While the reports are out there that VP of player personnel Steve Keim is negotiating to become the next Cardinals’ general manager, the next GM — whether it was going to be Keim or someone else — will have some work to do.
According to figures reported by John Clayton, the Cards are currently set to come in around $720,000 above the 2013 salary cap. That means at the very least there will be some restructuring to do. To have any flexibility for free agents or the like will take some paperwork. That’s why, beyond Kevin Kolb’s injuries, it will be important to try and restructure his deal (his cap number is around $13 million this coming season), or extend safety Kerry Rhodes ($6M), or make a call on linebacker Stewart Bradley ($6.5M). The cap numbers of Larry Fitzgerald (more than $10M), Darnell Dockett ($7.7M) and Adrian Wilson (more than $5M) also could be looked at in some way, shape or form.
Cap space can be found quickly if necessary, and it doesn’t have to be at the cost of losing a player outright, necessarily. Sometimes it just is a matter of shifting contract language. But there is little question there is work to be done.
Most cap space to come, according to Clayton? The Bengals, with more than $55 million. The least? The Jets, at more than $19M on the negative side.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bengals, Darnell Dockett, Jets, Kerry Rhodes, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald, salary cap, Stewart Bradley
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I don’t think it’s out of line to think the most interesting question of the week will be who the Cardinals start at quarterback in Seattle next weekend. (Yes, I am aware of the understatement there.) Seattle has never been a particularly easy place to play for any Cardinals QB – I remember some rough games for Kurt Warner – and the last two years, Max Hall and Kevin Kolb have had trouble putting up points.
So after Sunday, when rookie Ryan Lindley had so much difficulty in production, will coach Ken Whisenhunt go back to him again? There’s no way to know if Kolb will be ready this week, but if he isn’t, Lindley is in the middle of six quarters of play he isn’t going to file among his NFL memories.
Whiz noted there were some poor routes/adjustments by receivers – one time, it seemed Michael Floyd just slowed up on a deep pattern, and the ball ended up well over his head – but Lindley knew he struggled. To have 10 three-and-outs as an offense (one ended on an interception), plus a four-and-out when the Cards couldn’t pick up a first on fourth down, was just devastating. When you lose a game by a single point, it’s that much more magnified.
“We just have to play better,” Lindley said. “I have to play better.”
– There is no need to belabor the point. I know there were plenty asking if/when Whiz was going to put in John Skelton. Was I surprised a change wasn’t made? I guess I was. Whisenhunt said he stuck with Lindley because he understood the scheme and what needed to be done. That’s got to translate into the game play, though.
I’m sure the comments below will be dominated by this subject.
– What a day for Kerry Rhodes. He promised on the Big Red Rage “I’m going to make plays, don’t worry about that one” when asked about his return to New York. It was Rhodes’ first chance to go against the Jets and coach Rex Ryan, who ripped Rhodes pretty good after Rhodes was traded away. Had the Cards won,’ Rhodes’ two interceptions and forced fumble would have been the perfect narrative. Losing takes the luster off, for sure, but you have to think Rhodes made his point while continuing to have a good season. Officially, Rhodes had six tackles and three passes defensed too.
– The interception by Patrick Peterson was a heck of an athletic play. It looked like he was definitely beaten, yet he not only made up the ground but grabbed the pick.
– Crazy how Jets kicker Nick Folk hit both the left upright and right upright on a pair of missed field goals. The Jets weren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut out there. Some of that was the Cards’ defense, but some of that is the Jets’ issues too.
– Running back Beanie Wells had only 22 yards on 15 carries. There weren’t a lot of holes for him to hit for sure, but watching him run he just doesn’t look totally right with the knee, which did limit him in practice last week. I know that when his two straight runs on third- and fourth-and-1 early in the game that the Cards couldn’t convert hurt. The Jets have a good defense, but an absence of a run game shows up when the QB struggles. Then again, the Jets could tee off on the run because they weren’t concerned about Lindley beating them.
– Punter Dave Zastudil tied his career-high with 10 punts which makes sense in context.
– It was a weird game because the Jets’ crowd wasn’t happy with their team much of the game and let them know it. To have Greg McElroy come in to play quarterback and get the kind of cheer he did just shows how much the fan base doesn’t have faith in Mark Sanchez. McElroy didn’t do anything special. But he was the lone QB with a TD drive.
– Dan Williams was just talking about taking advantage of more playing time if he got the chance, and Sunday, he got the chance with the Jets playing a lot of run-first offense. The nose tackle responded with a team-high 10 tackles.
I wish I had a lot more to touch on but I do not. The QB thing is going to overshadow everything I’m sure.
Tags: Beanie Wells, Dan Williams, Dave Zastudil, Greg McElroy, Jets, John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, Kerry Rhodes, Mark Sanchez, Michael Floyd, Nick Folk, Patrick Peterson, Ryan Lindley
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Dan Williams likes to joke with defensive line coach Ron Aiken from time to time, letting Aiken know “I am always ready to rush the passer if they need me.” The big nose tackle isn’t going to get that chance often, not playing in obvious passing situations. The folks at profootballfocus.com noted the big nose tackle has been playing well and that it’s unfortunate he doesn’t get to play more because of the current state of the game.
Williams shrugs his shoulders. “I don’t know if I am a generation too late,” Williams said. “That’s what they brought me in here to do, to stop the run. When teams go to the extra receivers, they bring the extra DB in.”
That’s when Williams comes out. He sees himself as capable if needed in those spots. He sees nose tackles like New England’s Vince Wilfork and Green Bay’s B.J. Raji in such situations and believes he is as talented. He’s a long way from the weight-issue storyline that dominated his career – “Just for the record, I only missed weight one time and I think it was blown out of proportion,” he said – and, as noted, his play has been solid.
“If they try to throw the ball when we are in base, I am going to try to take advantage of that,” Williams said.
The Cardinals haven’t stopped the run as effectively as they have liked this season, but some of that has to do with the pass-defense-first packages they have used. This week, against the struggling Jets, the run would seem to be New York’s weapon of choice. Williams will be needed.
As for some other New York-is-next topics:
– Defensive coordinator Ray Horton was plain in his desire to get after Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. “We sacked (Aaron Rodgers) on the first play, and I think he had one of his worst statistical games,” Horton said. “We hit Matt Ryan on the first third down and he didn’t have a very good game. It’s something we do anyway … when you hit the quarterback early, it gets in their mind a little bit.”
– It’s no surprise the Jets are struggling, but offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo was not happy during a rare press conference this week, including making the point he was being forced to use Vlad Ducasse every third series at left guard instead of the preferred Matt Slauson. (Ducasse, you may remember, has been a bust of a second-round pick best known for the man blocking O’Brien Schofield in the Senior Bowl practice in which Schofield blew out his knee.)
Horton noticed. “I saw their offensive line coach complaining a little bit about who makes the decision on who plays,” Horton said. “We hope there is a little confusion, disarray, uncertainty there we can take advantage of.”
– Rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley was matter-of-fact talking about his four-interception starting debut last week. He wasn’t about to declare it a disaster.
“This is a results-driven game,” Lindley said. “We lost the game, I gave up 14 points myself. So it wasn’t a good game. But there were things I can look at, move forward from, and gain confidence from to take into this week.”
Lindley can make up a lot of ground if he can respond well, on the road, against the aggressive Jets. Whether he can actually pull that off, with a new starting center in Rich Ohrnberger on top of it, remains a big question mark.
– The last time the Cardinals took on a Rex Ryan defense, coach Ken Whisenhunt unveiled the no-huddle offense. That was in Baltimore in 2007, when the Cards got way behind and starting QB Matt Leinart looked very bad. Kurt Warner came in and lit up the Ravens, who were still able to pull off a win at the end.
This is an entirely different situation, starting with the reality that Kurt Warner isn’t walking through that door. As for the chance the Cards could use the no-huddle, Whisenhunt didn’t exactly sound optimistic.
“Is it something you could do? Yes,” Whisenhunt said. “Is it something you can do with a rookie quarterback? Depends on the rookie. He’s done it, worked on it in practice. It could be part of the gameplan.”
– Tight end Todd Heap wasn’t active last week, Whiz said, because he didn’t get enough reps in practice and “you have to get ready to play and that’s part of it.” Heap did practice full all last week, however, just like this week. If I had to guess, I’d think Heap plays this week, but you never know. He was officially moved down the depth chart this week. Jeff King was already ahead of him, but Rob Housler now is too.
– Some TV shows this weekend. On this week’s “Season In Focus” Saturday morning at 7 a.m. on ABC-15, cornerback Michael Adams is featured on the “Wired” segment, and there is a “Zoom” episode on running back LaRod Stephens-Howling – including The Hyphen listening to his emotional draft-day phone interview for the first time. On “Flight Plan” Saturday night at midnight on Ch. 12 NBC, Whisenhunt breaks down some video of Lindley’s first start and he and Ron Wolfley preview the Jets game.
– Horton was asked if cornerback Patrick Peterson had reached the level of Jets corners Darrelle Revis (who is out for the season) and Antonio Cromartie.
“Patrick is past one of them already,” Horton said, referring to Cromartie. “He is approaching Revis with everything he does on and off the field.”
– Rams defensive end Chris Long was fined $15,750 for hitting Lindley in the head during last weekend’s game. Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar was not fined for his hit on Cardinals receiver LaRon Byrd.
– Punter Dave Zastudil has 27 punts inside the 20 this season. Only Kansas City’s Dustin Colquitt (31) has more.
– One more sack by Daryl Washington and he ties the team record of 10 by a linebacker, set first by Ken Harvey. Maybe he finds Sanchez twice on Sunday.
Tags: Chris Long, Dan Williams, Daryl Washington, Dave Zastudil, Jets, Ken Whisenhunt, Patrick Peterson, Ray Horton, Ryan Lindley, Todd Heap
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The last time the Cardinals played against a Tim Tebow team in the regular season, they probably should have seen him play — but he didn’t.
You remember that game, at the end of the disastrous 2010 season. The Cardinals crushed the Broncos, 43-13, in rookie quarterback John Skelton’s first start. Skelton didn’t play well (15-for-37, 146 yards) but he didn’t turn the ball over, and the game was dominated by kicker Jay Feely (25 points, including a touchdown run on a fake field goal) and running back Tim Hightower’s 148 yards rushing on only 18 carries.
(Looking back on my story, I forgot about then-rookie Daryl Washington pulling a Leon Lett. Oops.)
Anyway, not only did the Broncos get throttled but quarterback Kyle Orton was bad, completing just 19-of-41 passes for 166 yards and three interceptions. The Broncos were going nowhere. Kind of seemed like a natural time to give backup QB Tim Tebow a chance to play. But interim coach Eric Studesville decided against it.
Flash forward to Sunday, when the Cardinals play the Jets, and Tebow again is the backup. Tebow is dealing with bad ribs, bad enough to the point where third-stringer Greg McElroy may be the wiser choice to have as Mark Sanchez’s reserve option. Coach Rex Ryan isn’t committing to anything, although he said he thinks Tebow will be able to be active Sunday. Tebow playing, in some way, would certainly add a storyline to a game that could use an extra boost. Clearly Sanchez isn’t going anywhere as the starter.
The Cardinals aren’t taking chances. “You have to prepare for (Tebow),” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “Whether he plays or not, we’ll see. But you’ve got to be prepared for him. When he’s in the game, it’s different.”
Another side note: That win against the struggling Tebow team also snapped a seven-game losing streak. Maybe history has a chance to repeat itself Sunday against another struggling Tebow team.
Tags: Jay Feely, Jets, John Skelton, Tim Tebow
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The Cardinals know the criticism is coming, know it has been coming, know what’s being said. Coach Ken Whisenhunt was acknowledging speculation on his job security was “part of the business.” Linebacker Quentin Groves, meanwhile, was saying the Cards have to pull together because that’s their only option.
“We’re all we got,” Groves said. “We have to stick together as a family, as a team and then just say we’re all we got. The fans turn on you, the media turns on you, and at the same time those 62 guys in the locker room (it’s 61, counting practice squad, to be accurate) have to band together with the coaches as well as say we’re all we got, and go out and play.”
There isn’t much more to say on that. Obviously I’ve been through these losing streaks the last couple of years (and yes, so too have you) and I know what’s coming from you and in the comments below. No need to rehash them weekly. Sunday was a bad loss, especially after building early leads. Two road games are coming, in New York and in Seattle. Nothing simple about breaking the streak in either place.
Anyway, on to some game specifics:
– Ryan Lindley looked so … solid on that first drive. He was accurate. He was smart. And then it went off the rails. The interceptions, save for the last one (which I didn’t get a good look at), all looked like throws a rookie quarterback would make. The last pick-6, trying to throw something deep off a back foot, that looked particularly like a rookie. Doesn’t make it OK, but it wasn’t surprising.
The question is what now? Whiz acknowledged he thought about taking Lindley out but didn’t. It’s tough for a team, though, knowing Lindley was in there two weeks in a row with a lead and the job could not be finished. The Rams didn’t come after Lindley right away. You have to wonder, with a Jets team reeling and with nothing to lose, what Rex Ryan might unleash on an inexperienced QB.
– Somehow, the Cards lost two games to the Rams this season when quarterback Sam Bradford completed a total of 15 passes in two games. Never thought that’d be possible.
– Having Beanie Wells made a difference early, but it felt like the Rams finally said defensively they wanted to make Lindley beat them, and he couldn’t, and that was that.
– Daryl Washington got his ninth sack and Patrick Peterson his fourth interception, and both were nice plays and helpful at the time. But defensively, the Cards let the Rams flip field position too many times. The big plays, like the first time against the Rams, bit the Cards. So too did Steven Jackson’s 139 yards rushing.
– Interesting that the game in which Todd Heap is essentially a healthy scratch, Rob Housler ends up with his best game so far (8 catches for 82 yards). Whether it was the defensive scheme or not, Lindley seemed to have a comfort level with Housler.
– Clearly, LaRod Stephens-Howling was having issues with his sore ribs. So William Powell got more time and chipped in six catches for 63 yards in that third-down back role.
– The question of the week will be Kevin Kolb’s health and Lindley’s status. As of now I’d assume Lindley is staying in there if Kolb isn’t healthy, but to be honest, Whisenhunt didn’t say that. The Jets will have extra time to prepare, but they’ve been pretty bad. Next week will be interesting. I don’t have much more to say about this week.
Tags: Beanie Wells, Daryl Washington, Jets, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Patrick Peterson, Quentin Groves, Rams, Rob Housler, Ryan Lindley, Sam Bradford, Todd Heap, William Powell
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Let’s start here: Peyton Manning, at his press conference Wednesday to announce his release from the Colts, said “I haven’t thought a lot about where I’ll play.”
You can argue about whether that’s true or not, but only Peyton knows for sure. So that leaves everybody scrambling today to guesstimate what will happen with Manning. SI’s Jim Trotter said one team exec thought between nine and 11 teams would be chasing Manning. That number sounds about right, and the usual suspects — including the Cards — have been named many, many times across media platforms.
I’ve had a lot of questions of how “serious” the Cards would be about Manning. That I can’t answer. Not one time, on or off the record, has anyone in the building talked about Manning specifically. That wasn’t going to happen when he was still a Colt, and it probably won’t change even now. The best you can do is connect some dots, from the door general manager Rod Graves left ajar in Indy when he said the team will continue to look for ways to improve. Certainly, no one has dismissed the idea publicly, and there have been a lot of outlets (starting with Charley Casserly, remember?) that have connected Manning with the Cards or said the team will have interest — and I would agree. Fox’s Adam Schein even reported that the Cards not only will chase Manning but have a plan to bring in receiver Reggie Wayne too. (That would be a surprise to me, but ruling things out at this point would probably be a mistake.)
At this point, though, nothing is much different than when speculation began weeks ago. Teams must figure out if Manning has interest in playing for them (I am guessing there are not really nine-to-11 teams that Manning would play for, although he might not tell them that to keep his heavy leverage.) He’ll have to have a workout at some point for all the teams that want to see it. He’ll have to submit to physicals. His health remains a big deal.
“I’m throwing it pretty well,” Manning said at his presser today. “I’ve still got some work to do. I’ve got some progress to make, but I’ve come a long way. … I’m feeling closer and closer. I have to remind myself that it is March. I have a hard time doing that at times. It sure feels comfortable.”
His release allows teams — on-the-record and otherwise — finally feel comfortable letting people know of their interest. There have been reports today about the Seahawks, Redskins, Jets and Broncos seeking Manning, and the Dolphins have long been a no-brainer. As for the Cards, I agree it fits on a lot of levels, from the dome to Fitz to the fact Whiz worked well with Kurt Warner and has shown himself flexible enough to fit a talented QB into the offense. Logistics could be difficult, such as the roster bonus Kevin Kolb is due in 10 days. Trotter said he heard Manning will need time to collect himself after an emotional separation from Indy.
Manning, who has a home in Miami, was followed long enough by a media group after returning there today that he finally stopped to talk (that would get real old real quick). He told those reporters he didn’t know what teams were interested in him and “I don’t know if it’s like college recruiting where you take visits. It’s all new to me.”
It’s all new to everyone. Health issues aside, I don’t remember such a high-profile player being on the open market like this, an iconic player, who at least still has a chance to be playing at a high level.
Tags: Broncos, Colts, Jets, Peyton Manning, Redskins, Rod Graves, Seahawks
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As expected, Todd Haley is exploring other potential assistant coaching options, with the rumored talk with the Jets happening today. About the same time Haley’s name popped up with the Cards was a concept in which he and former Dolphins coach Tony Sparano — with whom Haley coached with the Cowboys, with both developing as coaches under Bill Parcells — would be co-offensive coordinators. Haley would handle the passing game, Sparano the running game. ESPNNewYork.com suggests Haley could also be named assistant head coach (although that combo, with Rex Ryan as head coach, seems like a lot of, ahem, personality at the top of the flow chart).
It’s odd, though, that another ESPN reporter (Chris Mortensen) said yesterday Sparano would be named offensive coordinator. Haley will have some choices, it sounds like. Whether they are the choices he was hoping for, that could be another matter entirely.
In separate yet also-involving-the-Cards news, a Miami report says Jeff Fisher will make a decision today to coach the Rams or Dolphins, and while it may not be finalized, if it is the Rams, everyone wondering what happens with Cards DC Ray Horton will be able to rest easier. Also, new Colts general manager Ryan Grigson was hired today, so the Rams have one less GM choice, keeping Cards’ director of player personnel Steve Keim in play (Plus, Grigson’s younger brother, Dru, is a scout for the Cards. I wonder if at some point, Ryan tries to bring his brother to Indy.)
It could turn out to be an interesting day.
Tags: Dru Grigson, Jets, Ray Horton, Todd Haley
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The Cardinals officially have sold out Sunday’s game, meaning it will not be blacked out locally and instead be shown on Fox (Ch. 10) in the Valley. The game is the 61st straight time – out of 61 possibilities – in which the Cards have sold out University of Phoenix Stadium.
That’s an impressive total (46 of those games are from the regular season) but they have a while to go to match the longest streaks. Both the Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins have sold out all their regular season games since 1974. The Steelers since 1976. The Jets date back to 1981, the Giants 1981 and the Packers 1989.
Tags: Broncos, Giants, Jets, Packers, Redskins, sellout, Steelers
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Forbes.com has come out with a list of the 50 most valuable sports teams in the world, and the Cardinals rank 30th, with a Forbes-estimated value of $919 million. That’s third in the NFC West, with the Seahawks at No. 25 ($989 million) and the 49ers at No. 29 ($925 million). The Rams are 40th ($779 million). Not shockingly, all 32 NFL teams made it into the top 50.
The top 10 teams in the world? Soccer’s Manchester United is No. 1, valued at $1.86 billion. They are followed by the Dallas Cowboys ($1.81 billion), New York Yankees ($1.7 billion), Washington Redskins ($1.55 billion), soccer’s Real Madrid $1.45 billion), New England Patriots ($1.37 billion), soccer’s Arsenal ($1.19 billion), New York Giants ($1.18 billion), then somewhat surprisingly the Houston Texans ($1.17 billion), and, rounding out the top 10, the New York Jets ($1.14 billion).
Tags: 49ers, Cowboys, Forbes, Giants, Jets, NFC West, Patriots, Rams, Redskins, Seahawks, Texans
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Several times this offseason both general manager Rod Graves and coach Ken Whisenhunt (and president Michael Bidwill, for that matter) have talked about the plan the team has in place once the offseason starts. Both Whisenhunt and Bidwill have used the term “aggressive” when it comes to free agency, and that will help given the situation that the Cards have a lot of work to do to firm up a roster in what figures to be a short time period.
It’s impossible to know what is “aggressive” and how the plan will play out (and part of that includes the moving parts once everything is able to begin; for instance, a trade for a quarterback complicates/affects things more than a straight free-agent signing of a QB would). The Cardinals will have some room to maneuver, however. ESPN’s John Clayton, in fact, thinks the Cards are one of the teams best suited to get things done given their potential salary-cap room (and every labor report seems to believe there indeed will be a salary cap once football resumes).
Writes Clayton, “The Cardinals are in great position to be players in free agency and the trade market. They have $37.38 million of cap room along with a current payroll of $85.76 million. They have the fourth most cap room of any team in football, giving them plenty of incentive to trade for quarterback Kevin Kolb and give him a huge long-term contract.”
The other teams in good shape, according to Clayton are the Redskins, Seahawks, Panthers and Eagles. The teams not in such good shape? Bengals, Bucs, Raiders, Cowboys and Jets — although it’s funny, the Bucs and Bengals land on the list not because they have poor cap room but actually because they may have too much, given their current roster situations.
Tags: Bengals, Buccaneers, Cowboys, Eagles, free agency, Jets, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, Michael Bidwill, Panthers, Raiders, Redskins, Rod Graves, salary cap, Seahawks
Posted in Blog | 33 Comments »