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Coming Up
  • Mon., Apr. 21, 2014 8:00AM MST Start of offseason workouts Clubs with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs.
  • Wed., Apr. 23, 2014 8:00AM MST Cardinals Charities Golf Tournament Cardinals Charities Golf Tournament at Whirlwind Golf Club (5692 W North Loop Rd, Chandler, AZ 85226).
  • Thu., Apr. 24, 2014 5:00PM - 9:00PM MST "Spring Tailgate" at the Big Red Rib and Music Festival The Cardinals are hosting a live TV special, as team president Michael Bidwill, general manager Steve Keim, and coach Bruce Arians preview the 2014 Draft and season with hosts Paul Calvisi and Ron Wolfley. There will be players in attendance.
  • Mon., May. 05, 2014 8:00AM MST On-field work Players allowed on-field football work with coaching (no helmets, no contact, no offense vs. defense)
  • Thu., May. 08, 2014 5:00PM MST NFL Draft First round of the NFL draft.
  • Fri., May. 09, 2014 3:30PM MST NFL Draft Second and third rounds of the NFL draft.
  • Sat., May. 10, 2014 9:00AM MST NFL Draft Fourth through seventh rounds of the NFL draft.
  • Tue., May. 20, 2014 8:00AM MST Organized Team Activities Players allowed on-field football work with coaching. Helmets allowed, as is offense vs. defense.
  • Wed., May. 21, 2014 8:00AM MST Organized Team Activities Players allowed on-field football work with coaching. Helmets allowed, as is offense vs. defense.
  • Thu., May. 22, 2014 8:00AM MST Organized Team Activities Players allowed on-field football work with coaching. Helmets allowed, as is offense vs. defense.

Blogs

Salary cap heading into free agency

Posted by Darren Urban on February 26, 2014 – 10:36 am

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.

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Arians: Bethel ready to make CB move

Posted by Darren Urban on February 22, 2014 – 8:08 am

Patrick Peterson is a Pro Bowler, and with Jerraud Powers, the Cardinals are “very solid” at starting cornerback, coach Bruce Arians said. Tyrann Mathieu, when he finally returns from his knee injury, will work the slot. But, especially given the Mathieu question mark, there will be depth questions heading into free agency with both Javier Arenas and Antoine Cason at unrestricted status.

The Cardinals will have to bring in somebody. But the wild card is someone who is already on the roster, and who has already made a Pro Bowl.

“I think the guy who really should make the big move is Justin Bethel,” coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s as talented probably as Patrick. He just has to start believing it and play corner the way he plays special teams and we’ll really be set back there.”

During the season, Bethel said he felt like he already was ready to contribute on defense. He’s incredibly valuable as a Pro Bowl special teamer. Could he become something similar as a cornerback? I don’t know if it is fair to compare him, even talent-wise, to Peterson, but Bethel does look the part and had a steeper learning curve coming out of tiny Presbyterian College.

– One other note from Arians, who said every player who is rehabbing injuries is on schedule save for linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, who suffered a right foot Lisfranc injury. “I’m a little concerned with Lorenzo’s foot right now,” Arians said. “Hopefully it will show improvement.”

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Pressure wins championships

Posted by Darren Urban on February 3, 2014 – 3:22 pm

The Seahawks’ defense is being lauded today and rightfully so for their throttling of the Broncos’ record-setting offense in the Super Bowl. There are a bunch of breakdowns out there comparing Seattle’s defensive year to those of the best ever, and the Seahawks deserve to be in that conversation with teams like the 2000 Ravens and the 1985 Bears (I’d think some of those Steel Curtain teams should be in the discussion too, but I digress.)

Defense doesn’t necessarily win championships — I saw a stat that said the team with the higher-ranked defense actually has lost six of the last eight Super Bowls — but it certainly doesn’t hurt. But I believe pressure can help win a title, and that’s certainly what the Seahawks did to Peyton Manning and why the Cardinals had defensive success this season.

Profootballfocus.com charted that the Seahawks blitzed Manning on only six of 51 dropbacks in the Super Bowl, yet were in his face all game. That’s the kind of pressure the Giants put on Tom Brady in the last Super Bowl played in Arizona, the one in which New York placed the stunning upset on the previously undefeated Patriots. When you can pressure with four, everything changes.

The Cardinals had a lot of pressure success in part because defensive coordinator Todd Bowles was a genius with mixing up attack plans on the quarterback, and there was a lot of blitzing involved in that. They also benefited when linebacker John Abraham played like the John Abraham who had spent a career getting double-digit sacks every season. That kind of rusher is important. And going forward, it’s one of the reasons General Manager Steve Keim will lean toward not only the offensive but the defensive line in terms of trying to make the most improvement. It’s great to have one of the best cornerbacks in the game in Patrick Peterson, but without pressure, it doesn’t mean much. The same goes for Seattle’s Richard Sherman and the rest of that defensive backfield — they can afford to be aggressive, because they know the pressure will be coming sooner rather than later.

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Fitz talks contract and the never-ending rumors

Posted by Darren Urban on January 30, 2014 – 1:22 pm

If there has been one constant for Larry Fitzgerald every offseason it’s been some kind of (wild) speculation that he could be on the move. This usually tends to come up right around the Super Bowl, so when Fitz is doing his annual trek through Radio Row that week, he ends up needing to address it. Sort of address it, I guess, because Fitz is as adept at sidestepping such controversy as he is high-pointing a catch. He also, as usual, had to talk about his contract, which sports the scary $18 million salary cap number for 2014.

Fitz was back on Radio Row today, so of course, the popular topics came up. During an interview on “The Dan Bickley Show with Vince Marotta” via Arizona Sports 98.7, Fitzgerald was asked about the potential restructure of his contract. That’s always interesting, since restructuring is not a pay cut and usually puts more money in the player’s pocket right away. And while Fitz didn’t say it directly, he did seem to leave the door cracked — a teeny-tiny bit — about a pay reduction. (Although, no, I don’t see Fitz agreeing to a pay cut. He’s a businessman. That will be very, very interesting to see how it comes out.)

But in terms of talking to the team about his contract, Fitzgerald said “when those discussions come I will do what I need to do. I have a great relationship with (GM) Steve Keim, he drafted me in Arizona. I understand his vision and what he is trying to do and the direction he is taking this ballclub. I understand at 30 years old there are things that need to change. That’s part of football, that’s part of being an older veteran.

“I want to see this team do well. I love this group of guys. Patrick (Peterson’s) deal is coming up and he needs to be compensated as the best corner in the game, which I feel he is. We’ve got to take care of Karlos Dansby, Frostee Rucker, there are a lot of guys that deserve to be compensated for their play. And I understand that.”

Earlier in the week, there was a report out of New England saying the Patriots had been interested in dealing for Fitzgerald in the offseason of 2013. How deep this was is up for debate, but again, even if the Cardinals were looking to trade Fitz — which I don’t think they are — there are a ton of moving parts because of the contract and the dead cap money that would come with it. During an appearance on WEEI, which is the big sports talk station in Boston (and which posted the photo below), there wasn’t a ton of Patriots/Fitz talk, but inevitably, it came up.

“If (the Cardinals) felt like that’s what they wanted to do, I would have no choice,” Fitzgerald said about such a trade. “Playing with Tom Brady, you couldn’t go wrong with that.” Fitzgerald added that “I have no idea if it was true.” Jim Gray, the TV/radio personality who knows Fitz (and Brady, for that matter) well having hosted their weekly radio Monday Night Football radio interviews — Fitz’s spot is sponsored by University of Phoenix, dontcha know — for a few years, was on the air too. He said to Fitz directly “Did (the Cardinals) ask you?”

Fitz was quick in his response. “No.” Fitz knows such questions are coming. He still never sounds comfortable having to deal with them.

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The ’11 draft class, and that Peterson extension

Posted by Darren Urban on January 24, 2014 – 3:17 pm

Under the new collective bargaining agreement put together in 2011, draft picks must be in the league three years before they can negotiate a contract extension. That means that 2011 class — which features Patrick Peterson, Cam Newton, Von Miller, A.J.Green, Julio Jones, Aldon Smith, J.J. Watt and Robert Quinn, among others — are all now eligible for new contracts, and the assumption has long been that many of those will happen. Certainly that has been a subject of speculation with Peterson. The Cardinals want to keep Peterson long term (of course) and it was not a coincidence that Peterson recently changed agents with that opportunity now looming.

But, as usual when it comes to big-money deals, none of this is a simple process. Jason Cole wrote an interesting piece about the situation of the 2011 draft class (he never touched on Peterson, specifically). In it, he talked to 10 GMs and/or cap specialists, and all expected that instead of a long-term extension this year that teams will opt to invoke the fifth-year option on each contract. Every first-round contract now as a fifth-year team option that, inevitably, will be a more affordable (and non-guaranteed) salary. In the case of 2011 picks, all are locked up through 2014 and then the team can invoke a 2015 year. This doesn’t even include the option to franchise tag a player for 2016.

(Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick are in similar situations as a fifth- and second-round picks in 2011, except as non-first-rounders, teams do not have a fifth-year option on those players. It actually gives non-first-rounders more leverage this offseason.)

In short, there isn’t an incredible urgency to extend one of those 2011 contracts now, other than the fact some of those 2011 draft picks probably won’t be thrilled they wouldn’t be extended right away given the level of play many of them have reached already. It will make for an interesting offseason when it comes to those players — including Peterson.

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Campbell, Dansby aren’t overlooked everywhere

Posted by Darren Urban on January 24, 2014 – 10:17 am

Defensive end Calais Campbell had a Pro Bowl year, although he didn’t make the team. (He was an alternate, but alas, no bump up.) Linebacker Karlos Dansby had a Pro Bowl year (yet, stunningly, he wasn’t even an alternate). But they haven’t been completely overlooked, with both showing up on a couple of more all-star-type postseason lists.

Profootballfocus.com did their all-NFC West team, and given the strengths of the defenses in the division, cracking that lineup is impressive. Campbell and Dansby did, along with cornerback Patrick Peterson (and there was also a mention of Daryl Washington as a strong candidate, too.) Offensively, the Cardinals got wide receiver Michael Floyd and running back Andre Ellington on the team, as well as special teamer Justin Bethel, whom PFF considers the best special teams player in the NFL.

Meanwhile, the USA Today has put out its annual “All-Joe” team, which is a nod to the under-appreciated around the league. Two Cards found their way on to that list: Campbell and Dansby.

The line on Campbell: “The best 3-4 end in the NFL not named J.J. Watt, Campbell posted a career-best nine sacks while crushing tailbacks for the NFL’s top run defense. He also excels at blocking kicks with his 6-8 frame.” The line on Dansby: “Returned to the desert after three years in Miami and turned in his best season. His career-high 114 solo tackles complemented 6.5 sacks. He also picked off four passes (returning two for scores) and broke up 19 passes, tied for most among linebackers.”

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Fitz vs. Peterson, for real. Sort of.

Posted by Darren Urban on January 23, 2014 – 11:00 am

So the possibility of teammate vs teammate in the Pro Bowl was probable, given the format of a draft at the hands of Hall of Famers Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice. Now the Pro Bowl will have a hint of an Arizona Cardinals practice (or, given the way the players have gone about the Pro Bowl the last couple of years, an Arizona Cardinals OTA) when wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald landed on Team Rice and Peterson, not surprisingly, was picked by Team Sanders.

(Deion loves him some Patrick Peterson. The man wore a Peterson jersey on TV when the NFL Network came to Arizona for Thursday Night Football last season, for goodness sake.)

I’ve had a chance to see that battle many, many times on the practice field. I think they both relish it, although practice is practice. This is a game after all, although how intense it will be can be argued. I’ve had people ask what it would mean if, God forbid, Fitz wrecked a knee when he was tackled by Peterson. Frankly, if Fitz tore an ACL in a Pro Bowl, whomever he was tackled by seems pretty irrelevant to me. Would you feel better if he had been tackled by Darrelle Revis?

Looking over the Pro Bowl rosters, there are a handful of possible teammate-on-teammate crime. Bears cornerback Tim Jennings I would guess will see some of Chicago wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Could Browns safety T.J. Ward come looking for Cleveland wideout Josh Gordon if he came across the middle? And then there are the real eyebrow-raisers: The possibility of Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith being sacked by Kansas City linebacker Tamba Hali or defensive tackle Dontari Poe. Or Colts defensive end Robert Mathis taking down Indy QB Andrew Luck.

Who am I kidding. There are no sacks in the Pro Bowl.

– The assault court case of linebacker Daryl Washington has been pushed to another later date. His next hearing is scheduled for April 23, which now comes after the large roster bonus he is scheduled to receive. Washington said at the end of the season he expected it to get worked out, and so do I. I don’t see the Cardinals letting Washington go, although at some point, he will need this case resolved so any further football-related details can be worked out (like possible further punishment if he is found guilty) and Washington can move on.

 


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Larry Fitzgerald and Patrick Peterson set to face off in the Pro Bowl

Posted by since1898 on January 23, 2014 – 9:09 am

 

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Without Fitz, does Sherman/Crabtree dustup happen?

Posted by Darren Urban on January 20, 2014 – 10:31 am

If you pay attention to the NFL at all, you know how Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman went off on 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree both on national TV and again in the post-game press conference. This was after Sherman taunted Crabtree right after making the play that led to the NFC Championship-clinching interception on a pass to Crabtree. Seems that the Cardinals — or at least Larry Fitzgerald — have a role in all of this. As you can see in the video below from NFL Network, the genesis of the bad blood between Sherman and Crabtree came when the two were part of the celebrities in town to play at Fitz’s annual charity softball game, which includes a dinner where they all get together. Sherman and Crabtree apparently had words then.

So, if I am understanding correctly, that means without Fitz, this whole thing — which, for now, has totally overshadowed the Seahawks making the Super Bowl — might not have happened? Fitz, bringing people together.

Actually, it’s interesting, because Fitzgerald is the absolute last guy that is going to engage in that stuff. Earlier this year, in fact, Sherman was kind of complaining that Fitz wouldn’t trade barbs and it made it hard to not like him. There is a reason Fitz can get these guys to attend his charity events and why Fitz keeps getting voted to the Pro Bowl. (Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of trash-talking myself. If you are good, it seems to me your play does the talking. If you are not good, why, exactly, would you be talking?)

Meanwhile, these are all components of the Cardinals’ universe. It’s not like Crabtree doesn’t have history with the Cardinals too, and going up against the Cards’ own star cornerback Patrick Peterson, who also (kind of) weighed in when all of this Sherman/Crabtree/best cornerback stuff started happening.

Ahh, the NFC West. It’s quite the universe within which to live these days.


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Taking the time to run (and Buck dances)

Posted by Darren Urban on January 13, 2014 – 11:59 am

It has been a constant subject for the Cardinals (and frankly, many other teams around the league). The effort to run the ball and committing to the run. I’ll preface this by saying I agree with Bruce Arians’ philosophy, which is basically, you need to run well enough to win. Sometimes, that may mean 20 attempts but big yards. Other times, it may mean grinding the ball 40 attempts even if you are only getting 3.5 yards a carry. I do not believe in the “Teams that run it 30-plus times win 70 percent of the games” or whatever the stat is because it isn’t cause and effect. Usually, you can afford to run a ton because you are winning. That doesn’t mean you don’t need to run, but it does mean you are going to run more with a lead.

All that said, the Cardinals — who went 10-6 this season — had 422 rush attempts as a team. (Yes, that includes kneel-downs and it also is some scrambles that were called passes, but let’s not get too deep in the weeds here.) That marked the most rushing attempts by the team in 10 years, since the Cards ran it 475 times in Denny Green’s first season of 2004.

Percentage-wise, it was the third-most rushing attempts over the last decade:

2004 45.4 percent rushes

2006 41.9

2013 40.7

2011 39.1

2009 37.1

2007 35.6

2012 34.6

2010 34.4

2008 34.1

2005 33.5

Arians isn’t going to start shying away from throwing the ball (and I would guess if he can get Carson Palmer and the unit clicking a little more, along with a pass protection upgrade, he might throw it a little more.) The Cardinals got the running attempts this season, though, and averaged (without Palmer’s three yards-on-27 “attempts”) an acceptable 3.9 yards a carry.

– The All-NFL team was announced from the Pro Football Writers Association. Cornerback Patrick Peterson and special teamer Justin Bethel got the nod (and were the only Cards on the all-NFC team as well.)

– Finally, to close, we have this old-school NFL Network promo ad featuring current defensive line coach Brentson Buckner. Just because.


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