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Soon, Veldheer should be left tackle

Posted by Darren Urban on March 11, 2014 – 3:30 pm

No, nothing is official. Free agent left tackle Jared Veldheer is not officially signed, instead headed here for an visit that will allow the Cardinals medical staff to check him out and for General Manager Steve Keim, team president Michael Bidwill and coach Bruce Arians — among others — to talk to the guy face to face. But multiple reports not only have Veldheer agreeing to a contract with the Cardinals but also details of a five-year deal. The main numbers are $17 million guaranteed and a $6.5 million bonus, and if true (and assuming Veldheer is the solid left tackle everyone expects) Keim once again weaved his magic for a reasonable deal that would be cheaper than the other top tackles on the market. All for a 6-foot-8, 320-pound behemoth who turns 27 in June.

Here is a contract breakdown (already) of Veldheer’s deal, courtesy of overthecap.com.

I don’t think there is any question quarterback Carson Palmer — who played with and was protected by Veldheer in Oakland — endorsed his former teammate. Bruce Arians has said the Cards get input on players from players once in a while. And there is no question Veldheer was an intriguing possibility because of his age and price tag. If all goes right in the visit (and there is no reason it shouldn’t) Veldheer should be holding a press conference sometime Wednesday. Certainly Veldheer is confident. Not only did he tweet a goodbye to Raider fans, but he also changed his Twitter description and avatar:

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– In case you missed it, wide receiver Andre Roberts is headed to Washington on a four-year deal that reportedly has $8 million guaranteed. The wide receiver market hasn’t exactly opened with a bang like the tackle or defensive back positions have, so Roberts looks like he came out way ahead. Good for him. He’ll get a better opportunity to catch passes in Washington than he would have here behind Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.


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With 2014 schedule, London calling?

Posted by Darren Urban on October 8, 2013 – 3:03 pm

The NFL announced today that three teams will host games in London during the 2014 season: Jacksonville, Oakland and Atlanta. Why does that matter? Because you never know if the Cardinals could get picked to be the visiting team to a London game.

The Cards don’t play Jacksonville next season. But they do travel to Oakland, and with an away game at the “matching” NFC South team wherever they finish, there is a chance the Cardinals could have a road game in Atlanta next season — making then two of the three London games possible. We are far away from knowing for sure, of course, but it’s an interesting tidbit to chew on.

So, as long as we are discussion the 2014 opponents — because why wouldn’t you five games into the previous season — here is the list of the Cardinals’ schedule-to-be:

HOME

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

Kansas City Chiefs

San Diego Chargers

NFC North “like” finisher (If Cardinals finish in second place in division, for instance, they play the second-place team from NFCN)

Seattle Seahawks

San Francisco 49ers

St. Louis Rams

AWAY

Dallas Cowboys

New York Giants

Denver Broncos

Oakland Raiders

NFC South “like” finisher

Seattle Seahawks

San Francisco 49ers

St. Louis Rams


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Managing Palmer expectations

Posted by Darren Urban on May 20, 2013 – 9:50 am

It’s been clear from the day the Cardinals acquired Carson Palmer that Bruce Arians was high on his abilities — I mean, why wouldn’t he be? — but that was reiterated during an ESPN interview this weekend when Arians was talking about his veteran QB.

“What he did last year with the Raiders, in a crazy situation, I thought was very, very impressive,” Arians said.

Let’s recap what Palmer did: In 15 games, he threw for 4,018 yards, 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, and completed 61 percent of his passes. The Raiders still went 4-12. There is a lot that goes into all that. Those statistics may not have come in a lot of victories, but they still are impressive — especially the TD-to-INT ratio for a player who was forced to throw a lot because the team was behind. His top wide receiver was Denairus Moore (don’t feel bad if you have not heard of him.) The top pass catcher was tight end Brandon Myers, who had 79 catches for 806 yards. The first thought when you look at his receiving corps is that it was impressive to reach 4,000 yards without a top go-to type of threat.

Does Palmer have better receivers in Arizona? Certainly. Larry Fitzgerald alone changes the equation, Andre Roberts was pretty good last year and as I have noted before, it looks like Michael Floyd has made a big leap — at least at this point in the offseason — from Year One to Year Two. The Cards have to show they have a decent tight end threat (this is a crucial year for Rob Housler; if he can’t break out now with this QB and this offensive scheme, he may never) but Palmer will help.

What does that mean for Palmer himself? Well, he’s playing in a much more difficult division than last season. He’ll have to up his game to match his numbers. But if he stays healthy — and assuming the offensive line makes strides forward, as everyone is expecting right now — that can happen. Regardless, look at the numbers last year from the Cards’ QBs, which were ugly to say the least: 3,383 yards, 11 TDs, 21 INT, 55 percent completions. It figures to be much, much better. That alone I’d think would give fans a certain modicum of relief.

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Breaking down a trade, and other Palmer aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on April 2, 2013 – 6:22 pm

There is really no way to know how long the Cardinals have been thinking about Carson Palmer, but it’s clear it’s been a little while even if the official trade talks with the Raiders didn’t start until last Friday. The Cards were in a good spot, since it seemed obvious Palmer wasn’t going to go back to Oakland. The price wasn’t steep, not even if it had been straight up for a sixth-round pick, and the Cards got a seventh-rounder back. (The conditional pick next year is reportedly another seventh rounder, and since the conventional wisdom that a pick a year later is worth less than the current year, does that mean the Cards might have given up an undrafted free agent?)

The price for Palmer — about $8 million in salary, according to reports — is fair for a veteran QB with a decent resume. More importantly, the Cardinals were good with it.

“Not only with the draft compensation but with the restructuring of the contract, we had an area we felt comfortable with as an organization,” General Manager Steve Keim said. “We stuck to it and we were patient and it worked out.”

Keim said he and Team President Michael Bidwill had a long talk about the direction of the organization when Palmer’s availability came to light. Keim stressed the opportunity to get a franchise quarterback at this stage (which sounds even better given the prospects in the draft, which are clearly not exciting too many QB-needy teams league-wide given all the QB moves.) The Cards had gone for a franchise QB trade recently, and that didn’t work out all that well.

“I think there were many lessons we learned from that trade and from other trades that we brought collectively to the table,” Bidwill said of the Kolb deal.

The changes have come fast and furious over the past month or so. “All along we talked about being proactive and being aggressive,” Keim said. The Cardinals have. And now they have a new quarterback to run out there.

– It does feel like this is a perfect fit for what Bruce Arians does. I do think Palmer can still play well, and I do think he was the best option for the Cards. Is he the long-term solution? Of course not. Even if he has a Kurt Warner-like renaissance, the Cardinals are going to keep looking for long-term answers. They already were caught short once when Warner retired and they don’t want it to happen again.

– There was also cautious optimism from players today. “Any time you add a weapon, it helps your team,” running back Rashard Mendenhall said. “But we are all waiting to see how it shakes out.” As Fitz said, “I’m coming off the most disappointing season of my career and I’m in ‘Prove it’ mode.” Everyone on the Cards, especially on offense, probably needs to view it that way.

– It can’t hurt on the timing, which got Palmer to Arizona right when voluntary work started. He lost out on most of Tuesday as the deal was completed, but emphasized he is now in Arizona ready to work. I assume that means starting full bore Wednesday. (He did get a post-contract mini-workout in with John Lott, and talked a little with new teammate Dan Williams as you can see below.)

– Speaking of Warner, Palmer knows the parallel of coming to the Cards at this late stage of his career (Palmer is 33, Warner was 34 when the Cards got him.) “It’s hard to make those comparisons. Kurt was a phenomenal player. He came here and just lit people up. I’d love to be compared to some of the things that he did here when it’s my time to leave here.”

– In his opening statement, Palmer addressed the many stories about his leaving the Raiders, including the one out there that he declined to renegotiate his contract down from $13 million in 2013 even though the Raiders were reportedly still offering $10 million this season.

“There’s been a lot of rumors and stories and inaccuracies about my departure from Oakland,” Palmer said. “I want to clear the air on that. I was presented with a contract there and I was advised not to sign that contract, with no security, no guarantees. My agent told me he would never have me sign that contract. That opportunity led me here.”

Palmer said the Raiders were moving toward youth and he had no problem with that. He also called Head Coach Dennis Allen and General Manager Reggie McKenzie “stars” at their jobs.

– Arians was increasingly optimistic about his team. It lead to the funniest exchange of the day as Arians praised the players he saw for the first time Tuesday morning.

“Having walked into that room today, that’s as good a looking football team as I’ve seen in my 20 years of coaching, stepping in the first day,” Arians said. “There’s not a bad body in the room. It’s a great looking bunch of athletes, and we will never use talent as an excuse.”

Palmer didn’t hesitate. “You saying you’ve got a good body?”

“Yeah buddy. Yes indeed,” Arians fired back. “Sixty and sexy.”

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Palmer talk gains momentum

Posted by Darren Urban on March 30, 2013 – 10:02 am

The first domino to a Friday of speculation came earlier in the day, when news of a probable trade of quarterback Matt Flynn from the Seahawks to the Raiders hit the public domain. In itself, somewhat meaningless to the Cardinals. But the fallout was obvious — with Flynn, the Raiders no longer needed Carson Palmer, and if Palmer was on his way out in Oakland, it could mean a possible piece for the Cardinals. So last night, as I watched my son play some tournament basketball, the rumor mill hit high gear, with assorted unnnamed sources.

First came the idea the Cardinals could trade for Palmer. Then there was the notion the rest of the league would be surprised if Palmer would want to play in Arizona, unless of course the Cardinals were one of the teams Palmer wouldn’t mind playing for. As it stands at this moment, the Flynn trade has not even been completed, so until that comes to pass, nothing else will. But it always made sense that the Cards would consider Palmer if he came available.

(Yes, I understand there are plenty out there talking about what Palmer has left. This would be a relative short-term solution, however. I keep hearing the idea of, basically, do what you do with Drew Stanton in 2013 and if you lose, you lose and then draft a QB high in 2014. Understand that’s not how Bruce Arians and Steve Keim are going to think.)

From here though, there are questions. Trading for a player who seems likely to be released? Odd, although the Raiders can, in theory, hold on to Palmer indefinitely before cutting him, so maybe it would be worth the Cards giving up some kind of late, maybe conditional pick just to get Palmer in the fold. Many reports have Palmer turning down a $10 million salary (he is slated to make $13M this season) to stay in Oakland. No way I can see the Cardinals paying that. And if you’re Palmer, it would figure you’d rather be a free agent — after being released — to give yourself options/leverage if you so chose.

So clearly there are a lot of moving parts here. One caveat that could facilitate this: If the Raiders and Cards were going to try and pull off a trade, it makes sense the Raiders would give the Cards permission to talk contract with Palmer’s people first. That’s the only way this would get done (again, the Cards aren’t going to just inherit a $13M deal and the same headache the Raiders currently have) trade-wise. Lots of moving parts — remember, the Flynn deal isn’t even official right now — but it’s certainly a storyline to watch develop (or not develop) over the next week. Not sure it’s quite like Manning Watch 2012, but a quarterback is a quarterback.

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The AFC at UoP with Whiz

Posted by Darren Urban on October 10, 2012 – 10:21 am

Ken Whisenhunt coached in Pittsburgh for six seasons before coming to the Cardinals and knew what he’d be seeing when the AFC teams played his new team in Arizona. That’s worked out well.

The Cardinals have been a good home team since Whisenhunt’s arrival in 2007, and no place does that show up more than when AFC teams come to visit, like will happen Sunday when the Buffalo Bills will be the opponent. It’s the second and final AFC visitor of the season, and of the 11 previous AFC teams to come to town, the Cardinals have beaten nine of them and will be the favorite Sunday against the reeling Bills.

The only two home AFC losses in Whiz’s tenure came in 2009, when the powerful Colts beat up the Cards on “Sunday Night Football” and last year, when the Steelers caught the Cardinals at arguably their lowest point in the season in a 32-20 Pittsburgh win. Because of the way the schedule has worked out, the Cards have seen repeat AFC visitors in that time. The Cards have beaten Miami twice, Cleveland twice, along with a then-undefeated Buffalo (when Adrian Wilson knocked QB Trent Edwards out of the game, below), Houston (late goal-line stand), Oakland (Janikowski’s shocking missed field goal) and Denver (the Jay Feely score-a-thon.)

Next season, the AFC teams who will visit Arizona are the Texans and Colts again.


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Raiders aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2012 – 12:31 am

Not only did the Cards win a game Friday night, but there was an awful lot going on beyond just an outcome. Some very, very good. Some potentially very bad. Whatever you want to say about Levi Brown, but if he is out for an extended period of time, it bodes poorly for the Cards. Coach Ken Whisenhunt has to look at the video, but asked specifically about tackles D’Anthony Batiste and D.J. Young after the game, the first things he thought of about both were plays on which they were beaten. Batiste, who started on the right side, would be a left tackle option. So would Jeremy Bridges. We’ll see.

– The Twitterverse was counting on the quarterback situation to be resolved tonight. Nope. Whiz made it clear he wants to see John Skelton in extended time in Tennessee first. Kevin Kolb started very well, but then it got worse. Some of that was blocking, some was field position, and I know many fans don’t care about that anymore.

– Center Lyle Sendlein was asked about the idea that Skelton seems to get a little better protection. It was awkward – I’m not sure he saw the question coming – but he answered it.

“I think it’s just pure chance,” Sendlein said. “It’s nothing done differently. We don’t block harder for one guy and not try as hard for the other guy. I think situationally we were backed up with Kevin a lot. With John we had some turnovers and short drives. It’s just pure chance.”

– Speaking of Kolb, Raiders defensive end Tommy Kelly took a shot at him after the game, calling Kolb “skittish” and “scared.” “He ain’t even trying to look at the routes no more.” Interesting analysis (although I’m not 100 percent sure how a lineman working hard getting to the QB can necessarily tell that on the field.) It’s a perception Kolb is going to be fighting going forward.

– With everything going on it felt like in my story I gave rookie Justin Bethel the short shrift. All he did was block a punt and return it for a touchdown and then block an extra point, giving him three blocked kicks this preseason already. He’s made the team. That seems a certainty.  My cohort Josh Weinfuss will have more on Bethel Sunday in a story he’s working on, but clearly, that kind of special teams production won’t be overlooked.

– Ryan Williams looked very good in his return. He took his hits, he broke off a 15-yard run, and he scored a touchdown – which, as usually happens, ended with Larry Fitzgerald making sure he got the ball. “I totally forgot about the football, because you’re not allowed to do that in college,” Williams said. “Larry grabbed me and hugged me and said, ‘I’m proud of you and I’m glad we got you back.’ ”

A great gesture. I am guessing the football from the first touchdown that counts will mean even more.

– Rookie CB Jamell Fleming had a rough night, with a unnecessary roughness call hitting a receiver (questionable) and a pass interference (questionable). But as questionable as they were, they still count against you.

– Safety Rashad Johnson was out of uniform by the time the game ended. Not sure if he got dinged or what the reason was.

– Raiders quarterback Matt Leinart’s return was cut short after he left needing stiches on a finger. He finished 5-for-8 for 66 yards. “It felt really good to be out there,” Leinart said. “It was kind of weird at first just to be back, but it felt good.”

– The first-team defense was much better. It needs to be. The turnovers were a good start. “We didn’t tackle well or play with any emotion (the first two games),” safety Kerry Rhodes said. “We wanted to come out here and be emotional, just play like a kid and have fun.”

OK, it’s late. Whiz said he hoped to have more info on Levi tomorrow (later today I guess, less than 12 hours).


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Levi Brown injures his triceps

Posted by Darren Urban on August 17, 2012 – 8:54 pm

Starting left tackle Levi Brown left Friday night’s game with a triceps injury. No way to know right now how severe — he was doubtful to return — but it could be a very big deal.

The last two Cardinals I recall suffering triceps injuries were tackle Oliver Ross and defensive end/linebackers Bertrand Berry, both in 2007. Both were lost for the season (Ross got hurt in the preseason, coincidentally, against the Raiders. Berry was hurt in November.) Until official word comes down, hope remains that Brown isn’t hurt that badly. But it’s tough not to think about it.

Brown’s backup is former undrafted youngster D.J. Young, who didn’t appear in a game last season, spending all but one week on the practice squad. The team could also use Jeremy Bridges at left tackle. Bridges played there a bunch in 2009 after Mike Gandy got hurt. For all the slings and arrows Brown has endured while playing, losing him would be a big deal. We’ll wait to hear.

 


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Thursday before the Raiders

Posted by Darren Urban on August 16, 2012 – 3:27 pm

So here it is, the day before the game in which Ken Whisenhunt promised to play his starters until they got it right. That was the message at the beginning of the week, and then Whisenhunt and his staff worked the Cards pretty hard over the next few days in Flagstaff.

It seems to me – and really, what do I know? – it worked.

“I don’t quite understand why he was trying to take us out of the preseason earlier anyway,” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. “I guess it’s (being) cautious, but we’re not out there to protect guys. We’re out there to get better, to make strides. For him to have to come and say that to us is disappointing, and we have to take care of our Coach because he takes care of us. I can guarantee that will not be the same Cardinals’ team (Friday night) that you all saw the last two weeks.”

The stars line up well for the Cards. It’s their first home game. There is desperation by a defense that has been disappointing and a starting quarterback fighting to stay in the hunt to be a starter. There is a clear edge in the air from a coaching staff that wants more, and an opponent who just played Monday night.

We’ll see if the attention to detail Adrian Wilson was searching for shows up.

– Assuming Ryan Williams finally plays, and all indications are that he will, Friday marks 364 days since he ruptured his patella tendon in Green Bay. It will also be his first game at University of Phoenix Stadium, since the Cards began with a pair of road preseason games last year.

– It’s been said many times, but this game will be important to Kevin Kolb. A poor showing doesn’t necessarily eliminate him from being a starter – at least, Whisenhunt hasn’t said that – but it’s hard to think, with time running out, that this is crucial. I’ve already been asked a bunch of times if the Cards will trade for another QB if Kolb doesn’t play well, or if they will cut him. I say the same I have been: I expect whoever isn’t starting to be the backup this season. But never say never.

(I will say that I can’t see trading for the contract of Tavaris Jackson, for instance, at $4M when he’s not necessarily an improvement. Same with Colt McCoy. How do they make you better? Especially when they’ll be coming in cold? Makes no sense to me.)

– Speaking of the QB competition, offensive coordinator Mike Miller said nothing is different even though the Cards haven’t settled on a starter. To the contrary, the changes come after a starter is named.

“I don’t change anything about how we install or operate day-to-day,” Miller said. “Once a decision is made, and as any team does at any position, there are strengths and weaknesses with each guy. So you try to cater your game plan to meet that player’s talent. What does he do best? It’s the old saying: Who are your best 11, and what do they do best?”

– Just because this game feels more important to Kolb, it doesn’t mean that John Skelton, whenever he comes in, should be ignored. He needs to play well too. Everyone is watching.

– While watching quarterbacks, how can you not look forward to seeing how Matt Leinart does for the Raiders? He’s backing up Carson Palmer these days and this will be his first visit back to UoP since being cut by the Cards. Against Dallas, he was 11-for-16 for 98 yards, fairly typical numbers – high completion rate for not a ton of yards.

– We don’t know exactly how Michael Floyd’s year will go yet, but at least he’s not tossing his cookies because of nerves. Then again, that’s been normal for him. “I’m surprised because usually I get sick and feel a little nauseated,” Floyd said. “But no. I feel comfortable and as long as I keep practicing and getting these plays down, I can have that comfort and be faster.”

– A tip of the cap to the long and good life of my grandfather, Raymond Urban, who passed away Wednesday afternoon. He had just turned 101 July 30.

– Interesting that DC Ray Horton mentioned to Kent Somers no cornerback has really challenged William Gay for the starting spot opposite Patrick Peterson. I didn’t get the impression that was because Gay has been flawless either. It’s one of the reasons this game means a lot to the defense too – where is that unit with the 2011 closing kick?

– Well, maybe they were around in practice this week. “There’s been no b.s.ing around,” Dockett said. “It’s been about business.”

Yeah, that’s what this Oakland game feels like. It definitely doesn’t feel like an exhibition. Not from this side.


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A possibility of Quentin Groves

Posted by Darren Urban on August 16, 2012 – 9:52 am

Starting linebacker O’Brien Schofield missed practice Wednesday with a left knee injury. Yes, that’s the same knee he had reconstructed after an ACL tear coming out of college. But Schofield was working on the side with everyone else, and while I’m not sure he’ll play Friday against the Raiders, it didn’t look like a serious thing.

(Tight end Steve Skelton was also sitting with a back issue, along with LB Paris Lenon (ankle), CB Michael Adams (hamstring), FB Jared Crank (neck) and running back LaRod Stephens-Howling (groin) still out yesterday.)

If Schofield doesn’t go, the depth chart gets shifted for the Raiders. Veteran Clark Haggans would start, presumably. But at some point, you’d figure to see one of the more intriguing names in camp: Quentin Groves. Groves is the former second-round pick who didn’t really make it as a defensive end in this league — he has just two career sacks and is going into his fifth season — but seems to make sense in the Cards’ 3-4 scheme. He flashed against the Saints in the Hall of Fame game as he tries to escape the disappointing years with both the Jaguars and Raiders.

“He had a good workout for us (in the offseason) and we felt like this was a chance for us to check a guy out,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “It seemed like a good fit for his physical ability. He’s worked hard at it.”

Sometimes, he’s worked a little too hard (he was asked to take, well, let’s call it a break, at a recent practice after touching the quarterback in some work, which is always a practice no-no.) But the Cards are still in search of backup linebackers and if — and that’s definitely still an if –a former second-round pick can play anywhere near that potential, the Cards could wind up with a hidden gem.

 

 


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