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A little cap space, and potential vets

Posted by Darren Urban on May 11, 2016 – 2:14 pm

The Cardinals have signed everyone. Their six draft picks are under contract and they have their current 90-man roster. Any moves from here have to be one-for-one on the roster, and whether they impact the offseason salary cap would depend on who they bring in (A reminder: Only the top 51 count against the cap until the first week of the regular season.)

As of Wednesday, the NFLPA website has the Cardinals with about $4.9 million in cap space and the most current contracts in the league (91 — which includes the suspended Daryl Washington.) That’s not a ton of room, although, as always, there are moves that can be made to create space if needed. Many have asked if the Cardinals are going to sign a veteran cornerback (Jerraud Powers most often comes up) or vet pass rusher Dwight Freeney. I could still see either, but at this point, I’d expect it to be one of those Keim Time deals around camp for minimum or close to it, if it were to happen.

In the meantime, I’d think the Cardinals will use the offseason work of OTAs and minicamp to figure out if there is a big need at either of those spots, or perhaps a veteran backup offensive tackle. To bring in a vet means one less spot for a young player. If you believe in the two cornerbacks you just drafted, for instance, it’s much harder to keep both on the roster if a guy like Powers comes back.

The Cardinals also have to figure within the cap any potential contract extensions, which could add to the cap crunch (Tyrann Mathieu) or ease it (Calais Campbell), although Kent Somers noted no new deals are close.


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Campbell gets an agent, and the cap

Posted by Darren Urban on March 31, 2016 – 10:41 am

Recently, defensive tackle Calais Campbell noted he was searching for a new agent. Campbell has one now, according to the NFLPA, choosing power broker Tom Condon. Campbell, of course, has a salary cap number of $15.25 million this season and a salary of $9.5M in the final year of his deal, so he is a candidate to be extended if the Cards wanted to lower that number. Campbell recently said he wasn’t sure if the Cardinals were going to engage in contract talks, but that they had asked who is agent was going to be.

Interestingly, Condon is also the agent for safety Tyrann Mathieu, who figures to be in contract extension talks himself as he also heads into the final year of his contract. Mathieu, on his rookie deal, would have his cap rise with a new deal, however. Mathieu’s cap number is only $1.74M for 2016.

Right now, the Cardinals only have $3.62 million in salary cap space, according to the NFLPA. Some type of move seems inevitable for the Cards to get through the rest of the offseason. They still need to eventually sign draft picks, not to mention the possibility of adding a veteran at a later date.


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Arians confident in Jones’ Arizona future

Posted by Darren Urban on March 23, 2016 – 8:24 am

The trade that brought pass rusher Chandler Jones was a big move for the Cardinals, although it came with a semi-caveat — Jones is going into the last year of his contract, and given the market, he’s going to be in line for a large, large payday sooner rather than later. This is something GM Steve Keim acknowledged and said the Cards were prepared for when the trade became official. Now coach Bruce Arians is echoing that sentiment.

At the NFC coaches’ breakfast this morning in Florida at the NFL owners meetings, Arians told the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe he has confidence in Jones remaining a Cardinal long-term.

“When he hits free agency, we’ll have the dollars to make sure he stays,” Arians said.

Arians noted that Keim and director of football administration Mike Disner do a good job managing the salary cap three and four years out. The Cardinals undoubtedly are getting tight cap-wise for 2016 (the NFLPA has them with less than $4 million of cap space right now) but again, there is long-term focus. At the worst, there is a franchise tag the Cardinals can use on Jones (assuming, of course, they can extend a couple other guys, like, for instance, Tyrann Mathieu and probably Michael Floyd).

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Veteran cornerback Hall scheduled to visit

Posted by Darren Urban on March 11, 2016 – 3:00 pm

The initial wave of free agency is over, and the big money — for the most part — is gone. Now it’s a game of musical chairs, as the free agents left try to get in with teams that still have spots to fill. What money they can get, regardless of what is still a lot of cap space around the league, is to be debated. This is the area in which Cardinals GM Steve Keim thrives.

So comes the report that veteran Bengals cornerback Leon Hall is scheduled to visit Arizona Monday. Hall is 31, having played nine seasons, and has been solid in his career with 26 interceptions (including one of Carson Palmer last year). He’s had injury issues with a pair of torn Achilles, but he has played in 29 of 32 possible games the past two seasons. He would be a nice if short-term addition to a room with Patrick Peterson, Justin Bethel and 50 percent of the time, Tyrann Mathieu. If Hall were to sign, it would also seem to signal the end of Jerraud Powers’ time in Arizona. Again, free-agent musical chairs is real.

Of course, things can change over a weekend too. We’ll see where things stand by Monday.

By the way, the Cardinals, according to the NFL Players Association website, have about $16.8 million in salary cap space (I am guessing that is before the Tyvon Branch deal.) The NFLPA site had the wrong numbers earlier in the week, after accidentally putting Mario Williams and Leodis McKelvin on the Cardinals’ roster following their free-agent deals.

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Salary cap set at more than $155 million

Posted by Darren Urban on February 29, 2016 – 10:07 am

The NFL Players Association announced today that the 2016 salary cap will be $155.27 million, about a $12 million jump from 2015. It’s a sizable number. With the slightly more than $3 million the Cardinals carried over from their leftover 2015 cap, General Manager Steve Keim will have a salary cap of about $158 million with which to work this season.

With that number, both overthecap.com and spotrac.com estimate the Cards will have between $19M and $20M of cap space going into free agency. The Cardinals have seven players that are scheduled to have cap hits of at least $5 million in 2016:

— QB Carson Palmer $17.88M
— WR Larry Fitzgerald $15.85M
— DT Calais Campbell $15.25M
— CB Patrick Peterson $13.07M
— T Jared Veldheer $9M
— WR Michael Floyd $7.32M
— G Mike Iupati $5.7M

Of those players, it makes the most sense to adjust the numbers of Campbell and Floyd through extensions. Otherwise, Keim and the front office have already figured out their plan for free agency through these numbers. There will be teams with tons of cap room, in order to overpay a player if they chose. The Cards will do what they do — target free agents at a certain price, and if they can’t convince them to sign, then move on. The “legal tampering” part of free agency begins in a week. Actual agreements cannot begin until March 9, a week from Wednesday.


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Some cap room with which to work

Posted by Darren Urban on June 3, 2015 – 2:14 pm

As the final days of on-field summer work play out — the Cardinals have one more OTA Thursday, and then three days of mandatory minicamp next week before players scatter for the remainder of the offseason — the roster has settled. The last move came back on May 13 when linebacker Darryl Sharpton was signed, and with the front office members headed for some much needed down time of their own, transactions figure to be in limited supply until the pre-training camp rollup in late July.

(Official camp dates have yet to be announced but with Labor Day and the later-than-usual opening weekend of the regular season on Sept. 13, the Cards won’t even report to camp until July 30 or 31.)

There are moves than can be made if the Cards want, however. As of Wednesday, the Cardinals have $12.16 million in salary cap room, according to the NFLPA. So if Steve Keim is looking for that pre-training camp veteran add (which wouldn’t cost that much anyway), the Cards can do it. It also allows some freedom to work out contract extensions if the team is so inclined. I’d expect Pro Bowl special teamer Justin Bethel, set to become an unrestricted free agent, near or at the front of that line. Among the other players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents after this season: defensive backs Jerraud Powers, Rashad Johnson and Alfonzo Dennard, tackle Bobby Massie, linebackers Sean Weatherspoon and Lorenzo Alexander, defensive end Matt Shaughnessy and quarterback Drew Stanton.

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Cap space gained as Palmer deal restructured

Posted by Darren Urban on March 12, 2015 – 5:26 pm

Remember that contract restructuring that Carson Palmer said recently he had given, only to clarify that it hadn’t been finalized yet? It was officially finalized Thursday.

Palmer was due a roster bonus of $9.5 million, and it was converted into a signing bonus. What it means is that the bonus money can be prorated over the life of his current contract, dropping his salary cap number $7.1 million (and clearing that space for the Cardinals.) That’s a big help in trying to maneuver through free agency. His cap number for 2015 dropped from more than $14 million to $7.4 million.

(This is the classic NFL restructure as opposed to any pay cut; it impacts Palmer zero. He gets all the money he was going to get anyway. It’s just the way the Cardinals account for it with their cap.)

Of course, that also means the rest of that prorated bonus balloons his future cap numbers. Palmer now has a cap number of $19 million in 2016 and $22.7 million in 2017 (including some heavy dead money if for some reason he isn’t playing.) That will be something GM Steve Keim will have to deal with at some point, you would think. In the short term, however, the Cardinals have more flexibility right now, especially after the release of center Lyle Sendlein created another $3 million of cap space. No way to know how much room they currently have, but the Palmer/Sendlein moves alone freed up around $10 million for Keim to continue to reshuffle his roster.

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Clarifying Palmer’s (near) restructure

Posted by Darren Urban on March 6, 2015 – 9:42 am

Carson Palmer raised some eyebrows when he mentioned Thursday he had restructured his contract to help the Cardinals create salary cap space. It wasn’t that the idea was a shock — indeed, the notion was out there — but the fact Palmer said it was done.

Turns out, Palmer wasn’t quite on point, of which he was informed after the fact. Palmer has indeed agreed to a restructure — which likely would include turning an option bonus into signing bonus, clearing about $7 million of cap space — but it has not yet been executed. So the Cardinals still figure to have around $14 million of cap space heading into next week. What it does mean is that the Cardinals and GM Steve Keim have some reserves in their back pocket if the team were to need more cap space during free agency. (And there are probably a couple of other players who might also be in that position to restructure if needed too.) If the Cardinals don’t need the space, they would hold off on doing the restructure, because any restructure would push dead money into future caps, and you want to avoid that if possible.

The question becomes, just who might the Cardinals be eyeing on the market that Keim would want to have such flexibility? That’s where these next couple of weeks turn fun. Let the speculation begin.

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Cards have some room as 2015 salary cap set

Posted by Darren Urban on March 2, 2015 – 11:59 am

Free agency officially begins March 10, when the NFL’s new league year starts. Now, the parameters of how that period will play out have been set, now that the salary cap has been set by the NFL for 2015. This year’s cap is officially $143.28 million per team, a jump of about $10 million from last season. That alone is helpful. But the Cardinals also carried over about $4.2 million in cap space from 2014, and have other adjustments (according to an NFL players association release) that give them almost another $1 million in room. So, according to the NFLPA, the Cardinals’ official salary cap for 2015 is $148,515,866.

That number places the Cardinals somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of the cap this season (The Jaguars, through carryover and a lack of committed contracts, have a cap of a whopping $168.5M to top the NFL.) As for the Cardinals’ cap space, overthecap.com has the Cards with about $133.6M for their top 51 contracts as of Monday morning. That means the Cardinals have about $15 million in cap space coming. (In the offseason, only the top 51 cap numbers on the roster count toward the cap; that changes to everyone on the roster, including IR and practice squad, once the regular season arrives.)

That’s not a small amount of space and it should allow GM Steve Keim to be aggressive in free agency as promised, although most teams have a lot of cap space if they want to do FA damage. Ken Whisenhunt’s Titans, for instance, will reportedly have around $43M of cap space. That also would change if players are signed between now and the start of free agency — for instance, if the Cards brought back Darnell Dockett, whose agent said Monday he expects Dockett to have a new contract by the end of the week.

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Possible Palmer restructure as Cards cut cap

Posted by Darren Urban on February 25, 2015 – 4:10 pm

Carson Palmer didn’t even get to play a full game after signing his contract extension late last season. Now, before the first season of that extension kicks in, Palmer reportedly could be restructuring it to ease his salary cap number of $14.5 million. Mike Jurecki first reported Palmer the possibility.

Palmer is due a roster bonus of $9.5 million (in addition to a $1M salary) this season. Add in his current $4M of bonus proration of $4M, and that’s his $14.5M cap hit. If the Cardinals were to turn the roster bonus into a signing bonus — which would then be distributed evenly over the remaining four years of the contract in terms of the cap — it’d take his cap number all the way down to about $7.4M for 2015. Of course, that also pushes more dead money on to future caps as well.

These are the choices a team makes, however, especially when it feels it can compete — as long as everyone stays healthy. Like Palmer. We’ll see if his contract gets an update. With more and more players getting released around the NFL and the market already flooded with players, there will be opportunities to sign contributors for reasonable prices. That’s why the Cardinals are trying to loosen more cap room. Neither General Manager Steve Keim or president Michael Bidwill has been shy of sharing the concept of the Cardinals being aggressive in free agency.

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