Everybody remembers Patrick Peterson’s wonderful rookie season returning punts — four touchdowns (and a fifth he should have had if not for a shoetop tackle by the punter in the finale against Seattle). Peterson averaged 15.9 yards a punt return, the Cards averaged 24 yards a kickoff return between LaRod Stephens-Howling and A.J. Jefferson and it was generally an effective use in Ron Wolfley’s beloved “transition game.” Obviously, the last couple of years, it hasn’t been quite the same.
In 2012 Peterson’s average fell to 8.4 yards a return with no scores. A dropoff was probably inevitable, but Peterson looked uncomfortable much of the time. The kick return game dropped to 23.3 yards a return, although finding a happy medium for effective kick returns in this day and age of big kickoffs and mostly touchbacks isn’t an easy equation. Last season, Peterson’s punt returns fell to 6.0. Kickoff returns were a mere 20.0, and former kick returner Javier Arenas often looked so frustrated he rarely could return one that he did so when he shouldn’t, leading to poor field position.
It’ll make for an interesting dynamic this season. Ted Ginn was signed to add speed in the receiving corps, but it’s not hard to make the argument his greatest strength as a player is on kickoff returns (where he averaged 23.8 yards a return last season). He’s also pretty good on punt returns (12.2 yards last year), and that will provide an option if Bruce Arians decides Peterson is better served focusing on being a Pro Bowl cornerback and remove the pressures of being the guy who everyone thinks might score a touchdown every time he fields a punt. Peterson doesn’t want to give up the job, but we’ll see how it turns out in the big picture.
The Cardinals’ offense was doing much better at the end of the season and should be improved given the pieces that have been added. It wouldn’t hurt if the kickoff and punt returns could chip in to the improvement equation.
Tags: A.J. Jefferson, Javier Arenas, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Patrick Peterson, special teams, Ted Ginn
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There was a lot of speculation about the future of cornerback Jerraud Powers, especially after the Cardinals were in the process of wooing and then signing Antonio Cromartie to start alongside Patrick Peterson. But Powers wasn’t going anywhere, in large part because the injury of Tyrann Mathieu makes him an early-season question mark. There are other reasons, though, including a trust factor with the coaching staff. And then there is the profootballfocus.com analysis that put Powers — despite far fewer snaps in the slot — as the most effective slot cover man in the league last year in terms of allowing receptions. Powers is in line, with Mathieu on the sideline, to be the slot corner alongside Peterson and Cromartie.
Powers did not have a fantastic season as Peterson’s fellow starting corner last year but he wasn’t bad either. He was exactly what the Cardinals expected from a veteran who didn’t break the bank. A healthy Cromartie would be an upgrade, but having Powers in reserve is smart. He was, after all, a starter for the sixth-ranked defense in the league. Finding a stud companion to Peterson long-term would be lovely but frankly, somewhat unrealistic. At some point sooner rather than later, Peterson is going to get a very, very large contract extension. Spending big money on both cornerback spots is difficult if not impossible for any team given the realities of the salary cap. The Cards could find a young guy in the draft who turns out to be very good and that might buy you a few years, but it also means forgoing a solid player at another position that might prove more necessary.
The saying goes that you can never have enough corners, and that generally is true. But after the Cromartie signing, the Cards are in pretty good shape, because Powers fits what they need.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Jerraud Powers, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu
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— Patrick Peterson (@RealPeterson21) April 10, 2014
— The Thunderbirds (@AFThunderbirds) April 10, 2014
Tags: Air Force, Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, NFL, Patrick Peterson, Thunderbirds
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— ARIA Las Vegas (@AriaLV) April 3, 2014
— Allison Duck (@allisonduck) April 3, 2014
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Larry Fitzgerald, Las Vegas, Michael Jordan, NFL, Patrick Peterson
Posted in Since1898 | 1 Comment »
The Cardinals’ initial foray into free agency was offense-heavy. Not a big shock, since that side of the ball need the most work. As the draft approaches, however, the focus may just shift. Because even though Bruce Arians is an offensive guy, GM Steve Keim has a belief that the good teams in this salary cap work have a dominant side of the ball. And the Cardinals — with the No. 1 rush defense and the sixth-ranked defense overall — aren’t in that realm on the offensive side of the ball.
“Seattle was a dominant defense with a solid offense,” Keim said. “Denver was a dominant offense with an OK defense. In our situation, we are closer to having a dominant defense. So I think you have to continue to throw gas on the fire. Continue to build the strength.”
That’s why cornerback Antonio Cromartie shot to the top of the to-do list after he was cut by the Jets. The move surprised the Cards — they did not think New York would let him go — but rallied to understand the situation and aggressively court him. It was only a one-year contract, but the team proved last year with linebacker Karlos Dansby that could be a golden type of situation. There are still spots defensively that need shoring up (like the need for a safety or inside linebacker depth), and there is also Keim’s quest to get longer and more athletic with his 3-4 defensive ends and the pass rushers outside. The draft could very well provide those things. But when you start looking at the top end talent on the roster, it is the defense that claims many of the spots, whether it is Patrick Peterson, Calais Campbell or Daryl Washington. (Or even, as Ron Wolfley points out, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who fortunately for the Cards did not get a head coaching job.)
The offense isn’t going to be ignored — “We know we have areas we need to fix and it certainly needs to catch up with the defense,” Keim said — but a defensive juggernaut is the first goal. It’s what has put the Seahawks and 49ers into the stratosphere they are in, and why the Cards returned to relevance last season.
Tags: 49ers, Antonio Cromartie, Calais Campbell, Daryl Washington, defense, draft, Patrick Peterson, Seahawks, Steve Keim, Todd Bowles
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Tags: Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, bracketology, March Madness, NFL, Patrick Peterson
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The Cardinals and cornerback Antonio Cromartie have agreed to a one-year contract, and it’s official. It’s early in the story, but my guess is it will be a deal a lot like the one linebacker Karlos Dansby signed a year ago with the Cards. For not a lot of money, but the chance to excel in a good defense and then go back into the market in a year and make some cash.
It’s a huge get for GM Steve Keim, who again seems to be able to push all the right buttons. Cromartie figures to step into the starting role opposite Patrick Peterson, and the Cards have a very good inside corner combo of Jerraud Powers — who probably is more effective inside — and Tyrann Mathieu when he returns to health. It also would stand to reason that the Cards now target a young safety in the draft that can be the guy who can cover tight ends.
Cromartie isn’t without his risks. He dealt with a hip injury last season (although he played all 16 games) and despite back-to-back Pro Bowls and probably a not-very-big price tag, the Jets didn’t want to bring him back after releasing him and his then-hefty salary. Cromartie reportedly wanted to go back too. No matter. The Cardinals will take it, and take another “win” so far in free agency. Low risk, high reward. Keim’s plan continues to unfurl perfectly.
Clearly, Patrick Peterson is happy.
It’s about to be trouble, trouble, trouble. Dollar Bill voice
— Patrick Peterson (@RealPeterson21) March 20, 2014
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, free agency, Jerraud Powers, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu
Posted in Blog | 66 Comments »
Nothing has happened on the free agency front for the Cardinals since Thursday, when they signed Ted Ginn. There will be other signings at some point. The Cards, as I have mentioned, want a cornerback, and everyone is waiting for the puff of white smoke announcing that perhaps Pro Bowler Antonio Cromartie is that guy. We’ll see if that happens. Again, it might even just be on a one-year deal, if Cromartie can’t get the kind of money he’d like. But there was an interesting trade of tweets today between incumbent Cardinals Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson and Cromartie Saturday evening.
First came Peterson:
@CRO31 let’s make this thing happen.
— Patrick Peterson (@RealPeterson21) March 16, 2014
@RealPeterson21 We going to make it happen.
— ANTONIO CROMARTIE (@CRO31) March 16, 2014
To which Peterson replied:
— Patrick Peterson (@RealPeterson21) March 16, 2014
Peterson isn’t the one negotating the deal for the Cards of course. But Cromartie certainly sounds open to coming to Arizona.
UPDATE: As you can see above, Cromartie has deleted his tweet (although you can still see above what he wrote.) Maybe his agent let him know putting that thought out there wasn’t good for free-agent business.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, free agency, Patrick Peterson
Posted in Blog | 43 Comments »
It’s been well reported by now former Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie is visiting the Cardinals. Kent Somers reported Cromartie will stay until Friday, which was the original plan. Negotiations are ongoing. Will he sign? I don’t know. I’m guessing there is a chance the Cards have at last set parameters about what they want to offer, and Cromartie has to decide if that is good enough. GM Steve Keim and his group spend a lot of time breaking down their free agent targets and what they are worth. They go into every negotiation with a player with a number in mind. I don’t see why Cromartie is any different.
The Cardinals need and want to add a cornerback. Cromartie might be at or near the top of the list, but I’m sure he’s not the only one on the list. As Keim has said a few times, they will extend offers they think make sense. If the player decides it doesn’t work, the Cards move on. Sometimes it can be revisited — I think Karlos Dansby was in that boat last offseason — but the Cards and Keim won’t be rash and they won’t panic into spending more than they should or want to.
If he did sign, you’d think he’d drop right into the other starting spot with Patrick Peterson. Reserves would be Tyrann Mathieu, Justin Bethel and Jerraud Powers, and there is still the draft and guys you could look at later in free agency. If he doesn’t sign, there are others on Keim’s board. (No, other than the much speculated upon Mike Jenkins, I have not heard any names.) Cromartie would be a nice addition, but it’ll be on the Cards’ terms if it happens.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, free agency, Jerraud Powers, Justin Bethel, Mike Jenkins, Patrick Peterson, Steve Keim, Tyrann Mathieu
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The news around the salary cap — which will be officially set closer to the start of the new league year/free agency on March 11 — continues to be an adjustment upward of its estimate. Now the possibility is that it is around $132 million, which of course means every team’s projected cap space continues to get bigger. Kevin Seifert has the Cardinals, with that $132M cap, with a projected $15.295 million of cap space. That’s not a bad number, although it ranks in the lower half of the league — 18th, to be exact. A whopping 13 teams are projected to have more than $22M of cap space, and the Raiders ($66.39M), Jaguars ($55.13M), Browns ($51.23M) and Colts ($40.01M) all have more than $40M in cap space.
So there will be the possibility for some big free agent deals.
The Cards are in the same stratosphere, but that’s OK. The Cards don’t want to get sideways with big commitments to players who shouldn’t get them. There is enough room, however, to make some things work. The other plus is that the Cards, right now, have the most cap space in the NFC West. The 49ers are next with $11.84M, then the Rams at $6.32M and then the Seahawks at $4.78M.
This is all fluid, of course, with Seattle able to cut players if they want, for example, or the Cardinals re-signing one of their own guys (Karlos Dansby, anyone?). The Cardinals could still also release a player or two that they know they won’t be moving forward with to create more cap room.
The Dansby situation is one that bears watching, in fact. There is enough cap room across the league that would allow more than a few other teams to money-whip Dansby if they so chose. Again, in the case of Dansby, I don’t see the Cardinals getting into a big bidding war. They will want to reward him, but within reason. Extra space also could play into potential Patrick Peterson negotiations.
Tags: 49ers, Karlos Dansby, NFC West, Patrick Peterson, Rams, salary cap, Seahawks
Posted in Blog | 25 Comments »