It’s not hard to remember, not if you have been following the Cardinals for any length of time, but signing draft picks used to be much, much more difficult. Yes, the ease in which picks are signed these days is rules-related — once the new collective bargaining agreement essentially slotted each pick’s money and took the hardest part (money) out of the negotiating equation, things were going to speed up.
But to think the Cardinals already have all of their draft picks under contract on May 9 is impressive. The time frame to finish up since 2011, when the new CBA went into effect, has gotten earlier and earlier:
2011: Amid the chaos of so many signings as the CBA was ratified post-lockout just as training camp was starting, first-rounder Patrick Peterson and second-rounder Ryan Williams signed July 31.
2012: First-rounder Michael Floyd and third-rounder Jamell Fleming signed June 11.
2013: First-rounder Jonathan Cooper signed July 29.
2014: First-rounder Deone Bucannon signed June 5.
2015: First-rounder D.J. Humphries signed June 1.
2016: Sixth-rounder Harlan Miller, third-rounder Brandon Williams and fourth-rounder Evan Boehm sign May 9.
The Cardinals aren’t unique — the Bears have been signing their entire draft class within a couple days of the draft the last couple of seasons, for instance — but to have all those deals done not only before the players break prior to camp but before OTAs have even begun is a good thing. The days of the Cards having their first-round pick sit out at least a few days of training camp — or more, Wendell Bryant — are long over.
Tags: Brandon Williams, CBA, contract, D.J. Humphries, Deone Bucannon, draft, Evan Boehm, Harlan Miller, Jamell Fleming, Jonathan Cooper, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Ryan Williams
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The NFL Players Association often puts out a list of the top 50 players who sell the most merchandise; Larry Fitzgerald has been on that list multiple times. But the NFLPA also annually puts out a “Rising 50” ranking, which rates players based on last season’s performance, fantasy popularity, demand from sponsors, and new faces in strong markets that would bode well for the future for those players.
The Cardinals have three players on the latest list, with a slight surprise as the highest ranked (No. 11 overall): Running back David Johnson.
It’s not that Johnson shouldn’t be that high. But safety Tyrann Mathieu is 14th and cornerback Patrick Peterson is 29th, which is the surprising part. Both those guys already have a high national profile, but it’s Johnson that gets the nod over both.
The list is interesting to peruse. Rams running back Todd Gurley is top ranked; Washington QB Kirk Cousins and Seahawks RB Thomas Rawls round out the top three. There are plenty of rookies drafted last weekend on the list, and interestingly, 49ers QB Blaine Gabbert is actually on the list.
It is safe to say this: Johnson is poised for a big year in 2016, in how the Cardinals use him, in the numbers Johnson could potentially pile up after his excellent stretch as a starter late in his rookie season, and how his profile should grow in front of what should be one of the NFL’s better teams. I am curious to see how Johnson might embrace such a rise. He’s a pretty quiet guy and is about the last person that will be looking for the spotlight. Then again, the spotlight might come looking for him.
Tags: David Johnson, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu
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Robert Nkemdiche did his whirlwind introduction at the Cardinals’ facility today. The No. 1 pick came in just for the press conference, flying back home to Los Angeles in the afternoon. He’ll return later next week with the rest of the rookies for rookie minicamp. Until then, here are some thoughts and quotes about the defensive tackle:
— Last year’s No. 1 pick D.J. Humphries came in and was almost immediately believed to be a guy who would sit and watch as a rookie. The same is definitely not the case with Nkemdiche.
“I expect Robert to come in here and be the best D-lineman we got,” defensive line coach Brentson Buckner said. “I don’t want him to come here and think he’s being redshirted.”
— That doesn’t mean he will be the best lineman, only that Buckner is expecting an effort to get there. And he’s expecting the other defensive linemen to respond in kind to fight for that playing time. “There’s no sleeping on your laurels, now,” Buckner said.
— Asked about Nkemdiche’s reputation of taking some plays off, Buckner said he didn’t see it as an obvious issue. “You show me any player in the country, especially d-linemen, that plays every snap full speed, I’ll give you a million dollars,” Buckner said, noting that the best college d-linemen are usually playing the whole game. “It depends on what your eyes see. … In the NFL you’re not going to play 90 plays. With our (roster), he’ll play 30 plays. You take that energy and condense it to 30 plays, you tell me who wouldn’t want that type of player?”
— Nkemdiche was asked when he might start shopping for that pet panther he has said he wanted to get.“I haven’t had any time to think through it yet,” he said, although that was cut off by both Bruce Arians (“Game 8”) and Michael Bidwill (“In Charlotte”) chiming in from the side of the room.
— The Cardinals understand Nkemdiche’s December incident raises questions. They aren’t shy of saying they all believe it was a one-time mistake, nor are they afraid to inject a little humor.
“I made a kind of joke about it, you get a guy who falls out of a second-story building and walks away from it, that’s my kind of guy,” Buckner said. “Because he’s not afraid of a double-team anymore, know what I mean?”
Buckner added he’s watched Nkemdiche since high school and has never heard any coaches speak poorly of him.
— When Nkemdiche first arrived at the facility Friday, after an early morning flight from Chicago, he got in, said hello to a handful of players in the building (Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu included) and then, out of nowhere, asked if it was OK if he got a workout in before his press conference. That wasn’t a good idea, he was told, since, you know, he hasn’t signed any contract or waiver or anything yet. He seemed a tad disappointed.
— He looks like he will fit in well in the locker room. He greeted everyone — from Peterson to Chris Johnson to former practice squad tackle Rob Crisp — like he had long been teammates with them already.
— He’s been compared a bit to Darnell Dockett and he will wear Dockett’s former No. 90 (which spent last season with Cory Redding). And if you look at Nkemdiche, he looks a little like Dockett, especially with his profile.
Tags: Brentson Buckner, Patrick Peterson, Robert Nkemdiche
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As if the Eagles-Browns trade wasn’t big enough news for the NFL Wednesday, this afternoon the Panthers in a stunning move rescinded the franchise tag from all-pro cornerback Josh Norman. Norman is now free to sign anywhere, and while in theory that includes back with the Panthers, it’s hard to see a scenario where that happens.
Norman had not signed his tender offer — worth nearly $14 million — and was in a position where he and Carolina had until July 15 to sign a long-term deal. Reportedly, Norman, 28, was looking for around $16M a year. Panthers GM Dave Gettleman said today it had become clear to him the team and Norman would never reach a long-term contract. Still, it’s odd the team would just let him go. Norman might have threatened to sit out (without signing the tender, he wasn’t obligated to show up, even to training camp) but he wouldn’t be the first, and he just said last month he was willing to play under the tag this season.
How does this impact the Cardinals? Not directly. Norman is a free agent, but the Cards a) only have about $6.5 million of cap space, b) are already paying a cornerback a ton of money (Patrick Peterson)and c) are on deck to pay another secondary member (Tyrann Mathieu) a lot of money. Norman isn’t coming here. But the Cardinals do visit the Panthers in 2016, so no Norman figures to help the Cards’ deep receiving corps.
That doesn’t mean the Cardinals won’t see Norman. Both the 49ers and Rams had been trying to sign premier cornerbacks in free agency, and the 49ers especially ($52 million in cap space) would seem to have the resources to give Norman what he wants.
Tags: 49ers, free agency, Josh Norman, Panthers, Patrick Peterson, Rams, Tyrann Mathieu
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Earlier this month, Justin Bethel was at his former high school in South Carolina, giving them a $100,000 check as a way to give back. He did so while on crutches, telling reporters it was a foot injury but that he would be back for training camp. So it wasn’t a surprise when Bethel was one of the few who has yet to be at the voluntary work that began this week. Another guy who is sidelined, according to Kent Somers, is Patrick Peterson, who also had surgery (ankle) and is hopeful to be back for some of the organized team activities later in the offseason. (Peterson later tweeted out the news.)
Neither situation is expected to sideline them for training camp. But it does emphasize the need for cornerbacks, at least in the short term. Right now, if you include Tyrann Mathieu’s slot work, the Cardinals won’t have their top four cornerbacks from last season for at least some of the offseason on-field work: Peterson, Bethel, Mathieu and free agent Jerraud Powers. (Powers, unsigned, still could return, although at this point nothing is expected to happen before the draft.)
The other cornerbacks on the roster: Cariel Brooks (whom the coaches like), Carrington Byndom, Asa Jackson, Shaun Prater, Kevin White and former Australian Rules Football player Joel Wilkinson.
Tags: Asa Jackson, Cariel Brooks, Carrington Byndom, Jerraud Powers, Joel Wilkinson, Justin Bethel, Kevin White, Patrick Peterson, Shaun Prater, Tyrann Mathieu
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NFL.com and the NFL Network compiled a ranking of the top 20 games of the 2015 season, and the Cardinals were part of the game picked as the best.
It probably shouldn’t be surprising that the Divisional playoff game between the Cards and Packers earned the top spot, although it took the Cards allowing an emotionally crushing Hail Mary to get there. It was played less than three months ago, so it’s not hard to remember the highlights, like Michael Floyd’s rebound TD catch, the Aaron Rodgers miracle and, of course, Larry being Larry. (I have to admit thought I had forgotten about Patrick Peterson’s 100-yard interception return that would have been legendary itself had it not been called back because of a hands-to-the-face penalty). A truly classic game with many twists and a heckuva ending.
The Cardinals actually appear on the top 20 list two other times. Their 24-22 home loss to the Rams, when Todd Gurley broke out for the first time, was No. 20. The Cards’ big win in Seattle, capped by Andre Ellington’s TD run, was picked as No. 12.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, NFL Network, Packers, Patrick Peterson, Rams, Seahawks, Todd Gurley
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With free agent Jerraud Powers visiting the Giants last week (and the increasing reality that he is likely to move on), it underscores the shift at cornerback the Cardinals are going through this offseason. Drafting a cornerback at some point seems inevitable, although you never know how the draft will fall. As it stands, Justin Bethel — he of the 2015 contract extension — is in line to start across from all-pro Patrick Peterson. Tyrann Mathieu, once he returns to health, is a candidate to play the slot if needed too, especially since the Cardinals have Tyvon Branch and Tony Jefferson — assuming he signs his tender — at safety.
(Powers tweeted he isn’t in a rush while looking for the right situation.)
Beyond Peterson and Bethel, the cornerbacks on the roster include a couple with some experience (Asa Jackson, Shawn Prater), a couple who were on the practice squad last season (Cariel Brooks, Kevin White and Carrington Byndom), and one giant unknown in Aussie Joel Wilkinson. Not exactly the depth the Cards would like, which is why they visited with veteran free agent Leon Hall — who remains unsigned — earlier this month.
There could be a good cornerback sitting there at 29th overall and that will be tempting as a draft pick. And even if the roster stays status quo through the draft, finding another vet at some point before training camp wouldn’t be a surprise. We’ll see how the market plays out.
Tags: Asa Jackson, Cariel Brooks, Carrington Byndom, Jerraud Powers, Joel Wilkinson, Kevin White, Leon Hall, Patrick Peterson, Shawn Prater, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu, Tyvon Branch
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The NFL Players Association announced today that the 2016 salary cap will be $155.27 million, about a $12 million jump from 2015. It’s a sizable number. With the slightly more than $3 million the Cardinals carried over from their leftover 2015 cap, General Manager Steve Keim will have a salary cap of about $158 million with which to work this season.
With that number, both overthecap.com and spotrac.com estimate the Cards will have between $19M and $20M of cap space going into free agency. The Cardinals have seven players that are scheduled to have cap hits of at least $5 million in 2016:
— QB Carson Palmer $17.88M
— WR Larry Fitzgerald $15.85M
— DT Calais Campbell $15.25M
— CB Patrick Peterson $13.07M
— T Jared Veldheer $9M
— WR Michael Floyd $7.32M
— G Mike Iupati $5.7M
Of those players, it makes the most sense to adjust the numbers of Campbell and Floyd through extensions. Otherwise, Keim and the front office have already figured out their plan for free agency through these numbers. There will be teams with tons of cap room, in order to overpay a player if they chose. The Cards will do what they do — target free agents at a certain price, and if they can’t convince them to sign, then move on. The “legal tampering” part of free agency begins in a week. Actual agreements cannot begin until March 9, a week from Wednesday.
Tags: Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, free agency, Jared Veldheer, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Mike Iupati, Patrick Peterson, salary cap
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Just two weeks ago, Steve Keim was emphasizing the need to improve the Cardinals’ pass rush. This is no state secret, or hard to analyze. After watching what the Broncos did to the Panthers in the Super Bowl — and what the Cardinals could not do to Cam Newton in the NFC Championship game — that plan of action couldn’t have been made any more crystal clear.
It changes the game to be able to pressure off the edge consistently. It makes a difference in the biggest games. After the 2007 season, the Patriots, with their 18-0 record and a passing game that scored more than 50 times by itself, stalled in the Super Bowl. The Giants’ defense wasn’t even that powerful overall, necessarily — but it had a front four that could get to the quarterback (and depth up front), that made life hellish for Tom Brady and brought down the undefeated season with a crash.
This has been a constant topic around the Cardinals in recent years. Even looking back at the 2011 draft, when the Cardinals picked future All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson with the No. 5 overall choice, the team was eyeing Super Bowl 50 star Von Miller had he dropped that far (although it became clear in the days leading up to the draft he would not.) You can scheme all you want and blitz more than any other team — which the Cards have done the last couple of years — but blitzing is a risk that can burn a club. And the Cards didn’t always provide the pressure even when they did blitz. The pass rush doesn’t guarantee a title (ask the Panthers, who harassed Peyton Manning pretty well themselves) but it’s an uphill climb without it.
Tags: Broncos, Panthers, Patrick Peterson, Steve Keim, Super Bowl, Von Miller
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Patrick Peterson was an All-Pro this season and is one of the cornerstones of the Cardinals’ franchise. How about the idea that he nearly wasn’t a Cardinal? That’s what former Philadelphia Eagles president Joe Banner claimed during a conversation on ESPN the other day.
In July, after the lockout was finally settled that year, the Cardinals traded cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2012 second-round pick for quarterback Kevin Kolb. Banner said if it hadn’t been for the lockout, the deal would have done before the draft and DRC would have remained a Cardinal, with the Cards instead shipping the No. 5 overall pick to Philly — which would have still been Peterson.
A lot to take in here. I’ll admit, I thought the original price for Kolb was a little steep in the first place and to think the Cards would have given up the fifth pick overall alone for Kolb is kind of mind-boggling. The 2011 draft was and has proven to be crazy deep (check out the first round by itself of all the great players, and that doesn’t include a guy like Richard Sherman in the fifth round.)
Of course, the Cardinals were scrambling in 2011 for a quarterback. Derek Anderson/Max Hall/John Skelton were not the answer, so they took a flier — an expensive flier — on Kolb. We all know how that turned out. I have to wonder if the deal really would have been those two picks for Kolb or if the Eagles were trying to push the Cards to that end game (since the lockout was never seriously close to ending until long after the draft and even the brief opening in April came a day after Peterson was picked) and the Cards never seriously would have pulled the trigger. I’ll say this: If it had ended up being the pick and that pick was Peterson and Peterson did what he has done, are we talking about that trade like we talk about the Raiders giving away Carson Palmer for a song?
Tags: Eagles, Patrick Peterson
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