Karlos Dansby will be 33 this year. He is coming off a tremendous season. He is a free agent. And these are the treacherous waters Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim must now maneuver through in his efforts to bring the linebacker back to the Cardinals.
Former Bills and Colts GM Bill Polian, now an ESPN analyst, said today the tough part with a Dansby deal is the dead money it will almost certainly create at some point. Dansby believes he still has a few good years left, but there is always the possibility — again, because of his age — he could be released with years left on whatever deal he would sign.
“People make a big deal out of dead money when they count it up at the end of the year,” Polian said. “Free agency equals dead money. That’s part of the overpayment (in free agency) and it comes with the territory. You are going to have some, always. As a general rule, you want to avoid as much of it as you can, knowing you will have it.
“The issue becomes how do you structure a contract that pays the player commensurately that is cap-friendly and at the same time, avoids dead money. That’s a very, very difficult equation to try and solve. And I feel sorry for Steve trying to get that done. It’s difficult.”
It also makes Dansby’s re-signing before testing the market tough to envision. Dansby won’t truly know what’s out there for him — even with talks allowed as soon as March 8 — until he can really go on a visit or two. Then again, deadlines tend to spur action, and the real deadline here won’t come until next Monday night and Tuesday morning. It’s a fascinating situation moving forward.
Tags: Bill Polian, Karlos Dansby, Steve Keim
Posted in Blog | 30 Comments »
Once, Bertrand Berry left, but he came back.
Having covered the Cardinals either for the East Valley Tribune or here at azcardinals.com for years, I’ve been through a lot of free-agent signing periods and watched the team have a lot of interest in various players. Sometimes they signed. Sometimes they didn’t. And those times pop into my head with the new philosophy of the front office. It isn’t necessarily take it or leave it, but it is close. The Cardinals these days have a number in mind to spend on each particular free agent and definitely a ranking system where they want a certain player first over others. But if there is hesitation, the Cards are ready to move on. They won’t be used as leverage, and that’s a good thing.
The Cards were frequently the team used for leverage once upon a time (the brief Joe Montana courtship is one I remember, but that was before my time on the beat.) There have been others, and that’s one reason why it’s good to see GM Steve Keim get past that. More importantly, it’s good to see the confidence the team has in its plan. The Cards want, for instance, Karlos Dansby to come back. But the possibility of him leaving breeds no panic. As Bruce Arians likes to say, next man up, and that’s an incredibly liberating stance to take this time of year. The Cards will reach out to a left tackle in free agency, I’d guess, and if whoever it is doesn’t like the offer or hedges, the Cards will move on to the next choice. I have no doubt of that. The Cardinals aren’t going to be cheap, but they are going to structure deal on their terms.
(This doesn’t mean the Cards won’t bargain shop later, like they did with Dansby/Winston/Abraham last year. Float a number, wait a guy out and if he’s willing to come in for a bargain, you put him on the roster.)
That brings me back to Berry, who the Cardinals really wanted as a pass rusher in 2004. The offer was on the table and the Cardinals really wanted him to agree to it that day when he visited the team. Berry told them he probably would agree, but he wanted to sleep on it. Fair, although it could have been a leverage ploy. It wasn’t. Berry came back the next day to sign, and proved to be one of the best free-agent signings the team has made, with 14.5 sacks and a Pro Bowl that year before injuries derailed his Arizona tenure.
I don’t see the current Cards letting that happen much at all. A free agent who won’t agree right away is risking that deal being yanked off the table quickly. Keim is going to be in control of this process.
Tags: Bertrand Berry, Bruce Arians, free agency, Karlos Dansby, Steve Kiem
Posted in Blog | 19 Comments »
A couple of tidbits out there this morning. One, Adam Schefter reported that the Cardinals have reached out to veteran linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, just cut by the Browns, to see if they could line up a free-agent visit next week. Jackson, who already has reportedly be contacted by the Titans and Broncos, would be an inside linebacker for the Cardinals. Is he a backup plan in case Karlos Dansby chooses not to return?
Speaking of Dansby, not that this is a shock, but coach Bruce Arians said on Arizona Sports 98.7 this morning that the team offered Dansby a contract “the day after the season ended.” Negotiations are ongoing — and I still think Dansby wants to see what he can get on the open market — but I’ve had some ask if the Cards had made an offer. It was obvious, but here’s the proof.
In the same interview, Arians said the Cardinals “probably have five” immediate free agent targets when they can officially start calling players on 12:01 a.m. March 8 (deals cannot be finalized until March 11.) And in case you were wondering about that take-it-or-leave-it approach to free agents the Cardinals unveiled last offseason? Yeah, it’s still in place.
“Steve and I have the same philosophy,” Arians said. ” ‘Here it is, do you want it? I’m going to ask this guy in about a half an hour. If you don’t want it, I’m going to ask him. If he wants it, you’re out.’ It’s easy. We don’t play games.”
If nothing else, we’ll probably know what the Cards are doing free-agent wise — at least with the high-end names — quickly. Like the left tackle spot.
Tags: Bruce Arians, D'Qwell Jackson, free agency, Karlos Dansby
Posted in Blog | 49 Comments »
With “official” talks with free agents allowed March 8 and actually agreements allowed March 11, the time when teams will actually be able to start finalizing such things is still more than a week away. Players are dropping off the “He’s going to be a free agent” list daily, like with the litany of Philadelphia Eagles who have signed extensions the past couple of days. That can still happen to any of these potential free agents being talked about.
It hasn’t cooled the speculation, however. Greg Bedard of SI.com’s MMQB ranked the top 100 free-agents-to-be and also listed what he thought would be the best fits. The Cardinals find themselves mentioned a few times.
– The only current Cardinal scheduled to be a free agent that made the list was linebacker Karlos Dansby. He was at No. 34. Not surprisingly, Bedard’s call for Dansby’s best fit was remaining with the Cardinals. I agree with that. Not only does the system best fit Karlos, but so does his working relationship next to Daryl Washington.
– There are three left tackles on the list from other teams: Kansas City’s Branden Albert (No. 7), Baltimore’s Eugene Monroe (No. 8) and Cincinnati’s Anthony Collins (No. 60). For both Albert and Collins, the Cardinals are listed as the best fit and the Cards are also noted for Monroe along with Miami. Obviously the Cardinals would sign more than one, but it’s obvious to the NFL world this team should be a landing spot for at least one. It will definitely be one of the more intriguing storylines of that first week (or less) of free agency.
– Packers DE/OLB Mike Neal was 95th on the list and the Cards were called his best fit. Neal’s name has already been floated as a potential Arizona target. It makes all the sense in the world if Matt Shaughnessy leaves as a free agent.
– In the most surprising post, for Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, 57th on the list, the Cards are called the best fit. I get it with the possibility free agent Rashard Mendenhall might not return. But the way Bruce Arians and Steve Keim think about running backs, and with Ryan Williams and Stepfan Taylor still around along with Andre Ellington (and we aren’t even talking about someone popping up draft-wise) I don’t see the Cards even thinking about a guy like MJD. Or more specifically, his price tag.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Anthony Collins, Branden Albert, Daryl Washington, Eugene Monroe, free agency, Karlos Dansby, Maurice Jones-Drew, Mike Neal, offensive line, Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Williams, Stepfan Taylor
Posted in Blog | 32 Comments »
The news around the salary cap — which will be officially set closer to the start of the new league year/free agency on March 11 — continues to be an adjustment upward of its estimate. Now the possibility is that it is around $132 million, which of course means every team’s projected cap space continues to get bigger. Kevin Seifert has the Cardinals, with that $132M cap, with a projected $15.295 million of cap space. That’s not a bad number, although it ranks in the lower half of the league — 18th, to be exact. A whopping 13 teams are projected to have more than $22M of cap space, and the Raiders ($66.39M), Jaguars ($55.13M), Browns ($51.23M) and Colts ($40.01M) all have more than $40M in cap space.
So there will be the possibility for some big free agent deals.
The Cards are in the same stratosphere, but that’s OK. The Cards don’t want to get sideways with big commitments to players who shouldn’t get them. There is enough room, however, to make some things work. The other plus is that the Cards, right now, have the most cap space in the NFC West. The 49ers are next with $11.84M, then the Rams at $6.32M and then the Seahawks at $4.78M.
This is all fluid, of course, with Seattle able to cut players if they want, for example, or the Cardinals re-signing one of their own guys (Karlos Dansby, anyone?). The Cardinals could still also release a player or two that they know they won’t be moving forward with to create more cap room.
The Dansby situation is one that bears watching, in fact. There is enough cap room across the league that would allow more than a few other teams to money-whip Dansby if they so chose. Again, in the case of Dansby, I don’t see the Cardinals getting into a big bidding war. They will want to reward him, but within reason. Extra space also could play into potential Patrick Peterson negotiations.
Tags: 49ers, Karlos Dansby, NFC West, Patrick Peterson, Rams, salary cap, Seahawks
Posted in Blog | 25 Comments »
It’s been circulating in the media for a few weeks now that if the Chiefs let left tackle Branden Albert reach free agency, the Cardinals are expected to be one of the teams that would pursue him. And there have been other names floating out there in connection to the Cards, like offensive lineman Rodger Saffold or defensive lineman Mike Neal. As free agency approaches March 11 (and even before that, when teams can “officially” start talking to FAs-to-be a couple of days before that) there will be more names that float out there, no doubt.
Some teams might leak interest in guys. Many agents have no problem leaking what teams might have interest. After all, the more interest for a player, his price goes up. Even if the interest isn’t that big of interest at all. That’s the key to this whole thing. Take the Cardinals. They have a free-agent board ranking their targets. But things can and often will change on a daily basis according to who is signing where, whom might re-sign, and how much these players might want. I’m sure that whatever team is interested in Albert understands he won’t come cheap.
Yet that board the Cardinals build includes the metrics of a player, where they are in age and their worth. Would the Cards go above and beyond? For the right player, they just might. But Steve Keim and company aren’t going to toss aside their game plan/philosophy for one player. They won’t cripple the salary cap out of need or panic. It’s the same sort of thought process they will have with a guy like Karlos Dansby, whom they want back but won’t foil the big picture in that quest.
So every time a name is floated, sure, there might be interest. But that would merely the first step in a process. Like last year, I expect the Cards to push hard for a guy to sign a contract if they get him to Tempe for a visit — no need to let other teams woo a guy away — but there are a lot of variables before a guy actually inks a deal.
Tags: Branden Albert, free agency, Karlos Dansby, Mike Neal, Rodger Saffold
Posted in Blog | 13 Comments »
The twitter question was straightforward, not unlike many I get: What are the chances Karlos Dansby re-signs with the Cardinals? The answer is, right now, you can’t answer. (It’s kind of like the question about what position the Cardinals will draft with their first pick. You can’t say. Not even the Cards can.)
Free agency comes down to, really, two things: Leverage and money. The money a player can get is directly proportional to the amount of leverage he has. Sometimes, that’s easy to figure out. Usually, it’s a little more complicated than that, because both the team and player like to play a little poker so they can get the best deal they can. (Agent Jack Bechta wrote a fascinating piece on how free agency works.)
Sometimes, teams really don’t want a player to reach unrestricted free agency because you never know who is going to swoop in and wow a player with a unreal deal. And the reality is, if a player does reach unrestricted status it usually means one of three things (or some combination of the three): Either the team doesn’t want the player anymore, the team’s cap situation won’t allow the team to make a competitive offer, or the player has overestimated his worth in the market/team has underestimated it.
Cardinals GM Steve Keim has said the team has already made offers to some of the team’s pending free-agents-to-be. At this point, only punter Dave Zastudil has re-upped. What does that mean for a guy like Dansby? No way to know for sure. I think Dansby wants to return and the Cardinals definitely want him back. But it really isn’t that surprising that Dansby could hit the open market. He was admittedly disappointed at being cut by Miami last year and then the interest he got from other teams. He is hoping his big season translates into a bigger offer but it’s not like he was coming off a poor season in Miami in 2012.
So he will try and figure out if he can get a substantially better deal elsewhere. All things being equal, I think Dansby sticks around. But with him and all these free agents, if you think you can improve on your contract offer by getting to March 11 and the start of free agency, you’d do it, right? I mean, you can’t get injured anymore, so there is really nothing stopping you. Then again, there is an element of a game of chicken here. If a team has a backup plan in place and you drag your feet too long, whatever interest there might be could dry up.
The Cardinals and Keim worked this dance expertly last offseason. That’s how they got Dansby and Eric Winston and John Abraham and others. And it will make for a fascinating journey as the Scouting combine comes this week and free agency arrives around the corner.
Tags: free agency, Karlos Dansby, Steve Keim
Posted in Blog | 36 Comments »
During this slow time of the NFL year, it’s hard not to notice little things, like the comments of Karlos Dansby saying he expects to remain a Cardinal. Big news? Not really. But it’s more defined than Dansby was at the end of the season, so that, to me, breeds more optimism. Dansby is probably the most high-profile free-agent-to-be the Cards want to re-sign. Which got me thinking of the franchise tag, because of all the free agents the Cards have (and in part because the Cards, Dansby and the franchise tag were synonymous for a while.)
Teams can use the franchise tag as early as Monday. The tag, for those unfamiliar, is a set number for each position based on the top five or top 10 salaries at that position the previous year. It’s a guaranteed salary as soon as the player signs it. If a player is tagged, he can still sign elsewhere, but his original team has a chance to match, and if they don’t, there is a heavy price to pay — usually a pair of first-round picks. The chances are good right now, for instance, that Saints tight end Jimmy Graham will be tagged so he doesn’t hit the open market in March.
The Cardinals, however, don’t have that issue. Dansby is not going to be franchise tagged (at a projected $10.9 million for linebackers for one season.) None of the Cards’ free-agents-to-be fall into that category, in fact. Even for players the Cardinals could want to re-sign — linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, wide receiver Andre Roberts, tackle Eric Winston, for instance — aren’t going to command the kind of money nor get from the Cards anywhere close to the kind of money the tag dictates. There is a reason it is called the “franchise” tag because it is supposed to be for franchise-type players.
UPDATE: I was reminded of a ruling in a case of Drew Brees, who was once franchised by San Diego and later by New Orleans, that tags are considered cumulatively over a player’s entire career, not just if they are in consecutive years. So Dansby, since he was already franchised twice in his career, would be considered tagged for a third time if the Cards were to do so, making his salary an average of the top five salaries in the league. That’s quarterback money, and only underscores why Dansby wouldn’t be tagged again.
The last time the Cardinals used a franchise tag, it was on defensive end Calais Campbell in 2012. That time, the tag did exactly what it was supposed to do — buy the two sides extra time to negotiate a long-term deal. Before that, the last tagged guy was Dansby. He got it two years in a row, and then, well, we know how that turned out. Funny that now that the Cards won’t be tagging him again, he probably has a better chance of sticking around.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Calais Campbell, Eric Winston, franchise tag, Karlos Dansby, Matt Shaughnessy
Posted in Blog | 10 Comments »
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
Posted in Blog | 60 Comments »
If there has been one constant for Larry Fitzgerald every offseason it’s been some kind of (wild) speculation that he could be on the move. This usually tends to come up right around the Super Bowl, so when Fitz is doing his annual trek through Radio Row that week, he ends up needing to address it. Sort of address it, I guess, because Fitz is as adept at sidestepping such controversy as he is high-pointing a catch. He also, as usual, had to talk about his contract, which sports the scary $18 million salary cap number for 2014.
Fitz was back on Radio Row today, so of course, the popular topics came up. During an interview on “The Dan Bickley Show with Vince Marotta” via Arizona Sports 98.7, Fitzgerald was asked about the potential restructure of his contract. That’s always interesting, since restructuring is not a pay cut and usually puts more money in the player’s pocket right away. And while Fitz didn’t say it directly, he did seem to leave the door cracked — a teeny-tiny bit — about a pay reduction. (Although, no, I don’t see Fitz agreeing to a pay cut. He’s a businessman. That will be very, very interesting to see how it comes out.)
But in terms of talking to the team about his contract, Fitzgerald said “when those discussions come I will do what I need to do. I have a great relationship with (GM) Steve Keim, he drafted me in Arizona. I understand his vision and what he is trying to do and the direction he is taking this ballclub. I understand at 30 years old there are things that need to change. That’s part of football, that’s part of being an older veteran.
“I want to see this team do well. I love this group of guys. Patrick (Peterson’s) deal is coming up and he needs to be compensated as the best corner in the game, which I feel he is. We’ve got to take care of Karlos Dansby, Frostee Rucker, there are a lot of guys that deserve to be compensated for their play. And I understand that.”
Earlier in the week, there was a report out of New England saying the Patriots had been interested in dealing for Fitzgerald in the offseason of 2013. How deep this was is up for debate, but again, even if the Cardinals were looking to trade Fitz — which I don’t think they are — there are a ton of moving parts because of the contract and the dead cap money that would come with it. During an appearance on WEEI, which is the big sports talk station in Boston (and which posted the photo below), there wasn’t a ton of Patriots/Fitz talk, but inevitably, it came up.
“If (the Cardinals) felt like that’s what they wanted to do, I would have no choice,” Fitzgerald said about such a trade. “Playing with Tom Brady, you couldn’t go wrong with that.” Fitzgerald added that “I have no idea if it was true.” Jim Gray, the TV/radio personality who knows Fitz (and Brady, for that matter) well having hosted their weekly radio Monday Night Football radio interviews — Fitz’s spot is sponsored by University of Phoenix, dontcha know — for a few years, was on the air too. He said to Fitz directly “Did (the Cardinals) ask you?”
Fitz was quick in his response. “No.” Fitz knows such questions are coming. He still never sounds comfortable having to deal with them.
Tags: Frostee Rucker, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Patriots, Super Bowl
Posted in Blog | 30 Comments »