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Coming Up
  • Mon., Apr. 21, 2014 8:00AM MST Start of offseason workouts Clubs with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs.
  • Wed., Apr. 23, 2014 8:00AM MST Cardinals Charities Golf Tournament Cardinals Charities Golf Tournament at Whirlwind Golf Club (5692 W North Loop Rd, Chandler, AZ 85226).
  • Thu., Apr. 24, 2014 5:00PM - 9:00PM MST "Spring Tailgate" at the Big Red Rib and Music Festival The Cardinals are hosting a live TV special, as team president Michael Bidwill, general manager Steve Keim, and coach Bruce Arians preview the 2014 Draft and season with hosts Paul Calvisi and Ron Wolfley. There will be players in attendance.
  • Mon., May. 05, 2014 8:00AM MST On-field work Players allowed on-field football work with coaching (no helmets, no contact, no offense vs. defense)
  • Thu., May. 08, 2014 5:00PM MST NFL Draft First round of the NFL draft.
  • Fri., May. 09, 2014 3:30PM MST NFL Draft Second and third rounds of the NFL draft.
  • Sat., May. 10, 2014 9:00AM MST NFL Draft Fourth through seventh rounds of the NFL draft.
  • Tue., May. 20, 2014 8:00AM MST Organized Team Activities Players allowed on-field football work with coaching. Helmets allowed, as is offense vs. defense.
  • Wed., May. 21, 2014 8:00AM MST Organized Team Activities Players allowed on-field football work with coaching. Helmets allowed, as is offense vs. defense.
  • Thu., May. 22, 2014 8:00AM MST Organized Team Activities Players allowed on-field football work with coaching. Helmets allowed, as is offense vs. defense.


Searching for veteran bargains

Posted by Darren Urban on April 9, 2014 – 4:12 pm

The questions are constant, as soon as a veteran player with any kind of reputation is released or becomes available: Would the Cardinals be interested? Well, for one, those questions are asked within seconds of the news happening, so usually, it’s a little soon for a feeling (GM Steve Keim admitted when CB Antonio Cromartie was first released, for instance, the Cards hadn’t anticipated it and had to do some extra legwork to figure out whether to chase him or not.)

It isn’t hard to get a sense of where the Cards land on many such players, however. Keim wants his team to get younger. And at this point, he certainly isn’t paying a lot. That should always be the prism from which any player should be viewed when it comes to this team. There are always exceptions. John Abraham, it was determined by the front office, still could play the game even at his age. Now, the Cards had to wait him out last year until his price was worth it (and never underestimate a veteran willing to wait out the offseason so he can wait to go back to work until training camp), but they got their bargain. Same with Karlos Dansby. Eric Winston was even cheaper, and that should probably provide guidance of where his market was — and where it might be this offseason.

The key element to all this is not just about whether a vet is available and is willing to work for cheap. It’s mostly about if he can still play — or more importantly, play to the level that the Cardinals, in this case, need him to play. Just because a guy is on the market isn’t enough. There is a reason veteran players remain unsigned, especially after the draft. Yes, once in a while it’s about the asking price and circumstances can change if it drops. But there are guys out there who are willing to play for little just to get a job, and it’s been determined they aren’t good enough anymore, whether because of age or cumulative injuries or both.

The Cards likely will sign another veteran or two at some point. It’ll be after the draft, because there is no reason to make any more moves right now until you know what you’ve filled with your picks. But whoever Keim signs, it’ll be for someone that makes sense on a football-level in 2014. Remember, past results don’t necessarily indicate future performance. It’s the slogan by which every GM should live.

– I’ve never been to a Pro Bowl. I’m going to get to one now, although I was really hoping to get a trip to Hawaii when I finally attended. I’ll be curious to know where the teams practice; those workouts have always been fan-friendly events.

– Not a surprise that there is a “Sunday Night Football” telecast in the preseason against the Bengals at University of Phoenix Stadium. NBC is also televising the Super Bowl. Not a bad time to get a lay of the land. What I am curious about is whether “SNF” will pick a Cardinals’ game in the regular season.


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Debating X, O, Jimmy, Joe

Posted by Darren Urban on April 3, 2014 – 4:01 pm

The cliché has been around awhile, some version of “It’s not about the ‘Xs’ and ‘Os’ but the jimmys and joes.” And no, pizza has nothing to do with the conversation. It’s a simple concept really, one that emphasizes the reality that without players, you can draw up the best plays in the world and you still aren’t going to be successful. It came up in the context of profootballfocus.com releasing their full season stats from the NFL and the best defenses in producing unblocked pressure. The Cardinals were the best in the league midway through the season and held on to the top spot by season’s end with 82 unblocked pressures.

In the stats, the Cardinals were led by two players in particular — linebackers John Abraham and Karlos Dansby. Dansby had 13 total unblocked pressures and Abraham 12, and Dansby produced four sacks in those pressures (Abraham two). So it stands to reason with Dansby leaving for Cleveland, the Cards will be hurt in this regard in turning the role over to Kevin Minter — not as athletic as Karlos — or whomever. You lose a ‘joe,’ maybe the ‘O’ doesn’t hold up, right?

Or maybe not?

First of all, at least in this context of rushing the QB unblocked, scheme would seem to have a ton to do with it. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is doing something to confuse the other team, regardless of the players. Even “lesser” players are supposed to be accounted for every play by the offense. Of those 82 pressures, 23 came through an ‘A’ gap (the spots between the center and either guard). No one is supposed to forget the guy standing near the ball, even if he is a step or two off the line of scrimmage. Sometimes it was an overload on one side situation (35 of 82, according to PFF) and sometimes the offense simply didn’t block a guy even if there was someone there to do so (19 times).

Certainly, a talent like Dansby played into the equation, as did Abraham. You’d have to look at every play individually to really know if the result was a combination of factors, a Dansby “win” or a Bowles’ scheme result. You figure there is a mix. You figure Bowles knows what Minter can and can’t do, and while the Cardinals won’t run the same things exactly for him as Dansby, I’d guess if Minter comes free through the ‘A’ gap he’ll probably find a way to create some havoc. The Cards didn’t have the same ‘jimmys’ in the secondary once Tyrann Mathieu got hurt, but Bowles’ ‘Xs’ were good enough to fluster both the Seahawks and 49ers pretty good the final two weeks of the season.

There is a reason Steve Keim is always looking to upgrade the roster where he can. And you take Patrick Peterson and Daryl Washington off the defense, for instance, and the scheme is not going to look as good. But scheme matters too.



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Cards sign three more, plus Shaughnessy

Posted by Darren Urban on March 12, 2014 – 6:35 pm

Here’s how the news trickled out during the day Wednesday as the Cardinals tried to make sure they still had a beefy linebacker to play the role that Matt Shaughnessy did last year. First was the national report that the Cards were still very interested in free agent DE/LB Mike Neal of the Packers, who is built similarly to Shaughnessy. Then came the news Shaughnessy was visiting the Patriots today. Then Neal tweeted out he was staying with the Packers — which could have ended up being bad news for the Cardinals, until Kent Somers broke the news Wednesday afternoon that Shaughnessy will be re-signing with the Cardinals too, also for two years.

It’s very important for the Cards. Shaughnessy worked under the radar (he’s not much of a talker, so you won’t see him a lot in interviews) but he was solid in Todd Bowles defense last season, especially against the run. It’s a big deal they were able to keep him. Nothing is officially announced yet, but it’s coming.

– The Cardinals brought in two more free agents Wednesday night, signing running back Jonathan Dwyer to a one-year contract and guard/center Ted Larsen to a two-year contract. Both are expected to be depth signings. The Cards also re-signed outside linebacker Marcus Benard to a one-year deal.

Arians promised more offensive linemen were coming “shortly.” Here’s one. Larsen started in two of his four seasons in Tampa and the Cards have long been searching for a solid backup center. If he can swing on all the interior line spots, and Bradley Sowell could be the backup right and left tackle, the Cards could be in good shape there. Dwyer (pictured below) comes from Pittsburgh, where he spent two seasons with Bruce Arians. The Cards needed a back with the departure of Rashard Mendenhall. Andre Ellington will start. Dwyer can battle Stepfan Taylor for No. 2.

– The Cardinals were supposed to get a Friday free-agent visit from Steelers defensive lineman Al Woods, who could have provided depth. But he never made it past his Tennessee visit Wednesday, and agreed to a deal with the Titans.

– Ex-Card Karlos Dansby was on the Burns and Gambo Show on Arizona Sports 98.7 Wednesday. He said he was “definitely surprised” and “I didn’t expect” at how large contract was that the Browns offered. He said the reports of a two-year, $10M to $12M offer from the Cards was incorrect (he did not clarify what it was) but he said he was not disrespected by whatever it was the Cards offered.

– Speaking of Dansby, Arians wasn’t fazed by his leaving, which wasn’t surprising. “We’ll have young players, and we have enough leadership on defense,” Arians said. “Kevin Minter, we drafted for a reason. We love him. He should assume that role. We’ll still look through free agency who is available.”

Lorenzo Alexander can play inside as well, Arians added. “We wish Karlos all the best. He gave us a fantastic year last year. At his age, to get that contract, God bless him. We wish him all the well. He did a great job. We’re moving on.”


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Dansby departure probably inevitable

Posted by Darren Urban on March 11, 2014 – 1:00 pm

The thing is, Karlos Dansby wasn’t even supposed to be a Cardinal last season.

The veteran linebacker signed late. His price tag was too rich for the Cardinals when he was first released by the Dolphins. They were interested, but not in breaking the bank. That’s what you think of today, with free agency officially starting, Dansby hitting the open market after his one-year Arizona return and a mega-deal apparently already waiting for him in Cleveland. The Cardinals had offered a two-year contract to Dansby reportedly for no more than $12 million. The Browns are signing Dansby — who will be 33 in November, which is why the Cards weren’t going beyond a two-year deal –to a four-year contract. Kent Somers reported the deal would be worth $24 million with an astonishing $14 million guaranteed. In other words, more guaranteed money than the Cards’ deal would have been worth total.

Will Dansby be performing at a high level when he is 36? The statistics say probably not, which is why the Cards didn’t want to go beyond two years. If anyone is paying attention to GM Steve Keim, he’s made it clear he wants to work with a clean salary cap as much as possible. That’s the only way to have sustained success, Keim believes, and so dead money needs to be kept low.

You absolutely cannot blame Dansby. He thought he played at a level worth a big contract last year, so he got one. That’s why many guys were willing to sign one-year contracts last year — to parlay a good season into a bigger, longer contract. Dansby is the poster child for that.

But again, he wasn’t going to be here. The Cards signed Jasper Brinkley and drafted Kevin Minter and went into the offseason thinking that would be the options next to Daryl Washington. Dansby didn’t show up until the market had humbled him and he figured out the money wasn’t there. He admitted as such. And he gave the Cardinals a great season for a NFL-bargain of $2.25 million. The Cards were prepared not to have him until they had him. Now, Minter gets his chance. The Cardinals set a free-agent board not only with players from other teams but their own, ranking such. Dansby I would guess was near the top of their list but they have a backup plan (no, I don’t know what right now.)

Regardless, for a second time, Karlos Dansby leaves the Cardinals as a free agent, again after an AFC team showered him with money he couldn’t get in Arizona. Like last time, there is disappointment there wasn’t a way for him to stay. Like last time (with Daryl Washington) there is a young player just drafted precisely because this could happen. It’s the business.


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As free agency draws near

Posted by Darren Urban on March 10, 2014 – 10:27 pm

Free agency arrives soon — 1 p.m. Arizona time Tuesday. So here area few thoughts on Monday night:

– It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens with Karlos Dansby. Kent Somers reported there is a two-year deal on the table worth between $10 million and $12 million — which is right around the APY that D’Qwell Jackson got from the Colts. I’m sure Dansby would like a longer deal. I’m sure the Cardinals, looking at a player who will turn 33 this season, aren’t going to go longer. Is there another team willing to pony up more? And is that enough to sway Dansby? No matter what happens, I expect Dansby’s decision to come quickly this week.

UPDATE: NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport is reporting Dansby likely going to Cleveland. They would money-whip him. It wasn’t going to happen in Arizona.

– There wasn’t much new percolating Monday about tackle Jared Veldheer, whom the Cards are expected to make a pitch to when free agency starts. Whoever the Cards chase at left tackle, that too figures to come together quickly. GM Steve Keim said that even with the early free-agent talks, the Cards want to talk to a potential signee (and check him out medically). So I’d guess this year’s free agency has a good chance to be like last year’s — quickly moving, but still nothing official until Wednesday at the earliest. Will the Cards add five players in the first two days, like last year? Probably not that many. But I’m thinking there will be some additions.

– Kicker Jay Feely re-upped with the Cards Monday (nothing officially announced yet.) There’s a possibility the Cardinals can re-sign a couple of other guys before they hit the market. The move to release Daryn Colledge is coming Tuesday too.

– Aside from a left tackle, linebacker and defensive back are other potential positional free agent targets. Mike Jurecki tweeted Monday night the Cards could look at veteran CB Mike Jenkins. Again, the Cards should move quickly this week. The idea in free agency isn’t to collect a bunch of starters necessarily as much as round out the roster so the Cardinals have a lot of flexibility come draft day.

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“Very difficult equation” with Dansby

Posted by Darren Urban on March 5, 2014 – 12:20 pm

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.


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Cards clearly not waiting in free agency

Posted by Darren Urban on March 3, 2014 – 11:33 am

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.


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On free agent strategy and chasing D’Qwell

Posted by Darren Urban on February 28, 2014 – 9:37 am

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.


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Fits as (potential) free agents

Posted by Darren Urban on February 27, 2014 – 11:37 am

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.


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Salary cap heading into free agency

Posted by Darren Urban on February 26, 2014 – 10:36 am

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.





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