For the first time since the new coaching staff was hired, Larry Fitzgerald was around to answer questions about the Cards. More on that later on the homepage, but on one of the most crucial topics — what quarterback will be throwing to him — Fitz remains in the dark.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m just like you guys, waiting around to see April first, who is going to be in that locker room.”
Fitzgerald didn’t want to get into what QBs would be a good fit, because like the rest of the players, he doesn’t even know what the offense is because he can’t talk to coaches. There is still a lot of speculation of what will go on — other than the Cards delivering a tender offer to their own restricted free agent, Brian Hoyer, it’s dangerous to guess what quarterbacks will be in Tempe by April.
(It won’t be Fitz playing QB, though. He was at the facility Saturday playing in Kurt Warner’s annual flag football tourney. The pros that show up play QB regardless of their “real” position. Fitz tends to aim the ball, although as you can see below, he’ll still draw up some strategy.)
It’s been a reunion today, with Fitz, Warner and Anquan Boldin — fresh off his Super Bowl win — playing together. Boldin and Fitz are scheduled to leave tomorrow to Africa for more charity work for Oxfam. Boldin, according to reports, isn’t interested in a paycut from the Ravens but if he is about to be released, he wasn’t showing any stress. Instead, he was happy with the makeup of his flag football team roster, since Q is driven to win this thing every year, even if it is just for charity.
Tags: Larry Fitzgerald
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Just in case anyone wasn’t sure about new coach Bruce Arians wanting to get the ball downfield if possible in the running game, Arians makes it pretty clear what he wants to see in his running backs.
He wants someone who can run, of course. And block. Beyond that? Let’s just say that fantasy football players in points-per-reception leagues aren’t going to look at the Cardinals first.
“They are back there because they are runners and pass protectors,” Arians said. “Will we throw to the backs? Yeah. But the receivers are the ones paid to catch it. (Running backs) are helping but it’s doubtful our running back leads the team in receiving.”
Last season, injuries crushed the Cards’ running backs, so reception totals don’t correspond perfectly in what the prior staff wanted to do in the passing game, but even Ken Whisenhunt’s pass game didn’t use the backs a ton as receivers (especially after Tim Hightower left.) William Powell had the most catches for a running back last year (19), and that was sixth on the team behind Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Michael Floyd, Rob Housler and Early Doucet. LaRod Stephens-Howling was tied for seventh with tight end Jeff King with his 17 catches. Ryan Williams had seven receptions, Anthony Sherman five and Beanie Wells only had one.
Tags: Larry Fitzgerald, Beanie Wells, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Early Doucet, Tim Hightower, Andre Roberts, Ryan Williams, Rob Housler, Anthony Sherman, Jeff King, William Powell, Bruce Arians, Michael Floyd
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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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Sure, the Super Bowl is coming Sunday. But there is still time to talk about the Cardinals, so I’ll be doing that in a chat a 1 p.m. today Arizona time (3 p.m. Eastern). If you are interested, the link is right here.
– Speaking of links, here are a couple more.
* Here’s a cool highlight package of Larry Fitzgerald’s greatest hits. Don’t forget Fitz is also up for the NFL’s Man of the Year award, which will be announced Saturday night.
* Nicole Bidwill is taking part in a charity dance competition for her friend, former Cardinals great wide receiver Roy Green, who underwent a kidney transplant. Bidwill is raising money for the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona. My cohort Josh Weinfuss is working on a story for azcardinals.com that should be posted in the next day or so, but you can also watch a video with Bidwill and Green about the situation (and maybe even donate some money.)
* Here’s a quick overview of one of the new members of the front office, Debbie Pollom, who comes to the Cards to work for GM Steve Keim after two decades with the Rams.
Tags: Debbie Pollom, Larry Fitzgerald, Nicole Bidwill, Roy Green
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The numbers weren’t great for the Pro Bowl receiver — 75 catches, less than 1,000 yards, four touchdowns — but then again, the quarterback situation wasn’t great either.
It was difficult for Reggie Wayne.
Wait, you thought I was talking about Larry Fitzgerald? Well, part of the story plays out as a parallel for sure. Wayne, the Colts’ veteran, had statistics (75-960-4) in 2011 that mirrored what Fitz dealt with in 2012 (71-798-4). But when Bruce Arians came in to Indianapolis as offensive coordinator before the 2012 season, one of his goals was to make Wayne the impact player he had always been. Now that Arians is head coach of the Cardinals, he has the same plans for Fitz.
“As a receiver, you can’t hand it to them, you have to throw it to them,” Arians said. “They can double-cover him, and you don’t throw it to him if he is double-covered and someone else is single-covered. You’ve got to take what is there as a quarterback, but you do have to get him the ball because he is such a tremendous talent.
“When I first met with Reggie, Reggie had been on the left side for 10 years. The first day of spring I put him over there on the right, and he looked like he had palsy. I said, ‘It’ll come. You have to retrain your body here. Wait until I put you in the slot.’ There was buy-in.”
Now, Fitzgerald is ahead of the curve there. The Cardinals have been moving him around for a while now, just to get him open. Wayne’s resurgence not coincidentally benefited from the arrival of Andrew Luck at quarterback, and as of today, it doesn’t look like a Luck-type will end up behind center for the Cardinals this season. But Arians understands the ball must end up with Fitz more often than it did last season.
Wayne, by the way, had 106 catches for 1,355 yards and five touchdowns in 2012.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne
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It wasn’t Larry Fitzgerald’s finest year in the NFL — not with 71 catches, 798 yards and four touchdowns, all well below his regular output — but his reputation around the league has always been good. So it wasn’t a shock to see that Fitzgerald was still an alternate for the Pro Bowl when those announcements came out at the end of the season. And, with the many players who end up missing the Pro Bowl, it wasn’t a shock to see Tuesday that Fitz will once again be a Pro Bowler, replacing Chicago’s Brandon Marshall. Marshall reportedly needs hip surgery, and he becomes the second Pro Bowl wideout to have to give up his spot because of health reasons (Detroit’s Calvin Johnson is the other.) Tampa’s Vincent Jackson replaced Johnson. The other NFC receivers are Atlanta’s Julio Jones and the Giants’ Victor Cruz.
It will be Fitzgerald’s seventh Pro Bowl in nine NFL seasons. He joins fellow Cardinals Patrick Peterson and Daryl Washington in Hawaii.
The berth will give Fitzgerald a chance to extend his NFL record of career touchdown receptions in the league’s all-star game. Fitzgerald already has seven TD catches. Last year, he had six catches for 111 yards and three scores.
Tags: Daryl Washington, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Pro Bowl
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With the Super Bowl a couple of weeks away, the NFL announced Sunday the finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, including Larry Fitzgerald. The other two finalists are Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas and Cowboys tight end Jason Witten. The NFL Man of the Year award is announced Feb. 2, the night before the Super Bowl, during a nationally televised awards show on CBS. We already knew Fitz was the Cards’ Man of the Year (with that award presented to him by team president Michael Bidwill, pictured below.)
The Cardinals’ Kurt Warner won it the year the Cardinals played in the Super Bowl. The award recognizes a player’s off-the-field community service as well his playing excellence. Finalists for the award received $5,000 for their charity of choice from NFL Charities. The winner receives a $25,000 donation.
The selection panel for the award is NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Walter Payton’s wife Connie, Pro Football Hall of Fame members Frank Gifford and Anthony Munoz, 2011 winner Matt Birk of the Ravens, and Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King.
Fitzgerald has increased his profile in charity work as his NFL career has progressed. The Larry Fitzgerald First Down Fund provides funds for positive activities for kids during the summer and throughout the year, with programs in Arizona, Minneapolis (his home city) and Chicago (where his family is from). He works with the Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund, established in honor of his late mother, who passed away from breast cancer in 2003. That focuses on issues Fitz’s mother crusaded for, including HIV/AIDS education and the fight against breast cancer. Fitzgerald has also traveled the world extensively and often turned those trips in charity work, such as missions in Africa. In July, he flew to Uganda to assist President Clinton and his daughter Chelsea fit hearing aids for those in need.
Tags: Anthony Munoz, Frank Gifford, Joe Thomas, Joe Witten, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Birk, Paul Tagliabue, Roger Goodell, Walter Payton
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Before I power down for the evening — the Arians news continues again tomorrow with the 1 p.m. press conference, with some behind-the-scenes stuff on azcardinals.com too — a few thoughts on the newest Cardinals’ head coach.
It feels like a good move for the Cardinals. This is a guy who many thought would be a hot candidate for a head coaching job and who was close to getting the Bears job. He’s about a vertical passing game — one of the reasons he reportedly lost his offensive coordinator job in Pittsburgh was because he passed too much. I do think, with Steve Keim as general manager, the offensive line and run game will be made a priority. That part of the offense has to get better. It has to get better in general, and it has to get better to ease the pressure on a passing offense that — at this point — can’t shoulder such a burden.
I’d think Larry Fitzgerald is a big winner here, assuming that consistent quarterback play can be found. I really have no doubt that the bottoming out of the quarterback position won’t be repeated. Will the franchise quarterback be found this season? No way to know, but given the draft class, it might not be possible. But I do think the offense will get better. But the proof will be on the field in September, October, etc.
As for the defense, there’s a lot to settle. There are a lot of reports about defensive coordinator Ray Horton, about him being upset he didn’t get the head coaching job, about him wanting out, about the Cards replacing him. Here’s all that I know as I type this: He’s still under contract, he’s still employed by the Cards. (And the reported replacement, Todd Bowles, is still under contract for the Eagles.) Could there be a change? There is always that possibility when a head coaching change happens. Anyone assuming that something was set in stone — how many times in the last three weeks has something been put out there, nationally, and have it turn out to be untrue? — is wrong because these are all fluid situations.
Losing Horton doesn’t sound appealing. I get that. I do know this, that for those who suggested on Twitter that there would be a player revolt, I don’t see it. Some players might not be happy. Others might embrace a change. But players know coaches come and go. That’s the business.
We’ll see how the staff shapes up. If Horton isn’t coming back, the other defensive coaches may be moving on too. I’d think special teams coach Kevin Spencer could be OK, since he coached with Arians in Pittsburgh. Strength coach John Lott could be OK. It was a little strange when tight end coach Freddie Kitchens was the lone offensive coach retained, but look at this — Arians was the offensive coordinator for the University of Alabama in 1997, the same year Kitchens, then a senior, was quarterbacking the Crimson Tide. So there is a tie there.
There will be much more tomorrow. So I’m going to get some sleep now.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Freddie Kitchens, Kevin Spencer, Larry Fitzgerald, Ray Horton, Steve Keim, Todd Bowles
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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 Cardinals have asked for and have been granted permission to talk to Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley for the vacant head coaching job. That’s not a surprise. Michael Bidwill has always liked Haley, and was intrigued last year when Haley was interested — after being let go by the Chiefs as head coach — in coming back to be part of Whisenhunt’s staff. And Haley, even when he was Chiefs’ head coach, had expressed his fondness for Arizona and the Cards. He still has a home here.
His stint as K.C. head coach after leaving the Cards as OC after the Super Bowl season started well and devolved quickly until he was fired during the 2011 season. His time in Pittsburgh this past year was filled with some drama as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made some critical comments of Haley’s choices.
Of course, Haley was part of a dynamic offense while in Arizona, developing a close relationship with Kurt Warner and coaxing the next level out of Larry Fitzgerald. He can be confrontational. But you always know where you stand with Haley.
So to recap, here’s where things stand with the Cards’ known candidates as of Thursday morning a little before 10 a.m. Arizona time:
– DC Ray Horton had a good interview, but also felt like he had good interviews with the Browns and Bills.
– Andy Reid is, as of now, still supposed to interview with the Cards at some point, but had an extended interview with the Chiefs Wednesday and many reports have Reid closing in on a deal with the Chiefs. Howard Eskin says Reid won’t make it to Arizona. Then again, many reports had him closing in on a deal with the Cards a couple days ago, and that turned out to be a fallacy.
– The Cards are still scheduled to meet with Broncos OC Mike McCoy this weekend.
– Now Haley figures to be in the mix whenever they can line up an interview.
– For the general manager spot, in-house candidate Steve Keim was having his interview this week, and the Cards will also interview Redskins director of pro personnel Morocco Brown. Keim feels like the favorite there to me, but who knows. Keim is still reportedly going to interview with the Chargers and Jaguars for their GM posts.
Got all that?
– Also, Ken Whisenhunt interviewed not only with the Bills but also the Browns for their vacant jobs.
Tags: Andy Reid, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Bidwill, Mike McCoy, Morocco Brown, Ray Horton, Steve Keim, Todd Haley
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