The Cardinals went with a 3-4 defensive end in the fifth round Saturday, taking Alabama’s Ed Stinson. At 6-4 and 287 pounds, Stinson is a prototypical guy to fit up front in the way the Cards play, and scouting reports say he can move inside if necessary. The team went into the draft hoping to get some depth up front. The Cardinals have Campbell, Williams and Dockett, but only Frostee Rucker behind them right now with Alameda Ta’amu coming off ACL surgery. Plus, Dockett will be in to his (pricey) final year of his contract in 2015 and the team must start thinking about the future.
Stinson is really good against the run. He’s been described as the type of underrated player who can be solid for a long time. NFL analyst Mike Mayock said if Stinson can stay healthy — he’s been banged up a couple of times — he is a starter for a 3-4 team in this league. That will definitely help.
Stinson said he grew up with third-round pick WR John Brown in Florida, so the draft class already has a pair of friends.
Mayock, by the way, on the Cards’ entire class so far: “It’s not sexy, but I like this draft.”
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, draft, Ed Stinson, Frostee Rucker, Mike Mayock
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Bruce Arians said at the Scouting combine he wants his tight ends to block first, catch second. And it the second round of the draft, the Cardinals took a tight end who is big enough to fulfill that role. Notre Dame’s Troy Niklas, at 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds, had 32 catches for 498 yards and five touchdowns this season, but that probably won’t be his priority in Arizona.
“He should become the best blocking tight end in football, if he decides he wants to,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said.
The Cardinals now have newcomer John Carlson, Jake Ballard and Rob Housler as the top tight ends. There is no question Niklas will get his time in the two-tight end sets the Cards use. He’s got room for growth. He was recruited to Notre Dame as a defensive end and moved to linebacker before getting chance at tight end. He played both offensive line and defensive line in high school. He was used almost exclusively as a blocker in 2012, so his receiving skills should only improve.
His nickname is Hercules, so he’s got that going for him.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Jake Ballard, John Carlson, Mike Mayock, Rob Housler, Troy Niklas
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The Scouting combine is usually when the talk of free agency begins to start to pick up. Free agency doesn’t start until March 12, although teams can start negotiating (although not sign) potential UFAs from other teams on March 9. Until then, each team has the exclusive chance to talk with and re-sign their own impending free agents.
The Cardinals have a handful of their own free agents and there are some you’d think the Cards might want to bring back. Given the position and circumstances, I’d peg cornerback Greg Toler and running back LaRod Stephens-Howling would be at the top of the list. Toler began to play better in the second half of last season after missing all of 2011 with a torn ACL and would be a nice piece to keep around. Stephens-Howling has been a steady contributor over the years and the old regime wanted him back. It’s hard to know exactly where Toler, Stephens-Howling or any of the free agents fit in the new scheme of things.
Could the Cardinals get a deal or two done before free agency? Maybe. But general manager Steve Keim didn’t sound like anyone should be holding their breath, either.
“It’s always the plan,” Keim said. “We want to be pro-active and aggressive in our decisions but at the same time, you’ve got to understand a lot of the time, these guys are trying to see what the market is going to bring and their representatives have the mindset of, ‘Let’s see what is out there and then we will come back and talk.’ Not that they want to leave the Cardinals because I know a lot of our player’s agents have made overtures to me or Bruce (Arians) that they want to be here. At the same time they want to get market value as well.”
Other possible returnees among the UFAs would include quarterback Brian Hoyer, linebackers Paris Lenon and Quentin Groves and safety Rashad Johnson. (Although during a conference call Monday NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said this was a deep draft for safeties, so that could change some potential decisions.)
Unless a player is going to get a good chunk of money from his old team, it is understandable they test free agency by now. There is a reason extensions often come down in-season, because by the time we get to the end of the season — and the potential free agents can’t get hurt playing anymore — why wouldn’t you wait for free agency to arrive and shop your talents.
(Then again, if agents start poking around and find out their guys aren’t going to have big deals waiting for them when free agency starts, the player may be motivated to get something done sooner.)
The franchise tag isn’t going to come into play, either. Last year it made a ton of sense to do it for defensive end Calais Campbell. You aren’t going to do it for a Hyphen or a Toler. So when free agency begins in early March, the Cardinals will likely be working on contracts for their own guys as well as anyone else on the market they will try to bring in.
Tags: Brian Hoyer, free agency, Greg Toler, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Mike Mayock, Paris Lenon, Quentin Groves, Rashad Johnson, Steve Keim
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A couple of odds and ends as the draft draws closer and — as we are apt to do this time of year — we all continue to analyze and over-analyze all things draft:
— NFL.com had a blog entry about why pass rushers may be becoming more valuable, noting that NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock has nine defensive ends going in the first round. The reasoning? It’s becoming harder to sack the quarterback in the first place. QBs are getting the ball out quicker than ever before and the pass plays are often designed to make sure pressure is avoiding, not to mention an actual takedown.
“Notice that quarterbacks were sacked 1.7 percent less in 2010 (6.1 percent) than they were in 1982 (7.8 percent),” the post by Elliott Harrison states. “That translates to a difference of about two sacks per 100 dropbacks. Considering we’ve seen how much one sack can alter a season – think of Troy Polamalu’s strip-sack of Joe Flacco last year — that’s a sizable difference. It’s also a factor in why so many teams are looking at defensive ends in the draft.”
OK, so the Cards won’t necessarily be looking at a defensive end. But pass rusher is what we are talking about here.
— Speaking of Mayock, he was on The Chuck and Vince Show Friday on KDUS (1060 AM) and talked about the quarterbacks. He said four quarterbacks — Newton, Gabbert, Mallett, Locker – have first-round ability. “The problem is that they all have holes,” Mayock said. “It’s a tough one. It’s the hardest quarterback class I have ever evaluated.”
Asked what he thought the Cardinals should do at No. 5, Mayock was blunt. “If the quarterback Gabbert is there, I think they sprint to the podium. In today’s NFL, if you don’t have one of those franchise guys, you have no shot. Arizona is a model franchise for that (theory). The minute Kurt Warner retires, it’s the same offense and defense, basically, and they can’t play a lick anymore.”
Do I have to mention I don’t think that’s how it goes? But I can tell you, many, many, many people (in the media or making these predictions) believe that’s what will happen.
Tags: Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton, draft, Jake Locker, Joe Flacco, Kurt Warner, Mike Mayock, Ryan Mallett, Troy Polamalu
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