A long, long time ago, when I was still in college, I was driving near campus one night while listening to the 620 Sportsline on the radio (was that Schulte and Roye at the time?) during basketball season. A caller wanted to know why the Suns couldn’t just trade for Hakeem Olajuwon. I mean, he was only the best big man in the game and one of the best of all time. The guy wanted to know why the Suns couldn’t get him for guard Negele Knight, forward Kurt Rambis and someone else (maybe center Andrew Lang? Trust me, it wasn’t a big name.)
I’ve heard similar trade suggestions in my years covering the Cardinals, sure. A certain player, while not needed/underperforming with the Cards can certainly fetch a second- or third-round draft pick, even though the Cards don’t want him. Right? (Uh, no.)
With the success of the one-year, prove-it-to-me contracts that Steve Keim has had in his tenure as GM, it feels like the one-year deal possibilities are veering into that territory. The Bills released defensive lineman Mario Williams, and certainly, that’s a name that draws interest. Would he fit in Arizona? He’s not exactly a 3-4 defensive end, and he’s already made noises that he’s not a fan of the idea that he’d ever have to drop into coverage as a 3-4 OLB. He only had five sacks last season, and while he could be used like Dwight Freeney in Arizona as a pass rusher, he’s going to want a lot more money and likely will get it somewhere in a NFL free-agent world flush with cap space.
So when I see suggestions — and I have had a few over the many platforms with which to reach me — that the Cardinals could lure Williams to the desert with a one-year contract, my first thought is, why would he do that? It’s early, and yes he underperformed in 2015, but it’s hard to believe someone won’t pony up some money for him this offseason. That could still be the Cards (although I do agree it’d have to be at the right price, which is not what he was getting in Buffalo.)
One-year deal guys don’t necessarily wait all the way until training camp, like Eric Winston or Chris Johnson or Jermaine Gresham. But if they sign earlier than that — Karlos Dansby, Antonio Cromartie — they wait out the market for a while to be absolutely sure they cannot get some significant cash. The Cards do have the ability these days to attract players because of the team and the destination. But money usually talks first, and short-term deals sometimes sound like Knight-for-Olajuwon.
Tags: free agency, Mario Williams
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There will be many things that people will be waiting to see Sunday when the Cards finally kick off against the Bills – how the Cards’ run game looks, whether the Bills have recovered from a couple of historical beat-downs – but from the Cardinals’ side of the fence, it’ll be Arizona’s first few pass plays that will be under the microscope. The Bills won’t have (struggling) defensive end Mark Anderson, although they do have (struggling) defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and (struggling) defensive end Mario Williams. There has been plenty of talk not surprisingly, from the Buffalo perspective that their pass rush can get healthy against the Cards. It’s vice versa for the Cards, who count on righting the pass-protection ship after surrendering 17 sacks the past two games.
“If you go into the game thinking that you are going to do that just because, you could be in for a rude awakening,” Mario Williams said. “If we go out and think, ‘Oh well, it’s going to be easy because the last two teams did this,’ we could be in for a rude awakening.”
Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb spoke again this week about how there were many facets in the pas game that need to do better to improve the pass protection. Someone suggested more three-step drops for Kolb, which the quarterback dismissed. “You can’t just go to three-step drops,” Kolb said. “That’s not the way the game is.”
You can’t just do a lot of anything. Pro teams – and pro coaches – figure that out soon enough. Leave more guys in to block? OK, but that’s fewer people in pass routes, and fewer options for which Kolb to pass. Coach Ken Whisenhunt knows he needs better technique from his blockers, better protection schemes and better overall play. There’s will have been 10 days to try and iron some of this out.
— There are two banged-up teams going out to play. With cornerbacks Greg Toler and Michael Adams doubtful, it sure sounds like rookie Jamell Fleming will be thrust back into a prominent defensive role. And kind-of-newcomer Crezdon Butler may be active right off the bat after being away from the team since being cut at the end of the preseason. The Bills, meanwhile, are missing a pair of starting offensive linemen themselves.
— Cornerback William Gay, who stands to start across from Patrick Peterson again Sunday, has struggled at times. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton said it is technique issues with Gay, and along those lines, Gay’s role was reduced against the Rams. “Obviously, he’s capable,” Horton said. “He had a good week of practice. We reduced his role and message sent, I believe. Now, whether message was received or not, we’ll find out.”
— The Bills have allowed 97 points the last two games, to the Patriots and 49ers. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Cardinals will suddenly break out, but if the Cards’ offense is going to have a chance to improve, this is a matchup you want.
— Quarterback John Skelton is listed as probable for the first time since his ankle injury. I fully expect Kolb to start – who wouldn’t? – but Skelton, I would guess, would be the backup. After that, I don’t know if we are going to have any big announcement or not. The Cards are going to go through the gauntlet on the schedule after this game, at Minnesota, home against the Niners, at Green Bay and at Atlanta, which will be rough on whoever is playing QB.
— Today is Adrian Wilson’s birthday. He turned 33. His biceps don’t look a day over 27.
— Yes, I used that on Twitter.
— Speaking of birthdays, analyst and Cardinals Underground compatriot Ron Wolfley turns 50 Sunday, with the Cards playing against his hometown team. How great is that?
— The Cards are wearing black Sunday, as a reminder. And pink. This is the annual Breast Cancer Awareness game, in case you are still putting together your gameday outfit.
— It probably saved an interception return for a touchdown – and it wasn’t even flagged at the time – but wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was dinged for a $7,850 fine from the NFL after grabbing cornerback Janoris Jenkins’ facemask on a play against the Rams. The Rams didn’t escape fines for their play, though. Two players were nailed for roughing up Kevin Kolb – defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo was fined $7,875 for roughing the passer when he ripped Kolb’s helmet off, while defensive end Robert Quinn was fined $15,750 for hitting Kolb helmet-to-helmet.
— Fitz needs 48 receiving yards to reach 10,000 in his career.
— Fitz, by the way, wasn’t about to pop off about the Bills’ struggles. “I always remember my grandfather said, you let a sleeping dog lie,” he said. “We just don’t want to ruffle any feathers and try to sneak out of here with a ‘W’ without getting anyone upset.”
It seems like it’s been forever since the Cards last played.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bills, Greg Toler, Jamell Fleming, Janoris Jenkins, Jermelle Cudjo, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Marcell Dareus, Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, Michael Adams, Rams, Ray Horton, Robert Quinn, Ron Wolfley, William Gay
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The Cardinals have received an extension for the backout/sellout deadline for 24 hours, so — with a little less than 1,000 tickets left — the Cards have until about 1:15 p.m. tomorrow to reach a 37th straight sellout.
Meanwhile, the team’s health remains intact, with no changes on the injury report save for the addition of rookie safety Rashad Johnson (ankle), who still practiced full and is on the list as a precaution it seems (Interesting that Texans DE Mario Williams didn’t practice for a second straight day).
Other than that, it was a spirited and upbeat practice. “Hopefully that will translate into playing a little better,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “I just think after the bye week and working on some of the things we have worked on, they feel good about our plan and we have guys who are healthier now.”
Tags: blackout, Mario Williams, Rashad Johnson, sellout
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