The “soft” opening of free agency this weekend has provided plenty in the way of speculation and prediction, especially when it comes to the hot left tackle market. While much was discussed over the last few weeks with the Cards possibly looking at Chiefs free-agent-to-be Branden Albert. But late Saturday night/Sunday morning the idea the Cardinals might instead look at Raiders left tackle Jared Veldheer picked up steam. By Sunday afternoon, a report out of Baltimore — where the Ravens are trying to bring back their own left tackle Eugene Monroe — handicapped the landing spots for all the premium left tackles about to be available. Multiple sources (which usually is a euphemism for “agents”) pegged Veldheer as a Cardinal once free agency began this week. Albert is apparently headed for Miami.
Again, during this “pre” period of free agency — which takes teams up until the official opening Tuesday at 1 p.m. Arizona time — teams can speak to agents of players but not the players themselves. And while parameters of contracts can be discussed, no contract can be executed until Tuesday. So we’re still a couple days away from knowing for sure on any of this (and physicals still have to be passed for all these players on all these teams.)
As for Veldheer specifically, he does make sense on multiple fronts. He’s young — just 27, younger than Albert — and he’s protected Carson Palmer previously. That means he could get info about the Cards from Palmer, and it means Palmer will have a comfort level with an otherwise new tackle. He did miss 11 games last season with a tricep injury, but he’s otherwise been durable. And it sounds like he’ll come just a tad cheaper than a couple other of those tackles. (Here is an article from overthecap.com from late last season estimating Veldheer’s next deal.)
Many were surprised the Raiders didn’t use a franchise tag on Veldheer, and it is interesting they’d let go someone they know and presumably saw play well like this, especially now that the Rams’ Rodger Saffold is definitely leaving St. Louis and the assumption is he will be going to Oakland. But most reports had the Raiders trying hard to re-sign Veldheer but he wanted to see his worth. We’ll see if it is the Cardinals that end up finding him worthy.
Tags: Branden Albert, Carson Palmer, Eugene Monroe, Jared Veldheer, Rodger Saffold
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Today was the deadline for teams to use the franchise tag. There is still a week before free agency officially begins — although teams and free-agents-to-be can start talking Saturday — and there is still time for any of these players who are set to become free to still sign extensions and avoid hitting the market. That said, the tag was a possibility for a handful of prospective left tackle free agents, and all of them ended up dodging that tag Monday.
That means the left tackle market, barring a late extension, will include Kansas City’s Branden Albert, Baltimore’s Eugene Monroe, St. Louis’ Rodger Saffold, Oakland’s Jared Veldheer and Cincinnati’s Anthony Collins. (There are reports out of Oakland that think Veldheer’s non-tagging means he’s close to a deal, but if that is true, why not tag him just in case?)
Profootballfocus.com ranked the tackles on the market in this order: Monroe, Albert, Veldheer, Collins, Saffold. The money to sign these guys will not be insignificant, and the need remains high for such players across the league. But if the Cardinals are looking to grab a vet to plug in, there not only will be options but the ability to have a solid backup choice. That can’t be a bad thing.
Tags: Anthony Collins, Branden Albert, Eugene Monroe, free agency, Jared Veldheer, offensive line, Rodger Saffold
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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
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That the Cardinals will likely consider signing a left tackle in free agency would be no surprise. Who the targets might be remain mostly speculation, especially since there is still a chance some of them won’t make it to the open market, whether they are signed to an extension before March 11 or are given the franchise tag. Kansas City’s Branden Albert is the most notable choice (and there was a report out of Kansas City that the Chiefs will let Albert walk). There is also the Ravens’ Eugene Monroe, the Raiders’ Jared Veldheer or the Bengals’ Anthony Collins.
Whatever the Cards decide to do — at tackle or another spot — they will be prepared. That’s what General Manager Steve Keim and his front office group have been doing in the run-up to the Scouting combine, building their free-agent board for a second straight season. Last year, the Cards did the same, and ended up signing seven of the top nine players they had listed (which included one of their own free agents, safety Rashad Johnson.)
That board is more complicated than just listing the top talent on the market. It takes into account positions of need, of course, in addition to estimated salaries of what these players might want, what they should be worth when it comes to metrics, and what the Cards would be willing to offer. It delivers a blueprint so the Cards are prepared when free agency begins.
As the Cardinals proved last season, they have numbers in mind for all their offers. It doesn’t sound like Keim likes to do a ton of negotiating. Last season, for many free agents early in the process, the Cardinals told visiting players their offer could very well be off the table if they left without signing. That proved fruitful. The Cards didn’t sign everyone they went after last season, but that’s where the board helps.
“It will help us move on to the next guy if a guy decides to drag his feet or to not take the deal,” Keim said.
A lot can still change until March 11, because of the Cards’ own free agents that may or may not re-sign. The board, though, will be a crucial part of the process going forward.
Tags: Anthony Collins, Branden Albert, Eugene Monroe, free agency, Jared Veldheer, Rashad Johnson, Steve Keim
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