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Potential extensions aren’t a given

Posted by Darren Urban on November 12, 2015 – 9:46 am

Last week, we delved into the number of Cardinals headed for free agency at the end of the season. General Manager Steve Keim has had discussions here and there with agents about particular players (no, he hasn’t been specific) in an attempt to get an extension or two done. But not surprisingly, it’s not a simple process.

Keim said the Cardinals would like to lock up a player or two before March but “any deal we do this early has to be beneficial to both team and player.”

“A lot of time, and it’s just the realistic way of business, sometimes these players want to see what is out there on the market,” Keim said. “Which is why our philosophy has been, go at them strong, be aggressive and let them know if they test the market, there might not be a home back here for them. That’s just the business, because you can’t be caught flat-footed.

“There are several key core players we’d love to have back but at the same time when you have a good football team, there’s only so much to go around with the salary cap and you have to be smart how you divvy up that money. The great thing is, in my opinion, with what has changed here, is the allure of playing here, of wanting to be part of something special.”

Half the Cardinals’ secondary are headed for free agency. There has been a lot of talk about running back Chris Johnson as well, although that’s a situation that will likely have to play out on the market. Johnson said he hasn’t even thought about a contract extension.


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An early look at the free-agents-to-be

Posted by Darren Urban on November 5, 2015 – 11:31 am

With the season halfway over and talk here and there about possible contract extensions, it felt like a good time to note who is scheduled to have their contract run out after the season ends. We’ve talked for a while about the secondary decisions that are coming, but in terms of players that are making an impact, it’s a lengthy list. This is only the players set to be free agents; There have been some of you wondering if, for instance, Tyrann Mathieu could get an extension. He is under contract through 2016, so I don’t expect anything soon. The Cardinals, according to the NFLPA, have about $5.3 million of cap space right now.


CB Justin Bethel
LB Dwight Freeney
TE Jermaine Gresham
RB Chris Johnson
S Rashad Johnson
G Ted Larsen
LS Mike Leach
T Bobby Massie
CB Jerraud Powers
C Lyle Sendlein
T Bradley Sowell
QB Drew Stanton
LB Sean Weatherspoon
LB LaMarr Woodley

WR Jaron Brown
P Drew Butler
LB Kenny Demens
S Tony Jefferson

(Tight ends Darren Fells and Ifeanyi Momah and defensive tackle Josh Mauro are all exclusive rights free agents, meaning they can be tendered and not go anywhere.)

Again, a long list. The restricted free agents, if you want to prevent them from hitting the market unfettered, can be tendered with one of three designations: A first-round tender (a one-year contract of about $3.3M), a second-round tender (about $2.3M) or the original draft spot ($1.5M). That means, if tendered, if another team signs them away, that team owes the Cardinals the tendered pick. Given that all those guys were undrafted, the Cards would get nothing for the low tender. It makes for hard decisions on a Tony Jefferson, and even to Jaron Brown.

As for the unrestricted guys …

It seems likely that the older one-year guys — Chris Johnson, Gresham, Freeney — would want to see what they might get on the open market. The secondary is the most intriguing area. It wouldn’t be a surprise that some team might want to swoop in and Greg Toler-contract a guy like Bethel, especially if they’d want him to start right away at CB. The Cardinals like Powers. They like Rashad Johnson too, but with all the safeties around, what will be the offer? What does the future hold (or rather, where is the future) for Deone Bucannon? Is he a linebacker or safety? That’ll come into play.


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Visit updates Chris Johnson possibility

Posted by Darren Urban on August 14, 2015 – 4:49 pm

The news of the Cardinals and free agent running back Chris Johnson talking came out in the beginning of the week. Now, at the end of the week, comes news that Johnson could still be a Card. Jay Glazer provided the first of multiple reports that Johnson will come to Arizona Sunday — after the Cards’ game against the Chiefs — to take a physical and go through a workout. Both make sense, especially the physical after Johnson was shot in the shoulder in March.

Certainly nothing is set in stone for Johnson to become a Cardinal. But you figure that if the workout and physical go well, there would be a good chance Johnson signs with the Cardinals — because it makes little sense for Johnson to make the trip out to Arizona if the money end of negotations weren’t at least close, and that Johnson believes he could fit. We will see how it plays out.

Johnson had his first sub-1,000-yard season with the Jets last season, his first not playing for the Titans. But he still averaged 4.3 yards a carry. He figures to slide in behind Andre Ellington on the depth chart, especially with rookie David Johnson still sidelined with a hamstring injury.

Chris Johnson


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Cardinals looking at Chris Johnson

Posted by Darren Urban on August 11, 2015 – 8:53 am

Monday, Bruce Arians said the Cardinals would look to add a running back. Tuesday morning, ESPN reported that the Cardinals had offered a one-year contract to veteran Chris Johnson and that Johnson is mulling the opportunity. The Cardinals aren’t the only team out there openly looking for a running back; the Texans would like to add one after Arian Foster’s sports hernia surgery. One hitch, reportedly, is that Johnson isn’t sure he would make the team with the Cardinals. To me, it’s a fair concern. If Andre Ellington is healthy, he’s your top guy, and as frustrating as it is not to have third-round draft pick David Johnson at this point — he remains out with a hamstring injury and Arians said he could miss another week – when those guys are healthy, it would get awfully crowded in that backfield.

But this is about putting the best team together (as Arians talked about last week about the business of Lyle Sendlein) and a chance to add a vet who could help makes sense for the Cards right now. Ellington is just now getting back to practice. Johnson provides speed in the backfield, and while he didn’t reach 1,000 yards for the first time in his career last season with the Jets, he still averaged a healthy 4.3 yards a carry. It’s a waiting game now. The Cards make their free agent play. Many times it works, but other times, a player will pass (remember Brett Keisel this time last year? The Cards still ended up with Tommy Kelly.)

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Keim: Potential trades coming

Posted by Darren Urban on June 11, 2015 – 12:01 pm

General Manager Steve Keim has spent the offseason building up the roster to a place where the Cardinals have some quality players on the current 90-man roster that won’t be able to stick around by the time the team needs to get to 53 in September. Keim said on the “Doug and Wolf” show this morning on Arizona Sports 98.7 it was a concern, although it was a good concern. What it means is that the Cards might pull off a trade or two, likely in an effort to fetch some future draft picks if possible.

“For the first time we have a certain amount of depth here where we will either have the ability to trade a player or two or four or five at certain positions that not only can make other NFL rosters but could potentially start for some teams,” Keim said. “I have to be active and make sure I address that situation so we are not just releasing players and allowing teams to pick them up. Hopefully we can be active and get some solid value for guys who can help other teams.”

Keim has never been shy about churning the roster, and this is just another potential instance. He also said he is “watching two or three players” at the moment who are free agents that the team could sign. Keim wouldn’t name names or even positions, but he did note that often times, these late veteran signees are guys who are coming off injuries and need until near training camp to get right, and then the Cardinals would talk to them (and likely execute one of Keim’s famous one-year “prove it” contracts.) Tight end anyone?


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Roster move for Halapio on a quiet Friday

Posted by Darren Urban on June 5, 2015 – 1:44 pm

The Cardinals made a roster move on the back of the depth chart Friday ahead of next week’s minicamp, releasing tackle Tavon Rooks and signing guard Jon Halapio. Halapio was a sixth-round pick of the New England Patriots in 2014 before being released in the final roster cuts. He spent time on the Broncos’ practice squad late last season and was with Denver until he was cut in May.

The Cards have 15 total offensive linemen on the 90-man roster. Minicamp begins Tuesday.

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Some cap room with which to work

Posted by Darren Urban on June 3, 2015 – 2:14 pm

As the final days of on-field summer work play out — the Cardinals have one more OTA Thursday, and then three days of mandatory minicamp next week before players scatter for the remainder of the offseason — the roster has settled. The last move came back on May 13 when linebacker Darryl Sharpton was signed, and with the front office members headed for some much needed down time of their own, transactions figure to be in limited supply until the pre-training camp rollup in late July.

(Official camp dates have yet to be announced but with Labor Day and the later-than-usual opening weekend of the regular season on Sept. 13, the Cards won’t even report to camp until July 30 or 31.)

There are moves than can be made if the Cards want, however. As of Wednesday, the Cardinals have $12.16 million in salary cap room, according to the NFLPA. So if Steve Keim is looking for that pre-training camp veteran add (which wouldn’t cost that much anyway), the Cards can do it. It also allows some freedom to work out contract extensions if the team is so inclined. I’d expect Pro Bowl special teamer Justin Bethel, set to become an unrestricted free agent, near or at the front of that line. Among the other players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents after this season: defensive backs Jerraud Powers, Rashad Johnson and Alfonzo Dennard, tackle Bobby Massie, linebackers Sean Weatherspoon and Lorenzo Alexander, defensive end Matt Shaughnessy and quarterback Drew Stanton.


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The gains and losses of free agency

Posted by Darren Urban on May 18, 2015 – 10:44 am

The Cardinals signed linebacker Darryl Sharpton last week and the timing meant something. By signing Sharpton Wednesday, the Cardinals cleared the date for free agents signing counting against them for next year’s compensatory pick equation. Any free agent signed at the point will not count.

(The Cardinals were awarded one comp pick this past draft; they ended up with the final selection of the whole thing, which they used on Lousiville tight end Gerald Christian.)

It’s too early to know exactly how the comp pick equation might play out. Part of how it’s determined is playing time in the upcoming season. It also takes into account how much money for which each player signed. A quick look at who the Cardinals could have counting for and against them in the comp pick equation next draft. As always, a quick reminder that if a player was cut by the Cards or cut by another team, he does not qualify on these lists. For example, losing Darnell Dockett does not factor in because Dockett was released.:


G Mike Iupati (5 years, $40M)
DT Corey Peters (3 years, $10.5M)
DE Cory Redding (2 years, $6M)
LB Sean Weatherspoon (1 year, $3.6M)


LB Sam Acho (1 year, $825,000)
CB Antonio Cromartie (4 years, $32M)
G Paul Fanaika (3 years, $6.1M)
TE Rob Housler (1 year, $1.76M)
DT Dan Williams (4 years, $25M)

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see GM Steve Keim make another signing (or two) at some point before camp, or even into camp. But the numbers are set for the compensatory math.


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Seeking the bargain “name”

Posted by Darren Urban on April 9, 2015 – 9:40 am

At some point, it figures, Steve Keim will find a “name” veteran who figures out he isn’t going to get the money he had planned on making in free agency and is willing to come to Arizona on a (likely) one-year deal. In 2013, that was Karlos Dansby and then, right before training camp, Eric Winston and John Abraham (although Abraham ended up signing a two-year contract.) Last year, the guy was Antonio Cromartie and, to a lesser extent, Larry Foote.

This year? We’ll see. If it doesn’t come before the draft — Dansby was post-draft, for instance — so be it.

“The second and third wave comes when guys come to their senses and realize they aren’t going to get the dollars or the type of long-term or guaranteed deals they expected,” Keim said. “We’ll pounce if the numbers are right. Right now if we went into the draft and didn’t address another position, I feel good with where we are at.”

Who could such a player be? The list of available players at this point don’t have any names that significantly stand out. Here’s a look at some potential pickups based merely on who is still out there and possible fit (although this is strictly speculation — at this point, I will be surprised if anything happens before the draft, and then the Cardinals will sort it out from there):

— TE Jermaine Gresham. Coming off a back injury and right now, I don’t see them chasing a guy like this. Troy Niklas is the one they have high hopes about, they like what Darren Fells could be as a blocker and I’ll be surprised at this point if John Carlson doesn’t remain part of the 2015 plan. Bruce Arians said he was looking for an H-back type if anyone. Gresham isn’t that guy.

— TE James Casey. OK, he’s not really a “name” but he is an H-back-type who still hasn’t signed anywhere since talking to the Cards a month ago. Could he be a late add?

— LB Brandon Spikes. The Cardinals already added LaMarr Woodley on the one-year, prove-it deal, so maybe that’s their Dansby/Foote linebacker choice for 2015. Besides, Spikes is the two-down run-stopper, and that’s why you have Kevin Minter.

— C Stefen Wisniewski. Still unsigned, he is reportedly coming off shoulder surgery after the Cards were linked to him pre-free agency. Now, with the addition of A.Q. Shipley, it’s hard to believe the Cardinals would bring Wisniewski in, unless it turned into a real bargain sign.

— Pass rusher Dwight Freeney. Perhaps Freeney makes the most sense, given his status in the league. In some ways, he is like Abraham. His sack totals haven’t been the same (3.5 last season) although he had a team-best 40 quarterback hurries playing for the Chargers. Plus, the 35-year-old was with the Colts when Arians was there.

Again, much of this is wait-and-see, a door open for the Cards to move “if the numbers are right.” Always, if the numbers are right.

Bruce Arians, Dwight Freeney

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Cardinals add Veterans Combine receiver

Posted by Darren Urban on March 23, 2015 – 11:26 am

The NFL brought in 105 players to Tempe Sunday for their first Veterans Combine. They are leaving one behind. The agent of wide receiver Nathan Slaughter tweeted out his client was signing with the Cardinals. (And a little later, the player himself did the same.) The team has yet to officially announce any move. UPDATE: It’s official now.

Slaughter ran one of the fastest 40 times Sunday (reportedly sub-4.4s), which is noteworthy after a workout with some notoriously slow 40 times. He is 5-foot-9 and 184 pounds, a West Texas A&M product who was originally signed by the Texans as an undrafted free agent last year. He was cut and then signed by the Jaguars in June, then waived-injured by Jacksonville early in August. He has yet to appear in a regular-season game. For a team looking for a return man, Slaughter averaged 41.7 yards per kickoff return his last year in college.

Nathan Slaughter

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