Every time General Manager Steve Keim talks about his roster, he talks about looking to improve everywhere. That’s always the default. While the Cardinals probably need, say, offensive linemen or tight ends more than, running backs, you don’t turn down chances to upgrade your team at any position. (As for the latest talk-radio conversation about quarterback, I feel confident that a) Carson Palmer is going to be the starter in 2014 and b) if Keim has a QB sitting on the board in the draft that he really, really likes — whenever that is — the Cardinals will likely take him.)
All that said, there are spots that need addressing just for the sheer numbers. I’ve already posted this once, but below is a link to a roster breakdown done right after the season. It has changed a bit — punter Dave Zastudil has re-signed by now — but the rest of the contract situations remain the same. Keim has a little more than six weeks before contracts officially expire. In terms of strictly numbers, here are how impending free agency impacts the positions (not including all the futures deals/low-end free agents that have signed):
– QB: Cards are fine with all three guys under contract. You’d expect a fourth camp arm to sign if one isn’t drafted.
– RB: Rashard Mendenhall is unrestricted and plays a big role, although if the Cards rode Andre Ellington/Stepfan Taylor in 2014, no one would be surprised.
– WR: Assuming the Cards can get comfortable (if they aren’t already) with Fitz’s contract, the position is probably OK. They need to add someone if Andre Roberts leaves as a free agent, but they can ride with Floyd/Fitz as a top two.
– TE: A major question. Only Rob Housler is under contract for next season. This has got to be a spot where the Cards draft, right?
– OL: Upgrades are necessary and will happen, but as of now, only Eric Winston is a free agent of guys who played at all.
– DL: Need depth here. Do you bring Frostee Rucker back? And that rehab needed for Alameda Ta’amu’s ACL tear hurts the team as much as Ta’amu.
– LB: It’s hard not to notice two starters in Karlos Dansby and Matt Shaughnessy who could potentially walk away.
– DB: The Cards could probably use another young safety, although they may be in good shape if Tony Jefferson can step forward. But what about cornerback, with Tyrann Mathieu coming back from injury and Javier Arenas/Antoine Cason/Bryan McCann scheduled to be free agents. Depth is needed there. It’ll be interesting to see if Justin Bethel ends up playing a bigger defensive role.
– Specialists: Zastudil is back. We’ll see what the Cardinals do at kicker and impending FA Jay Feely.
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Andre Ellington, Andre Roberts, Antoine Cason, Bryan McCann, Carson Palmer, Dave Zastudil, Eric Winston, Frostee Rucker, Javier Arenas, Jay Feely, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Shaughnessy, Rashard Mendenhall, Rob Housler, Roster, Stepfan Taylor, Steve Keim, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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This is the time of year when not a lot of news happens. There was a little today, starting with the signing of another player to a “futures” contract: Pass rusher Adrian Tracy, who played 16 games at defensive end for the New York Giants in 2012 and was cut at the end of the preseason this past season. Tracy will be an outside linebacker for the Cardinals, who are looking for players like that.
(Again, futures deals are to lock down a player with a contract that doesn’t officially kick in until March 11, the start of the new league year. It doesn’t mean a player is absolutely going to have a shot at making it — don’t forget, teams need to get to 90 players for their offseason rosters. That’s a lot of extra bodies that won’t be around come September. We’ll see how these guys pan out.)
– Defensive tackle Alameda Ta’amu had surgery Wednesday for his torn ACL. He said the procedure went well (when doesn’t it?). Too early to know what kind of timeline Ta’amu might follow to return to the field. He said he wasn’t rolled up on but instead was jumping to try and avoid stepping on a prone teammate. When he came down, the knee popped. Ta’amu is keeping his humor about the situation. “I should’ve just stepped on him,” he said.
– Safety Tyrann Mathieu is at the very beginning stages of the rehab process himself after his torn ACL/LCL. He was in this morning actually doing some exercises.
– Finally, if you didn’t get a chance to read it, here’s a story about Patrick Peterson, and some analysis through metrics about his performance. Those who chart such things back up the other accolades Peterson has received, that he is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. The tough thing to measure is the times teams don’t throw his way because of his play. As I said in the story, Peterson hasn’t been perfect. But it has been amazing to me, as I have said before, the amount of backlash Peterson has suddenly seen. The people I talked to had the same reaction I have had. I don’t get it.
Tags: Adrian Tracy, Alameda Ta'amu, Patrick Peterson, Roster, Tyrann Mathieu
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A year ago today, the Cardinals hired Steve Keim to be their general manager.
It turned out to be a pretty good first year on the job.
Churning the roster quite a bit — there were 193 roster moves in that span — Keim orchestrated an overhaul that produced five more wins in 2013 than 2012, and while the playoffs didn’t work out, it was a remarkable turnaround. He got a solid starting quarterback for basically a sixth-round draft pick. He got a guy who looks like a viable long-term running back, a dynamic playmaker both running and receiving, with a sixth-round pick. He won the waiting game with what looked like would be high-priced veteran free agents, getting Karlos Dansby, Eric Winston and John Abraham at his price and then watching them produce. There are others, of course. You needed a lot of quality changes to get to where the Cards went.
Honestly, it’s hard to see many misses this first year out of the box. You wonder what second-round pick Kevin Minter will be, but it’s not like the linebacker flopped, he just didn’t get a chance to play because Dansby — a spectacular post-draft free agent signing, again, on the Cards’ terms — was so good. Yes, the Cards committed to left tackle Levi Brown last season (make no mistake, had their been a left tackle there at No. 7 last draft they would have taken him) but Keim was smart enough to cut ties relatively quickly when it wasn’t working out. You move on when you need to move on.
In many ways, Keim’s second offseason is going to be more difficult than his first. The bar was set low. This offseason, expectations are much higher, but the Cardinals face many of the same issues — unknowns at many positions because of impending free agency, a tight salary cap, and some nasty cap numbers on existing contracts. (And that doesn’t include the possibility of signing cornerback Patrick Peterson to a long-term and no d0ubt hefty contract extension.)
Keim has surrounded himself with quality guys, like vice president of player personnel Jason Licht (who figures to be a GM himself someday) and director of football administration/salary cap guru Mike Disner (who, if you missed it, was just named to the Forbes 30 rising stars under age 30 in sports list). The front office is strong right now. It starts at the top.
Tags: Jason Licht, Mike Disner, Roster, salary cap, Steve Keim
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This time around, the Cardinals aren’t going to be looking for a coach or general manager, so this early part of the offseason figures to be much more quiet than it was in January of 2013. But there is still plenty for GM Steve Keim and his people to work on, because the combine is in less than two months, free agency is soon after that, and it’s time to focus on what the offseason roster in 2014 will look like.
That starts, of course, with figuring out what they liked and didn’t like with the roster from 2013. It also comes down to budget, and contracts, and how many of these unrestricted free agents-to-be want to come back to Arizona based on the deals Keim wants to/is willing to offer. These are not always simple solutions but it is why Keim, as they say, earns the big bucks. When I talked to Keim as early as the week in Florida prior to the Week 4 game at Tampa, Keim was already acknowledging the work that had to go into this offseason.
“There are going to be some tough decisions to be made after the season based on the numbers, just looking at the three-year view,” Keim said then. “We will obviously have to make some tough decisions like we did this past year after the season. The one thing fans and other people don’t realize (is) there are certain contracts that bind you and you can’t do anything (with) and you have the dead money factor.
“Once we get to 2015 I feel really good where we are going to be from a salary-cap standpoint.”
With that all in mind, here is my annual roster breakdown, with most players by position, when their contracts expires and a quick comment on each. There are a lot of choices to be made, and not just by Keim. If you are Karlos Dansby, for instance, do you like the scheme Todd Bowles has put you in — and like playing next to someone like Daryl Washington enough — to want to stay? Money, as always, talks. Dansby did not get the kind of interest he expected last offseason in the market. He had a better year this season, but will that translate for a player who will be 33? These are the things the Cardinals, and Dansby, must balance.
The Larry Fitzgerald situation, and a looming $18 million salary cap number, is another touchpoint. The Cardinals really need to get it lower. How they can work with Fitzgerald on that impacts a lot of things, including, for instance, any potential Patrick Peterson contract extension. When you start mulling all these numbers, you start seeing why Keim is targeting 2015 for salary cap comfort.
There are other key things the Cards must look at roster-wise, aside from the draft. Other key free agents like Matt Shaughnessy, Rashard Mendenhall or Andre Roberts. Other contracts, like perhaps those of Daryn Colledge or Darnell Dockett. Other issues, like the long-term rehab of Tyrann Mathieu and Alameda Ta’amu, or a possible suspension of Daryl Washington, and whether absences at the beginning of the season could make a difference on who is needed on the roster for depth.
The offseason is just beginning. So too is the job of the Cardinals to get ready for 2014.
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Andre Roberts, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Daryn Colledge, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Shaughnessy, Patrick Peterson, Rashard Mendenhall, Roster, Steve Keim, Tyrann Mathieu
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The news leaked out yesterday, that the Cardinals were going to be signing former Colts cornerback Teddy Williams, a player with a ton of speed. The Cardinals had cut linebacker Kenny Demens to make room for Williams on the roster. What hadn’t come out is that Williams was being signed as a wide receiver.
I’ll admit, the move raised eyebrows somewhat when I thought Williams was a cornerback. The Cardinals have a lot of them and I didn’t think any were doing that poorly — and to cut a linebacker to make room for another one didn’t make a lot of sense. But the idea of making Williams a wide receiver does make sense, because the Cardinals are continually looking for that burner who can take the top off the defense at deep routes. This will be another attempt in that area. Brittan Golden caught a 53-yard pass in his debut in San Francisco, but he’s battling a bad hamstring.
Now the Cards try Williams, who has the speed credentials (his Twitter handle is @Fast_Teddy.) He is a former track guy who did not play college football and originally tried to make it as a receiver with the Cowboys. That didn’t stick, nor did his attempt to play cornerback for Dallas. He did play in seven games last season for Indianapolis as a cornerback. He can return kickoffs as well.
Tags: Kenny Demens, Roster, Teddy Williams
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The Cardinals made a roster move Tuesday, and decided to release wide receiver Kerry Taylor and promote wide receiver Brittan Golden from the practice squad. Taylor burst out in his first game, making three catches against the Lions in a game where Larry Fitzgerald couldn’t finish because of hamstring problems.(Taylor even got a game ball after that performance.) But he was inactive this past weekend. Bruce Arians was already trying to figure out how to get Andre Roberts back in the mix. Now, the Cards clearly want to see what Golden can do.
There are open spots on the practice squad now, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Cards put Taylor back on the practice squad, assuming he clears waivers.
The team also made practice squad moves at linebacker Tuesday, releasing Bruce Taylor and adding Orie Lemon. The Cards also released practice squad wide receiver Devon Wylie.
Tags: Brittan Golden, Kerry Taylor, Orie Lemon, practice squad, Roster
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The Cardinals promoted Dontay Moch from the practice squad to aid with their linebacker woes, and today, they did more, signing linebacker Vic So’oto. So’oto has spent time with the Packers, Raiders and Redskins since arriving in the league in 2011. He’ll give them a body for now. Holdovers Matt Shaughnessy, John Abraham, Alex Okafor and Moch will be ahead of him on the depth chart. Officially, Okafor will be listed as the first-unit Sam linebacker, with Moch and So’oto behind him. At Will LB, Shaughnessy is first, ahead of Abraham.
The Cards also added linebacker Bruce Taylor to the practice squad. Taylor, an undrafted rookie, was with the Bengals in training camp.
Next week, the Cards will also get back linebacker Daryl Washington from suspension. Adding So’oto means they have filled the roster back to 53, meaning someone will have to be released to get Washington back and active.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Bruce Taylor, Dontay Moch, John Abraham, Matt Shaugnessy, Roster, Vic So'oto
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GM Steve Keim has said many times he will continue to churn the roster at the bottom if necessary, and I have no doubt that will happen. But there are also financial restraints in the form of the salary cap that have to be accounted for too when it comes to player moves.
Right now, the Cardinals are confirmed to have slightly more than $4 million in salary cap space. Most players (if not all) signed from this point forward will be for minimum contracts, and will have minimum impact on the salary cap (and if they are signed and another guy cut, it may end up a virtual cap wash.) With that small amount of space too, it limits contract extensions in season.
(In fact, as overthecap.com noted, it may be a slow year for in-season extensions across the league because of tight cap space.)
Who would be in line for an in-season extension? There are plenty of guys under one-year deals, but judging both by value and a potential future, of the players due to be unrestricted free agents after the season, I could see guard Paul Fanaika, tight end Jim Dray, tackle Eric Winston or defensive end/linebacker Matt Shaughnessy. That doesn’t mean they all will (or any of them, for that matter) or even that we are talking about giant contracts. But I wouldn’t be shocked. It’ll depend on how they play too.
Of course, the big extension everyone is expecting/waiting on is one for cornerback Patrick Peterson. The Cards can’t start those talks until the day after the regular season based on the CBA and Peterson’s need to be three years into his career (the 49ers have the same thing going on with Colin Kaepernick right now.) But he’ll be extended, probably to a pretty rich deal, and he’ll be the defensive cornerstone guy like Larry Fitzgerald has been the guy on the offensive side.
Tags: Eric Winston, Jim Dray, Matt Shaughnessy, Patrick Peterson, Paul Fanaika, Roster, salary cap
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The first depth chart of the regular season — officially unofficial that it is — is out. Yes, the team puts one out but let’s face it, there is nothing making the coaches stay true to it, so as usual, there is a grain of salt aspect that must come with it. That said, Ryan Williams, after everything he went through in training camp, is still listed as the No. 2 running back behind Rashard Mendenhall. Stepfan Taylor is three, Alfonso Smith four, Andre Ellington fifth.
The rest of the chart doesn’t change much. Jim Dray is listed as a starter now with Rob Housler in the two-tight end sets. That’s no surprise. Dray has been the steadiest tight end the Cards have had. New tackle Bradley Sowell is listed as a right tackle, third on the depth chart behind Eric Winston and Bobby Massie. As always, you can view the whole chart here: http://www.azcardinals.com/team/depth-chart.html
– The Cardinals had a handful of jersey number changes too, the most significant being veteran linebacker John Abraham’s ability to go back to wearing No. 55. That comes compliments of fellow veteran LB Karlos Dansby, who will take the No. 56 of the departed Reggie Walker. Also changing were Winston, who takes No. 73 from No. 65, linebacker Jasper Brinkley, who takes No. 52 from No. 54, and safety Tony Jefferson, who goes to No. 22 from No. 36.
– UPDATE: The Cards filled out the final three spots on the practice squad with LB Kenny Demens (cut earlier this week), DT Anthony McCloud (cut by Minnesota) and WR Sam McGuffie (cut by Oakland).
– Don’t forget the first of weekly Tuesday chats today at 2 p.m. The link is right here.
– In case you missed it, here is a photo gallery from Larry Fitzgerald’s trip to Pitt last night to get his No. 1 jersey retired.
Tags: Anthony McCloud, depth chart, Eric Winston, Jasper Brinkley, jersey numbers, Jim Dray, John Abraham, Karlos Dansby, Kenny Demens, Larry Fitzgerald, practice squad, Rob Housler, Roster, Ryan Williams, Sam McGuffie, Tony Jefferson
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The other day, Bruce Arians was saying he was hoping Jonathan Cooper could come back this season. He didn’t want his first-round draft pick to be a rookie again next season. Turns out, that won’t be the case. The guard was put on the season-ending version of injured reserve Friday. Each team gets just one spot for the IR-to-return list each season, and Arians said the Cards felt it was smarter to hold it open than save it for the possibility of Cooper.
But either way, Cooper was going to be out the majority of the season. And as for the cuts Friday — the Cards still have seven moves to make, because linebacker Daryl Washington won’t count toward the 53 during his suspension — there were a couple of minor surprises. Defensive lineman David Carter was one, but he lost out in a battle with Ronald Talley. As I had noted a couple of times, Arians had turned up the compliments on Talley and his being “country strong.” It was tough not to notice. And indeed, when asked today about Carter, Arians said the strength was the difference.
“Talley’s strength at the point of attack and ability to play nose was better,” Arians said. “David has a lot of hustle, a lot of effort, but was struggling to hold the point.”
– The Cardinals still have seven defensive lineman, and there have been reports they are looking to find a nose tackle still. If that’s true, rookie Padric Scott still could be released and put on practice squad, for instance.
– Safety Tony Jefferson has been doing well in both games and practices, and the release of Jonathon Amaya probably means he’s going to stay, although Arians said Jefferson is “not through the woods yet.”
– Arians said he was “not totally, 90 percent sure” of the decision he is going to make on QB Ryan Lindley. I’ve said all along I thought he would stay, so I’m not going to change now. We’ll see.
– I found it interesting, after a training camp of talking about how inconsistent the young receivers are, Arians called both Jaron Brown and Kerry Taylor consistent. If there is a pecking order, I’d still put Brown over Taylor, and we will see what happens on the waiver wire.
– No word on Jeff King, but having knee surgery again certainly seems like King could be an IR candidate. If that came to pass, then the Cards only have six cuts to make.
– No draft picks cut yet, and with Rachal being cut it means Earl Watford is your top backup guard.
– The roster is built as of now like this: 7 DL, 11 LB, 7 CB, 4 S, 3 specialists, 11 OL, 5 TE, 5 RB, 5 WR, 3 QB. Obviously, a couple of positions seem out of balance — DL, LB, CB, OL for sure — and are places to look for the rest of the cuts. Which, according to Arians, should be done by noon Saturday.
And then we wait to see if/when/who the Cards pick up from other teams.
UPDATE: Later Friday, linebacker Reggie Walker tweeted out what sounds like his goodbye after being cut (nothing official yet):
— Reggie Walker (@Rwalk56) August 30, 2013
Tags: Bruce Arians, cuts, David Carter, Earl Watford, Jaron Brown, Jeff King, Jonathan Cooper, Kerry Taylor, Padric Scott, Reggie Walker, Ronald Talley, Roster, Ryan Lindley, Tony Jefferson
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