Next week, the decision-makers for the Cardinals and the rest of the NFL will head to Indianapolis for the annual Scouting combine. Already teams, including the Cards, have been meeting and ranking their rosters and figuring out what direction they will need to go in. Free agency, which begins March 11 officially (although teams came start to talk to guys from other teams a couple of days before that), will impact what happens in the draft and the rest of the offseason.
But before all that, and before the Cardinals re-sign any more of their own players, here are — in my opinion — the positions that need to be addressed the most over the next few months:
1) Offensive line: It doesn’t hurt that this encompasses multiple positions. Ultimately, it is left tackle that the Cardinals likely need to go after the most. I have no doubt Bradley Sowell can be depth at the position, but clearly the Cards would like to upgrade there. Easier said than done, of course, and we’ll see if it comes in free agency or the draft.
2) Defensive line: You’re not going to win in the NFC West unless both lines of scrimmage are fortified. As it stands now, the defensive line seems to be OK, with Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett and Dan Williams. But Alameda Ta’amu was an important co-nose tackle with Williams, and he is coming off ACL surgery. Dockett’s age and contract will likely call into question his future after 2014. And with Frostee Rucker a free agent, the Cardinals need depth there, especially after using rotations during the season.
3) Linebacker: This is in part a continuation of the defensive line issue, because whether you consider a pass rusher a linebacker or a defensive end in nickel situations, the Cards still need pass rushers. John Abraham was a godsend in 2013 but he is not getting younger, even if he has another double-digit sack year in his arsenal. Alex Okafor is an unknown quantity at outside linebacker after his lost rookie season, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Matt Shaughnessy get away as a free agent. It’s hard to tell, since both missed most of the season, how well Lorenzo Alexander and Sam Acho fit in the defense as well. That doesn’t even include the inside, where Karlos Dansby could still leave.
4) Tight end: This position probably should be higher on the list, considering all the free agents the Cardinals have. Then again, maybe I’m just used to the Cards just getting along the best they can at tight end to make sure other spots are taken care of first. But Bruce Arians likes to use the tight end in multiple ways and use multiple tight ends. The Cards need bodies, and that’s even if Jim Dray returns. Rob Housler had flashes again last season but this is likely a make-or-break season for him to stay healthy and be consistent.
5) Safety: Even if Yeremiah Bell returns he is older. Tyrann Mathieu is coming off major knee surgery. The depth is thin, and the Cardinals, as you might have heard, had some issues covering tight ends last season. As good as Richard Sherman is, a big reason why the Seahawks secondary is so good is because Earl Thomas is backstopping Sherman and all those corners. Getting a safety like that wouldn’t be too bad.
Bonus) Quarterback: There’s no reason to list QB in the top five because the Cardinals are fine going into next season playing with Carson Palmer. There’s no argument there, really. But reality says the future QB has to be acquired sooner rather than later. This is a draft-only kind of scenario. I don’t see the Cards seeking another trade or anything. But at some point, GM Steve Keim is going to come across a quarterback he likes very much when the Cards are on the clock. And he needs to pull that trigger for down the road.
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Bradley Sowell, Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, draft, free agency, Frostee Rucker, John Abraham, Karlos Dansby, Lorenzo Alexander, Matt Shaughnessy, offensive line, Rob Housler, Sam Acho, Tyrann Mathieu, Yeremiah Bell
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In October, the Cardinals signed tight end Darren Fells to the practice squad. Fells was a project, cut already by Seattle, a 6-foot-7, 280-pound former college basketball player who had already spent four years playing professional hoops overseas. The Cards liked what they saw out of Fells enough to re-sign him going forward to a “futures’ contract. Now, the Cards are doubling down on the whole basketball-player-could-be-a-football-player thing.
One of the three players the Cardinals signed to “futures” deals Tuesday is tight end Andre Hardy, who averaged 8.0 points and 6.7 rebounds a game his final two years at Cal State-Fullerton but did not play football in college. Hardy, 6-6 and 245, was briefly with the Raiders in the offseason of 2012. Whether he or Fells could turn into Antonio Gates or some facsimile thereof would be nice. The offseason is the time of year you mull such things, and the team is going to work on its tight end depth. The Cardinals also signed Brett Brackett, a tight end who has spent time on the Jaguars’ and Dolphins’ practice squads.
Guard Christian Johnson, the third signee, has spent the last three seasons in the Arena Football League.
A futures contract is signed locking a player into a team even though the new league year — and contracts — don’t kick in until early March.
Tags: Andre Hardy, Brett Brackett, Christian Johnson, Darren Fells, free agency
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The Cardinals have a lot of players — and key ones at that — who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in March. Among those whose contracts will expire: Karlos Dansby, Matt Shaughnessy, Eric Winston, Yeremiah Bell, Frostee Rucker, Javier Arenas, Antoine Cason and Rashard Mendenhall. (For those wondering, John Abraham signed a two-year contract.)
The Cardinals will have varying degrees of interest in bringing each of those guys back. And again, I’m sure the deals will have to fit the Cards’ philosophy. The wheeling and dealing General Manager Steve Keim did in the offseason to bring in so many short-term vets had an upside that it worked for the Cards and the salary cap yet quickly rehabbed the roster. The downside is this. A player has a good year, and he has some leverage to take to the open market (See Dansby, Karlos.)
But Keim said during his weekly radio appearance on the “Doug and Wolf show” on Arizona Sports 620 that he has already begun the process of trying to get some extensions done. Keim didn’t name names.
“We are going to aggressively approach several of these guys,” Keim said. “I have already to some degree. We are going to try and put something in place to try to keep some continuity here, particularly for the guys who are playing well. But in some regard, the fans and media are going to have to understand, sometimes the market dictates what happens.The agents and the players sometimes want to see what’s out there.”
Translation: Some of these guys are gonna want to get paid. Dansby, for instance. Asked last night about getting a new contract. “Why not?” Dansby said. “I can do this three, four, five more years. I am playing at a high level right now and I don’t see anyone outplaying me right now.”
That doesn’t sound like a guy willing to play for $2.25 million like he is this season. But we will see. And even if he might want to make it work in Arizona — and I do think ‘Los would like to stay — it might behoove him to wait to see what other teams want to pony up. Last offseason was ugly for most of the vets listed above when no one came knocking on their door offering what they wanted. I’m sure they’d like to see what is out there one more time. So it could be tough to get many deals pre-March done.
“We just have to be smart about the deals we put in place with the cap situation and make good decisions,” Keim said. “But we will definitely be aggressive in addressing some of the players we feel are core guys.”
Tags: Antoine Cason, Eric Winston, free agency, Frostee Rucker, Javier Arenas, Karlos Dansby, Matt Shaughnessy, Rashard Mendenhall, Steve Keim, Yeremiah Bell
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General Manager Steve Keim talked about the organization’s ability to stay patient with certain offseason moves, and that has never been made more clear than the recent signings of tackle Eric Winston and John Abraham. The contract details are now leaking out, and they affirm what had basically been a given — both moves were financially smart for the Cards.
Overthecap.com has all the details here, but here are the basic facts: Winston not only has a $840,000 salary but only a $160,000 signing bonus. He also has a $250,000 roster bonus and a bunch of incentives (likely tied to playing time, which are going to be hit if Winston stays in the starting lineup. That could add another $750,000. Still, $2 million for Winston is a good deal if he is starting. Abraham gets a $1 million salary, a $1 million signing bonus and a $100,000 roster bonus — again, $2.1 million for a solid pass rusher. A good deal. (Abraham is scheduled to make $2.5M in salary next season plus possible escalators and none of it is guaranteed.)
Again, the Cards end up with good players at the right price and the flexibility to move on in 2014 if need be. Keim will stay proactive with their players on short-term deals. “We have a lot of guys who are on one-year deals who we’ll need to actively approach,” Keim said, “and try and get long-term deals done with them and reward them like we have talked about.”
According to the latest salary cap report, the Cards still have $7.8M in salary cap space. I’m not sure that yet includes Jonathan Cooper’s estimated $2.6M cap number.
Tags: Eric Winston, free agency, John Abraham, salary cap, Steve Keim
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The Cardinals have two open roster spots after roster moves Tuesday. Today, Mike Jurecki is reporting the Cardinals are bringing in veteran pass rusher John Abraham for a visit. In a lot of ways, it makes sense. Abraham, despite being 35 and seemingly always being threatened by injuries, has 32.5 sacks the past three seasons while playing all but two games for Atlanta at defensive end. Here, he would be an outside linebacker, and probably not in an every-down role.
I’m sure the Cards will be careful in looking into Abraham. Steve Keim was here when the Cards signed Joey Porter in 2010 after Porter had a good run in Miami; Porter had pretty much nothing left by the time he arrived in Arizona. But the Cards don’t have an edge rusher with a track record of getting to the quarterback consistently. Certainly no one like Abraham, who had 10 sacks last season.
Part of the equation, of course, is what Abraham would want in a contract. There is a reason he is still on the market, like many veterans who figured to be playing right now. Are Abraham, or Richard Seymour, or Kerry Rhodes, or Eric Winston, willing to take less or a short-term deal right now? Do they wait to see if a team gets desperate in training camp after an injury? The Cards have $10.6 million in cap space with rookie Jonathan Cooper still to be signed. I can’t see Keim doing an expensive deal in this case. But if Abraham likes the fit, and the Cards like what he could bring to the table at what I would guess was a reasonable price, this move would be a good one.
Tags: free agency, John Abraham, Steve Keim
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Back in February at the Scouting combine the idea was first floated of the NFL changing up its offseason schedule. Today it sounds like that’s a lot closer to happening. Adam Shefter first reported a 2014 draft that would take place in May. That really isn’t a shock. To move the TV-ratings-rich draft into the sweeps month of May makes sense. The report is that, come 2015, the new league year (i.e. free agency) would then start before the combine (with the combine getting moved into March). It makes sense — the NFLPA could gain by getting free agency sooner. Veteran movement would be going on for a couple of weeks before the rookies even have their workout-day-in-the-sun.
What does this mean, football-wise? Besides the shift in when fans will be consuming this stuff, it definitely will make it harder on rookies — or better for veterans, depending on how you look at it. Vets will in theory know their teams sooner, and more importantly, rookies will be drafted perhaps three weeks later than they are now and getting started with their teams late much later. Certainly, it can be overcome (and if you are a Stanford product, it actually can help.) It should be noted that NFL spokesman Greg Aiello cautioned that nothing has been done yet. I won’t be surprised if (when?) it does though, and the NFL will be spread out even further into the offseason.
– Linebacker Daryl Washington pleaded not guilty today on the two counts of aggravated assault stemming from a May 1 incident. His next court date is scheduled for July 3. Before you ask, nothing has been decided yet and nothing has changed for Washington in terms of football.
– If you missed the offseason TV special Flight Plan this weekend, you are in luck: All four parts can be seen right here.
Tags: Daryl Washington, draft, free agency, Greg Aiello
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When we last saw Karlos Dansby in a Cardinals uniform at University of Phoenix Stadium, he was scoring a game-winning playoff touchdown against the Packers. Now there is a chance he’ll come back to UoP wearing Cardinal red.
Dansby is scheduled to visit the Cards Wednesday, first reported by Mike Jurecki, and, as with any free agent visit, you have to think for a veteran to come out means there could very well be a deal soon. Many have suggested, even before Daryl Washington’s latest issues, that the Cards go after Dansby. I didn’t see it happening. I was wrong. Even if Washington’s problems aren’t the catalyst — you can make the argument the Cards still need depth at linebacker, even with the additions of Jasper Brinkley and Kevin Minter inside — having Dansby come back works on a lot of levels. Fans liked him and he was always productive, even if he is still chasing that elusive first Pro Bowl.
The biggest question, I would think, would be money. Dansby was being paid handsomely in Miami as part of that free-agent contract he got when he left the Cardinals. It was also one of the reasons the Dolphins cut him. As with many veterans out there, though, the free-agent (or cut player) market has become a cold place with fewer options than expected and usually at a much lesser salary. I’m sure Karlos didn’t expect to be available for this long, with relatively few sniffs from teams. And if Washington is in the lineup, I’m not sure how both co-exist on the field at the same time because they play the same position (Don’t forget Washington was drafted specifically to replace Dansby).
Regardless, it’d be interesting for sure to have him return if that were to happen. That possibility, as Dansby always liked to say, that’s huge, man.
– If you want to talk Dansby, or the draft, or whatever, I’ll be hosting a live chat tomorrow on this link here. It’ll start at 1 p.m. Arizona time (4 p.m. EST). Who knows? Maybe Dansby will be a Cardinal by then.
Tags: Dary Washington, free agency, Karlos Dansby, live chat
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The draft is over. Rosters for most teams have ballooned to the max of 90 or near it (the Cardinals, right now, have 88 on the roster.) And yet there are still a ton of veteran players out there without jobs that you wouldn’t think would be without jobs.
Some players you can understand why it might be happening. Both Michael Adams and Paris Lenon played significant time last season for the Cards, but both were free agents and their time had run its course in Arizona. Adams was always a Ken Whisenhunt favorite — with both Whiz and former special teams coach Kevin Spencer in San Diego, I expected Adams to end up with the Chargers, but it hasn’t happened yet — but his size isn’t great for a cornerback. Lenon played well but at his age, teams are looking to go younger and cheaper.
Of the players cut, Kerry Rhodes still hasn’t been picked up, nor Early Doucet or Beanie Wells. It’s not surprising with Beanie, unfortunately. His knees aren’t in good shape and he’s going to have to pass a physical for someone. But I thought Doucet would have a spot by now and Rhodes too. The Cards wanted Rhodes to take a pay cut, yes, but they wanted to find a way to extend his contract too and apparently he passed. So now what?
Those aren’t the only “names” on the market. Profootballtalk.com actually has compiled an “All-Unemployed team” of players still looking for jobs, and it’s a pretty impressive list. (The Cardinals have been linked to defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, by the way, and they still need to sign a couple of players.) Some of these veterans are looking for money they probably aren’t going to get. Former front-office guy/agent Andrew Brandt pointed out this morning some vets may not be in a hurry to sign because the same minimal offers out there now will be there closer to camp (and then the vet doesn’t have to show up and work in the offseason.) That may be true. For some, you have to consider the risk/reward. Even if Lenon, for instance, was paid minimum, is that worth it at age 36 for the pounding his body takes?
Tags: Beanie Wells, Early Doucet, free agency, Kerry Rhodes, Michael Adams, Paris Lenon, Sedrick Ellis
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The Cardinals brought in a few players on a tryout basis coming into their voluntary minicamp, and have decided to sign four of them: TE Alex Gottlieb, T Paul Fanaika and wide receivers Jarett Dillard and Robert Gill. Dillard has three years in the NFL, making 35 receptions in 21 games with Jacksonville. He was cut by the Lions after 2012 training camp. Fanaika, who went to Arizona State, was a seventh round draft pick in 2009 and has spent time with the Eagles, Redskins and Seahawks. Gill is an arena football veteran who ran track in college at Texas State. Gottlieb was cut by the Lions last year as an undrafted rookie out of William & Mary.
The additions bring the Cardinals’ roster number to 65. There are scheduled to be seven draft picks, and likely somewhere between 12 and 15 undrafted rookies, that would put the Cards around 84 to 87 players, leaving about three to six spots for veteran additions after the draft.
A couple other notes:
– New Era is holding a contest through May 17 with the chance for a fan from each team to win a trip to New York. Just put in a photo of yourself wearing a cap and show in the picture how you “speak with your cap.” All the details are right here at speakwithyourcap.com. The winners get a chance to be in a New Era ad along with their trip.
– Strength and conditioning coach John Lott is holding a football camp May 4 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Gilbert. Open for kids from first through eighth grade, the camp covers football fundamentals as well as nutrition and strength and conditioning. Money raised goes to buying needed mosquito nets in Africa to prevent the spread of disease. Among the players scheduled to attend are Larry Fitzgerald, Calais Campbell, Lyle Sendlein, Ryan Williams, Levi Brown, Sam Acho, Rashad Johnson and Jay Feely. For more information, call 480-883-3733.
Tags: Alex Gottlieb, free agency, Jarett Dillard, Paul Fanaika, Robert Gill
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Each free agent signing brings with it immediate reaction, and that’s understandable. But the proper context isn’t always immediately there for the player and what will turn out to be his eventual role (see Stanton, Drew.) And even at the time, a signee was always seen as a reserve, and that is by design from General Manager Steve Keim.
“We not only got some starters but some key role players, guys who can come in and play 15 to 20 snaps, help keep fresh legs, and in a 60-minute game, to me, it’s extremely important to have quality depth,” Keim said.
He particularly noted the defensive line, to help with guys like nose tackle Dan Williams or defensive tackle Darnell Dockett if they get gassed. Keim likes the idea of bringing in Matt Shaughnessy and Frostee Rucker without having much of a dropoff. Looking at the veteran free agents the team has signed there definitely seems to be a mix:
– RB Rashard Mendenhall, starter
– QB Drew Stanton, reserve
– S Yeremiah Bell, TBD
– CB Jerraud Powers, TBD
– LB Lorenzo Alexander, TBD
– LB Jasper Brinkley, starter
– CB Antoine Cason, TBD
– DE Matt Shaughnessy, reserve
– DE Frostee Rucker, reserve
– S Jonathan Amaya, reserve
– G Chilo Rachal, reserve
Obviously either Powers or Cason will be a backup/nickel guy, because Patrick Peterson will be in there. I’d guess Alexander will be a reserve but he’ll get snaps on defense. Bell could end up as a backup if a high-end safety is drafted, but he’s slated to start for now and Rachal’s spot could be impacted with the draft too depending on how the offensive line ends up shaking out.
Ultimately, not every name signed in free agency draws the “Wow” response, nor is it intended to. That famous board Keim built for free agency had more than star(ter) power in mind.
Tags: Antoine Cason, Chilo Rachal, Drew Stanton, free agency, Frostee Rucker, Jasper Brinkley, Jerraud Powers, Jonathon Amaya, Lorenzo Alexander, Matt Shaughnessy, Rashard Mendenhall, Steve Keim, Yeremiah Bell
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