As I come back off vacation, things are still quiet around the Cardinals’ facility. Coaches and players won’t start filtering in until next week (report day for training camp is a week from Friday, with the first practice on July 22, a week from Saturday.) This is the time when the radar gets raised for a potential veteran signing for training camp.
The Cardinals currently have one open spot on the 90-man roster, a vacancy created the last time the Cards made moves more than a month ago. Odds are that it would be more of a fringe guy to fill out a position heading into camp, a name that most won’t recognize. But it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to have someone with a better chance of making the roster. The last we heard from GM Steve Keim, the team was monitoring a bunch of veterans who were possibilities (assuming the price was right.)
There are cornerbacks out there, although if you are floating around right now, there are questions: Darrelle Revis is price v. age (and since he is already making $6 million this season and has offset language, he may not be motivated to play), Sam Shields has dealt with concussions, Brandon Flowers and Alterraun Verner are smaller. When last we heard from running back Chris Johnson, he said he was still in contact with the team. Maybe there is a guard to compete with Evan Boehm (besides rookie Dorian Johnson.)
One thing that seems certain: Adding whomever it is won’t be the only move of camp. Since Keim took over as GM, the Cardinals have averaged 18 roster moves from camp-opening week through the first cut to 75. (Again, don’t forget that a new rule means there won’t be a cut to 75 this season, only the final cut, which will take teams from 90 to 53.) The roster, through performance and injuries, will be churned soon enough.
Tags: Alterraun Verner, Brandon Flowers, Chris Johnson, Darrelle Revis, free agency, Roster, Sam Shields, Steve Keim, training camp
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As minicamp wraps up today with a final practice before the veterans scatter for the summer, Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim said in terms of signing a veteran to help the roster, options are still on the table.
“(Team president) Michael (Bidwill) and I talked about six to eight players, who are still on the street, who could potentially come in and help us,” Keim said in an appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7.
Keim didn’t get specific, either in name or position. But he noted the obvious, based on Keim’s past veteran signings in this regard: It’s not just about a scheme fit or need, it’s also about price. The Cardinals see a value in these signings, and even if a player intrigues them, they have weighed the cost-benefit. They are only going to play “x” amount for any particular player, and they won’t blow their salary measurement out of any perceived need.
(To clarify — the Cards won’t sign as many as six or eight. That’s just the number of players that are on the radar. I’d guess some play the same position, so if one signed, the others are out. As usual, I’d anticipate one or two Keim camp specials at most, barring injuries.)
We’ve talked about this before. Maybe a cornerback makes sense (that’s the position I’d look at first). Maybe a guard if Evan Boehm doesn’t keep moving forward. Maybe a running back to fill out the room, depending on what Andre Ellington and/or Elijhaa Penny do. But to think there won’t be a signing or two around/into training camp just doesn’t do the history of Keim any justice.
Tags: free agency, Michael Bidwill, Steve Keim, training camp
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With rookies reporting tomorrow for the weekend’s rookie minicamp, it is a veteran who is attracting attention. Nothing official yet, but multiple reports have the Cardinals about to sign quarterback Blaine Gabbert to a one-year contract at the minimum salary. Gabbert recently worked out for the team. Cardinals fans know Gabbert well — he was the starter to begin last season for the 49ers as Colin Kaepernick recovered from injuries, and later was sent to the bench in favor of Kaepernick. The 49ers started over with a new GM and coach, and jettisoned all their QBs.
Gabbert would join a team with a bunch of quarterbacks already. There would have to be a corresponding roster move with his signing, but the expectation is that the Cards stick with five quarterbacks. Carson Palmer is the starter, and I don’t see Gabbert displacing Drew Stanton as the backup. This seems more likely a battle as a third QB, with Zac Dysert and undrafted rookie Trevor Knight. Getting a look-see, at least in offseason work, makes some sense. And with the passing of the comp pick deadline, the signing doesn’t impact the Cards’ anticipated comp pick haul.
Tags: Blaine Gabbert, free agency
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Tuesday was an important day for the Cardinals. In an offseason when the Cards seemed to play for the comp pick game — losing several key free agents, and signing back newcomers strategically — Tuesday marked the final day where the signing of someone on the open market would count against a team in the formula for compensatory draft picks.
Nick Korte over at overthecap.com has been following the comp pick situation. While the actual formula is a secret, some, including Korte, have seemingly gotten at least a little bit of a handle on it. As of now, the estimation is that for the 2018 draft the Cardinals will get an extra third-round pick (because of losing Calais Campbell), an extra fourth-round pick (for losing Tony Jefferson) and two extra sixth-round picks (for losing Marcus Cooper and D.J. Swearinger.)
The picks can shift based on playing time and other factors. If one of these players flames out and is cut by midseason, that will impact things. But for now, this is what it looks like. The hefty contracts received by Campbell and Jefferson likely lock in those picks — Campbell’s deal, actually, was the richest handed out in free agency. By far.
As a recap, the Cardinals currently have five of their own picks remaining for the 2018 draft: First, second, third, fifth and sixth rounds. They traded away their fourth-rounder in order to trade up for Budda Baker, and dealt the seventh-rounder last year when they acquired Cooper. So that would give them nine picks total if they get all four comp picks (the maximum number of comp picks a team can receive.)
Again, the most important part of the news now is that no more free agents (not players cut, which is why signing Antoine Bethea never counted against the Cardinals’ formula) the Cards sign will count against the equation. So if there are any Steve Keim specials from here on out, no comp pick impact.
Tags: compensatory picks, free agency, Steve Keim
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The Cardinals got through the draft and made their picks. No QB. No cornerback drafted early, but the defense got some potential impact playmakers. They collected 17 undrafted rookies, adding an Ironhead and a Gump and QB was served by a Knight, although we’ll see what that truly means. The Cardinals are in the middle of Phase 2 work — that goes on exclusively for another week — and then OTAs will start May 16 and the meat of the offseason work will commence.
There will be moves here and there. There will be tryout players at the rookie minicamp next week and a couple will inevitably be signed, at the cost of a couple of other players on the roster. That’s happened every year in the Bruce Arians era. There will have to be a decision made about what to do with Daryl Washington (no, that has not yet happened.) And then there is the idea of a Keim Time Sign, a pickup of a veteran by GM Steve Keim anytime between now and into training camp that could end up making the roster by the beginning of September. A quick handicapping of the positions he could look at:
— Offensive line: The Cards signed Tony Bergstrom Wednesday. He’s likely a depth guy rather than someone who figures to have a chance to start should he make the team. He’s played center of late, and with Evan Boehm working as the first-string right guard, the Cards needed someone to back up A.Q. Shipley, if not compete with him.
— Quarterback: The news was out that the Cards at least worked out Blaine Gabbert. We’ll see if that turns into anything. It’d give them an extra arm with experience, and with as much as they have talked about managing Carson Palmer’s practice load, maybe adding another QB right now makes sense.
— Running back: I don’t know if the draft closed the door on Chris Johnson, but it seems like it might have. T.J. Logan is young, fresh legs, and they like what they have seen out of Elijhaa Penny. Kerwynn Williams has shown he can run the ball, and after all, David Johnson is David Johnson.
— Cornerback: This is the big position. Justin Bethel figures to run with the first unit, at least to begin with. It’ll be hard to see where Budda Baker fits in early because the Washington spring quarter doesn’t end until early June (the final minicamp day is June 8) and he’ll miss most offseason work. The Cards have some mix-and-match possibilities, but right now, it’s Bethel or Brandon Williams in line to start opposite Patrick Peterson. Could the Cards pick up a veteran cornerback? I wouldn’t rule it out, although they may want to see how the offseason plays out a bit.
Tags: Blaine Gabbert, Brandon Williams, Budda Baker, Chris Johnson, David Johnson, Elijhaa Penny, free agency, Justin Bethel, Kerwynn Williams, T.J. Logan, Tony Bergstrom
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Brandon Carr went to the Ravens Thursday and Morris Claiborne to the Jets and the free-agent cornerback pool got a little smaller. But at this point, I’m not sure it makes a big difference to the Cardinals. Yes, with the defection of Marcus Cooper to the Bears, the Cardinals are going to have to find a new starter opposite Patrick Peterson. But it looks like that will be a slowly developing situation rather than an immediate fix.
There remain in-house candidates like Justin Bethel and Brandon Williams. Bethel did just take a paycut as he tries to rehab his cornerback stock (he did play well at the nickel late in the season and Bruce Arians noted that Bethel’s best spot was probably in the slot), while Williams struggled a lot as the raw, young cornerback that he is and he is far from a sure thing as a starter in this league.
But in a draft deep in cornerback talent, choosing one in the early rounds looks like the initial play. There are a few “name” cornerbacks still out there in free agency — Alterraun Verner, Brandon Flowers, and yes, Darrelle Revis, for example — but there is a reason they are still on the market. (No, I don’t see any chance Revis would be a pickup, regardless.)
This seems headed for the same place it was last season, where Bethel and now Williams and a draft pick will get a chance to show what they have, and a veteran will be picked up at some point to be in the mix. Remember, the Cardinals added Mike Jenkins and Alan Ball in camp last year before injuries took them out (Jenkins was your starter before he hurt his knee) and the team traded for Cooper.
Tags: Alan Ball, Alterraun Verner, Brandon Flowers, Brandon Williams, Darrelle Revis, draft, free agency, Justin Bethel, Marcus Cooper, Mike Jenkins, Patrick Peterson
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As we get past the first few days of free agency and the contract numbers begin to trickle in, we got a sense of how pricey the market was for some (like Calais Campbell) and how the Cards have interpreted those who have left and who have arrived. With that, some thoughts on some of the contracts handed out to recently departed and freshly minted Cardinals:
— Campbell got $30 million guaranteed over the first two years of his four-year deal, and gets a $3M bonus in early 2019 if the Jaguars choose to keep him. That’s a lot of money, but it’s why the Cardinals-Campbell marriage was destined to end. The Jags had (have) oodles of cap space, so they front-loaded the contract. The Cards didn’t see fiscally how that would make sense for them.
— The same goes for the $19 million guaranteed for Tony Jefferson and the $8 million guaranteed for Marcus Cooper, who got a three-year deal with the Bears. Bruce Arians said Cooper could get big money, and he did. I have to say I was a little surprised.
— Along those lines, I’ve heard from a handful of fans asking me about doing something like a trade for Patriots RFA CB Malcolm Butler. Not going to happen. To give up a pick and be facing a need for a giant contract extension in a secondary that already has two giant contracts with Pat P and Honey Badger, nope. This draft class is strong at cornerback. I’d guess they will draft one at some point. Will they add a vet? Maybe, but it won’t be for giant money.
— Karlos Dansby gets $2 million if he stays healthy and plays a lot. That’s a reasonable contract for a soon-to-be 36-year-old who figures to start. (Kevin Minter, who was unlikely to return after Dansby signed, was reportedly visiting the Colts Monday.)
— Jarvis Jones, the Steelers’ OLB free agent, was visiting the Cardinals. That would seem tied to Alex Okafor, who was visiting the Saints. If Okafor comes back to the Cardinals, they won’t need Jones. If Okafor departs, there’s a need Jones could fill.
— Have to say I was a little surprised Andre Ellington returned, not because the Cards wouldn’t want him — they need players behind David Johnson and Ellington can produce, especially as a receiver — but because I thought he’d want to find a place where he might get more time. The running backs market is not robust. And Ellington said he wanted to stay. Speaking of prices, I’m sure it was a team-friendly contract. It’d be good to see Ellington break off a couple of those electrifying plays he had his first couple of years.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Calais Campbell, free agency, Jarvis Jones, Karlos Dansby, Malcolm Butler, Marcus Cooper, Tony Jefferson
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By this time tomorrow the Cardinals and the NFL will be well into free agency. The “tampering” period has given everyone plenty of opportunity to get a head start on signing players, although no visits are supposed to have been set up and no players — just agents — are supposed to have talked to teams yet.
What has floated around the Cardinals is all about their own guys so far. Linebacker Chandler Jones, who isn’t going anywhere because he was franchise tagged, is reportedly close to a contract extension with the Cards. That would help cap space, but there is nothing official yet and we’ll see how quickly it can get done. Calais Campbell has been linked to the Jaguars, Bucs and maybe Broncos, but nothing concrete, while Tony Jefferson can apparently break the bank in Cleveland if he wants, while the Ravens and Jets are also showing interest.
Reports also have cornerback Marcus Cooper getting interest from the Jets and safety D.J. Swearinger possible interest from the Bears.
Where does that leave the Cards? Still with a long list of free agents who will hit the market officially at 2 p.m. Arizona time Thursday unless the team re-signs them beforehand. That current list:
— RB Andre Ellington
— RB Chris Johnson
— RB Stepfan Taylor
— TE Darren Fells
— G Taylor Boggs
— C A.Q. Shipley
— OL Earl Watford
— DT Calais Campbell
— DT Frostee Rucker
— LB Kevin Minter
— LB Sio Moore
— LB Alex Okafor
— CB Marcus Cooper
— S Tony Jefferson
— CB Mike Jenkins
— S D.J. Swearinger
— K Chandler Catanzaro
Free agency has arrived.
Tags: Calais Campbell, Chandler Jones, D.J. Swearinger, franchise tag, free agency, Marcus Cooper, Tony Jefferson
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The Cardinals want to keep safety Tony Jefferson. They want to keep defensive tackle Calais Campbell. Whether they can is to be determined, with the free agent “tampering” period beginning March 7 and official free agency starting March 9.
“I’ve always been adamant about not negotiating through the media,” Cardinals GM Steve Keim said Friday during the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports. “But we have been, in my opinion, very aggressive with trying to re-sign the players we would like to have back. As we get closer to free agency, some players would prefer to test the market. We understand. It’s a business. But when you find guys who are core players, who you want to move forward with, you have to try to be active and aggressive and try to re-sign them.”
Will it matter? Matt Miller, an NFL writer who has had friendly interactions with Jefferson on Twitter before, tweeted Friday that Jefferson is expected to hit the free-agent market and garner offers at $7 million a season. The news has been a lot quieter around Campbell, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything either way.
The key part to this is that it is Feb. 17. That’s an eternity before March 9 in this context. Talks with everything tend to ramp up before a deadline, and we’re just too far from a deadline right now. It’s also good to note that Jefferson getting that nugget out there helps his leverage, much like the Cardinals continuing to point out they will franchise tag Chandler Jones if a deal cannot be reached with him.
(Keim said the team has had “great dialogue with Chandler” so perhaps a long-term deal isn’t out of the question quite yet.)
Still, this comes down to reality, and the reality has always been that the Cardinals have been longshots to retain Jones, Jefferson and Campbell.
“You can’t have everybody back,” Keim said. “The way the salary cap is situated, you have to make some tough decisions. You have to make some tough decisions based on what the salary is, their age, their injury history. So many things go into it. That’s the tough part of the business, because we all get emotionally attached to these guys.”
Tags: Calais Campbell, Chandler Jones, free agency, Steve Keim, Tony Jefferson
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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.
Tags: Broncos, Calais Campbell, free agency
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