So, before it’s time to take leave for a bit, we come to the second part of the “for what it’s worth” posts. Yesterday, it was the defense. Today, the offense, which starts with a healthy Carson Palmer, always a good thing. This team should be in a better place offensively this season, if for no other reason than the system is set and the offensive line should be better than it’s been overall in a long time. Of course, the Cards have to show it. And Palmer needs to stay on the field.
QB — Carson Palmer. Whatever else the Cardinals might have done on the field this offseason, just having Palmer back and working in 11-on-11 by the end would deem it a success. We’ll see how it plays out in camp — and more importantly, the first preseason game he takes part in — but it’s important that he is on track to be the starter.
RB — Andre Ellington. Rookie David Johnson should end up playing a role and could end up as a key on offense. But right now, all things still figure to go through Ellington to begin with. The entire running back situation is an interesting one. Will the offensive line upgrade trickle down to help this position? How might Kerwynn Williams fit in? The Cards just want Ellington to stay healthy, and see what that means.
WR — Larry Fitzgerald. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact, after another year under 1,000 yards, that Fitz was really clicking with Palmer before Palmer got hurt. If the two vets can play together, I’m curious to see what Fitz’s numbers can be, even in this system when not one receiver figures to dominate the stat sheet.
WR — Michael Floyd. It’s a big year for Floyd. The quarterback situation did not help last season, but there were times even when Palmer played where, for whatever reason, Floyd didn’t produce. Sometimes, that was a lack of targets. The Cards certainly have other options too. But the former No. 1 draft pick needs to make a greater impact.
WR — John Brown. In this setup, the Cards go three wide receivers (I’ll hit the tight ends in a minute.) Brown has added a little muscle and had strong self-awareness of what happened to him last season, including wearing out at the end of the season. Palmer can’t say enough good things about Brown, with whom he developed a strong bond with last summer. Smokey will get his chances.
TE — Darren Fells. Troy Niklas is going to be in this mix and when the Cards go two tight ends on running downs, Niklas will likely join Fells. But right now, with Niklas still trying to get healthy, it is Fells who as emerged out of a very inexperienced tight end room. One caveat: Can’t exclude the possibility of the Cards signing a veteran at the position, which could change this dynamic.
RT — Bobby Massie. D.J. Humphries is making strides, but as of now, it’s hard to see Humphries surpassing Massie. Things could change when the pads go on. Another possibility is if Humphries makes enough strides, maybe Massie is a guy who the Cards would consider trading, especially if another team loses a tackle in injury in camp. But if Massie is around for the first game, I think he starts.
RG — Jonathan Cooper. He’s in great shape. He doesn’t have any of the issues left from a broken leg or turf toe or any of the other problems he might have had. If Cooper is going to become the player the Cardinals hope he can be, this is the season he needs to do it. His confidence clearly has never been higher, and he comes across as a different player than he was at this time last year. A big, big camp awaits.
C — A.Q. Shipley. This is an interesting spot. Shipley and Ted Larsen will battle in camp. OTAs and minicamp are what they are, but Shipley was the one getting more first-unit snaps by the end and he has history with both Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin. This will come down to how Shipley and Larsen perform in games. (And if they both struggle, I wouldn’t completely write off the idea of a Lyle Sendlein return either, as long as he remains a free agent.)
LG — Mike Iupati. For a second straight year, the big free-agent purchase was an offensive lineman. Iupati’s reputation is that of excellent run blocker and a guy who needs to work on his pass blocking. Iupati certainly looks the part, and it will be fun to watch him in pads during camp and see what collisions develop.
LT — Jared Veldheer. The Cardinals wanted a left tackle and after one season, it looks like they have gotten a pretty good one.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Andre Ellington, Bobby Massie, Carson Palmer, D, Darren Fells, J. Humphries, Jared Veldheer, John Brown, Jonathan Cooper, Larry Fitzgerald, Lyle Sendlein, Michael Floyd, Mike Iupati, Ted Larsen, Troy Niklas
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Since 2008, every single position on the offensive line has had some kind of competition at one point for the Cardinals — except at center. That’s where Lyle Sendlein manned the job, and there was never really anyone around to truly push the status quo. That’s changed, now, with Sendlein getting released (after being asked to take a paycut and being informed that indeed, there would be a competition this year.) A.Q. Shipley was signed as a free agent and more importantly, the Cardinals have Ted Larsen — who started at guard all last season but did a solid job in for an injured Sendlein during the preseason in 2014.
The door remains open for Sendlein to return if he wanted, but he’ll explore all his other options for now. If he were to return, it’s probably safe to say one of those vets won’t be with the team by the time final roster cutdowns happen. There is a chance a center/guard could find his way on to the team through the draft or as an undrafted rookie, although the team still has last year’s UDFA Anthony Steen who would be in that role. (There were times when Jonathan Cooper took some pre-game snaps as the third center last year, but I highly doubt he will be in the mix. For Coop, it’s about winning that right guard spot.)
That the Cardinals decided to shift things around at center isn’t a huge surprise, especially when it comes to the money. The team now has significantly more invested at guard after signing Mike Iupati (plus a seventh-overall draft pick contract with Cooper) and while Bobby Massie is playing out a fourth-round rookie deal at right tackle, Jared Veldheer is making big bucks at left tackle. You can’t pay them all, and center was a spot they were looking to address. If I had to guess at a starter right now, I’d guess Larsen. (Bruce Arians declined to say who it would be as of right now.) We are a long way from seeing what direction that storyline goes come September.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Anthony Steen, Jonathan Cooper, Lyle Sendlein, Ted Larsen
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Bruce Arians talked for an hour today on a lot of subjects at the NFC coaches breakfast during the NFL spring meetings. We’ll have a lot of stories and video on the various topics today and in the coming days. Among the things Arians touched on:
— The Cardinals would still like to bring back Lyle Sendlein to compete for the center position;
— Logan Thomas will get a ton of reps in the offseason and could even get some “field one” work (the Cards have players working on two fields) depending on the health of Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton;
— There was nothing to say on Adrian Peterson (“Are you trying to get me fined?” he said);
— The Cardinals will look at Kareem Martin at outside linebacker. Arians thinks Martin has the body-type of Aldon Smith.
— He wants DE Calais Campbell to be more consistent, saying “he disappears too much.”
There was much more. But the line of the day came when Arians was talking about the reluctance of General Manager Steve Keim to accept his award for Executive of the Year from the Sporting News the other day in front of the other GMs and coaches. The trophy itself was a big glass vase-looking thing.
“You check your ego at the door, because everything is for the Cardinals,” Arians said. “We’ve both been fortunate enough to get some accolades. You can’t take them. The entire room got you there. Don’t think you’re special. We both laughed, he was embarrassed as hell the other day to get his. I said, ‘Dude, you got a cup. We can drink out of that.”
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Kareem Martin, Logan Thomas, Lyle Sendlein, Sporting News, Steve Keim
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I covered Lyle Sendlein in high school.
It was only one game, a championship game he played in with Scottsdale Chaparral, and I mostly knew of him because of his older brother Austin, who had dominated as a sophomore at the school in my last full year covering high school sports. I paid attention that Lyle Sendlein went to Texas, playing for a national championship, and by the time he reached the NFL I had been covering the Cardinals for a few years. By the time he reported for his first training camp in Flagstaff, I was now doing the same job, but for the team site.
You never know how each undrafted rookie class will sort itself out. There are almost always a couple of guys who come out of “nowhere” to make the team, and it didn’t take much to find out that Sendlein had won over offensive line coach Russ Grimm. After his rookie year — and after Al Johnson’s career was derailed with injuries — Sendlein took over at center for good.
It soothed some of the hurt of never being drafted, although it never totally went away. Not that Sendlein was a complainer. He preferred to be quiet and plug along, often his body beat up without anyone knowing. He ended up as an offensive captain on four different teams, a designation that both underscored the respect he had earned in the locker room and that made him a team spokesman. Sendlein wasn’t going to fill the notebook but he knew it came with the job, and in those years where the Cards didn’t have success, he would stand there week after week trying to supply answers that weren’t easy to come by.
He didn’t play as well as he wanted to last season, and apparently, the Cardinals decision makers noticed the same thing. When A.Q. Shipley was signed Wednesday, after Ted Larsen did fine at center when Sendlein was hurt during 2014 training camp — and with Sendlein’s big 2014 salary — things for Sendlein were headed in the wrong direction. Then Sendlein was released Thursday.
It’s early enough in free agency that he should be able to hook on somewhere. But he’ll be missed in the locker room. He’ll be missed by the community arm of the team, since Sendlein was a mainstay in those events all year.
And truth be told, I always had a kinship with Sendlein because, like him, I graduated (much, much earlier) from Chaparral and that was an easy way for us to delve into a working relationship. There are plenty of good guys who have come through that locker room downstairs, and Sendlein was unquestionably one of them.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Lyle Sendlein, Ted Larsen
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Palmer was due a roster bonus of $9.5 million, and it was converted into a signing bonus. What it means is that the bonus money can be prorated over the life of his current contract, dropping his salary cap number $7.1 million (and clearing that space for the Cardinals.) That’s a big help in trying to maneuver through free agency. His cap number for 2015 dropped from more than $14 million to $7.4 million.
(This is the classic NFL restructure as opposed to any pay cut; it impacts Palmer zero. He gets all the money he was going to get anyway. It’s just the way the Cardinals account for it with their cap.)
Of course, that also means the rest of that prorated bonus balloons his future cap numbers. Palmer now has a cap number of $19 million in 2016 and $22.7 million in 2017 (including some heavy dead money if for some reason he isn’t playing.) That will be something GM Steve Keim will have to deal with at some point, you would think. In the short term, however, the Cardinals have more flexibility right now, especially after the release of center Lyle Sendlein created another $3 million of cap space. No way to know how much room they currently have, but the Palmer/Sendlein moves alone freed up around $10 million for Keim to continue to reshuffle his roster.
Tags: Carson Palmer, Lyle Sendlein, salary cap
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The Cardinals added two more free agents Wednesday, bringing in a pair of ex-Colts: center/guard A.Q. Shipley and defensive end Cory Redding. Both are Bruce Arians specials; He coached both when he was in Indianapolis. Shipley has been with Arians three times now (he started in Pittsburgh when Arians was there) while Redding said he came to lean on Arians when Colts head coach Chuck Pagano got sick in 2012.
Both are the kind of depth signings GM Steve Keim has begun to master. Redding — below, signing his deal — will be great in the locker room and still can play, even though he contemplated retirement after the 2014 season. He’ll be perfect to mentor guys like Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson (as will fellow signee Corey Peters.)
Shipley fits into the mix on the interior of the offensive line. The numbers are starting to grow there, however, and it’s getting crowded for the current bunch even with a 90-man roster. Paul Fanaika is leaving (reportedly is going to sign with the Chiefs) but with Shipley and Iupati coming in, adding in with Lyle Sendlein, Ted Larsen, Jonathan Cooper and Earl Watford, it’s a logjam. Sendlein’s $4 million-plus salary cap hit sticks out right now. We’ll see how it plays out, and who might be able to find their way onto the revamped offensive line.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Bruce Arians, Colts, Cory Redding, Earl Watford, Ed Stinson, Jonathan Cooper, Kareem Martin, Lyle Sendlein, Paul Fanaika, Ted Larsen
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Well, if you are hoping for a splashy free agent move from the Cardinals, you may just get your wish: Three-time Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati, who has been with the 49ers, could be coming to Arizona.
49ers free-agent G Mike Iupati has told people he plans to sign with the Arizona Cardinals, per sources. Iupati vs. SF DT Darnell Dockett.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 9, 2015
Again, nothing is done at this point. (And if you aren’t sure about that, former 49ers running back Frank Gore was reported by many as a done deal to go to the Eagles — until the reports came out Monday that he now could back away from Philly. Until a guy is signed, he’s not signed.) That said, Iupati is considered by many as the top interior lineman on the free agent market. So when Bruce Arians said he wanted competition on the interior of the offensive line, that’s one way to get it, although it kind of ends the competition before it even begins. It’d be naive to think, if they sign Iupati, he wouldn’t be an automatic starter.
Iuapti is known as a devastating run blocker. His pass blocking is not nearly as revered, especially when trying to block for scrambler Colin Kaepernick. But if he is signed it would give the Cardinals a lot of flexibility on the line. You still have to figure Jonathan Cooper is penciled in to be a starter as the 2013 No. 1 draft pick. He, like Iupati, has been a left guard, so one of them would have to play the right side. Ted Larsen could battle Lyle Sendlein at center (although with his $3 million salary, Sendlein could still be a cap casualty at some point.) The Cardinals could still look for a center in free agency too.
It’s not as if the 49ers were planning to have Iupati come back, but still, it’s a shot against an NFC West rival. And it hasn’t been a good day for the 49ers anyway, since the news that linebacker Patrick Willis likely will retire and so too might defensive lineman Justin Smith. At this rate, Darnell Dockett is going to be one of the longest tenured vets on the 49ers in a short period of time.
Tags: Jonathan Cooper, Lyle Sendlein, Mike Iupati, Ted Larsen
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The first thing the Cardinals needed to get done was re-doing Larry Fitzgerald’s contract. That’s done. Cap space has been cleared. But the Cardinals probably will look for more.
GM Steve Keim said today he will be talking to DT Darnell Dockett about his contract, which has one year left and a cap number of $9.8 million. That’s lofty anyway, but especially for an older player who is coming off major knee surgery. Ted Ginn, who sunk to the fifth receiver by year’s end, is another player who seems likely to be looked at, contract-wise. There are other veterans with higher cap numbers who could get a look from Keim. But there are lines to walk; CB Jerraud Powers is due more than $4 million in salary this season, for example, but if Antonio Cromartie leaves in free agency, you have to make sure you have the depth you want. A total of 13 Cardinals carry cap numbers of more than $3 million for 2015, including Powers ($5.3M), C Lyle Sendlein ($4.3M), Ginn ($4M), and QB Drew Stanton ($3.9M).
Keim’s point that the Cardinals, with Fitz’s new contract, will allow the Cards to be active in free agency is crucial. There is little doubt the Cardinals need to upgrade, but what will the market bear? I could see the Cardinals looking heavily at running back, at linebacker (both inside and outside), perhaps interior offensive line. If Cromartie doesn’t return, they could look at cornerback. And one of the quieter stories of the offseason is the potential loss of nose tackle Dan Williams and what the Cards do if Williams does not return.
Fixing the Fitz situation was important. But it wasn’t the only thing in front of Keim that needs tending.
“There are some additional tough decisions we will have to make,” Keim said.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, Drew Stanton, Jerraud Powers, Larry Fitzgerald, Lyle Sendlein, Steve Keim, Ted Ginn
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I have posted my annual roster breakdown, where you can see (right here) where everyone of note on the current roster stands in terms of how long their contract runs — at least right now, before guys are released or extended or otherwise restructured. If you want to see the details of this year’s free-agent concerns, here’s my story on that. But one of the things you notice when you peruse the list of players is just how many guys have their contracts expire after the 2015 season.
By my count, it’s 25 guys, and while that will most certainly change by this time next year — a rookie class will push some of those guys off the roster, for instance — it’s something to watch as General Manager Steve Keim maneuvers through this offseason. Many of these players are up so soon because they were found off the street or as undrafted rookies and had shorter-term contracts. But, at least for now, here are some of the names that are scheduled to be up after 2015:
— DT Darnell Dockett
— QB Drew Stanton
— WR Michael Floyd (who does have a 2016 team option)
— C Lyle Sendlein
— T Bobby Massie
— DE Frostee Rucker
— LB Matt Shaughnessy
— CB Justin Bethel
— CB Jerraud Powers
— S Rashad Johnson
— S Tony Jefferson
Again, I don’t expect all of them to remain on that schedule. The Cardinals will make an attempt to extend some of them. Others could be released as the normal roster overhaul takes place. But this is the way a team clears cap space and doesn’t get into cap problems, like Keim has worked to try and do. It means there are few real long-term deals. And more work every offseason.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Darnell Dockett, Drew Stanton, free agency, Frostee Rucker, Jerraud Powers, Justin Bethel, Lyle Sendlein, Matt Shaughnessy, Michael Floyd, Rashad Johnson, Tony Jefferson
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Everything Sunday was supposed to be for the Cardinals – everything the Cards needed it to be – it wasn’t. Bruce Arians called the loss to the Falcons disappointing, lots of players called it disappointing, but more importantly, they were asking themselves why it happened the way it did when they simply couldn’t afford such a performance.
“We didn’t wake up,” linebacker Kevin Minter said. “It was like we were asleep the whole game. We’ve just got to do better, man. Do what got us here, as far as hitting people in the mouth, just playing hungry, playing nasty – play like we are one of the top teams in the league, which we supposedly were until these last two games. We’ve just got to wake back up and get back on this winning train.”
The offense wasn’t good, and we’ll get to that in a moment. But from the time that Steven Jackson – Steven Jackson? – reeled off a 55-yard run on the game’s first possession, it was the defense that simply didn’t do enough Sunday. No, the offense didn’t do enough either, but this year, with this team, the defense is held to the higher standard. The defense will be what takes the Cardinals however far they will go.
Jackson gained 101 yards. The Cardinals never give up 100 yards to a running back. Julio Jones put Patrick Peterson on blast to the tune of a career-high 189 yards, and Harry Douglas added 116 himself – you know, as long as Roddy White was hurt, why not?
The last time the Cardinals gave up at least 100 yards in a game to a running back and two receivers? Way (way) back on Nov. 12, 2000, when Robert Smith rushed for 117 yards, Cris Carter had 119 yards receiving and Randy Moss has 104 for the Vikings. Of course, that was for a bad, bad Cardinals team that went through a midseason coaching change. This was by a defense that not only is better, but when it is playing well is one of the best in the league.
Adversity has come to visit, linebacker Larry Foote said. With four games left – including the last three within the division – the Cardinals have to figure out how to overcome. It starts on defense.
— Stanton did seem to find a little bit of a groove after a very slow start. But the Cards kill themselves over and over. A Michael Floyd fumble here. A Ted Larsen holding penalty there. An incomplete bomb to Ted Ginn on third-and-2. The first thing Stanton talked about after the game was converting third downs, of which the Cards did only once Sunday.
— Andre Ellington said he’ll be OK after his hip pointer – he said it was a different injury than the one he has been dealing with – but the run game didn’t help again. Falling behind so big so early didn’t help, but Ellington and backup Marion Grice combined for just 10 rushing attempts, for just 35 yards.
— There were too many important players standing out of uniform on the sideline during the game – Larry Fitzgerald, Darnell Dockett, John Abraham – to not make you think if all the injuries are starting to catch up to this team.
— The Cardinals do get linebacker Matt Shaughnessy back this week and he can play against the Chiefs. That isn’t a small thing.
— Jaron Brown had his best game, with a team-best seven catches for 75 yards in Fitz’s absence, and absorbed one wicked blow late as he was tackled. Brown was fine with that, he said. He wasn’t fine with the ball that glanced off his hands early in the game, which turned into the Falcons’ first interception. The pass looked too high from Stanton, but to that Brown shrugged off.
“That catch I should have made,” he said. “It hit my hands. Those tips are something we can’t have.”
— Lyle Sendlein, who used to be an offensive captain before Carson Palmer took a foothold in the locker room, is wearing the “C” on his uniform again now that Palmer is out for the season.
— With the high-ankle sprain of Paul Fanaika, it sure looks like Jonathan Cooper will be in the lineup as a starting guard for a little while at least. Even before Fanaika got hurt, Cooper was swapping series with Ted Larsen at left guard. It looked like the effort to reintroduce him into the lineup had begun.
— Arians said he didn’t challenge the 41-yard catch by Julio Jones in the second half – the one in which numerous fans mentioned to me on Twitter Jones only got one foot down – because the coaches upstairs never saw a replay. Peterson was called for holding on the play, but a challenge could have saved the Cards 36 yards if the catch had been negated.
— The punt team nearly was burned on a 70-yard punt return touchdown by Devin Hester. But Hester was called for a facemask while trying to straight-arm punter Drew Butler, and then the Falcons were flagged for another 15-yard penalty for complaining about that call. Cost the Falcons four points in the end (Atlanta later got a field goal). Hester afterward insisted it was a bad call.
— That’s it from 30,000 feet. The Cardinals go back to work tomorrow, trying desperately to right what’s wrong.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Cris Carter, Devin Hester, Drew Butler, Drew Stanton, Falcons, Harry Douglas, Jaron Brown, Jonathan Cooper, Julio Jones, Kevin Minter, Lyle Sendlein, Marion Grice, Matt Shaughnessy, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Paul Fanaika, Randy Moss, Robert Smith, Steven Jackson, Ted Larsen
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