About that roster spot …

Posted by Darren Urban on July 10, 2017 – 1:51 pm

As I come back off vacation, things are still quiet around the Cardinals’ facility. Coaches and players won’t start filtering in until next week (report day for training camp is a week from Friday, with the first practice on July 22, a week from Saturday.) This is the time when the radar gets raised for a potential veteran signing for training camp.

The Cardinals currently have one open spot on the 90-man roster, a vacancy created the last time the Cards made moves more than a month ago. Odds are that it would be more of a fringe guy to fill out a position heading into camp, a name that most won’t recognize. But it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to have someone with a better chance of making the roster. The last we heard from GM Steve Keim, the team was monitoring a bunch of veterans who were possibilities (assuming the price was right.)

There are cornerbacks out there, although if  you are floating around right now, there are questions: Darrelle Revis is price v. age (and since he is already making $6 million this season and has offset language, he may not be motivated to play), Sam Shields has dealt with concussions, Brandon Flowers and Alterraun Verner are smaller. When last we heard from running back Chris Johnson, he said he was still in contact with the team. Maybe there is a guard to compete with Evan Boehm (besides rookie Dorian Johnson.)

One thing that seems certain: Adding whomever it is won’t be the only move of camp. Since Keim took over as GM, the Cardinals have averaged 18 roster moves from camp-opening week through the first cut to 75. (Again, don’t forget that a new rule means there won’t be a cut to 75 this season, only the final cut, which will take teams from 90 to 53.) The roster, through performance and injuries, will be churned soon enough.

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Kerwynn Williams, and juggling the roster

Posted by Darren Urban on October 11, 2016 – 10:09 am

The life of a player on the fringe of the roster is not easy. Kerwynn Williams knows this. The running back was re-signed by the Cardinals Tuesday. He had been signed a week ago after Chris Johnson went on IR, and then when the Cardinals needed an extra tight end because Darren Fells was injured — the Cards promoted practice squad tight end Hakeem Valles — Williams was the one they cut, just a few hours before kickoff against the 49ers. Now that Carson Palmer is just about healthy, the Cardinals found a roster spot for Williams again, letting go of quarterback Zac Dysert.

Williams lives a tough reality. He’s not a special teamer (he can return kickoffs, if needed) so he’s not a guy that makes sense to be active unless you need him to run the ball. He’s no longer practice-squad eligible. But he’s proven many times he can run the ball, and run it well. If he had been PS-eligible, he very well would have made it over Elijhaa Penny.

But with Johnson down (at least for now; there is a chance CJ2K will return this season) Williams makes a lot of sense as an extra runner. Andre Ellington will be David Johnson’s official backup, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Williams finds a way to get some carries over the next few weeks.

That is, of course, assuming the Cardinals don’t need to find a roster spot again.


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Analyzing the initial 53-man roster

Posted by Darren Urban on September 3, 2016 – 4:55 pm

The Cardinals have gotten down to the 53-man roster. Surprises? Perhaps a couple, although the way the wind was blowing over the last few days of the preseason, maybe not so much. Once we got to the end of the fourth preseason game, it was looking good for undrafted ILB Lamar Louis, and the knee injury of Kareem Martin might have helped ILB Gabe Martin on to the final roster (as well as his pick-6), although Martin has caught their collective eye for a while. I think cornerback Cariel Brooks had a good chance to make the team until he played so poorly against the Broncos.

The one legit surprise — in my eyes — was the Cardinals keeping Olsen Pierre, meaning there are nine defensive linemen on the final 53. Nine! That’s on a team with a 3-4 base defense that will use Chandler Jones as a defensive end in some passing situations. Then again, this could be partly for the future, not wanting to lose Pierre (and thinking he can play) when both Frostee Rucker and Calais Campbell are going into the last year of their contracts.

— The roster breakdown, right now, looks like this:
QB – 2
RB – 4
WR – 5
TE – 3
OL – 9
DL – 9
LB – 9 (counting Bucannon; sorry Deone)
CB – 4
S —  5
ST – 3

— So many wondered if Matt Barkley would stick, but as I have said many, many, many times, Drew Stanton was the No. 2 and Barkley simply didn’t show enough to pass him up. The Cardinals will have a QB on the practice squad — it could be Barkley — but it was clear listening to Bruce Arians over the time in camp he was disappointed Barkley didn’t come along faster.

— The trade for Marcus Cooper underscored the need for a veteran cornerback. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cards kept looking at that position.

— The same goes for backup tackle, although John Wetzel showed enough to stick for now.

— Only one draft pick wasn’t kept, cornerback Harlan Miller. I wouldn’t be surprised if Miller came back on the practice squad, but if you are Miller, knowing how much the Cards needed cornerbacks, you have to be disappointed you couldn’t make inroads in making the roster.

— When in doubt, teams go younger. That’s how you stay competitive.

— Teams will start making waiver claims tomorrow. There is still a (good) chance this 53 won’t be the 53 when the Cardinals return to practice Tuesday.


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Quietly, Clemons among a handful of cuts

Posted by Darren Urban on September 2, 2016 – 3:41 pm

The Cardinals have until Saturday afternoon to make their final cutdown to 53 on the roster, and Bruce Arians made clear earlier today that he wasn’t going to forthcoming with any information. But that doesn’t mean the Cardinals didn’t make a few moves — aside from the agreed-upon trade for Chiefs cornerback Marcus Cooper, which I would guess wouldn’t be official until Cooper passes a physical.

The team still hasn’t officially announced anything, but there were a handful of cuts listed on the official NFL transactions list today. Two veterans are out — S Chris Clemons (a minor surprise, given that he had been Deone Bucannon’s summer-long backup at moneybacker) and LB Donald Butler. They will each immediately become unrestricted free agents. That likely means good news for undrafted rookie ILB Lamar Louis. Waived were CB Cariel Brooks, RB Kerwynn Williams, T Rob Crisp, WR Marquis Bundy and G Antoine McClain. The team also had an injury settlement with C Taylor Boggs, who had been dealing with a calf injury.

That would be eight players off the roster of 75 in the quest to get to 53. The Cards actually have to move on from 23 total players, because Cooper is coming in. The other cuts will come out at some point Saturday.

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One guess at the 53, 2016 edition

Posted by Darren Urban on August 31, 2016 – 3:22 pm

Here is my one and only prediction of the 53-man roster come this weekend, with the usual caveats — no injuries in the last preseason game, no trades that come down (that glut of defensive linemen looms big). I wish I could say over the years that once or twice I have nailed this exactly, but I have not. Nevertheless — to paraphrase the great Herm Edwards — once it doesn’t matter, get out. Retire.

QB (2) — Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton. This was my guess at this time last year, undercut by a trade for Matt Barkley. I don’t see Barkley sticking, so the Cards will need a practice squad QB. Barkley would be eligible, but they could look elsewhere.

RB (4) — David Johnson, Chris Johnson, Andre Ellington, Stepfan Taylor. I could see Elijhaa Penny on the practice squad. Kerwynn Williams has proven he can play in this league, but I believe his practice squad days have run out.

WR (6) — Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, John Brown, Jaron Brown, J.J. Nelson, Brittan Golden. Golden’s special teams work slides him in late. Plus it gives you a veteran to help if John Brown needs more time to get ready.

TE (3) — Darren Fells, Jermaine Gresham, Troy Niklas. This is one spot the Cards go lighter to help in other areas. They have some practice squad candidates too.

OL (9) — T Jared Veldheer, G Mike Iupati, C A.Q. Shipley, G Evan Mathis, T D.J. Humphries, OL Earl Watford, C Evan Boehm, G Cole Toner, T John Wetzel. This is a group that could change based on who might be available after cuts. I could see the Cards looking for a backup tackle still. Watford’s versatility will help.

DL (8) — Calais Campbell, Corey Peters, Rodney Gunter, Ed Stinson, Xavier Williams, Frostee Rucker, Josh Mauro, Robert Nkemdiche. They really like having Red Bryant around, and that could provide a surprise. But Xavier Williams has had a good camp too, and all things being equal, Williams is younger.

OLB (4) — Chandler Jones, Markus Golden, Kareem Martin, Alex Okafor. Pretty straightforward. They’ll need someone for the practice squad. Might Shaq Riddick get a chance there? Tristan Okpalaugo is also eligible.

ILB (and $LB, because I know you don’t want to be called an ILB, Deone) (4): Deone Bucannon, Chris Clemons, Kevin Minter, Alani Fua. The wild card in all this is undrafted rookie Lamar Louis. If he excels, he could snare a fifth spot here, which of course would mean taking someone off elsewhere.

CB (5) — Patrick Peterson, Brandon Williams, Justin Bethel, Cariel Brooks, Harlan Miller: The Cards will be seeking help elsewhere. Miller is right on the fringe, a player who could be in or out based on other decisions.

S (5) — Tyrann Mathieu, Tony Jefferson, Tyvon Branch, D.J. Swearinger, Marqui Christian. The Cards have a good bunch here, especially when Mathieu is feeling completely like himself again. Will be interesting to see how many guys are used in sub-packages, especially if the concern at cornerback remains.

ST (3) — K Chandler Catanzaro, P Drew Butler, LS Kam Canaday. No questions here.


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Bouka heads to IR, Ball released

Posted by Darren Urban on August 30, 2016 – 9:39 am

The Cardinals were hoping that Elie Bouka would be a Canadian find at cornerback this year after snagging him as an undrafted rookie free agent. Instead, he’s barely been on the field — and now he won’t be on it before next season. Bouka went to injured reserve, his offseason and training camp marred first by the serious Achilles injury he suffered last season and then by a bad hamstring injury that still has him sidelined.

It was one of two moves the Cards made Tuesday to get to the 75-man limit. Getting an injury settlement with veteran cornerback Alan Ball (quad) was the other. And to think of the opportunity that was there for either in training camp, given the uncertainty of the position. Ball made a couple of plays in his first few practices but then got hurt.

With Mike Jenkins tearing his ACL, the starting cornerback position across from Patrick Peterson is open. Bouka might have been a long shot to get into the mix but his body never even gave him a chance. Now he’ll have to wait until 2017 to see if he can make the jump to the NFL.


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Cardinals release three

Posted by Darren Urban on June 1, 2016 – 3:14 pm

The Cardinals trimmed the roster a bit Wednesday, releasing a trio of players: Tackle Edawn Coughman, safety Brandon Person and wide receiver Chris King. Person has been with the team since last offseason, missing the entire year on injured reserve with a knee injury. Coughman was signed Jan. 7 to a “futures” contract, and King was an undrafted rookie signed in May. According to the NFL transactions, both Person and King received injury settlements.

The moves leave the Cardinals with 87 on the roster, giving them three spots to fill. The team is in its final week of OTAs, with the mandatory three-day minicamp coming next week before the team breaks for the summer. Training camp will start in late July.


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Keim: Cards like Barkley’s mental makeup

Posted by Darren Urban on September 8, 2015 – 8:12 am

We’ve delved into why the Cardinals took Matt Barkley at quarterback already, but General Manager Steve Keim — during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” Show on Arizona Sports 98.7 Tuesday morning — got into a little more detail.

“When you are looking at a quarterback … and you’re saying, ‘What are the traits you look for,’ the first thing you don’t say is arm strength, or foot speed or mobility,” Keim said. “To me, when you look at quarterbacks, the first thing you want is mental toughness, the second thing is the ability to process and learn.

“Those are the things that excited us about Matt Barkley. When he came out of college we spent a lot of time with him. We liked him coming out. We know he is a football junkie. The mental part of the game is not too fast for him. Now, we bring him in, not a lot of risk involved, and you see what he’s got physically. To me, that’s how you have to approach that position because they are so hard to find.”

Other Keim’s points:

— The roster is “always in flux.” Keim wouldn’t even say the current 53 would stay static through Sunday’s opener against the Saints. Something to watch, although I’d be surprised if there was a move at this point just given what is out there (and assuming no one gets hurt in practice.)

— The fact the Cardinals have only three cornerbacks on the roster isn’t lost on Keim. Having safety Tyrann Mathieu there is a bit reason the Cards were comfortable with the move, but Keim did point out there is a reason the team has three cornerbacks on the practice squad. Any one of them could be pulled up in a given week.

— Once Bobby Massie is reinstated from his two-game suspension, then Keim and Bruce Arians will figure out who might be released to make room on the roster. No reason to talk names now, Keim said, because no one knows what injuries may happen, if any, over the first two games. Keim was pleased with the way Earl Watford played right tackle in the final preseason game.

— That said, Keim deferred to Arians on any starting lineup announcements, including center. He also said he had nothing concrete to report on injury updates of G Mike Iupati and WR Michael Floyd. Arians already said Iupati wouldn’t be playing this week.

— Keim said it was “good to see” both RB Chris Johnson and LB Sean Weatherspoon play “extremely well” in the final preseason game. Keim reiterated the Cards were excited for both additions when they signed and the team is counting on their contributions.

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Analyzing the initial 53-man roster

Posted by Darren Urban on September 5, 2015 – 5:28 pm

The roster will change. Now that the Cardinals are down to 53 players, the chances of it staying the same by the time the team comes back together Tuesday isn’t great. GM Steve Keim seems almost a lock to make at least one waiver claim that comes through. But for now, here’s some of the highlights to Saturday’s choices:

— The breakdown by position looks like this:

QB 3
RB 4
TE 4
WR 6
OL 9
DL 7
CB 3
S 5
ST 3

— The Cardinals will have four cornerbacks at some point. I don’t see how they don’t. It might not be until after the first game, but I am confident they will keep the search going.

— The trade for Matt Barkley ended the chances for Logan Thomas and Phillip Sims. I don’t see them keeping a fourth QB on the practice squad.

— Two undrafted rookies make the roster in nose tackle Xavier Williams and Alani Fua. Fua, at 6-foot-5, is one of those choices Keim wanted to make the team longer and more athletic. It’s why they still like Shaq Riddick even though Riddick has been hurt so much.

— Stepfan Taylor is your “big” back with the cut of Robert Hughes. Kerwynn Williams is a fan favorite but his skill-set is just too close to Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson.

— With the suspension of Bobby Massie, it might have saved Bradley Sowell a roster spot for now. When Massie returns, we’ll see what happens. By then, the Cards might have a better sense of who they want at center, or maybe they let a tackle go.

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One guess at the 53, 2015 edition

Posted by Darren Urban on September 2, 2015 – 3:55 pm

Bruce Arians always likes to say the Cardinals aren’t the Cardinals until the roster is pared down to 53 players, because before that, it’s every man for himself fighting for a job. Well, the Cardinals are about to become the Cardinals.

The team must trim 22 off the roster by Saturday at 1 p.m. Arizona time, and the likelihood is that, like last year, those cuts won’t be announced until then. There is also still a preseason game left to be played, and Arians suggested there are still up to 12 roster spots that could change given what happens. That seems like a lot. Usually, by now, the roster is relatively firm in the eyes of the front office, save for a few spots. Given the depth this year, it might be harder.

One caveat when it comes to these predictions. The Cardinals have been active on the waiver wire, adding at least one claim as the regular-season starts. That’s a wild card that can’t be predicted right now. The 53 on Saturday often isn’t the 53 that goes into the locker room the morning of the opener. Always something to keep in mind. As you do, here is my guess of how this filters out:

QB (2): Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton. The Denver game will go a long way toward figuring who could be a third quarterback between Phillip Sims and Logan Thomas, but given the other needs on the roster, I think the Cards take the risk and go with only two quarterbacks. Sims seems to have the edge right now, and he could be brought back on the practice squad.

RB (5): Andre Ellington, David Johnson, Chris Johnson, Stepfan Taylor, Robert Hughes. This is tougher. I think Taylor has a shot to stick because he is effective on special teams. But there is a chance the Cards go with four and gain a roster spot elsewhere.

WR (5): Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, John Brown, Jaron Brown, J.J. Nelson. There has been a lot of talk about six wide receivers, but injuries at tight end and the offensive line may just make that too difficult right now. Brittan Golden has a shot as No. 6 if people get healthy.

TE (5): Troy Niklas, Darren Fells, Ifeanyi Momah, Jermaine Gresham, Gerald Christian. Right now, it’s tough to know if Niklas or Gresham will even be healthy enough to start the season. In an offense where you need two on the field a lot of the time, I almost think five is necessary right now.

OL (9): Jared Veldheer, Ted Larsen, Lyle Sendlein, A.Q. Shipley, Bobby Massie, Jonathan Cooper, Earl Watford, Mike Iupati, D.J. Humphries. This one is very difficult right now. Iupati is hurt. Massie might not be available – but right now, is destined to count against the 53-man roster. If Watford is the starting right tackle, I’d guess Sowell would be out with Humphries around. But it could also be whomever doesn’t win the Shipley/Sendlein center battle, knowing Larsen could back up there. Like defensive line, this will be a tough call.

DL (7): Calais Campbell, Frostee Rucker, Ed Stinson, Rodney Gunter, Josh Mauro, Xavier Williams, Cory Redding. This is the position that will suffer tough cuts (or a potential trade). Alameda Ta’amu may be out because Williams has done so well. And it would seem to come down to Mauro or Matt Shaughnessy, and if it’s close, you figure the Cards will go younger and cheaper.

OLB (5): Alex Okafor, Markus Golden, LaMarr Woodley, Kareem Martin, Shaq Riddick. Riddick hasn’t had much time to show much but Arians’ comments have indicated he’ll get a chance this season to stick around.

ILB (4): Kevin Minter, Sean Weatherspoon, Kenny Demens, Alani Fua. Fua is in a battle with Gabe Martin (who could be a practice squad guy) but his length and ability to go inside or outside seems to give him the edge.

CB (3): Patrick Peterson, Jerraud Powers, Justin Bethel. It’s not many. But I could see a cornerback addition via waivers. If not, the safety-heavy Cards can also go with three or four safeties at a time to make it work. Undrafted rookie Cariel Brooks could make a push on Thursday. There will be cornerbacks on the practice squad, though.

S (5): Rashad Johnson, Tony Jefferson, Deone Bucannon, Tyrann Mathieu, Chris Clemons. Clemons would seem to be on the bubble but the lack of cornerbacks makes him more valuable. Mathieu’s ability to help at cornerback makes a difference too.

Specialists (3): K Chandler Catanzaro, P Drew Butler, LS Mike Leach. The news from this spot already came when Butler was kept and Dave Zastudil released.


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