It’s not hard to remember, not if you have been following the Cardinals for any length of time, but signing draft picks used to be much, much more difficult. Yes, the ease in which picks are signed these days is rules-related — once the new collective bargaining agreement essentially slotted each pick’s money and took the hardest part (money) out of the negotiating equation, things were going to speed up.
But to think the Cardinals already have all of their draft picks under contract on May 9 is impressive. The time frame to finish up since 2011, when the new CBA went into effect, has gotten earlier and earlier:
2011: Amid the chaos of so many signings as the CBA was ratified post-lockout just as training camp was starting, first-rounder Patrick Peterson and second-rounder Ryan Williams signed July 31.
2012: First-rounder Michael Floyd and third-rounder Jamell Fleming signed June 11.
2013: First-rounder Jonathan Cooper signed July 29.
2014: First-rounder Deone Bucannon signed June 5.
2015: First-rounder D.J. Humphries signed June 1.
2016: Sixth-rounder Harlan Miller, third-rounder Brandon Williams and fourth-rounder Evan Boehm sign May 9.
The Cardinals aren’t unique — the Bears have been signing their entire draft class within a couple days of the draft the last couple of seasons, for instance — but to have all those deals done not only before the players break prior to camp but before OTAs have even begun is a good thing. The days of the Cards having their first-round pick sit out at least a few days of training camp — or more, Wendell Bryant — are long over.
Tags: Brandon Williams, CBA, contract, D.J. Humphries, Deone Bucannon, draft, Evan Boehm, Harlan Miller, Jamell Fleming, Jonathan Cooper, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Ryan Williams
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It is a deep draft for running backs. And the Cardinals are expected to take one at some point. It seems a favorite thing for mock drafters to do, putting a running back next to the Cardinals at their No. 24 first-round pick. I still don’t see this as likely, not with Andre Ellington around, the depth of the available prospects and the question about the top back in the draft (Todd Gurley’s ACL injury.) Another potential part of this equation? What the Cardinals have gotten, or haven’t gotten, out of the backs they have drafted early.
Since the team moved to Arizona in 1988, the Cardinals have drafted a running back in the first or second round nine times:
— 1988 Tony Jeffery (8 yards in one year in Arizona)
— 1990 Anthony Thompson (774 yards in three years)
— 1993 Garrison Hearst (1,503 yards in three years)
— 1994 Chuck Levy (15 yards in one year)
— 1996 Leeland McElroy (729 yards in two years)
— 2000 Thomas Jones (1,264 yards in three years)
— 2005 J.J. Arrington (654 yards in four years)
— 2009 Beanie Wells (2,471 yards in four years)
— 2011 Ryan Williams (164 yards in three years)
Obviously, it’s not a list with spectacular results. Hearst and Jones both had solid NFL careers, but only after they left Arizona. And while only three of those picks have come in the last decade, Arrington and Wells and Williams never made a big enough impact. Wells did have a 1,000-yard season in 2011, but injuries doomed him as they did Williams.
In two seasons, Ellington has already made more of an impact, as a sixth-round pick, than most of the guys on that list — and Ellington produced some in 2014 even though he was never healthy. Given the health concerns of Ellington, and the past issues of Wells and Williams, it’s hard to imagine the Cards taking a flyer on Gurley unless they were completely convinced he was a) not have any lingering effects and b) a special talent. Some believe both those to be the case. But there would be a certain leap of faith. I could see a second-round running back, but again, in this day and age of finding backs later — and with a team that is still going to use Ellington a lot — I think Steve Keim will carefully consider his options.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Anthony Thompson, Beanie Wells, Chuck Levy, Garrison Hearst, J.J. Arrington, Leeland McElroy, Ryan Williams, Thomas Jones, Todd Gurley, Tony Jeffery
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The Cardinals released Ryan Williams last week, and Saturday — after a tryout with the Dallas Cowboys — Williams tweeted out that he was going to be signing with Dallas. Considering the marketplace for running backs these days and Williams’ history of injuries, it really was a remarkably quick move to another roster. The top three running backs on the Cowboys’ roster right now are DeMarco Murray, Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar. Murray is the unquestioned starter, but there’s a chance Williams could burrow his way in the mix.
Whether Williams sticks around into the season, and whether he is playing at all when the Cardinals go play the Cowboys in Dallas Nov. 2 is a whole different story. But it will be intriguing to see if fresh surroundings can jump-start the former second-round pick’s career.
“I’ve just had bad luck,” Williams told DallasCowboys.com. “Things happen. I believe everything happens for a reason. I’m here to prove that I can be a running back that can come back from these injuries. It’s tough when you’re constantly reminded about it. When you’re constantly doubted about it. I believe in my own abilities. When I’m healthy, there’s no one who can tell what I can’t do.”
God is great, IMA COWBOY NOW, blessed and ready to show yall wht yall couldnt see las yr for whtever reason, too hype right now
— Tuxedo Mask (@lilsweetness34) May 17, 2014
Tags: Cowboys, Ryan Williams
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When it was over, Ryan Williams played just five games in three seasons for the Cardinals. Injuries torpedoed the running back’s time in Arizona, and in reality, the fact he sat for all 16 games as an inactive last year — including the time when Rashad Mendenhall was hurt — probably showed his days were numbered, especially after a rocky preseason in which he barely practiced. That scenario did not go over well. Exactly how everything played out may not ever be known, but it was probably time for the Cards to move on and for Williams to see where else he might get a chance.
The Cardinals have Andre Ellington as a starter. They have inside bangers like Jonathan Dwyer and Stepfan Taylor, and both of the undrafted running backs that are reportedly coming (the official list is due out this afternoon) were productive in college in UNLV’s Tim Cornett and NAU’s Zach Bauman. Williams, behind Ellington, was going to have a hard time getting on the field.
It’s a rough time to be hitting the market, of course. Running backs aren’t very highly valued. Running backs coming available after the draft are even less so, since teams have filled up their 90-man rosters. Add in Williams’ injury history, and it is going to be a hard road. Maybe Ken Whisenhunt reaches out for him in Tennessee. I’m sure Williams would love to land in the NFC West to go against the Cards, although all three teams have full backfields. I will say I hope Williams finds a spot. On a personal level, he was a good kid with horrible luck. It’s tough not to root for him.
There was a reason was i was hidden last yr, business can be really funny lol but like i said, cream always rise to the top!! Thanks u all!!
— Tuxedo Mask (@lilsweetness34) May 12, 2014
Tags: Ryan Williams
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It was a rainy Saturday in March 2006 when Edgerrin James visited the Cardinals for the first time. Kurt Warner was gamely trying to hold his annual flag football tournament on the practice fields, and the Cards were in the process of locking up a star running back. The price, in the end, was four years and $30 million. James didn’t collect all of it, but he still got plenty. The Colts felt James was on the downside, not worth the cash, and in the end, they were proven right that they didn’t need him — winning the Super Bowl in 2006 with young Joseph Addai and the serviceable yet forgettable Dominic Rhodes at running back.
The overall trend to run through running backs when they were cheaper and then move on hadn’t enveloped the NFL completely. But that’s about when the Cards’ thought process turned. From there, Tim Hightower was a fifth-round pick who essentially replaced Edge in 2008. Beanie Wells was added in the first round for 2009. Ryan Williams was drafted in 2011. Then came Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor last season. The Cardinals have not spent anything close to significant money on a free agent running back since Edge. They have yet to have a running back drafted play past his rookie contract. The reality of the NFL is that the position has not only be devalued, the bottom dropped out of the market faster than Arizona home sales circa 2009.
Only Williams is scheduled to make at least $1 million this season, and whether he remains on the 53-man roster for 2014 is very much up in the air. Ellington (who only will make $495,000) is the starter, and whether Taylor ($495,000) or Jonathan Dwyer ($795,000) is the other back, there is little (relative) investment. You see the same across the league, with the money being paid to free agent running backs, with the way running backs are sliding down the draft every year. The way things have gone, that No. 3 overall pick spent on Trent Richardson might be the last time a top 10 pick is spent on a back ever.
Of course, “ever” is a long time. Sometimes, a back is special and deserves the big money. Adrian Peterson comes to mind (and no, we won’t go into how he ties into the Cardinals and the Edge signing right now.) But these days, it doesn’t look like many Petersons will emerge. Not the way colleges are using running backs themselves, and not the way the NFL is handling them once they get to the pros.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Beanie Wells, Edgerrin James, Jonathan Dwyer, Ryan Williams, Stepfan Taylor, Tim Hightower
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It felt apparent a couple of weeks ago, when running back Rashard Mendenhall cryptically wrote on his Huffington Post blog about wading through dark waters, closing out by saying, “as I write this, today is the day that the journey is over and I am fully at peace. Eagerly looking to a new way, which lies ahead.” It sounded a lot like a guy who was about to retire. Saturday night, Adam Schefter reported that NFL teams have indeed been informed Mendenhall — a free-agent-to-be come Tuesday — is retiring.
UPDATE: Agent Mike McCartney has confirmed via Twitter that yes, Mendenhall is indeed retiring.
Mendenhall served his purpose in Arizona. He battled knee and toe injuries and wasn’t as effective all of the time that the Cards (and the fans) would have liked. But he served as a good bridge to rookies Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor. He did score eight touchdowns. And he came cheaply, one of those bargain one-year deals GM Steve Keim came up with this time last year.
There have been a lot of questions to me about signing a running back, whether it is Ben Tate or Maurice Jones-Drew or Darren Sproles. Sproles makes no sense because you already have that guy in Ellington. Regardless, if the Cards are going to bring in another back — and they still have Ryan Williams in addition to Ellington and Taylor — it might be in the draft. If it is a free agent, it would be a cheap one. This team isn’t going to spend a chunk of money on a back. That’s not the Cards’ philosophy and it’s not one many subscribe to around the league anymore.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Ben Tate, Darren Sproles, Maurice Jones-Drew, Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Williams, Stepfan Taylor
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With “official” talks with free agents allowed March 8 and actually agreements allowed March 11, the time when teams will actually be able to start finalizing such things is still more than a week away. Players are dropping off the “He’s going to be a free agent” list daily, like with the litany of Philadelphia Eagles who have signed extensions the past couple of days. That can still happen to any of these potential free agents being talked about.
It hasn’t cooled the speculation, however. Greg Bedard of SI.com’s MMQB ranked the top 100 free-agents-to-be and also listed what he thought would be the best fits. The Cardinals find themselves mentioned a few times.
— The only current Cardinal scheduled to be a free agent that made the list was linebacker Karlos Dansby. He was at No. 34. Not surprisingly, Bedard’s call for Dansby’s best fit was remaining with the Cardinals. I agree with that. Not only does the system best fit Karlos, but so does his working relationship next to Daryl Washington.
— There are three left tackles on the list from other teams: Kansas City’s Branden Albert (No. 7), Baltimore’s Eugene Monroe (No. 8) and Cincinnati’s Anthony Collins (No. 60). For both Albert and Collins, the Cardinals are listed as the best fit and the Cards are also noted for Monroe along with Miami. Obviously the Cardinals would sign more than one, but it’s obvious to the NFL world this team should be a landing spot for at least one. It will definitely be one of the more intriguing storylines of that first week (or less) of free agency.
— Packers DE/OLB Mike Neal was 95th on the list and the Cards were called his best fit. Neal’s name has already been floated as a potential Arizona target. It makes all the sense in the world if Matt Shaughnessy leaves as a free agent.
— In the most surprising post, for Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, 57th on the list, the Cards are called the best fit. I get it with the possibility free agent Rashard Mendenhall might not return. But the way Bruce Arians and Steve Keim think about running backs, and with Ryan Williams and Stepfan Taylor still around along with Andre Ellington (and we aren’t even talking about someone popping up draft-wise) I don’t see the Cards even thinking about a guy like MJD. Or more specifically, his price tag.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Anthony Collins, Branden Albert, Daryl Washington, Eugene Monroe, free agency, Karlos Dansby, Maurice Jones-Drew, Mike Neal, offensive line, Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Williams, Stepfan Taylor
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In much different ways, the immediate football future of both running back Ryan Williams and linebacker Daryl Washington remains in a bit of limbo. Williams, the 2011 second-round pick whose first two seasons were all but a wash because of injuries, barely made the roster this season but ended up inactive for all 16 games. Washington, who was suspended for the first four games of the season after violating the league’s substance abuse policy, came back to play well and help anchor the league’s sixth-ranked defense. But Washington was arrested for assault of an ex-girlfriend last offseason, and the case is still winding its way through the court system. Washington’s next court date is scheduled for April and he could face a league suspension again depending on the result — but he also has a big bonus due him next month.
With each of those situations in context, General Manager Steve Keim talked about each with azcardinals.com:
— On Ryan Williams: “Ryan is a tremendous talent,” Keim said. “He’s a guy who still, on the practice field, shows us the movement skills, the run ability, the change of direction is fantastic. Obviously he has had to battle injuries, which has probably been his biggest issue. And last year, bringing in Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington and the impact both of those players made instantly put Ryan on the backburner.
“He’s a guy we still have hopes for. He’s still got the ability and I think Bruce (Arians) just wants him to put it all together.”
Williams is due a salary just north of $1 million this season, with a cap hit of $1.5M. Releasing him would save $1 million. Keim talked up Taylor Thursday, and it seems at this point an Ellington/Taylor duo is more probable than Ellington/Williams, but Keim made it sound like Williams isn’t going anywhere for now.
— As for Washington, “Nothing new,” Keim said. “We monitor everything when it comes to his off-field stuff. Rick Knight, our (vice president) of security, handles a lot of that. Daryl was a guy who made mistakes in the past and he’s (owned) up to those. He’s done a fantastic job in terms of his work ethic and being accountable. We hope to get everything resolved shortly and look forward to a huge year out of Daryl in 2014.”
That the Cardinals would have no doubt of keeping around one of their best players is not a surprise. Washington said after the season he was hoping it would get cleared up soon, but he always talked like he planned on being a long-term Cardinal and that shouldn’t change.
Tags: Daryl Washington, Ryan Williams, Steve Keim
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It was inevitable, probably, that Steve Keim was asked about the future of running back Andre Ellington and whether he would be the “featured” running back. This has been covered many times, and Keim answered it no different today.
“When you say featured back, I don’t know that there are many featured backs in the NFL,” Keim said. “Adrian Peterson, those types of guys. Most teams use a platoon of backs and that would probably be no different than us. Andre, the way he’s built, is body type, is more in line with Chris Johnson, Jamaal Charles. His speed and acceleration, his movement skills, that’s his strength.
“To say you’re going to play him 25 to 35 snaps, pounding the ball between the tackles, you’re probably leaving yourself open to injuries. So any time, we can take a young man like him, add some weight without losing his speed and movement skills, I think you’re doing yourself a favor.”
I do think Keim (below talking to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio) misspoke. I would think Ellington will definitely get 25-to-35 snaps. He will probably get the majority of the offensive snaps at running back. He won’t get 25 to 35 carries, however. He’s going to split time with someone, though. It’ll probably be Stepfan Taylor. It still in theory could be Ryan Williams (more on that later.) Maybe Rashad Mendenhall comes back. But Ellington, even if he as expected builds on his 199-pound frame and gets stronger, is going to share time. That’s Keim’s philosophy and it’s Bruce Arians’ philosophy.
— Keim, who long ago dismissed the Larry Fitzgerald-to-the-Patriots trade rumors, seemed to have a one-liner ready when asked about it today:
“I was trying to find someone to fire,” Keim said. “Because they never called me.”
Tags: Andre Ellington, Larry Fitzgerald, Rashad Mendenhall, Ryan Williams, Stepfan Taylor, Steve Keim
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The final inactive list of the season contains no surprises. Linebacker John Abraham is active despite groin issues, as is safety Rashad Johnson. Running back Ryan Williams completes a season where he was healthy and inactive for every game — the only Card to not dress at least once. What the Cardinals do with Williams this offseason is one of the more intriguing storylines, even if it might not mean a lot the way the team has been built/run.
The Cardinals full inactive list:
— QB Ryan Lindley
— RB Ryan Williams
— LB Dontay Moch
— S Curtis Taylor
— T Nate Potter (G Earl Watford active with Daryn Colledge starting but battling sore back)
— TE Kory Sperry
— DE Ronald Talley
Tags: 49ers, inactives, John Abraham, Rashad Johnson, Ryan Williams
Posted in Blog | 14 Comments »