The salary cap for 2014 was officially set at $133 million this season, a jump of $10 million over last season — huge for any team looking for flexibility to do business (and a boon for those hoping for big-time extensions like Patrick Peterson). And Adam Schefter reported this morning that the cap will be more than $140M next year and then $150M by 2016. All great news for the Cards, with Steve Keim already working hard to get the cap situation under control by next year anyway.
I’ve had a few ask me about Cards’ cap space now. With a $133M and the Jasper Brinkley release today (creating $2M in cap space), the Cards should have a little more than $18M of space.
Some suggested to me earlier today, after the Schefter report, that it will make things easier with Larry Fitzgerald going forward. That probably is true. But with that bloated $23.6M cap figure for 2015, it still stands to reason that a major decision is coming after this year for both the Cardinals and Fitzgerald. Keim reiterated for the umpteenth time at the Scouting combine the plan is for Fitzgerald to remain a Cardinal for his whole career. But the reality is this, and it’s been covered many times as well — with a big roster bonus due, that unwieldy cap number, and the unrealistic idea that the Cards can simply keep kicking Fitz’s cap pain into future years as he gets older, Fitzgerald is probably going to have to agree to take less money in 2015 than he is now currently scheduled. If he says no, that puts the ball back in the Cardinals’ court with Keim facing one of his famous “tough decisions.”
But that’s another reason why the news the cap is growing so quickly can benefit the Cardinals. Keim has been adept already at maneuvering the roster anyway. To be able to have more space to really stretch his legs and build how he wants to build plays into that sustained success he so often speaks about. The Cards want to build with draft picks and lock up young stars. That’s the plan. That the Cards seemingly will have weathered their cap overhaul under Keim and stayed competitive is impressive.
Tags: Larry Fitzgerald, salary cap
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It was inevitable, probably, that Steve Keim was asked about the future of running back Andre Ellington and whether he would be the “featured” running back. This has been covered many times, and Keim answered it no different today.
“When you say featured back, I don’t know that there are many featured backs in the NFL,” Keim said. “Adrian Peterson, those types of guys. Most teams use a platoon of backs and that would probably be no different than us. Andre, the way he’s built, is body type, is more in line with Chris Johnson, Jamaal Charles. His speed and acceleration, his movement skills, that’s his strength.
“To say you’re going to play him 25 to 35 snaps, pounding the ball between the tackles, you’re probably leaving yourself open to injuries. So any time, we can take a young man like him, add some weight without losing his speed and movement skills, I think you’re doing yourself a favor.”
I do think Keim (below talking to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio) misspoke. I would think Ellington will definitely get 25-to-35 snaps. He will probably get the majority of the offensive snaps at running back. He won’t get 25 to 35 carries, however. He’s going to split time with someone, though. It’ll probably be Stepfan Taylor. It still in theory could be Ryan Williams (more on that later.) Maybe Rashad Mendenhall comes back. But Ellington, even if he as expected builds on his 199-pound frame and gets stronger, is going to share time. That’s Keim’s philosophy and it’s Bruce Arians’ philosophy.
– Keim, who long ago dismissed the Larry Fitzgerald-to-the-Patriots trade rumors, seemed to have a one-liner ready when asked about it today:
“I was trying to find someone to fire,” Keim said. “Because they never called me.”
Tags: Andre Ellington, Larry Fitzgerald, Rashad Mendenhall, Ryan Williams, Stepfan Taylor, Steve Keim
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— Larry Fitzgerald (@LarryFitzgerald) February 12, 2014
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Heat, Larry Fitzgerald, Lebron James, Miami Heat, NBA, NFL, Phoenix Suns, Suns
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Andre Roberts had a solid year in 2013, considering he played about 140 fewer snaps from the season before and he was behind Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd at wideout. He still had 43 receptions (for 471 yards and a couple of touchdowns.) He also smartly never complained about his situation. He certainly wished he could be a bigger part of the offense, especially headed into free agency, but the Cardinals were winning and you can’t raise a ruckus when things are working.
That didn’t help him personally, though. And this morning, it’s easier to see what a daunting situation Roberts is looking at in a month, when the market will be flooded with wide receivers. Profootballtalk.com posted about it this morning, and a quick perusal of the list of available wideouts is going to make it a buyer’s market indeed. PFT lists the top 10 most “intriguing” names to watch as Anquan Boldin, Riley Cooper, Eric Decker, Julian Edelman, Jacoby Jones, Jeremy Maclin, Dexter McCluster, Hakeem Nicks, Emmanuel Sanders, and Golden Tate. That’s a formidable group and Roberts isn’t on it. Roberts is better than many guys on the list, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll see a larger demand.
Roberts’ best course of action might be to do what many free agents did last season — take a one-year deal in a good situation, have a good season, and then try the free-agent thing again in a year. The problem with that is there are no guarantees he’ll be able to improve his lot. What will be really interesting is whether Roberts, in this spot, has a chance to return to the Cardinals. Here, he will be third on the depth chart again, and with the desire to use tight ends by Bruce Arians, Roberts probably isn’t going to get more snaps barring injuries.
Tags: Andre Roberts, free agency, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
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As the Cardinals head toward the draft — a week later, May 8-10 this year — there will be a lot of talk about what positions will be targeted. There will be discussion about offensive tackles, defensive linemen, pass rushers, tight ends and defensive backs. But one thing that can’t be dismissed is the quest for a speed receiver.
The Cardinals can’t overlook the position anyway, given the impending free agent status of Andre Roberts (who likely will want to look what’s available on the open market since he’s destined to stay behind Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd) and the ongoing desire to have someone be able to run down the field and take the top off the defense. It was a constant quest last season. The Cards took a draft risk on Ryan Swope, and that didn’t work. Robert Gill was a track guy who they hoped would work out. Later, it was Brittan Golden and Teddy Williams.
According to profootballfocus.com, quarterback Carson Palmer threw 74 passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air last season. He completed only 23 of them, and while longer passes will inevitably have a lower completion percentage, coach Bruce Arians does want to get more production out of those six deep shots a game he’d like to take. The Cards didn’t take as many as that as the season went along, in part because there was an understanding the protection wasn’t always good enough for such long plays and in part because the was a search for the right target. Floyd and Fitz can do the jump ball thing, but to be able to just tell a guy to go long and watch him speed by in one-on-one coverage would be ideal.
Where that guy will come from isn’t set in stone. Will the Cardinals draft one? I wouldn’t be surprised. But Steve Keim will comb other options too. Williams and Golden are still around and in the mix (although they have to stay healthy.) It’s an Arians want, and an Arians need, and that isn’t going to change until the Cards find their answer.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Brittan Golden, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, draft, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Robert Gill, Ryan Swope, Steve Keim, Teddy Williams
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With all the discussion the last couple of days about Larry Fitzgerald and his contract and the salary cap, it seemed prudent to hit on some points about the cap, how it works, and what some of the terms mean that are constantly being thrown around.
– The salary cap, in simplest terms, is the limit, in dollars, the sum total of the players on each team can cost each season. The projected cap for each team (it is finalized right around the time free agency begins) in 2014 is reportedly about $126 million. Teams, through certain cap strategies, can carry over some unused cap space from the year before, however, so that number might be slightly larger for some teams.
– In the offseason, a team’s cap number is determined by the top 51 cap numbers on the roster. Once the regular season begins, every player’s cap number — the 53 on the roster, the eight on the practice squad and anyone on injured reserve — counts against the cap.
– A player’s salary is counted against the cap each season, as is a pro-rated part of a bonus. Say a player signs a three-year contract for $2 million salary each year, and gets a signing bonus of $3 million. He gets $5 million in real money the first year — salary plus the bonus check — but his cap number that first year is $3 million ($2M plus $1M in pro-rated bonus.)
UPDATE: A bonus can be pro-rated over the first five years of a contract. Which is why, prior to this latest restructure, Fitzgerald had no pro-rated bonus money on his contract past the 2015 season. Because he signed an eight-year deal in 2011, the pro-rated part only worked through the first five seasons.
– Cap numbers can be lowered, like it was in the case of Fitzgerald. His cap number was set to be more than $18 million, which included $12.75M in 2014 salary and about $6M in various pro-rated bonuses. The Cards made $11.75M of that scheduled $12.75M salary into a bonus for March. Fitzgerald benefits because instead of taking that $12.75M 1/17th at a time in his weekly in-season paychecks starting in September (which is how players get their salaries, only in-season), he gets $11.75M of it in one big check in March. The Cardinals benefit because now, with his salary shrunk to $1M and the $11.75M pro-rated over the remaining five years of his existing contract is spread out. It shaves $9.4M off Fitz’s cap number now, but adds another $2.35M to his cap numbers for each of the final four years of the contract (because all five years absorb $2.35M of that $11.75M).
– When talking about a player adjusting his contract, there are basically four directions it can go: A player can get a brand-new deal, where he is never a free agent but the team rips up his existing contract for a better one. A player can get an extension, which usually keeps the deal in place for the current year but tacks on more years and adds, usually, a signing bonus. A player can restructure, which is what Fitzgerald did. The money stays the same, and essentially, paperwork is used to adjust what the money is called (and when it’s paid out) so it lowers/increases the cap number. And then there is a pay cut, which is exactly how it sounds. From time to time, players are willing to accept pay cuts — reductions in salary — that will obviously lower a cap number without future cap hits.
– Dead money is the cap hit left by a player once he is no longer on the roster. It’s something every team ideally wants to avoid, although it’s all but impossible to have zero dead money. Even an undrafted rookie with a tiny signing bonus leaves some dead money if cut.
– Dead money is accounted basically by all the leftover pro-rated money that hasn’t already been used. With Fitzgerald, for example, if he were cut (or traded) after this season, his dead money would start at $9.4M of cap space, or the remaining four years of pro-rated bonus money for his restructuring earlier this week. That doesn’t include his other pro-rated bonus money he already has (which would take his dead money to more than $14M next season.)
– The dead money is almost always hits the cap the first season and then is over with. The exception is if a player is a post-June 1 cut — or is designated a post-June 1 cut — in which case the team takes a hit of one season’s worth in Year One and the rest the subsequent season. For example, Adam Snyder was cut last season with $4M in dead money and four years left on his contract. Cards made him a June 1 cut, meaning they only had to take a $1M hit in 2013 (pro-rated of what was left.) This year, however, the Cards most absorb the remaining $3M in dead money from Snyder.
– Those are the basics. For a much more in-depth salary cap FAQ, this page is pretty good.
Tags: Larry Fitzgerald, salary cap
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It was necessary and inevitable, really, Tuesday’s news that Larry Fitzgerald restructured his contract to create more cap room. It seemingly all came together so quickly (although no way to know how long talks have actually going on) that you figure it’s a straight deal to lower his 2014 salary. If that’s the case, there will be discussion on this again next year, as can be seen on this hypothetical put together by overthecap.com. There will be some massive cap hits sooner than later. But that’s a blog post for next February, I suppose.
Today, the Cardinals are in a good spot to work through the 2014 offseason. You figure Fitz’s restructure buys the Cards probably around $10 million in cap space depending on how much money they want to give him now.
(Again, a restructure is essentially a paperwork move to impact the cap. No new money is given and Fitz certainly does not take a pay cut. Say for argument’s sake the Cards want to shave $10 million off Fitz’s scheduled $12.75 million salary. Instead of him getting that money 1/17th at a time in his regular-season paychecks, he gets one giant check now. Then the Cards can spread that $10 million over the remaining years of his deal, in this case five years. At $2 million a year, that lets them take $8 million off his $18-plus million cap number.)
UPDATE: The numbers are beginning to leak out, and it’s as expected: The Cards made $11.75 million of the $12.75 million into a bonus due in March, meaning Fitz’s official salary is down to $1 million in 2014, his cap number drops by about $10 million (getting the team $9.4 million of cap space) and again, making his future cap hits that much more bulky. This will be a problem that will be needed to be dealt with again in February of 2015.
The big result of this — compared to, for example, the protracted Fitzgerald negotiations of 2007 that took the Cards into the free-agent period — is that it happened so early in the offseason. There is more than a month left before free agency starts, meaning the Cardinals not only have plenty of time to re-sign their own guys before they hit the market and now, they have cap space too.
Tags: Larry Fitzgerald
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Cardinals president Michael Bidwill said Thursday he is one of those who is in favor of the NFL expanding the playoffs, although he isn’t willing to give 100 percent backing yet.
“I am in favor conceptually of expanding the playoffs,” Bidwill said during an interview on Arizona Sports 98.7. “The question of how and where and all that stuff, I don’t want to get ahead of seeing the analysis. I want to make sure we look at the data and listen to the debate. I want to see and hear what is best for the game. But I think we should have an expanded playoffs, and not just because it was us that didn’t get in this year. Because it is the right thing for the game.”
The Cardinals, who went 10-6, would have been the seventh NFC team in the postseason (six make it to the playoffs now). If the postseason is grown, adding one team per conference is the most likely change.
– Bidwill, talking about the Super Bowl coming back to Arizona in a year and the plan to bring future Super Bowls to the Valley:
“We are all, the Cardinals included, are giving to make sure we get this. From the corporate world, the government side, the public sector side, so we can continue to work hard and compete to be in these (Super Bowl) rotations. It’s a $500 million economic impact. It is invaluable from a tourism standpoint and everything else. We will continue to go after big games. We are a finalist for the Final Four, we’ve got the (college football) championship game for 2016. We as a community and a state will continue to do that.”
– Bidwill, addressing the many free agents of the Cardinals and other offseason issues, like Larry Fitzgerald’s bulky contract:
“It’s a lot of planning and working things out and there might be a person or two that we don’t see eye to eye on the number and there are negotiations,” Bidwill said. “But this is like this every year and people get fired up about it … but I think everything will work itself out. I really feel confident about that. We will build a better team and have a lot of those (free agents) back, restructure some deals and do what is in the best interests of the team.”
(Bidwill told Kent Somers early talks with Fitzgerald’s agents have already begun.)
As for the free agent process for other team’s players, “I’ll let Steve (Keim) and Bruce (Arians) get into the particulars,” Bidwill said. “There are going to be some great free agents out there and we plan to be aggressive in a few areas and then plan to do what we do best, which is draft.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Bidwill, Steve Keim
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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
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When the Super Bowl is played Sunday, it will feature the best offense in the NFL — Denver scored 606 points this season, an incredible 37.9 per game — against the best defense in the NFL — Seattle not only allowed the fewest yards, but also the fewest points this season. A tangible example of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. It’s hard not to see it as the answer about that “defense wins championships” cliché that floats out there.
It also got me thinking about the Cardinals, and their better recent teams.
The 2008 Cardinals made the Super Bowl after scoring 427 regular-season points (26.7 points a game) and followed up in the playoffs with 30, 33 and 32 points before scoring 23 in the Super Bowl. Of course, that team allowed 426 points, which is why they eeked out a 9-7 record. It was a potent offense. This season, the Cardinals put together 10 wins in large part because of the defense. The Cards were tops in the league in run defense, sixth overall and seventh in scoring defense. It would be interesting to consider that 2008 offense — Kurt Warner, Fitz in his prime, Anquan Boldin, 1,000-yard Steve Breaston and the Edge/Hightower RB tag-team going against the 2013 Cardinals defense.
Which is the better path to take? It’s hard not to think that defense wins titles. It’d be good to see Peyton Manning win another Super Bowl, but I’m not totally sure why the Seahawks aren’t favored in this game, at least a little. Maybe it’s because of last year’s Super Bowl, when a couple of defensive-dominant teams ended up playing in a scorefest. That was in the climate-controlled Superdome, though, and Manning won’t have that advantage Sunday.
As far as the score-first Cardinals versus the defense-first Cards? There’s a reason why Kurt Warner has said this year’s Cardinals team was better than his 2008 version. Part of that was that this year’s team could score a little bit too — with 379 points (23.7 a game) it wasn’t like the Cardinals couldn’t find their way into the end zone. I’d argue that Andre Ellington gave the offense an explosive element that 2008 offense didn’t really have either. Nevertheless, it’s a great debate to have.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Anquan Boldin, Broncos, defense, Edgerrin James, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, offense, Seahawks, Steve Breaston, Super Bowl, Tim Hightower
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