Monday when everyone is back in Tempe and the Cards gear up for the camp that starts at the end of the week.

That’s no guarantee anything will happen. Last season, the Cardinals didn’t do anything to the roster (save for signing a couple of draftees) after May 21 until right as camp was starting. The biggest reasons? It was time to put Ryan Swope on the retired list (bringing in Robby Toma) and the Cardinals needed to clear room for linebacker John Abraham and tackle Eric Winston. That made just a bit of a splash as camp opened.

The Cards last transaction was June 9. Could they have another veteran or two that make sense to sign? If it’s going to happen without someone getting injured, this is the time. Vets on the market know they probably aren’t going to make the kind of money they once thought they might (Tyson Clabo, anyone?). This time around, I’m thinking the Cards have some faith in Bobby Massie, enough of which to see how he develops these next few weeks. I don’t know of any decent pass rushers hanging out either. Don’t forget, last year, Bruce Arians was still trying to get a handle on his players. Now, he knows better what they can do.

This isn’t to say the Cardinals aren’t going to stand pat with the roster. Things can change quickly, with players taking physicals next week and everything. You want to maximize the roster as practices begin. Regardless, it’ll be interesting to see how it all evolves, heading toward that 53-man lineup the Cards must pare down to prior to the season opener against the Chargers.


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Adding vets waiting game now

Posted by Darren Urban on June 10, 2014 – 7:36 am

The news came out yesterday that the Cardinals worked out veteran right tackle Tyson Clabo, although the two sides couldn’t agree to a contract. Usually, that means the player wants more money than the team is willing to offer (it’s never the other way around, you know?) In a lot of ways, it reminded me of last year’s dance with Eric Winston, the right tackle who didn’t sign until right before training camp and who reportedly spent the offseason with an asking price for significantly more money than the Cardinals ended up paying him.

Such is the dance of this time of year with established veterans who have yet to find a roster spot. Some team might want a player. That player could very well want to play. But there is little urgency in June. The player doesn’t want to have to settle for a lesser salary and doesn’t have any reason to for now. The team isn’t about to overpay, especially with games a couple of months away and the rosters sitting at 90 players already anyway.

Things will change as the end of July — and training camps — draws close. Somebody will blink across the league. Winston reportedly has drawn interest from the Ravens, but again, nothing has happened (I do not expect Winston to return here, but that can always change.) Will Clabo earn a better offer elsewhere? Will the Cardinals, after minicamp that starts today, still think they want him on the roster for training camp? Given that the Cards know what they have at right tackle already, I don’t think they are going to spend much more to throw more options at the position. Same goes for any other spot on the field to which they might want to add. It’ll be about bargain add-ons now — like Winston and Abraham and Karlos Dansby last year — and the Cards will be willing to wait.

 


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Searching for veteran bargains

Posted by Darren Urban on April 9, 2014 – 4:12 pm

The questions are constant, as soon as a veteran player with any kind of reputation is released or becomes available: Would the Cardinals be interested? Well, for one, those questions are asked within seconds of the news happening, so usually, it’s a little soon for a feeling (GM Steve Keim admitted when CB Antonio Cromartie was first released, for instance, the Cards hadn’t anticipated it and had to do some extra legwork to figure out whether to chase him or not.)

It isn’t hard to get a sense of where the Cards land on many such players, however. Keim wants his team to get younger. And at this point, he certainly isn’t paying a lot. That should always be the prism from which any player should be viewed when it comes to this team. There are always exceptions. John Abraham, it was determined by the front office, still could play the game even at his age. Now, the Cards had to wait him out last year until his price was worth it (and never underestimate a veteran willing to wait out the offseason so he can wait to go back to work until training camp), but they got their bargain. Same with Karlos Dansby. Eric Winston was even cheaper, and that should probably provide guidance of where his market was — and where it might be this offseason.

The key element to all this is not just about whether a vet is available and is willing to work for cheap. It’s mostly about if he can still play — or more importantly, play to the level that the Cardinals, in this case, need him to play. Just because a guy is on the market isn’t enough. There is a reason veteran players remain unsigned, especially after the draft. Yes, once in a while it’s about the asking price and circumstances can change if it drops. But there are guys out there who are willing to play for little just to get a job, and it’s been determined they aren’t good enough anymore, whether because of age or cumulative injuries or both.

The Cards likely will sign another veteran or two at some point. It’ll be after the draft, because there is no reason to make any more moves right now until you know what you’ve filled with your picks. But whoever Keim signs, it’ll be for someone that makes sense on a football-level in 2014. Remember, past results don’t necessarily indicate future performance. It’s the slogan by which every GM should live.

— I’ve never been to a Pro Bowl. I’m going to get to one now, although I was really hoping to get a trip to Hawaii when I finally attended. I’ll be curious to know where the teams practice; those workouts have always been fan-friendly events.

— Not a surprise that there is a “Sunday Night Football” telecast in the preseason against the Bengals at University of Phoenix Stadium. NBC is also televising the Super Bowl. Not a bad time to get a lay of the land. What I am curious about is whether “SNF” will pick a Cardinals’ game in the regular season.

SNFuse


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Eric Winston elected NFLPA president

Posted by Darren Urban on March 19, 2014 – 9:32 am

Eric Winston, currently a free agent but the Cardinals’ starter at right tackle last season, was elected president of the NFL Players Association Wednesday, replacing the outgoing Domonique Foxworth. Winston, who has started 119 straight games in his career, has been active in the NFLPA since 2010 when he was named one of the player reps for the Houston Texans. He has served on the NFLPA’s finance committee and the committee for agent discipline. It makes a ton of sense. Winston is intelligent and he understands the ins and outs of the business that is the NFL.

UPDATE: It’s been a big day for Cardinals and the top of the union food chain. Kicker Jay Feely and linebacker Lorenzo Alexander were elected to the NFLPA’s executive committee as well.

Winston said at the end of the season he wanted to return to the Cardinals, but he knows the reality. He made about $2 million last year in an incentive-laden deal. I’m sure he’d like more and for more years than just one, but the Cardinals will likely approach his situation much like last year — looking for younger options, and seeing where Winston stands after those options are explored. Bobby Massie is still around as a potential right tackle and there is also Bradley Sowell, but the Cardinals figure to add another possibility there.

Someone asked if I thought Winston’s position as NFLPA president would hurt his chances to return to Arizona. I don’t think so. What would hurt his chances is if the Cards sign a veteran right tackle, or if they draft one. Winston went unsigned until training camp was opening last season. I don’t know if that will happen again, but it wouldn’t be shocking if it did. He is a smart, stabilizing force in the locker room, however, so if he is on the roster, the Cards get more than just an offensive lineman.

WinstonPrezUSE


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Ongoing task of rebuilding the O-line

Posted by Darren Urban on March 17, 2014 – 12:15 pm

The Cardinals got themselves a left tackle. That was the main goal of free agency, and it was accomplished with the Jared Veldheer signing last week. Questions remain about what the offensive line will look like for the Cards in 2014, with veteran Eric Winston still a free agency and Daryn Colledge released. In reality, three of the positions are set, barring something crazy:

LT — Veldheer
LG — Jonathan Cooper
C — Lyle Sendlein

There are questions about the other two spots. At right guard, the Cardinals are hoping 2013 fourth-round pick Earl Watford can step into the starting role after watching all last season. Watford looks the part, a big, athletic, not-sloppy-at-all 295 pounds. On the roster right now, the main competition should come from either Paul Fanaika, who started at the spot all last season after Cooper’s injury, or free-agent signee Ted Larsen. I don’t see them adding another guard in free agency, but we’ll see. The draft is a different animal, but again, I don’t see another guard in the offing.

Right tackle is a different story. With Winston unsigned — and who knows if he is coming back here — the options are Bobby Massie (the leader in the clubhouse right now), Bradley Sowell and Nate Potter. I think they see Sowell as a reserve swing tackle who could back up both spots. Potter is in a big offseason; he had a lot of chances last year to step up and he did not. He’ll be fighting for a spot on the roster. I could see them still signing a vet right tackle as a free agent at some point, and it would definitely be an option in the draft.

The Cardinals are not done trying to upgrade the line, one way or the other.

WatfordForBLOG


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Grading the O-line, and other stuff

Posted by Darren Urban on March 6, 2014 – 4:30 pm

There is a really good article posted on SI’s MMQB, written by former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker, about how offensive linemen are graded in the NFL and the inexact science that it is. I recommend it. Cardinals tackle Eric Winston is quoted in the story a few times, noting “It’s very hard to do it independently. Last season was my eighth year and I still can’t always tell who messed up when watching film of other teams.” There is no question that evaluating the offensive line has been the hardest thing to do in my years of writing about an NFL team, for all the reasons contained in the article (although such analysis isn’t going away. I know coaches and players get frustrated sometimes, but in the end, they don’t want to say exactly what is going on either, so they don’t throw anyone under the bus. Totally understandable, but it’s why it’s so hard to get the real picture.)

Noted in the article is the work of profootballfocus.com, how their grades have their own flaws, and even how agents are using those grades in contract talks. Again, interesting stuff and worth the time.

— Nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu was an exclusive rights free agent, and even though he has to rehab a torn ACL, it was inevitable the Cards would keep him around. He turned out to be a fantastic waiver acquisition this season. Assuming he comes back OK, I could see him as a long-term component of that defensive line.

Free agent talks with players from other teams can start Saturday morning, at least with their agents. The Cards will make their position known with a few players, but as GM Steve Keim said, the Cards are going to want a guy in for a visit before pulling the trigger. You want to be able to know the guy a little bit before cutting him a check.

— Free agent tight end John Carlson, cut by the Vikings this week, is reportedly visiting the Cardinals. Not a surprise, at least in terms of the position. The Cards have to stock up on tight ends, both in an attempt to upgrade and to make sure they have enough in the first place with so many with expiring contracts.


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Massie a right tackle and O-line improvement

Posted by Darren Urban on February 21, 2014 – 3:10 pm

Bobby Massie finished his 2012 rookie season playing pretty well at right tackle after a horrendous start to his career. He seemed like a natural piece of the 2013 offensive line, until the Cards signed veteran Eric Winston as training camp began. Over the season, Massie eventually got a few snaps at right tackle, but he never displaced Winston, who is an unrestricted free agent. If Winston comes back, Massie will be his competition. Massie isn’t playing guard or on the left side, as the Cardinals try to improve the offensive line.

“(Bobby) is a right tackle,” Arians said. “He’s not a left tackle. We experimented with that and he struggled with it. He’s a right tackle and he’s talented. The biggest thing right now is to be more consistent every day in his work habits.”

Does Massie fit in to the 2014 starting line? He very well could. But so much is up in the air, and it goes well beyond Massie and Winston. It’s assumed, and probably not incorrectly, that the Cardinals will seek an offensive lineman or two in free agency. It’s likely they will look into Chiefs left tackle Branden Albert if he reaches free agency (Kansas City GM John Dorsey said Friday the Chiefs have talked to Albert’s agent at the combine about an extension) and reports surfaced Friday that the Cards might also look into Rams tackle.guard Rodger Saffold (Rams GM Les Snead said Friday re-signing Saffold was a priority.)

It is realistic to think the Cards could have new starters at four of five positions on the line by the time games count in 2014 (center Lyle Sendlein is likely safe.). It’s also possible the line doesn’t change. Friday, Arians wouldn’t commit to the Cards having a new player in the lineup (other than the return of injured guard Jonathan Cooper), saying only the line needed to get bigger and stronger.

“Whether it is adding pieces to the puzzle or improving the players we have, we have Coop back, Earl (Watford) to the development, you add those two young guards will make us more athletic and create good competition with the veterans,” Arians said. “We are looking at adding pieces, one tackle, two, whatever we find is best to fit our locker room.”

The Cardinals also probably want to get cheaper at parts of the line, especially if they pay a premium for a free agent. That too can impact the equation — and make a guy like Massie more attractive.

MassieBlogUSE


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No need for the franchise tag

Posted by Darren Urban on February 11, 2014 – 4:54 pm

During this slow time of the NFL year, it’s hard not to notice little things, like the comments of Karlos Dansby saying he expects to remain a Cardinal. Big news? Not really. But it’s more defined than Dansby was at the end of the season, so that, to me, breeds more optimism. Dansby is probably the most high-profile free-agent-to-be the Cards want to re-sign. Which got me thinking of the franchise tag, because of all the free agents the Cards have (and in part because the Cards, Dansby and the franchise tag were synonymous for a while.)

Teams can use the franchise tag as early as Monday. The tag, for those unfamiliar, is a set number for each position based on the top five or top 10 salaries at that position the previous year. It’s a guaranteed salary as soon as the player signs it. If a player is tagged, he can still sign elsewhere, but his original team has a chance to match, and if they don’t, there is a heavy price to pay — usually a pair of first-round picks. The chances are good right now, for instance, that Saints tight end Jimmy Graham will be tagged so he doesn’t hit the open market in March.

The Cardinals, however, don’t have that issue. Dansby is not going to be franchise tagged (at a projected $10.9 million for linebackers for one season.) None of the Cards’ free-agents-to-be fall into that category, in fact. Even for players the Cardinals could want to re-sign — linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, wide receiver Andre Roberts, tackle Eric Winston, for instance — aren’t going to command the kind of money nor get from the Cards anywhere close to the kind of money the tag dictates. There is a reason it is called the “franchise” tag because it is supposed to be for franchise-type players.

UPDATE: I was reminded of a ruling in a case of Drew Brees, who was once franchised by San Diego and later by New Orleans, that tags are considered cumulatively over a player’s entire career, not just if they are in consecutive years. So Dansby, since he was already franchised twice in his career, would be considered tagged for a third time if the Cards were to do so, making his salary an average of the top five salaries in the league. That’s quarterback money, and only underscores why Dansby wouldn’t be tagged again.

The last time the Cardinals used a franchise tag, it was on defensive end Calais Campbell in 2012. That time, the tag did exactly what it was supposed to do — buy the two sides extra time to negotiate a long-term deal. Before that, the last tagged guy was Dansby. He got it two years in a row, and then, well, we know how that turned out. Funny that now that the Cards won’t be tagging him again, he probably has a better chance of sticking around.


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