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.
Tags: Frostee Rucker, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Patriots, Super Bowl
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Some quick tidbits as I try to sneak in a day off (because I just can’t leave you hanging):
– As painful as the decision to move on with Adrian Wilson was for the Cardinals, obviously the team was not alone. The perfect story is for the star player to come in and play his entire career with one franchise. Wilson wanted to do that with the Cardinals. You know Ed Reed and Brian Urlacher wanted to do the same and yet, Reed is now a Texan and Urlacher is looking for work unsure what options might come about. Wilson is now a Patriot. It just drives home what happens in the NFL. Those Ray Lewis storybook endings just aren’t realistic.
– In case you missed it yesterday, reserve center/guard Rich Ohrnberger signed a one-year contract with the Chargers to reunite with Ken Whisenhunt, who is San Diego’s offensive coordinator.
– Josh Weinfuss did a good piece on Honey Badger and how Patrick Peterson has taken Tyrann Mathieu under his wing as Mathieu tries to re-start his football career in the NFL. It’s been said a few times, but Peterson’s maturity at such a young age is amazing.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Brian Urlacher, Ed Reed, Patrick Peterson, Patriots, Ray Lewis, Rich Ohrnberger, Tyrann Mathieu
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Through all the talk about what the Cardinals might do at quarterback and who their potential targets might be through trade and through the draft, one name has remained somewhat in limbo — Brian Hoyer. Hoyer flashed a bit at the end of the season for the Cardinals and he was a player new GM Steve Keim had long considered. With the Cardinals looking everywhere for QB answers, Hoyer likely remains a candidate for the roster in some capacity at this point.
Originally, Hoyer was thought to be an unrestricted free agent. But as free agency approaches in a couple of week, Hoyer instead ended up in restricted free agent limbo. A restricted free agent is a player with three accrued seasons. Hoyer was an RFA going into the offseason of 2012, and the New England Patriots tendered him a contract offer then, restricting him from shopping his services on the open market. Yet Hoyer was cut at the end of training camp in favor of Ryan Mallett — a signed tender offer still doesn’t make it a guaranteed deal — and Hoyer waited.
To get an accrued season — and a fourth would allow someone like Hoyer unrestricted free agent status — a player must spend six games on a 53-man roster during the season. As it turns out, Hoyer just missed. He was with the Cardinals for three games. Before that, and after the Patriots let him go, the Steelers signed him for two games. He was cut the Saturday before the third game. It led him to a better opportunity with the Cards when they claimed him off waivers the following Monday, but those two days off the roster also meant he compiled just five games on a roster total — and a second straight year of restricted status.
What it all means is that the Cards have control over Hoyer staying if they choose to. The Cards could tender Hoyer at the lowest RFA amount — about $1.3 million — and have the right to match any other offer Hoyer might get. (For another $700,000, the Cards could tender Hoyer so that any team signing him away would owe the Cards a second-round pick. I don’t see the Cards doing that, nor would I see a team giving up a pick for the one-time undrafted Hoyer.)
I do think Hoyer will be tendered an offer as the Cards search for a QB. It would have been easier for him to get away as an UFA, but I think the Cards will want to see more of what they got a glimpse of down the stretch last season.
Tags: Brian Hoyer, free agency, Patriots, Steelers
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The idea that the Cardinals would explore the trade possibility for 49ers backup quarterback Alex Smith — as Kent Somers noted yesterday — shouldn’t be a shock (although I will admit I originally wasn’t sure if the Cards would surrender a pick for him). Nor would the idea that the Cardinals could/would/should look at a trade for Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett, a speculative concept that picked up steam yesterday after Tom Brady’s extension essentially made Mallett ever playing for the Patriots (barring an injury) unlikely.
The talk reminded me of something general manager Steve Keim recently said when it came to the QB search: “We will exhaust every resource we have.”
That, Keim said, included every draftable quarterback from the first round to the last, free agency and, of course, potential trade options around the league. There is a priority list. Given what is out there in both free agency and the draft (which, right now, doesn’t seem exciting), a trade isn’t a surprise. Besides, if the Cardinals were going to spend a draft pick on a quarterback this year anyway, why not deal one for, say, Smith?
A trade with the Niners seems unlikely, just because San Francisco would seem to have options and conventional wisdom says they’d probably rather not help a division foe. The latest out of San Francisco (via Matt Barrows) is that the Niners would want at least a high fourth-round pick for Smith. If the Chiefs offer one, that’s basically a late third, given their spot at the top of the draft. UPDATE: In the seconds after I posted this, Jay Glazer reported that the trade of Alex Smith to the Chiefs was done and would happen as soon as it could March 12. So there’s one resource off the board.
Mallett, given that the Patriots don’t have another QB right now and comes cheap, is going to cost more, I’d guess. At least a third, where he was drafted in the first place (and I have to wonder what the Cardinals thought of him just a couple of years ago in 2011, when he was available and this team passed on him three different times. Besides, his accuracy is a question despite his big arm and some in New England didn’t think he outplayed Brian Hoyer last preseason even though the Pats dumped Hoyer in favor of Mallett.)
Much will be speculated on right now and there will be a level of truth to most of it, because the Cards are as Keim said exhausting every path trying to fix this problem. No trades can come down until March 12, nor can any free agents be signed. The draft is two months away. If Kevin Kolb doesn’t return, I can see a draft pick and a veteran added. The QB question won’t be answered until it’s answered.
Tags: 49ers, Alex Smith, Brian Hoyer, Kevin Kolb, Patriots, quarterbacks, Ryan Mallett, Steve Keim
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The Cardinals, for a second straight season, played three of the teams in the NFL’s final four. It helps that division brother San Francisco has made it in, and the Cardinals had their trouble with the 49ers this season, whether Alex Smith was the quarterback or Colin Kaepernick was calling signals. The games against the other two opponents that have made it to the championship games went a little bit better. The trip to Atlanta was a loss, yes, but it should have been a win with the way the defense played that day, amid the controversy of the benching-Skelton-for-Lindley situation. Obviously, the trip to New England was the Cardinals’ signature victory of the season, complete with late-game dramatics and a heart-stopping ending.
(And a game that seems like it was four years ago, not four months ago.)
It’s the same 1-3 record the Cards had against final four opponents last season. It’s hard to make a lot of comparisons with the way those teams are playing now to when the Cards met them. Even though the 49ers last game before beating up the Packers Saturday night was against Arizona, the game plan devised by the Niners with Kaepernick looked so deadly the other day. The Cards didn’t play great in that finale, but Kaepernick at least didn’t look like a Hall of Famer like he did against Green Bay. The Patriots, who lost tight end Aaron Hernandez early that day against the Cards, have clearly smoothed out the offense. The Falcons just don’t scare anyone, even in their dome, and everyone seems to agree — the Niners are road favorites against the No. 1 seed, for goodness sake.
– In the head coach search, Jay Glazer reported the Cards want to talk to Broncos OC Mike McCoy for a second interview. He was interviewed in Denver the first time so you’d figure everyone would want to get him in the building so he could actually see the physical situation.
Tags: 49ers, Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Falcons, Packers, Patriots
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Quarterback John Skelton was limited again Friday with his sore ankle and will be questionable for the game. Kevin Kolb figures to start against the Eagles — the only reason I say “figures” is because coach Ken Whisenhunt didn’t actually declare it to be true — but even he has a factor involved in his playing. Kolb’s wife is due with their third child Oct. 4, but at this point, you never know when a baby will come. It’s possible it could come on a Sunday, and Kolb is very aware of it.
“I’m just hoping it doesn’t present itself, let’s put it that way,” Kolb said. “I don’t want to have to make that decision. I care about both obviously. I would have to lean toward seeing my baby be born, but that’s a long shot (having a conflict) so hopefully it doesn’t present itself.”
Asked the perfect scenario of the birth, Kolb smiled. “The perfect scenario is right after meetings Monday, so I have a day-and-a-half off. But I don’t make the rules, God does. We’ll see what happens.”
Interestingly, the Cards have a game on Oct. 4, a Thursday. That’s the night they play in St. Louis on NFL Network. But by then, Skelton figures to be much healthier too.
– Speaking of Skelton getting healthier and the reoccurring question of this time — who will start at QB when Skelton is healthy again — coach Ken Whisenhunt told “NFL AM” that “it’s going to be the same thing we always do, we’re going to go with the player that we think gives us the best chance to win. Kevin has done exactly what we expected him to do, and that’s come in and played well. I don’t have any expectation of John than wanting to get back healthy and compete for the job. Once we get to that point, we’ll make that decision.”
– Besides Skelton, the Cards have a handful of other players questionable: TE Todd Heap, G Adam Snyder, S James Sanders, S Adrian Wilson and S Rashad Johnson.
– Speaking of Heap, Patriots safety Steve Gregory was fined $7,875 for the late hit on Heap that caused Heap’s knee injury. Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo was fined $21,000 for hitting a defenseless receiver in the head/neck area, after he blasted Early Doucet last weekend. Doucet hung on to the ball. Mayo didn’t launch himself on the play, keeping his feet on the ground, but he definitely got Doucet high (I remember thinking that at the time.) Mayo was not penalized. Gregory was.
Tags: Early Doucet, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Patriots, Todd Heap
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A lot of people have asked about the toss play the Cardinals ran when Ryan Williams fumbled. The toss was not the reason for the fumble — Williams had the ball in control as he turned upfield, before the Brandon Spikes hit that popped the ball loose — but coach Ken Whisenhunt did explain why he and offensive coordinator Mike Miller made that particular call at that moment:
“They went to a goal-line defense, so we were trying to beat them outside with speed,” Whisenhunt said. “We put Larry (Fitzgerald) on the outside thinking that they would have to put an extra guy out there to cover him to give us an edge. We knew it was going to be tough, but I thought that would give them, with 30 seconds left, with a good punt, no time outs and that that would be tough against our defense.
“I didn’t want to throw it. I had a one-on-one situation with Larry, but I was worried about stopping the clock and giving them too much time. We were playing the odds there. In fact, that’s why I called a time out – or excuse me, challenged the one (incompletion to Fitzgerald on the previous possession) there – because I was trying to get the seconds to continue to run on the clock with a completed pass, even though we were going to punt it.”
Tags: Ken Whisenhunt, Patriots, Ryan Williams
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Ray Horton was smiling. “To beat a team that I respect a lot, it means everything,” Horton said in a locker room that featured a lot of happy people and more of Daryn Colledge’s ‘80s music. To beat the Patriots, on the road, “it’s what we want,” Horton said. “We actually want better, but a team like this, we want the win.”
Horton had to be happy. The Cards are a team built with the knowledge the defense must perform. And that’s what they did Sunday. The blitz-happy Horton barely blitzed, by design. No way the Cards wanted Tom Brady picking them apart (one of the times the Cards did bring the house, Brady threw his lone touchdown pass). They generated enough, even without the blitz, to sack Brady four times.
Horton praised his front men. The Cards have a whole lot of high picks invested in the front seven – Dan Williams as first-rounder, Campbell and Washington as second rounders, Dockett the top pick in the third round – and when you throw in the fourth-rounder Acho and former Jacksonville second-round pick Quentin Groves, you’d think they have the pedigree. They showed up.
The Cards put it on their defense in the fourth quarter. Just like Horton wants it. Or not.
“No. No. No,” Horton said with a smile. “I want to win games sitting back and enjoying them. But we tend to win close games. The guys responded to a gameplan. They executed flawlessly.”
Maybe not flawlessly. But to hold Brady and his bunch (as Kevin Kolb called them) to one touchdown? Pretty close.
– Some perspective: The Patriots have now played 81 regular-season home games at Gillette Stadium. That was only their 14th loss, and as noted, their first in a season home opener. It was also the first time Bill Belichick lost to a team in the NFC West since it was currently aligned.
– It won’t be considered Kolb’s best game. But he’s a different guy in the pocket, which is a huge step forward for him. He missed some throws definitely. He needs to be able to hit Todd Heap down the seam early – that looked like it would have been a TD, just like two similar misses to Rob Housler last season – and even coach Ken Whisenhunt lamented his poor low throw on what should’ve been an easy swing screen to LaRod Stephens-Howling that would have gone for big yards. But he did pick and choose his running spots, and (while he can’t lose a fumble) he called his own number twice, once to run for a first down and the other to run for a five-yard touchdown.
With this team, with this defense, I think Kolb can win. “We knew what kind of game this was going to be – we’ve been stressing it all week – stay patient don’t get greedy.” That’s how this is going to go this season. Grind it out.
– No, I don’t know who starts at QB if John Skelton’s ankle is healthy enough against Philly next week (although I won’t lie, that would stink to lose Kolb-vs-Eagles two years in a row.) My guess is Whiz will play it close to the vest all week again. So tell yourself that, and don’t be frustrated when he doesn’t make an announcement.
– Larry Fitzgerald got his first catch early Sunday but was shut out after that. He made what looked like a big grab late, but it was called incomplete and wasn’t overturned on review. Anytime you’re best offensive weapon and he is limited to one reception for four yards you can’t feel good. Then again, the last time Fitz was held to one catch – Christmas, 2010 – the Cards won that game too. So maybe it doesn’t matter.
(Relax. I’m kidding.)
– My brother texted me at one point later in the game, after cornerback Patrick Peterson made a big third-down tackle to force a punt, after he made his diving interception, after he ran the wildcat a couple of times, including a 17-yard run: “Is there anything Peterson CAN’T do!?”
No, Jason, there’s not. Even in the postgame interviews, if he fumbles a word, he takes time to restate what he was saying. You even get clean soundbites if you want.
– The Cardinals have won nine of their last 11. They haven’t had that kind of stretch ever since moving to Arizona. They nine of 12 in the end of 2007 to the beginning of 2008 They won nine of 14 from the end of 2001 to the beginning of 2002.
– Wait, you said you wanted to hear the field-goal miss in Spanish? OK, here you go.
– Ryan Williams promised the fumbles will stop, and they need to. That’s two in two games, but you have to be rooting for the kid. A win wipes out a lot, and to have someone else (that’s Stephen Gostkowski, if you weren’t sure to whom I was alluding) fail at the end doesn’t hurt.
“We’ve been through a lot of these situations, good and bad, just in my year and a half here, and we finally got a break our way,” Kolb said. “That’s going to happen. The good thing is, is that it was any ugly game; it wasn’t clean for us either. It wasn’t like we played a perfect game.”
Less than two hours until we land. I’ve been writing or doing something web related for more than three hours so I think that’s enough. There’s other things we could touch on, but that’s plenty after a day that turned out pretty good for the Cards.
Tags: Bill Belichick, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Patriots, Ray Horton, Ryan Williams, Todd Heap, Tom Brady
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Given that Levi Brown is on injured reserve, there are just seven players left on the Cardinals’ roster who were there when the team made its last flight to New England: Adrian Wilson, Larry Fitzgerald, Darnell Dockett, Michael Adams, Lyle Sendlein, Calais Campbell and Early Doucet. What happened that day – an ugly, ugly 47-7 loss in a horrible snowstorm – had both good and bad repercussions.
The showing was terrible. It was the one, in the next-to-last week of the season, where analyst Cris Collinsworth declared the already-NFC West champs the worst to ever make the playoffs. But coach Ken Whisenhunt used it as a jumping-off point to have a padded practice in the rain that week – time to refocus – before the Cards won the season finale against Seattle to finish 9-7. They didn’t lose again until Santonio Holmes decided to rip their collective heart out.
That game means nothing Sunday, really, although it’s tough for any of those players who were around last time to just forget.
“There’s not a lot of guys on this team from the 2008 year, but we remember that butt kicking we took up there in 2008 out there and that didn’t sit well with us then and four years later it still stings,” Fitzgerald said.
“For me I’ll never forget walking off that field and looking at that scoreboard. Just the feeling of embarrassment, disappointment. … They totally tore us down that night. That’s something I still remember very vividly. That was a tough game, the worst game that I ever played in in my professional career.”
There will be no snow this time. The Cards want to make sure a lot of things are different this time around.
– The irony of Fitz saying it was the worst game he ever played in – his career-long reception, 78 yards, came in that game, a late catch-and-run from Matt Leinart for his team’s lone score of the game.
– Leadership means a lot in a game like this, I’d think. I was wondering if a guy like cornerback William Gay, who has faced the Patriots multiple times in his years as a Pittsburgh Steeler, might be able to help a little in terms of familiarity. He quickly dismissed that.
“We have leaders that have been around football for quite some time,” Gay said. “I listen to those guys. Just because I have played them a lot, those veterans still have years over me. Seeing those guys calm, it will calm the rest of the guys down, and that’s what you need. If your leaders are rattled, everyone will be rattled.”
– I don’t know how the Cards are going to approach covering the Patriots’ tight ends. I don’t know if it’ll be the safeties (pictured below) or linebackers, or a combination. The latter seems likely. I know some out there disagree, but Wilson did well in coverage last season. Now, how that will translate against guys like Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, we will see. Those two have been impressive.
– The Cards have faced Tom Brady just once – in 2004, when he came to Sun Devil Stadium and won, 23-12, when the Patriots were at the peak of their Super Bowl-winning powers. Matt Cassel, of course, was the QB in 2008 after Brady wrecked his knee in the season-opener that season.
– This is only the third visit the Cards have made to New England since moving to Arizona. The score of the 1996 trip was 31-0 Patriots, so adding in the 2008 game, it hasn’t been a pleasant place to play.
– Fitz needs three catches for 700 in his career. Tight end Todd Heap needs six for 500. And speaking of milestones, Sunday will be defensive end Vonnie Holliday’s 200th game.
– The constant talk of Skelton/Kolb has been exhausting to a point this week. Obviously I think Kolb will start this week. Everyone does, and even Ken Whisenhunt has sent everyone in that direction even if he didn’t officially name a starter. But this is a big deal for Kolb. He had his moment last week, but the moment is over. There will be plenty of eyes on him across the NFL landscape Sunday, not just those in Arizona.
– Defensive coordinator Ray Horton called his unit’s first game “an excellent start” but that it could have been better. “I was looking at the things we left on the table, and we left a fantastic, great, dominating game on the table,” Horton said. “We have room to improve.”
– This is a testing ground for the string of tough road games the Cards have this season. Trips to Green Bay, Atlanta, the Jets all come later. The long plane rides are par for the course. The Cards need to have a good showing. In a game where the Pats are opening the home schedule, and adding former fan favorite and team MVP Troy Brown to the franchise’s Hall of Fame, fighting those emotions won’t be easy.
See you Sunday.
Tags: Aaron Hernandez, Adrian Wilson, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Early Doucet, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Lyle Sendlein, Matt Cassel, Michael Adams, Patriots, Ray Horton, Ron Gronkowski, Todd Heap, William Gay
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We’ll get to the Cardinals’ QB situation in a minute — since nothing really new was said Friday, including an announcement of a starter — but we’ll start with defensive coordinator Ray Horton talking about the task of taking on the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady. Horton made it clear that, with all his years in Pittsburgh, he has a good handle on what the Patriots try to do. But understanding it and being able to stop it are two very different things, he acknowledged.
Then he had this to say about Brady: “This is to me the pinnacle of quarterbacks in the history of football. I think he’s unquestionably the best football player ever to play in this game.”
That’s some significant praise, but this week, with the way Patriots coach Bill Belichick has given lofty praise to just about everyone who plays at all for the Cardinals, it probably isn’t unexpected.
Horton feels like his defense worked well this week.
“They know us and trust me, I know them,” Horton said. “What works well is hitting Brady. If you don’t hit that guy, you have no chance.”
– On to the quarterback. Coach Ken Whisenhunt still wouldn’t officially announce Sunday’s starter. But he came right up to the edge of that in his comments about John Skelton and his ankle injury. “We’ll see who (the starter) is at 1 o’clock Sunday,” Whisenhunt said, before saying Skelton had his boot off and was getting better. “I have hope he can be available,” Whisenhunt said. “I know he’s in to the plan mentally. I would say it’s doubtful he would play, but I was encouraged with what I saw.”
– On a better note, Whisenhunt said his other injured players — specifically cornerback Patrick Peterson — all were doing well and he expected everyone else to be available Sunday in New England. That’s good news on Peterson, whom the Cards need. “You never know when you travel because you never know how their bodies will respond but I don’t anticipate we will have any issues.”
Officially, Skelton is listed as doubtful, with defensive backs Adrian Wilson, Rashad Johnson and Peterson all questionable after being limited Friday. Everyone else on the injury report practiced full and is probable for Sunday.
Now, it’s off to the airport.
Tags: Bill Belichick, John Skelton, Patriots, Ray Horton, Tom Brady
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