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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Every time General Manager Steve Keim talks about his roster, he talks about looking to improve everywhere. That’s always the default. While the Cardinals probably need, say, offensive linemen or tight ends more than, running backs, you don’t turn down chances to upgrade your team at any position. (As for the latest talk-radio conversation about quarterback, I feel confident that a) Carson Palmer is going to be the starter in 2014 and b) if Keim has a QB sitting on the board in the draft that he really, really likes — whenever that is — the Cardinals will likely take him.)
All that said, there are spots that need addressing just for the sheer numbers. I’ve already posted this once, but below is a link to a roster breakdown done right after the season. It has changed a bit — punter Dave Zastudil has re-signed by now — but the rest of the contract situations remain the same. Keim has a little more than six weeks before contracts officially expire. In terms of strictly numbers, here are how impending free agency impacts the positions (not including all the futures deals/low-end free agents that have signed):
– QB: Cards are fine with all three guys under contract. You’d expect a fourth camp arm to sign if one isn’t drafted.
– RB: Rashard Mendenhall is unrestricted and plays a big role, although if the Cards rode Andre Ellington/Stepfan Taylor in 2014, no one would be surprised.
– WR: Assuming the Cards can get comfortable (if they aren’t already) with Fitz’s contract, the position is probably OK. They need to add someone if Andre Roberts leaves as a free agent, but they can ride with Floyd/Fitz as a top two.
– TE: A major question. Only Rob Housler is under contract for next season. This has got to be a spot where the Cards draft, right?
– OL: Upgrades are necessary and will happen, but as of now, only Eric Winston is a free agent of guys who played at all.
– DL: Need depth here. Do you bring Frostee Rucker back? And that rehab needed for Alameda Ta’amu’s ACL tear hurts the team as much as Ta’amu.
– LB: It’s hard not to notice two starters in Karlos Dansby and Matt Shaughnessy who could potentially walk away.
– DB: The Cards could probably use another young safety, although they may be in good shape if Tony Jefferson can step forward. But what about cornerback, with Tyrann Mathieu coming back from injury and Javier Arenas/Antoine Cason/Bryan McCann scheduled to be free agents. Depth is needed there. It’ll be interesting to see if Justin Bethel ends up playing a bigger defensive role.
– Specialists: Zastudil is back. We’ll see what the Cardinals do at kicker and impending FA Jay Feely.
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Andre Ellington, Andre Roberts, Antoine Cason, Bryan McCann, Carson Palmer, Dave Zastudil, Eric Winston, Frostee Rucker, Javier Arenas, Jay Feely, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Shaughnessy, Rashard Mendenhall, Rob Housler, Roster, Stepfan Taylor, Steve Keim, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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So the possibility of teammate vs teammate in the Pro Bowl was probable, given the format of a draft at the hands of Hall of Famers Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice. Now the Pro Bowl will have a hint of an Arizona Cardinals practice (or, given the way the players have gone about the Pro Bowl the last couple of years, an Arizona Cardinals OTA) when wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald landed on Team Rice and Peterson, not surprisingly, was picked by Team Sanders.
(Deion loves him some Patrick Peterson. The man wore a Peterson jersey on TV when the NFL Network came to Arizona for Thursday Night Football last season, for goodness sake.)
I’ve had a chance to see that battle many, many times on the practice field. I think they both relish it, although practice is practice. This is a game after all, although how intense it will be can be argued. I’ve had people ask what it would mean if, God forbid, Fitz wrecked a knee when he was tackled by Peterson. Frankly, if Fitz tore an ACL in a Pro Bowl, whomever he was tackled by seems pretty irrelevant to me. Would you feel better if he had been tackled by Darrelle Revis?
Looking over the Pro Bowl rosters, there are a handful of possible teammate-on-teammate crime. Bears cornerback Tim Jennings I would guess will see some of Chicago wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Could Browns safety T.J. Ward come looking for Cleveland wideout Josh Gordon if he came across the middle? And then there are the real eyebrow-raisers: The possibility of Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith being sacked by Kansas City linebacker Tamba Hali or defensive tackle Dontari Poe. Or Colts defensive end Robert Mathis taking down Indy QB Andrew Luck.
Who am I kidding. There are no sacks in the Pro Bowl.
– The assault court case of linebacker Daryl Washington has been pushed to another later date. His next hearing is scheduled for April 23, which now comes after the large roster bonus he is scheduled to receive. Washington said at the end of the season he expected it to get worked out, and so do I. I don’t see the Cardinals letting Washington go, although at some point, he will need this case resolved so any further football-related details can be worked out (like possible further punishment if he is found guilty) and Washington can move on.
Tags: Deion Sanders, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Pro Bowl
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— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) January 23, 2014
Tags: 2014 Pro Bowl, Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Larry Fitzgerald, NFL, Patrick Peterson
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If you pay attention to the NFL at all, you know how Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman went off on 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree both on national TV and again in the post-game press conference. This was after Sherman taunted Crabtree right after making the play that led to the NFC Championship-clinching interception on a pass to Crabtree. Seems that the Cardinals — or at least Larry Fitzgerald — have a role in all of this. As you can see in the video below from NFL Network, the genesis of the bad blood between Sherman and Crabtree came when the two were part of the celebrities in town to play at Fitz’s annual charity softball game, which includes a dinner where they all get together. Sherman and Crabtree apparently had words then.
So, if I am understanding correctly, that means without Fitz, this whole thing — which, for now, has totally overshadowed the Seahawks making the Super Bowl — might not have happened? Fitz, bringing people together.
Actually, it’s interesting, because Fitzgerald is the absolute last guy that is going to engage in that stuff. Earlier this year, in fact, Sherman was kind of complaining that Fitz wouldn’t trade barbs and it made it hard to not like him. There is a reason Fitz can get these guys to attend his charity events and why Fitz keeps getting voted to the Pro Bowl. (Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of trash-talking myself. If you are good, it seems to me your play does the talking. If you are not good, why, exactly, would you be talking?)
Meanwhile, these are all components of the Cardinals’ universe. It’s not like Crabtree doesn’t have history with the Cardinals too, and going up against the Cards’ own star cornerback Patrick Peterson, who also (kind of) weighed in when all of this Sherman/Crabtree/best cornerback stuff started happening.
Ahh, the NFC West. It’s quite the universe within which to live these days.
Tags: 49ers, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Crabtree, Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman, Seahawks
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Jay Feely has made public service — especially helping the less fortunate in places like Haiti — an important part of his life. That’s a big reason he was named the Cardinals’ Walter Payton Man of the Year this season. Tonight, the NFL announced Feely is one of three finalists for the NFL Man of the Year award, joining Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis and Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman.
The award is given to players who recognizes a player’s off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence.
“People look to you to be a leader, but also look at you in a certain way just because you are an athlete,” Feely said when he was named the Cards’ Man of the Year. “I think you can use that to your advantage to have an impact on people.”
The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award will be announced at the Super Bowl during the third annual NFL Honors, a two-hour awards special Feb. 1 and televised on Fox. The Cardinals had an NFL Man of the Year for the 2008 season, when quarterback Kurt Warner won the award the same year the franchise played in the Super Bowl. Larry Fitzgerald was also a finalist for the award last season.
Tags: Jay Feely, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald
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Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Larry Fitzgerald, NFC Championship, NFL
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