On Saturday, NFL teams will be allowed to start officially talking to free agents for other teams. They can’t officially sign anyone until next Tuesday afternoon, but the window opens Saturday. That means if a team is going to make a strong run at their own guys, this is the week to do so. So for the Cards, who I think would like to bring back cornerback Greg Toler and safety Rashad Johnson, talks would step up now, I’d think. Same with quarterback Kevin Kolb, assuming there will be talks.
(Although unlike Toler and Johnson and running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, Kolb can’t suddenly start talking to other teams Saturday. He is under contract unless the Cardinals cut him, and thus cannot shop himself around.)
Again, and I go back to what general manager Steve Keim said a couple of weeks ago. This close to free agency, some players just want to test the market, unless their own team will overpay for the honor of not doing so. The market will set the price. Does that mean you could lose a player? Of course. Once he is free, any control of the situation is over.
One final point: Sitting with a little more than $5 million of cap space even before anything is done with Kolb or anything else buys the Cardinals some time. Kolb, who has a $2 million roster bonus due in another week or so, will have to be dealt will soon. The Cardinals haven’t said anything to safety Adrian Wilson about his future (via Kent Somers) but again, because the team is under the cap and functioning with Wilson’s current contract, it’s hard to know if that means that Wilson is simply safe or that the Cards will talk to him later about a restructure or something else. I wouldn’t be surprised at an influx of youth this season (more on that later today in a post) and so transactions might start following that path.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, free agency, Greg Toler, Kevin Kolb, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Rashad Johnson, Steve Keim
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The moves today to release cornerback William Gay and linebacker Stewart Bradley aren’t really shocking. This is what happens when salary exceeds production, as general manager Steve Keim was talking about just a couple of weeks ago. Bradley’s story is well known, and after he didn’t do much last season and with his salary back to $5 million, his future was all but written. Gay’s 2012 playing time escalated his salary from $1.475 million to $3.225 million, and that too probably cost Gay any chance of returning. With around $7 million of cap savings, the Cards are under the cap now.
There is still work to do, of course, the most glaring the contract of quarterback Kevin Kolb. There has been no word yet of any talks or movement in that area. The Cards have fit his giant $13.5M cap number in for now, but nothing has changed from the fact something has to happen. Kolb is due a $2M roster bonus soon (do not know the date, but anticipate it being the start of the league year on March 12 or right around there) and I can’t see it being paid unless a new deal is in place.
The Cards were about $1.2M over the cap prior to the cuts today according to Adam Schefter, so the savings should put them a little more than $5M under — decent breathing room in the short term, although a tender offer to QB Brian Hoyer would eat up some of that space if one were made. Are further moves, aside from Kolb, coming in the form of a cut or a restructure? Perhaps. Don’t forget, a restructure basically means giving the player more money now for the privilege of pushing cap space on to a future year’s cap. Eventually, it has to be paid. And if there is anything we have learned about the new collective bargaining agreement and the salary cap is that it was set up to no longer have giant spikes from year to year — making cap management for every team a little more challenging year-to-year. Bradley and Gay were not the only NFL veterans cut today, that’s for sure.
It also underscores another NFL reality — for all the gnashing of teeth that goes on when free agency starts about why the Cards (or any team) didn’t sign this guy or that guy — that the draft is the way to build a roster. Ultimately, teams don’t let players get away that they think they can’t afford to lose.
Tags: Brian Hoyer, Kevin Kolb, salary cap, Steve Keim, Stewart Bradley, William Gay
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The idea that the Cardinals would explore the trade possibility for 49ers backup quarterback Alex Smith — as Kent Somers noted yesterday — shouldn’t be a shock (although I will admit I originally wasn’t sure if the Cards would surrender a pick for him). Nor would the idea that the Cardinals could/would/should look at a trade for Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett, a speculative concept that picked up steam yesterday after Tom Brady’s extension essentially made Mallett ever playing for the Patriots (barring an injury) unlikely.
The talk reminded me of something general manager Steve Keim recently said when it came to the QB search: “We will exhaust every resource we have.”
That, Keim said, included every draftable quarterback from the first round to the last, free agency and, of course, potential trade options around the league. There is a priority list. Given what is out there in both free agency and the draft (which, right now, doesn’t seem exciting), a trade isn’t a surprise. Besides, if the Cardinals were going to spend a draft pick on a quarterback this year anyway, why not deal one for, say, Smith?
A trade with the Niners seems unlikely, just because San Francisco would seem to have options and conventional wisdom says they’d probably rather not help a division foe. The latest out of San Francisco (via Matt Barrows) is that the Niners would want at least a high fourth-round pick for Smith. If the Chiefs offer one, that’s basically a late third, given their spot at the top of the draft. UPDATE: In the seconds after I posted this, Jay Glazer reported that the trade of Alex Smith to the Chiefs was done and would happen as soon as it could March 12. So there’s one resource off the board.
Mallett, given that the Patriots don’t have another QB right now and comes cheap, is going to cost more, I’d guess. At least a third, where he was drafted in the first place (and I have to wonder what the Cardinals thought of him just a couple of years ago in 2011, when he was available and this team passed on him three different times. Besides, his accuracy is a question despite his big arm and some in New England didn’t think he outplayed Brian Hoyer last preseason even though the Pats dumped Hoyer in favor of Mallett.)
Much will be speculated on right now and there will be a level of truth to most of it, because the Cards are as Keim said exhausting every path trying to fix this problem. No trades can come down until March 12, nor can any free agents be signed. The draft is two months away. If Kevin Kolb doesn’t return, I can see a draft pick and a veteran added. The QB question won’t be answered until it’s answered.
Tags: 49ers, Alex Smith, Brian Hoyer, Kevin Kolb, Patriots, quarterbacks, Ryan Mallett, Steve Keim
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Larry Fitzgerald was targeted 156 times last season. He ended up with just 71 catches.
Now, that doesn’t mean there weren’t times when Fitz could’ve and should’ve come down with a pass and didn’t. That certainly happened, and more times last year, I think, than in the past (profootballfocus.com had him with five drops last season, Stats.inc credited him with three.) But there were many, many, many more times when the pass went to Fitzgerald and the ball simply wasn’t close enough to even make a play on it.
This isn’t about Fitz though but the ability to make sure whatever quarterback is behind center can be accurate. There are many factors that go into an incomplete pass, including the pass rush and pass protection. But last season, none of the four quarterbacks who played for the Cardinals completed 60 percent of their passes. Kevin Kolb was 59.6 percent, John Skelton was 54.2, Ryan Lindley 52.0 and Brian Hoyer 56.6. These days, if you aren’t completing between 62 to 65 percent of your passes — at least — you are going to have a hard time being successful. It’s something to watch for with the rookies too, although given the upgrade in speed and schemes in the NFL, accuracy can be a projection for those guys.
The question is whether it can be improved in a prospect — or with anyone.
“I think you can improve all phases of their mechanics,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “Some guys, if the flaw is so difficult in their throwing motion especially from the trunk up, it’s going to be hard. But the majority of accuracy problems are your legs. Guys overstride, they understride, they put themselves in bad positions and stress themselves. Fundamentals, that’s why golfers go to the driving range every day. Tiger (Woods) is a great player, Rory (Mcllroy) is a great player, but they go to the driving range every day. Quarterbacks need to go to the driving range every day.
“You want to be more of a teacher than a swing coach. When you are a swing coach, you know you have problems.”
Tags: Brian Hoyer, Bruce Arians, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, quarterbacks, Ryan Lindley
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Are some difficult decisions coming with the roster for general manager Steve Keim?
“Absolutely,” Keim said.
In itself, that is no surprise. There are the reports the Cards are currently about $3.5 million over the salary cap (teams must be compliant by March 12) but that in itself isn’t a big deal. Contracts can easily enough be manipulated to make it work, especially that close to being OK. For instance, the Cards could work it just by, for example, releasing Kevin Kolb, because while Kolb will still count for $6 million of “dead” cap space if cut, his cap number currently is $13.5M so there would be a $7.5M savings on the cap alone. (Again, I expect the Cards to try and work out a new deal for Kolb, so if he came back, that too will clear space.)
But it’s the “tough” part of the tough decisions that Keim is considering that impacts the equation.
“Anytime you get attached to certain players it’s not only a tough decision from a business standpoint, but it’s a tough decision from a personal standpoint,” Keim said. “But you have to put personal feelings aside, and you have to do what’s best for the organization. But there are going to be some tough decisions, but at the same time, there will be some decisions we are excited about moving forward. Put young players in a position to grow and succeed.”
Keim, obviously, isn’t naming names right now. The first connect-the-dots that pops into your head when thinking about this is veteran safety Adrian Wilson, who carries a $5.4M cap number in 2013 and who himself wondered at the end of last season if his days in Arizona might be coming to an end. There is no player Keim is closer to than Wilson, after both attended North Carolina State and Keim was the one who scouted and pushed for Wilson in the 2001 draft.
As of now, the Cardinals have 10 players scheduled to have salary cap numbers in 2013 of at least $5M: Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald ($10.3), Calais Campbell ($8.8), Darnell Dockett ($7.7), Daryn Colledge ($7.3), Stewart Bradley ($6.5), Levi Brown ($6.4), Kerry Rhodes ($6.0), Wilson and Daryl Washington ($5.4). There are a host of moves any team can make, including extensions — for instance, with Rhodes, who is down to the final year of his deal — that can lower the cap number too.
But this is about more than just money and cap space. It factors in a new coaching staff, a new general manager, a team that went 5-11 and the reality rosters sometimes are purged in such a transition.
“Anytime you are in a position where you are dealing with the salary cap, you have some tough challenges financially, but at the same time, starting with (president) Michael Bidwill giving us the opportunity to do what is necessary to win, we won’t make decisions solely based on finances,” Keim said. “Now, what is hard in this business is that you have players making quite a bit of money and their production level doesn’t match their financial package.
“Those are the decisions where we’ll weigh the pros and the cons and make the tough decisions based on what are we getting out of this player. Does he schematically fit what we do? Are his finances in line for what we are getting from him?”
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Daryn Colledge, Kerry Rhodes, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, salary cap, Steve Keim, Stewart Bradley
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When Michael Bidwill said yesterday on the radio Kevin Kolb’s contract is “probably something we’re going to need to address,” it wasn’t a surprise. Everyone covering this team has been saying the same thing, that the $11 million Kolb is owed in 2013 (a $2 million roster bonus in March and a $9 million salary) was never going to make it through March.
There was always going to be an element of a game of chicken between the sides. The Cardinals need a quarterback, and Kolb knows that. He also knows there are other teams out there that need a quarterback. But even if the Cards are going to slice that salary, he still might make more in Arizona than elsewhere. Given Kolb’s unfortunate injury history, no one is going to hand him a starting job, whether it is the Cardinals or elsewhere.
I have had some questions today about Kolb’s health. When I last spoke to Kolb the day Arians was hired (via text) he said his ribs were doing well. I don’t expect those to hinder him in the offseason, for those worried his 2013 could be in jeopardy. Obviously he has to stay healthy once the games begin, but there shouldn’t be 2012 aftereffects.
I believe Kolb likes the Cardinals and wants to stay, but not at the expense of a better contract. The rules are such that this coaching staff will not get a chance to see Kolb live before contract decisions must be made (although QB coach Freddie Kitchens and GM Steve Keim have both seen Kolb enough to give a proper assessment.)
Kolb hitting the open market wouldn’t be a shock, even if he returns, a la Levi Brown. Kolb’s will-he-or-won’t-he status will be the story of the pre-free agent period.
Tags: Freddie Kitchens, Kevin Kolb, Michael Bidwill, Steve Keim
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The Cardinals officially announced Monday the additions of the three main new coaches to Bruce Arians’ staff: offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and Tom Moore, the assistant head coach/offense. The addition of Bowles and Goodwin I’ve covered before. Hopefully we’ll hear from Arians soon about his choice. While I understand there are still a lot of questions over going from Ray Horton to Bowles, that too was explained in simple terms by Arians. Now we see how this plays out.
But the addition of Moore is a big deal. Moore had stepped away from the game for health reasons — he did serve as a consultant for the Titans for five games at the end of the 2012 season and consulted for the Jets in 2011 — but he wanted to get back into coaching this year. The Cardinals benefit. Moore was the guru who brought along a young Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. That, along with Arians himself, give the Cardinals a good base with whatever young quarterback they choose to bring along. Between the two of them (below, talking before a Colts-Titans game last season), that’s a good start for any young quarterback.
Now, would the quarterback be Kevin Kolb? Maybe. It would seem very likely a quarterback is drafted this year. Sitting here right now, I don’t see it in the first round and seventh overall, but second round, that makes sense. Jason Cole noted Arians was at the Senior Bowl practice of the North team Monday, a team that features quarterbacks Mike Glennon of North Carolina State, Ryan Nassib of Syracuse and Zac Dysert of Miami (Ohio.)
As for the rest of the staff, I believe most of the decisions — if not all — have been made but the announcements will filter out as the logistics work out.
Tags: coaching staff, Harold Goodwin, Kevin Kolb, Mike Glennon, Ryan Nassib, Todd Bowles, Tom Moore, Zac Dysert
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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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The combination of a 5-11 record and change with both the general manager and head coach usually leads to one thing: Roster turnover. Of course, none of that happens until the new GM and head coach are in place, and that isn’t happening tomorrow.
(Reiterating from Michael Bidwill on Monday: “It’s not going to move at lightning speed. You don’t want it to, because you learn a lot during your due diligence period.” Remember that concept.)
In the meantime, there are things to speculate upon. With that, here is my annual overview of the roster and where players stand contract-wise heading into the offseason. Free agency begins at 2 p.m. Arizona time on March 12. Until then, the Cardinals have the ability to re-sign any of their own players set to hit the market. With the shift in giving all draft picks at least four-year contracts, the shrinking of the restricted free agent market continues; the only RFA the Cards have is linebacker Brandon Williams, who was so far off the radar after being waived-injured back after training camp that he didn’t appear on the roster.
There are some key decisions to make:
– In terms of unrestricted free agents, it seems probable that all of them would choose to at least reach the market. At this point, there is probably nothing to lose, and would want to see their market value. The Cardinals need to figure out whether they want to lock down these guys. Of the 13 unrestricted guys on the market, the most intriguing include safety Rashad Johnson (given the looming decision on Adrian Wilson), linebacker Quentin Groves, running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, linebacker Paris Lenon and cornerback Greg Toler. I would not be shocked, especially with roster change, to see any of them leave. Lenon’s age works against him. Johnson’s future may be tied to whomever is coach.
– Of the players under contract, money may dictate change. We’ve covered QB Kevin Kolb’s situation plenty, but that will have to be figured out. I think the Cardinals would like to extend safety Kerry Rhodes, who has one more season, but he’s also due a $4.5 million salary and a $1 million reporting bonus next year and that might be too pricey for the team. I’d think they’d want to extend Rhodes and restructure the deal. He may end up in a Wilson situation from camp. Speaking of Wilson, does the team bring him back for a 13th season? That too may depend on the new decision-makers. Wilson is due a roster bonus in March so we may know soon. Curious to know what the Cards do with running back Beanie Wells, if anything.
Lots of questions like that. Obviously I’ve barely touched on most of them. It’s difficult to get too much of a read on them until those making the choices are in place. I think there are going to be plenty of comings and goings, and it won’t just be relegated to the coaching and GM searches.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Beanie Wells, Brandon Williams, Greg Toler, Kerry Rhodes, Kevin Kolb, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Michael Bidwill, Paris Lenon, Quentin Groves, Rashad Johnson
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Quarterback will be one of the central issues around the new coach and general manager of the Cardinals. That’s obvious. It was obvious to former coach Ken Whisenhunt, who mentioned over and over the need for more consistent quarterback play, and for team president Michael Bidwill, who noted during his press conference one of the requirements for his new decision-makers will be about “not just finding but also developing quarterbacks.”
Which takes us to the injured Kevin Kolb. In two seasons, Kolb has been hurt more than healthy. When he played this year, the Cardinals were finding ways to win. And Bidwill gave an important quote about the QB — who still figures to have to restructure his contract (he is due a total of $11 million in 2013) to return: “I’m not ready to give up on Kevin Kolb yet.”
Bidwill acknowledged the Cards “probably” haven’t gotten value yet on the Kolb trade, which included the hefty contract. “That’s one of the questions we will really focus on with the coaching staff candidates,” Bidwill said. “How do we see about Kevin and his performance and how we can turn him into the quarterback of the future here for the Cardinals and make that decision, if he is the right guy?”
Kolb has said he wants to return. He has been less specific about restructuring his deal, saying he hoped it wouldn’t come to that. Kolb did respond via text message about Monday’s coaching change.
“It’s obviously an emotional time for everyone right now,” Kolb said. “It’s never one man’s fault. We are all responsible for the underachievement this season.
“With that being said, I’m excited about the new opportunity with whomever is chose and have great confidence in the ones making that decision.”
Tags: Kevin Kolb, Michael Bidwill
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