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The market — and future — of Calais Campbell

Posted by Darren Urban on January 19, 2017 – 11:46 am

In a few weeks, Calais Campbell will be a free agent. And in many ways, he’s the most intriguing of all the Cardinals’ free agents-to-be. He’s a very good player coming off a very good season, and it won’t be a surprise to see more articles like this one come out, saying the Denver Broncos should chase the big defensive lineman to shore up some of that team’s defensive weaknesses. It makes some sense — Campbell is from Denver, that’s a team primed to keep winning (assuming they can get some consistent quarterback play), and DeMarcus Ware might be done.

But buried lower in the column is the point that Campbell wouldn’t get a big contract from the Broncos, that he’d have to come for the chance to a) come home and b) play for a winner. That’s where this gets sideways in my eyes. The Cardinals want Campbell back. No, they don’t figure to offer him the biggest contract. But if the Cardinals and, say, the Broncos are both offering similar “lesser” deals, I’d guess Campbell would stay right here. And home, for Campbell, is Arizona. It’s not Denver anymore. So there is that.

With the money that will be available overall in free agency, Calais is going to have a chance to go elsewhere and make a nice chunk of change. I don’t doubt that. He will have options to go other places, and probably multiple options. How far the Cards are willing to go for a player who will be 31 in September will be the ultimate question. It’s something the organization — and Campbell — have been considering for months. We’re just coming to the end of the story.

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Cardinals on the open market

Posted by Darren Urban on January 17, 2017 – 12:58 pm

It’s that time of year — and will continue to be, as free agency doesn’t even begin until March 9 — where the speculation of who the best free agents are and where they might land heats up. ESPN’s John Clayton put together a list of his top 50 free agents-to-be (again, contracts don’t expire until March 9, and there is always a chance teams will extend some of these guys).

One key about lists like this — free agency is always about demand. If you are 30th on this list but have multiple teams trying to track you down, that’s better than being 12th and having little interest.

Clayton has four Cardinals on this list:

— No. 4 OLB Chandler Jones
— No. 10 DL Calais Campbell
— No. 28 S Tony Jefferson
— No. 41 ILB Kevin Minter

We know where the Cardinals stand — or have an idea where they stand — on Jones, Campbell and Jefferson. Minter is a little different, although his case figures to be determined not only by the open market but also what the Cardinals want to do early in the draft.

The other interesting part of this list — the cornerbacks. Without knowing what kind of price tag they’d bring (and knowing that a cornerback might be a good target in the draft, and may be even if one is picked up in free agency), Clayton lists five in the top 49: Buffalo’s Stephon Gilmore (13), Houston’s A.J. Bouye (14), L.A.’s Trumaine Johnson (21), New England’s Logan Ryan (44) and Jacksonville’s Prince Amukamara (49).

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Jaron Brown extension helps 2017 WR picture

Posted by Darren Urban on November 16, 2016 – 12:35 pm

Wide receiver Jaron Brown, out for the season with an ACL tear, was supposed to be a free agent in the spring. Instead, the Cardinals have signed him to a one-year contract extension that will help with the clarity of the wide receiver corps for 2017.

We’ve written multiple times about the many free agents the Cardinals will have after this season. The Cardinals have pecked away at the list — Tyrann Mathieu and Larry Fitzgerald signed extensions during training camp; GM Steve Keim continues to say dialogue is ongoing with linebacker Chandler Jones — but there are still a lot of players with which to deal.

Brown had been one of them. Wide receiver is an interesting position for next season. Michael Floyd is scheduled to be a free agent, and with his ups and downs and because of the money he could command, his return is anything but certain. Fitzgerald did sign an extension, but he hasn’t come out and say he will definitely play next season (and not retire) — although his play this season is anything but a player who is fading. Smokey Brown and J.J. Nelson are under contract next season, but neither are the big body that Fitz or Floyd or Jaron Brown are.

Jaron Brown was having a solid season this year before his knee injury. He had 11 catches for 187 yards in just seven games, on his way to setting career highs in both categories. Plus he’s proven his worth on special teams. Brown finds himself in a prove-it situation given his knee injury, but assuming he can come back healthy, it makes sense to bring Brown back.

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Late signings on Keim radar

Posted by Darren Urban on June 9, 2016 – 11:38 am

The Cardinals are done for the offseason. The football side of the building is on vacation until late July, getting a chance to recharge before the season starts in earnest. So roster moves are unlikely for a while.

But then comes training camp, and a time when General Manager Steve Keim likes to shop in the bargain bin for veterans who can help.

“I’m going to continue to stay active,” Keim said during an appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show Thursday on Arizona Sports 98.7. “If there is a player out there — and we have monitored a few different players this time of year — we’ll bring them in and we will be aggressive about it. Now, it takes two sides. It takes one side to give an opportunity and the other side has to be on board from a financial perspective. But I really do think we will be able to add a player or two that can help and contribute this year.”

Keim acknowledged it would probably be a position of need in that regard. He didn’t get specific, but it’s not hard to think that right tackle and cornerback could be areas where he’d look. D.J. Humphries has to prove himself at right tackle, and the Cardinals have already had a similar situation when they signed Eric Winston in 2013 to compete with still-yet-to-prove-himself Bobby Massie. Winston won the job that season. At cornerback, the Cards are young and Justin Bethel has to show he can start, so throwing a vet into the mix could push all involved.

But again, the vets “have to have the mental makeup” to fit, Keim said. In part, that vet has to be coming because of the situation, and not because of the paycheck — because the Cardinals aren’t going to be paying big at that time of year.

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No Norman when Cardinals visit Carolina

Posted by Darren Urban on April 20, 2016 – 3:43 pm

As if the Eagles-Browns trade wasn’t big enough news for the NFL Wednesday, this afternoon the Panthers in a stunning move rescinded the franchise tag from all-pro cornerback Josh Norman. Norman is now free to sign anywhere, and while in theory that includes back with the Panthers, it’s hard to see a scenario where that happens.

Norman had not signed his tender offer — worth nearly $14 million — and was in a position where he and Carolina had until July 15 to sign a long-term deal. Reportedly, Norman, 28, was looking for around $16M a year. Panthers GM Dave Gettleman said today it had become clear to him the team and Norman would never reach a long-term contract. Still, it’s odd the team would just let him go. Norman might have threatened to sit out (without signing the tender, he wasn’t obligated to show up, even to training camp) but he wouldn’t be the first, and he just said last month he was willing to play under the tag this season.

How does this impact the Cardinals? Not directly. Norman is a free agent, but the Cards a) only have about $6.5 million of cap space, b) are already paying a cornerback a ton of money (Patrick Peterson)and c) are on deck to pay another secondary member (Tyrann Mathieu) a lot of money. Norman isn’t coming here. But the Cardinals do visit the Panthers in 2016, so no Norman figures to help the Cards’ deep receiving corps.

That doesn’t mean the Cardinals won’t see Norman. Both the 49ers and Rams had been trying to sign premier cornerbacks in free agency, and the 49ers especially ($52 million in cap space) would seem to have the resources to give Norman what he wants.

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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?

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Revisiting the Powers possibility

Posted by Darren Urban on April 13, 2016 – 10:54 am

A little over a week ago, free agent cornerback Jerraud Powers tweeted after a visit to the New York Giants that he was in no rush to find a new team. “Gotta make sure situation perfect for me,” Powers wrote. Maybe the perfect situation turns out to be coming right back to Arizona, with Powers still available after a month on the market.

While it seemed unlikely for a while that Powers would come back — he also tweeted back then when asked if the Cards had offered a contract, “not to my knowledge” — comes news that the veteran who has been with the Cards for three seasons is meeting with the team. The reality is that Powers has not yet found that perfect spot/contract (otherwise he’d be on a roster by now) and the Cardinals are still looking for a veteran cornerback. As always, it’s about the money, and what Powers thinks is right at this point in his career and this April market, and what the Cardinals are willing to pony up.

If Powers were to return, it would fortify a secondary that for a while there looked like it could have big upheaval. Rashad Johnson already left and there was the possibility Tony Jefferson could get an offer as a restricted free agent, in addition to a potential Powers departure. Jefferson hasn’t gotten an offer and now is expected to return (although April 22 is the deadline for RFA offer sheets) and now, Powers could come back. You’d think it’d be a solid possibility if Powers and the team are meeting.

(I would not rule out the Cards drafting a cornerback even if Powers does re-sign. The future is always on Steve Keim’s mind.)

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On CJ and other free agency odds and ends

Posted by Darren Urban on March 16, 2016 – 7:49 pm

On a day when the Cardinals nabbed Evan Mathis for the offensive line — the team’s second outside free agent acquired, exactly one week into free agency — GM Steve Keim wasn’t sure how much more the team will do in signing players. “I think we’re at a point where you let it come to you,” Keim said. The price has to be right in every spot. And there are still some moving parts.

— Running back Chris Johnson was in Miami to visit the Dolphins Wednesday. The Cardinals could still bring Johnson back, but with David Johnson in place, both the money and opportunities for CJ2K in Arizona would be limited. From afar, it looks like the Dolphins — who lost Lamar Miller to free agency — could offer more of both. UPDATE: Johnson is coming back.

— Karlos Dansby was cut by the Browns Wednesday — interestingly, two years after going to Cleveland, after the Cards offered a two-year contract themselves back in 2014. (Although Dansby got more guaranteed money from the Browns, so financially, it made more sense). The Cardinals will look at Dansby, but a third term as a Card seems unlikely. At 34, he’s likely not the same physically he was two or three years ago. Plus, would Los go for a minimum salary-type of deal?

— The visit of guard Geoff Schwartz doesn’t figure to happen now that Mathis was signed. Haven’t heard anything else about tackle Andre Smith. UPDATE: Smith signed with the Vikings.

— Cornerback Leon Hall visited Dallas after Arizona, but Hall still isn’t signed (which likely says something about how Hall has overpriced himself at this point.) It still stands to reason the Cards want to sign a veteran cornerback. Maybe it could still be Hall. It could still be Jerraud Powers.


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T Andre Smith says he’ll visit Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on March 14, 2016 – 4:56 pm

Free-agent tackle Andre Smith, a former No. 1 pick of the Bengals who has started 73 of the 82 NFL games in which he has appeared, visited the Vikings Monday. And he told St. Paul Pioneer-Press writer Chris Tomasson that he was supposed to visit the Cardinals as well.

“It’s between (the Vikings) and Arizona. It’s even,” Smith told Tomasson.

It’s an interesting possibility. Smith, who has been the starting right tackle for the Bengals since 2011 (he was drafted in 2009), would seemingly be looking for a starting job and not just to be depth. The Cardinals, of course, have 2015 No. 1 pick D.J. Humphries sitting there after not being active for any games in 2015. And they have Jared Veldheer as a starting left tackle. If Smith were to sign with the Cards, does that mean a competition between the three (Humphries is a natural left tackle, after all). Would someone be asked to play guard? Intriguing to say the least.

Then again, maybe the Cardinals just want Smith for depth and Smith is trying to use what leverage he can in getting a better deal from Minnesota.

It was quiet around the Cardinals’ facility Monday. No word on how things have progressed, if at all, with free agent cornerback Leon Hall or free agent guard Amini Silatolu.

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A return for Gresham

Posted by Darren Urban on March 13, 2016 – 2:07 pm

Tight end Jermaine Gresham, a free agent, had been looking around. He talked to the Bears, he talked to the Jets. But multiple reports have Gresham choosing to stick with the Cardinals, at least for another season. More interestingly, Adam Schefter reported that Gresham passed up a four-year deal with $12 million in guaranteed money to return the the Cards for less.

Gresham’s return would seem to solidify the tight end position if the Cardinals decide not to draft one. Already back after signing their tender offers were Darren Fells and Ifeanyi Momah, while Gerald Christian is coming off a knee injury and former second-round pick Troy Niklas heads into his third season. Gresham did have a career-low of 18 catches last season, although a career-best 12.4 yards per reception. The Cardinals liked the job he did blocking as well.

Schefter is also reporting that the Cardinals are getting a visit from Panthers free-agent guard Amini Silatolu. Silatolu played in only nine games, starting three, in 2015. He is coming off an ACL tear in his left knee suffered in November, and would be depth potential on an offensive line that is likely to lose Ted Larsen in free agency.

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