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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.

Jermaine Gresham


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Veteran cornerback Hall scheduled to visit

Posted by Darren Urban on March 11, 2016 – 3:00 pm

The initial wave of free agency is over, and the big money — for the most part — is gone. Now it’s a game of musical chairs, as the free agents left try to get in with teams that still have spots to fill. What money they can get, regardless of what is still a lot of cap space around the league, is to be debated. This is the area in which Cardinals GM Steve Keim thrives.

So comes the report that veteran Bengals cornerback Leon Hall is scheduled to visit Arizona Monday. Hall is 31, having played nine seasons, and has been solid in his career with 26 interceptions (including one of Carson Palmer last year). He’s had injury issues with a pair of torn Achilles, but he has played in 29 of 32 possible games the past two seasons. He would be a nice if short-term addition to a room with Patrick Peterson, Justin Bethel and 50 percent of the time, Tyrann Mathieu. If Hall were to sign, it would also seem to signal the end of Jerraud Powers’ time in Arizona. Again, free-agent musical chairs is real.

Of course, things can change over a weekend too. We’ll see where things stand by Monday.

By the way, the Cardinals, according to the NFL Players Association website, have about $16.8 million in salary cap space (I am guessing that is before the Tyvon Branch deal.) The NFLPA site had the wrong numbers earlier in the week, after accidentally putting Mario Williams and Leodis McKelvin on the Cardinals’ roster following their free-agent deals.

LeonHallBlog


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Weatherspoon exits as rare one-year miss

Posted by Darren Urban on March 11, 2016 – 10:18 am

Steve Keim has proved excellent at bringing in players on one-year deals and having them make an impact: Eric Winston, Matt Shaughnessy, Karlos Dansby, Antonio Cromartie, Larry Foote, Chris Johnson, Dwight Freeney. They won’t all work out, though, and Sean Weatherspoon — which looked so promising when it happened — did not work out.

Weatherspoon is re-signing with the Falcons after his one year out West. Weatherspoon only had 12 tackles in an extremely limited defensive role (he played just 125 snaps all season) over 14 games. He needed to show he could stay healthy again and he did that, although it was a red flag to his time in Arizona when he was active but didn’t play against the Rams in October and then the next week, was a healthy scratch against the Lions.

It’s hard to believe that Weatherspoon played with the first unit through the entire offseason work, although at that point, Deone Bucannon was working a lot at safety too. But training camp came, Weatherspoon’s hamstring became a problem, and when he missed most of the month, he had dug himself a hole he could never escape — especially after Kevin Minter showed more than expected when he was on the field.

To Spoon’s credit, he never sulked (although he did seem resigned to the fact early on he wasn’t moving up the depth chart). It was clear he wouldn’t be around in 2016. And that’s the upside about seeking one-year deals. Yes, sometimes a guy like a Dansby blows up and leaves for another team. Then you have a “miss” like Weatherspoon who creates no issue because his contract is up and both sides can just move on.

SpoonBlog


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Pierre-Paul picks Giants over Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on March 8, 2016 – 12:55 pm

Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul re-signed with the Giants today on a one-year deal, ahead of officially becoming a free agent. But the Cardinals apparently were in the mix for his services, as was pointed out on Pierre-Paul’s statement distributed on social media.

“I would like to thank each and every organization that reached out to my agent during this process especially the Arizona Cardinals,” Pierre-Paul wrote. “It was hard to decide, but me and my family decided that it’s best for me to stay in New York.”

The Cards reportedly offered more money than the $10.5 million Pierre-Paul will get on the one-year contract.

The Cardinals have reportedly been in talks with Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin as well (along with Rams defensive lineman William Hayes) as the team tries to upgrade the pass rush. Pierre-Paul, for all his issues last year after his fireworks accident, was still attractive (and he’s counting on his one-year deal to allow him to hit the open market and get paid big next offseason, so he could be available again.) Meanwhile, the Cards continue to talk with agents as the official opening of free agency approaches at 2 p.m. Arizona time Wednesday.

Jason Pierre-Paul

 


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As free agency opens, names float

Posted by Darren Urban on March 7, 2016 – 5:02 pm

So teams could legally start talking to free agents Monday. No deals can be executed before Wednesday (at 2 p.m. Arizona time). Any of the rumors floating around today and until then are mainly that, especially since it is agents who are getting most of the information that is being reported and agents have a reason to drive up interest in their particular clients.

The biggest name floated by multiple reports Monday was linebacker Bruce Irvin, who has played for the Seahawks. He’s young and rushes the passer, although his production on that front has only been OK. He’s wanted (former Seahawks coordinators are now head coaches in Jacksonville and Atlanta are reportedly interested, and Jacksonville in particular has a LOT of money.) Kent Somers noted that the Cards have interest in Rams defensive lineman William Hayes as well.

Kent also tweeted Drew Stanton’s return might be iffy, after Bruce Arians just said on Arizona Sports 98.7 Monday morning he was hoping Stanton would be back in place as Palmer’s backup. Stanton just said last week he wasn’t sure what was going to happen — which, for a guy who was already able to talk to his own team about returning, does not sound all that optimistic if the guy was actually going to be returning. If Stanton left, it would certainly change up the urgency of looking for quarterbacks behind Carson Palmer.

Finally, Jason Cole suggested that interest in free-agent-to-be tackle Bobby Massie could push his contract to $8 million a year average. That’d be quite the windfall for Massie, who wasn’t expected to return anyway but certainly wouldn’t at $8M a year. That’d be more than Jared Veldheer is getting, and while it is two years later, I never would’ve expected that to be a possibility.

RZ1_4083MassieBlog


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On Jefferson’s tender and Cooper’s position

Posted by Darren Urban on March 2, 2016 – 4:46 pm

No official announcements coming from the Cardinals today, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t a little news — or potential news — floating around. The most concrete were the multiple reports that the Cards tendered restricted free agent safety Tony Jefferson a right-of-first-refusal offer. That’s worth $1.67 million for 2016, and if Jefferson manages to sign an offer sheet for a long-term deal elsewhere, the Cardinals have the right to match.

But it carries ramifications. Jefferson was undrafted as a rookie. This tender offer means if another team signs Jefferson to an offer sheet and the Cardinals choose not to match, the Cards would get no compensation. They could have tendered Jefferson at the second-round pick level ($2.55M) and, if Jefferson signed/left, they would have gotten a second-round pick. This decision is a little surprising, especially given the free-agent status of fellow safety Rashad Johnson and the ACL rehab of safety Tyrann Mathieu, but I’m guessing the Cards believe they have a handle on what they think the market will bear.

Teams must officially tender their restricted free agents by March 9. Wideout Jaron Brown and safety D.J. Swearinger are the remaining RFAs; Punter Drew Butler already re-signed.

Then there was the chatter about the Cardinals considering the use of Jonathan Cooper at center. It isn’t that Cooper is definitely moving, and certainly at this point before free agency and the draft, a lot will have to do with who is brought in during those periods. But it could be an option. It isn’t a shocking thought; Cooper was the one taking third-string snaps through much of the 2014 season during warmup periods. I even asked Cooper in training camp last year if he could play center. He acknowledged he had done it a little in college, but also said the Cardinals had never really broached the subject with him. Certainly it would give the Cardinals flexibility in configuring the offensive line going forward.

TJtenderblog

 


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Mario Williams and those one-year deals

Posted by Darren Urban on March 1, 2016 – 2:04 pm

A long, long time ago, when I was still in college, I was driving near campus one night while listening to the 620 Sportsline on the radio (was that Schulte and Roye at the time?) during basketball season. A caller wanted to know why the Suns couldn’t just trade for Hakeem Olajuwon. I mean, he was only the best big man in the game and one of the best of all time. The guy wanted to know why the Suns couldn’t get him for guard Negele Knight, forward Kurt Rambis and someone else (maybe center Andrew Lang? Trust me, it wasn’t a big name.)

I’ve heard similar trade suggestions in my years covering the Cardinals, sure. A certain player, while not needed/underperforming with the Cards can certainly fetch a second- or third-round draft pick, even though the Cards don’t want him. Right? (Uh, no.)

With the success of the one-year, prove-it-to-me contracts that Steve Keim has had in his tenure as GM, it feels like the one-year deal possibilities are veering into that territory. The Bills released defensive lineman Mario Williams, and certainly, that’s a name that draws interest. Would he fit in Arizona? He’s not exactly a 3-4 defensive end, and he’s already made noises that he’s not a fan of the idea that he’d ever have to drop into coverage as a 3-4 OLB. He only had five sacks last season, and while he could be used like Dwight Freeney in Arizona as a pass rusher, he’s going to want a lot more money and likely will get it somewhere in a NFL free-agent world flush with cap space.

So when I see suggestions — and I have had a few over the many platforms with which to reach me — that the Cardinals could lure Williams to the desert with a one-year contract, my first thought is, why would he do that? It’s early, and yes he underperformed in 2015, but it’s hard to believe someone won’t pony up some money for him this offseason. That could still be the Cards (although I do agree it’d have to be at the right price, which is not what he was getting in Buffalo.)

One-year deal guys don’t necessarily wait all the way until training camp, like Eric Winston or Chris Johnson or Jermaine Gresham. But if they sign earlier than that — Karlos Dansby, Antonio Cromartie — they wait out the market for a while to be absolutely sure they cannot get some significant cash. The Cards do have the ability these days to attract players because of the team and the destination. But money usually talks first, and short-term deals sometimes sound like Knight-for-Olajuwon.

Kevin Kolb, Mario Williams


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Salary cap set at more than $155 million

Posted by Darren Urban on February 29, 2016 – 10:07 am

The NFL Players Association announced today that the 2016 salary cap will be $155.27 million, about a $12 million jump from 2015. It’s a sizable number. With the slightly more than $3 million the Cardinals carried over from their leftover 2015 cap, General Manager Steve Keim will have a salary cap of about $158 million with which to work this season.

With that number, both overthecap.com and spotrac.com estimate the Cards will have between $19M and $20M of cap space going into free agency. The Cardinals have seven players that are scheduled to have cap hits of at least $5 million in 2016:

— QB Carson Palmer $17.88M
— WR Larry Fitzgerald $15.85M
— DT Calais Campbell $15.25M
— CB Patrick Peterson $13.07M
— T Jared Veldheer $9M
— WR Michael Floyd $7.32M
— G Mike Iupati $5.7M

Of those players, it makes the most sense to adjust the numbers of Campbell and Floyd through extensions. Otherwise, Keim and the front office have already figured out their plan for free agency through these numbers. There will be teams with tons of cap room, in order to overpay a player if they chose. The Cards will do what they do — target free agents at a certain price, and if they can’t convince them to sign, then move on. The “legal tampering” part of free agency begins in a week. Actual agreements cannot begin until March 9, a week from Wednesday.


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A line in the sand with free agent money

Posted by Darren Urban on February 22, 2016 – 1:23 pm

The NFL Scouting combine starts this week and free agency begins with the “legal tampering” on March 7 (Players can officially sign March 9). In the meantime, if there are any teams that want to bring back their own players who are free agents-to-be, this is the home stretch to make that happen before the open market.

Given the amount of salary cap space available across the NFL — and there should be a ton of it once the 2016 cap is set — there are plenty of guys who will get contracts that likely will exceed expectations. That’s one reason Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim has noted multiple times that getting extensions done at this point are often difficult because by now, there is little reason not to want to at least test the market.

Because all it takes it one team — and that one team isn’t necessarily the Cardinals, whether it is bringing back a key player or bringing one in via free agency. As the Cards go into free agency (and as they mull what they want to do with their own free-agents-to-be), Keim and the front office build a “free agent board.” It’s similar to the draft “top 100” board, except it also includes the money the Cards are willing to spend on each player. It’s based on the analytics of the situation — the player’s performance, age, position, etc. — and it gives what Keim sees as his line in the sand.

If that works for the player, then the Cardinals might have a deal. If the player wants significantly more, then the Cardinals move on.

The Cardinals, as Keim sees it, have created a lot of reasons for a player to want to come to Arizona. The facilities are top notch. The weather is good. Oh, and the team is winning. Oftentimes, overpaying a player in free agency doesn’t work out anyway — so the Cards, for the most part, avoid it. Something to keep in mind this time of year.


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Jefferson gets his wish – a better Madden rating

Posted by Darren Urban on February 17, 2016 – 11:05 am

Tony Jefferson likes his video games, and he likes his Madden. He has long paid attention to the rating the EA product has given Jefferson in its game — his Twitter bio actually reads, in full, “Just trying to raise my Overall rating on Madden”.

So after his solid 2015 season, the folks at Madden did just that, jumping Jefferson nine points in his overall rating to an 86 (Tyrann Mathieu jumped 11 points to a 94 and Rashad Johnson went up six, to an 83.) “It’s all I’ve ever wanted,” Jefferson tweeted — although he did note he still wants to get into the 90s on the 100-point scale. (He also tweeted how he was a 67 when he originally came into the league. As I’ve said, he has paid attention.)

Now, is it really all Jefferson has ever wanted? The man is a restricted free agent-to-be. He’ll be back with the Cardinals in 2016 almost certainly. The question will be if the Cardinals just tender him an offer (it would have to be at least at a second-round level, since Jefferson was originally undrafted, meaning in theory Jefferson could be tendered, sign elsewhere, and that team would owe the Cardinals a second-round pick) or if they sign him to a longer deal. With Johnson an unrestricted free agent, the Cards may buy time with the one-year tender and go from there.

In the meantime, Jefferson will undoubtedly be working on a big 2016, both because he could be an unrestricted free agent after the season and, of course, because he wants to be in the 90s.

TJeffBlog

 


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