As we maneuver through the dead of the offseason (and I finally get some time off), it’s a chance to survey the landscape of the Cardinals and make predictions about the season opening starters a couple of months from now – like I did with the defense yesterday.
Today, before I disappear for a bit, here is the offensive version, which, given the return of all the skill players, isn’t exactly an exercise in rocket science:
QB – Carson Palmer. As long as he’s healthy and productive, the Cardinals will remain a contender.
RB – David Johnson. The Cards hope that vets Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington stay healthy and contribute to Bruce Arians’ multi-pronged offense. But make no mistake, David Johnson is the running back in this offense.
WR – Larry Fitzgerald. He’s coming of a renaissance season only to be stepping into the will-he-or-won’t-he-retire last year of his contract. Still, he remains the soul of this offense.
WR – Michael Floyd. Also going into a contract year. Had a slightly slow start, but his dominance for a long stretch mid-to-late in the year showed how much of an impact he can really make. Yet another of the weapons that will make this team so hard to defend.
WR—Smokey Brown. Arians said Brown slumped late in the year, so the goal now is for Brown to carry through his talents for 16 games. Avoiding a nagging hamstring injury like the one that bothered him for a chunk of last season would be a good starting point.
TE – Darren Fells. Jermaine Gresham will get plenty of playing time, but Fells quietly had a very solid season last year, and Palmer said he’s shed 20 pounds and looks even better through the spring.
RT – D.J. Humphries. One of the few offensive question marks. All signs point to the 2015 first-round pick starting this season after learning a hard lesson as an inactive player for all 16 games as a rookie. If the Cardinals sign a veteran right tackle as camp opens, all bets are off.
RG – Evan Mathis. The Cardinals signed the Super Bowl champ to a one-year contract hoping he can not only solidify the line but also serve as a mentor – or at least give veteran help — to Humphries.
C – A.Q. Shipley. Eventually, the Cardinals want fourth-round pick Evan Boehm to win this job. But can the rookie learn enough to beat out Shipley by September? I’m guessing it takes a little longer than that.
LG – Mike Iupati. Comes to Cardinals, makes the Pro Bowl, the running game piles up almost 2,000 yards. Probably not a coincidence.
LT – Jared Veldheer. The offensive line overhaul with Steve Keim began with the Veldheer signing back in 2014. The Cards wanted a left tackle anchor. They got one.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Carson Palmer, D.J. Humphries, Darren Fells, David Johnson, Evan Mathis, Jared Veldheer, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Mike Iupati
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As the NFL Network’s top 100 list pulled into the top 30 Wednesday night, not one but two Cardinals made the list. Safety Tyrann Mathieu is No. 28 on the list, with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald at No. 27. It is Mathieu’s first inclusion on the list, while this is the sixth time Fitzgerald has made it. Both players figured to be honored, given how they played in 2015. Heck, Fitzgerald made the list even in his down statistical years, so he was a lock to get in after a 109-catch season.
Mathieu, meanwhile, was still an all-pro even with his ACL tear. The way he has been playing, Mathieu has proved when he is healthy, he’ll be a lock for this list. He’s not only incredibly productive, but popular too all across the league (this list is voted on by players.)
The Cardinals already had two others on this year’s list: DT Calais Campbell at No. 71, and OLB Chandler Jones at No. 48. Cornerback Patrick Peterson figures to land in the top 20 — which is all that is left. Is it possible QB Carson Palmer will be in the top 20? Or will he be left off the list?
Tags: Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Chandler Jones, Larry Fitzgerald, NFL Network, Tyrann Mathieu
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Sure, there are questions about the future for the Cardinals at wide receiver. Could Larry Fitzgerald retire after this season? Will Michael Floyd, also in the last year of his contract, be back? But those questions aren’t about the 2016 season. After the 2015 season — in which the Cardinals’ wide receivers were the highest graded among all the corps in the NFL last season according to profootballfocus.com — this season should be impressive for the Cards from that standpoint.
Even Fitzgerald noted last week that this is the first time he can remember being on a team where all the skill guys came back intact. That goes beyond just the receivers of course. But the upset of getting back both veteran running back Chris Johnson and veteran tight end Jermaine Gresham despite potentially more lucrative offers out there helped that along. At wideout, there was only one question, and Jaron Brown was tendered an offer. Once he signed that, the Cardinals had their top seven wide receivers returning from a year ago — when again, some considered them the best in the league as a group.
Health helped. Yes, Floyd was banged up in training camp and yes, Smokey Brown fought through an irritating hamstring injury in the middle part of the season (oh, you do remember that, fantasy football players), but for the most part, they were available. Fitzgerald in particular was healthy all the way through the season for the first time since Bruce Arians arrived. The depth also helped tremendously when guys did miss time. Floyd was huge in Cleveland when Smokey was held out. Fitz was huge early in the season when Floyd started slow. J.J. Nelson was a deep threat that could help when Brown couldn’t go full bore.
And the Cardinals will have them all again in 2016.
Tags: Brittan Golden, J.J. Nelson, Jaron Brown, Jaxon Shipley, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
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Tyrann Mathieu is going to get a contract extension. When, exactly, remains an unknown, although Ian Rapoport reported Monday the team and Mathieu are “deep in negotiations” toward a deal. I’ve long felt this was a matter of when and not if with the all-pro safety. For a multitude of reasons for both sides, it behooves both to get a new contract done.
But from the Cardinals’ end, a big reason to want to lock up Mathieu is because of the laundry list of players who, as of right now, are free agents after this upcoming season. It’s a subject we’ve talked about before, and the reality is not everyone will be with the Cardinals after this year. Still, if you have hope to having some guys around, you’d think the Cards would want to pare down the work facing them before this year ends. Here is the list — and it doesn’t include every single FA-to-be — of guys who are contract-less after 2016, as it stands right now:
— S Tyrann Mathieu
— WR Larry Fitzgerald
— OLB Chandler Jones
— DT Calais Campbell
— WR Michael Floyd
— G Evan Mathis
— DT Frostee Rucker
— RB Chris Johnson
— RB Andre Ellington
— S Tony Jefferson
— TE Jermaine Gresham
— OLB Alex Okafor
— ILB Kevin Minter
— WR Jaron Brown
— S D.J. Swearinger
— RB Stepfan Taylor
That isn’t the entire list, but those are the bigger names. Obviously, each are taken individually to an extent. Some guys the team will just move on from in the normal course of roster change in a salary-capped world. But big picture, it’s a puzzle GM Steve Keim and his department are working on as this season approaches.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Andre Ellington, Calais Campbell, Chandler Jones, Chris Johnson, D.J. Swearinger, Evan Mathis, Frostee Rucker, Jaron Brown, Jermaine Gresham, Kevin Minter, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Stepfan Taylor, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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Awards are handed out in many professions. As someone who has written for a living, I always thought there was one simple truth to such awards — it starts with the subject. You can write the heck out of a story, but if the subject wasn’t interesting to begin with, it’s tough to make it so.
Tuesday night the annual Sports Emmys were handed out, and the Cardinals found themselves mentioned. NBC won the Emmy for Outstanding Playoff Coverage after its broadcast of the Cardinals-Packers divisional playoff game. NBC did a great job that night, obviously, but the story — including Aaron Rodgers’ Hail Mary miracle and then Larry Fitzgerald’s own electrifying catch-and-run — was certainly interesting to begin with.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Larry Fitzgerald, NBC, Packers
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It was about this time last year when rumors cropped up about the Cardinals and potentially trading wide receiver Michael Floyd, something that obviously didn’t happen. Similar rumblings have come up this week, that Floyd– heading into the final year of his contract — could be dealt draft weekend for a pick. Floyd shrugged it off last year, and he does the same now.
“I don’t worry about it at all,” Floyd said prior to throwing out the first pitch at Tuesday night’s Diamondbacks game. “It’s kind of what I saw last year too, but I don’t worry about it at all. I go into work, put my work in, watch film with my teammates and go about my day.”
Floyd would seem to be more likely than not to stay a Cardinal, but the speculation about his future isn’t going to fade. He’s due a little more than $7 million this year and then the Cards will have to determine if they want to get a long-term deal done and Floyd will have to decide if it makes sense to stay. The 2012 first-round pick has been good the last couple of years but hasn’t reached the level that the Cards had hoped by now. As a free agent, Floyd figures to be primed to make a lot on the open market — perhaps more than the Cards will be willing to spend. There’s also the puzzle piece that is Larry Fitzgerald and Fitz’s impending free agency as well.
Tags: Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
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Larry Fitzgerald has more football left in him (although I do feel for him a bit this season — these potential retirement questions probably aren’t going away), but first, softball. Fitz is hosting his annual charity softball game Saturday night at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale. Friday, he’s also hosting a charity golf tournament. (Click here for all the details.)
The events benefit Fitzgerald’s First Down Fund, which helps “kids and their families by funding positive activities for kids during the summer and throughout the year, supporting kids and families in crisis, and supporting health-related organizations that work with families.” (That’s straight off Fitz’s website.) The softball game has grown bigger every year and, not surprisingly with Fitz, has been a big success.
Among the players scheduled to attend: Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas, Archie Goodwin and P.J. Tucker of the Phoenix Suns, former Cardinals wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Andre Roberts, Bills receiver Sammy Watkins, ex-NFL wideout Terrell Owens, and current Cardinals Michael Floyd, Calais Campbell and Andre Ellington.
Tags: Larry Fitzgerald
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NFL.com and the NFL Network compiled a ranking of the top 20 games of the 2015 season, and the Cardinals were part of the game picked as the best.
It probably shouldn’t be surprising that the Divisional playoff game between the Cards and Packers earned the top spot, although it took the Cards allowing an emotionally crushing Hail Mary to get there. It was played less than three months ago, so it’s not hard to remember the highlights, like Michael Floyd’s rebound TD catch, the Aaron Rodgers miracle and, of course, Larry being Larry. (I have to admit thought I had forgotten about Patrick Peterson’s 100-yard interception return that would have been legendary itself had it not been called back because of a hands-to-the-face penalty). A truly classic game with many twists and a heckuva ending.
The Cardinals actually appear on the top 20 list two other times. Their 24-22 home loss to the Rams, when Todd Gurley broke out for the first time, was No. 20. The Cards’ big win in Seattle, capped by Andre Ellington’s TD run, was picked as No. 12.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, NFL Network, Packers, Patrick Peterson, Rams, Seahawks, Todd Gurley
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Larry Fitzgerald, in the offseason from football, took to the baseball field and throw the first pitch at the Diamondbacks game Monday night. He also took a moment to discuss a few football-related things when it comes to the Cardinals (and Tyrann Mathieu). Fitz’s offerings:
— On the ACL recovery of safety Tyrann Mathieu: “Ty’s running already. They’re having to hold him back. He heals like Wolverine. He’s so passionate and we love him dearly. We’re so happy to see he’s going to be ready to go for us in training camp. He can pick up right where he left off. He was defensive MVP – had he finished the season, he would have been right there in the conversation.”
— On where the Cardinals rank on paper going into 2016: “Coach (Bruce) Arians always says you can’t rank anybody on paper. We’ve got to see what we are when we get to training camp and continue to build. We have a long way to go.”
— On his hindsight impressions about the NFC Championship loss: “It sucks that we played the way we did at that time. It wasn’t a good game by any stretch of the imagination across the board. To work that hard to get to that position and not play up to your capabilities, it’s tough to digest. We know that we have pretty much the same nucleus of men coming back and the same coaching staff, and we’re really happy about that, and we’ve made some new acquisitions as well. We’re happy with where we are. We believe we have a good football team.
“I try to put it behind me. You’ve got to put games like that behind you because if you dwell on it it will drive you crazy.”
Tags: Diamondbacks, Larry Fitzgerald, Tyrann Mathieu
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The NFL Players Association announced today that the 2016 salary cap will be $155.27 million, about a $12 million jump from 2015. It’s a sizable number. With the slightly more than $3 million the Cardinals carried over from their leftover 2015 cap, General Manager Steve Keim will have a salary cap of about $158 million with which to work this season.
With that number, both overthecap.com and spotrac.com estimate the Cards will have between $19M and $20M of cap space going into free agency. The Cardinals have seven players that are scheduled to have cap hits of at least $5 million in 2016:
— QB Carson Palmer $17.88M
— WR Larry Fitzgerald $15.85M
— DT Calais Campbell $15.25M
— CB Patrick Peterson $13.07M
— T Jared Veldheer $9M
— WR Michael Floyd $7.32M
— G Mike Iupati $5.7M
Of those players, it makes the most sense to adjust the numbers of Campbell and Floyd through extensions. Otherwise, Keim and the front office have already figured out their plan for free agency through these numbers. There will be teams with tons of cap room, in order to overpay a player if they chose. The Cards will do what they do — target free agents at a certain price, and if they can’t convince them to sign, then move on. The “legal tampering” part of free agency begins in a week. Actual agreements cannot begin until March 9, a week from Wednesday.
Tags: Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, free agency, Jared Veldheer, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Mike Iupati, Patrick Peterson, salary cap
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