Antonio Cromartie was asked about moving into the NFC West. “Oh, I love it,” he said. “The competition is here.” Obviously, the division sets a high bar for the Cardinals this offseason. But General Manager Steve Keim isn’t going to get giddy about free agency improvements.
“I don’t want to step out on a limb and say that we’re there yet,” Keim said. “As a perfectionist, I think we all look at things and would like to be a little deeper in certain positions.”
To recap, the Cardinals have added a starting cornerback (Cromartie), a starting left tackle (Jared Veldheer), a probable starting tight end (John Carlson), a speed third receiver and return man (Ted Ginn), a potential replacement for Rashard Mendenhall (Jonathan Dwyer) and an interior offensive lineman who has been a starter (Ted Larsen.)
Cap space is shrinking. After Cromartie’s deal is worked in, the Cards should have only about $4 million of space left. There is more coming after June 1 when the Colledge release is figured in (and I was wrong on how that is considered. I knew the cap hit had to be carried through the actual June 1 date; I didn’t realize Colledge’s entire original cap hit for 2014 stays on the books until then. So that’s more than $7 million, although it means the Cards will clear about $5M in cap space come June — before they’ll sign any rookies.)
But there will be more moves of some sort. Now, roster building will be about bargains now for Keim. There are still spots that he’d like to address, whether there or in the draft:
– depth at defensive end
– depth at outside linebacker
– “length” at both positions
– depth at inside linebacker
Depth at inside linebacker is the call because the Cards are counting on, not surprisingly, 2013 second-round pick Kevin Minter. “We’ll find out what Kevin Minter is made of,” Keim said. “Kevin is a guy that we drafted in the second round and is going to replace Karlos Dansby. He is in the audition stage. He’s got to prove that he is the guy that we thought he was coming out of college at LSU.”
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, free agency, Jared Veldheer, John Carlson, Jonathan Dwyer, salary cap, Steve Keim, Ted Ginn, Ted Larsen
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A quiet day, finally, around the Cardinals. I know many were hoping for Antonio Cromartie free agent news but there isn’t any. Until he signs somewhere though, I wouldn’t rule out the Cardinals. Again, if he comes, it’ll be on the Cards’ terms. Beyond that, I think the Cards will keep looking at options but the market is going to be a buyer’s market now. That’s right up Steve Keim’s alley.
– The Cardinals have about $11 million in cap space. I don’t know if that yet includes Ted Ginn’s deal. It’s definitely not going to count the new contract for LB Matt Shaughnessy, since Shaughnessy hasn’t actually signed yet, and there might be a couple other lesser deals yet to be counted. That will come soon. Still, it’s plenty of room to work. It doesn’t hurt the space that Jared Veldheer’s cap number in the first season is just $2.5M and Ginn will be a mere $1.75M.
– Overthecap.com, which broke down the Ginn deal, notes that $2 million of Ginn’s $3.25M salary for 2015 is guaranteed if he is on the roster on the third day of the league year next year. In other words, if the Cards decide to release him it will be right around the time free agency begins.
– The Cardinals exercised the option bonus they needed to pay linebacker Daryl Washington this week. Washington’s assault case is still ongoing — his next court date is scheduled for April 23 — but he’s a cornerstone of this defense and isn’t going anywhere. There is still a chance he is suspended depending on the outcome of the court case, but the Cards will deal with it.
– It was a fruitful and smart start to free agency for the Cardinals. Get a left tackle, get a speed receiver/return man, get some interior OL depth, get running back depth. Re-sign a key linebacker like Shaughnessy, and as much as they wanted Karlos Dansby back, let him walk when the money got crazy. I also think, the way Keim operates, that from this point forward is even more important for the Cards. They have an excellent sales pitch right now and two guys in Keim and Bruce Arians who know how to sell it. There will be another Dansby-Abraham-Winston or two this offseason.
– As I pointed out on Twitter last night (@cardschatter, if you want more immediate updates from yours truly), we will have a video on azcardinals.com soon about Fitzgerald’s trip up in an F-16. Until there, here’s a taste of Fitz in the cockpit.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Daryl Washington, free agency, Jared Veldheer, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Shaughnessy, salary cap, Ted Ginn
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With the new league year commencing Tuesday, the Cardinals are expected to make more than a few moves. One of them will be releasing veteran guard Daryn Colledge, a not unexpected decision given the selection of Jonathan Cooper and Earl Watford in last year’s draft and Colledge’s $4.8 million salary and $7.3M cap number. Colledge tweeted his goodbye Saturday evening:
Wanna thank you the fans and the Cardinals for an amazing opportunity. A great organization headed in the right direction. Wish ya the best.
— Daryn Colledge (@DarynColledge71) March 9, 2014
Nothing official has been announced yet, of course. Colledge confirmed via text message his release was coming Tuesday. That makes sense, because if a player is let go after the league year starts, he can be designated a June 1 cut. That means the Cardinals can take the $4.55 million of dead money Colledge’s release would create and spread it evenly over this season and next season, although they have to carry the entire $4.55M in dead money on this year’s cap until June 1 actually arrives. This isn’t about Colledge being a cap casualty but instead a decision to move on. Colledge understands that. It’s the business. It’s the same reason he ended up in Arizona in the first place, when Green Bay let him walk away and turned to a younger, cheaper alternative. The Cards will pick up about $2.75M in cap space immediately with such a move, and gain another $2.25M or so June 1 when the dead money is spread out.
The Cardinals want to get more athletic on the line, definitely younger (Colledge is 32) and the reality is if the team is going to chase a high-dollar left tackle in free agency, the budget for the offensive line needs to be trimmed elsewhere. It’s too bad, because Colledge was a solid member of the line and good in the locker room. He was a standup guy with the media no matter what was going on — he was willing to answer questions all the time during the long losing streak of 2012 — and it was always entertaining to see Colledge head into and out of the showers with his wireless speaker booming ’80′s hits that came out before many of his teammates were even born.
This now means Watford and Paul Fanaika will battle for the right guard spot, and the Cardinals would like Watford, a 2012 fourth-round pick, to take control of the position. And in the bigger picture, General Manager Steve Keim continues to overhaul the roster and clear out some of the contracts left over from the previous regime in an effort to get the salary cap under control.
Thanks for all the support guys, it means a ton, I’ve enjoyed my time. Between the Pack and Card fans my next team has a lot to live up to.
— Daryn Colledge (@DarynColledge71) March 9, 2014
For now while I wait for FA and my future. I’m gonna watch Toy Story with my kids and put in an early ballot for Father of the Year. #NoBigs
— Daryn Colledge (@DarynColledge71) March 9, 2014
Tags: Daryn Colledge, Earl Watford, Jonathan Cooper, salary cap
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The salary cap for 2014 was officially set at $133 million this season, a jump of $10 million over last season — huge for any team looking for flexibility to do business (and a boon for those hoping for big-time extensions like Patrick Peterson). And Adam Schefter reported this morning that the cap will be more than $140M next year and then $150M by 2016. All great news for the Cards, with Steve Keim already working hard to get the cap situation under control by next year anyway.
I’ve had a few ask me about Cards’ cap space now. With a $133M and the Jasper Brinkley release today (creating $2M in cap space), the Cards should have a little more than $18M of space.
Some suggested to me earlier today, after the Schefter report, that it will make things easier with Larry Fitzgerald going forward. That probably is true. But with that bloated $23.6M cap figure for 2015, it still stands to reason that a major decision is coming after this year for both the Cardinals and Fitzgerald. Keim reiterated for the umpteenth time at the Scouting combine the plan is for Fitzgerald to remain a Cardinal for his whole career. But the reality is this, and it’s been covered many times as well — with a big roster bonus due, that unwieldy cap number, and the unrealistic idea that the Cards can simply keep kicking Fitz’s cap pain into future years as he gets older, Fitzgerald is probably going to have to agree to take less money in 2015 than he is now currently scheduled. If he says no, that puts the ball back in the Cardinals’ court with Keim facing one of his famous “tough decisions.”
But that’s another reason why the news the cap is growing so quickly can benefit the Cardinals. Keim has been adept already at maneuvering the roster anyway. To be able to have more space to really stretch his legs and build how he wants to build plays into that sustained success he so often speaks about. The Cards want to build with draft picks and lock up young stars. That’s the plan. That the Cards seemingly will have weathered their cap overhaul under Keim and stayed competitive is impressive.
Tags: Larry Fitzgerald, salary cap
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The news around the salary cap — which will be officially set closer to the start of the new league year/free agency on March 11 — continues to be an adjustment upward of its estimate. Now the possibility is that it is around $132 million, which of course means every team’s projected cap space continues to get bigger. Kevin Seifert has the Cardinals, with that $132M cap, with a projected $15.295 million of cap space. That’s not a bad number, although it ranks in the lower half of the league — 18th, to be exact. A whopping 13 teams are projected to have more than $22M of cap space, and the Raiders ($66.39M), Jaguars ($55.13M), Browns ($51.23M) and Colts ($40.01M) all have more than $40M in cap space.
So there will be the possibility for some big free agent deals.
The Cards are in the same stratosphere, but that’s OK. The Cards don’t want to get sideways with big commitments to players who shouldn’t get them. There is enough room, however, to make some things work. The other plus is that the Cards, right now, have the most cap space in the NFC West. The 49ers are next with $11.84M, then the Rams at $6.32M and then the Seahawks at $4.78M.
This is all fluid, of course, with Seattle able to cut players if they want, for example, or the Cardinals re-signing one of their own guys (Karlos Dansby, anyone?). The Cardinals could still also release a player or two that they know they won’t be moving forward with to create more cap room.
The Dansby situation is one that bears watching, in fact. There is enough cap room across the league that would allow more than a few other teams to money-whip Dansby if they so chose. Again, in the case of Dansby, I don’t see the Cardinals getting into a big bidding war. They will want to reward him, but within reason. Extra space also could play into potential Patrick Peterson negotiations.
Tags: 49ers, Karlos Dansby, NFC West, Patrick Peterson, Rams, salary cap, Seahawks
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With all the discussion the last couple of days about Larry Fitzgerald and his contract and the salary cap, it seemed prudent to hit on some points about the cap, how it works, and what some of the terms mean that are constantly being thrown around.
– The salary cap, in simplest terms, is the limit, in dollars, the sum total of the players on each team can cost each season. The projected cap for each team (it is finalized right around the time free agency begins) in 2014 is reportedly about $126 million. Teams, through certain cap strategies, can carry over some unused cap space from the year before, however, so that number might be slightly larger for some teams.
– In the offseason, a team’s cap number is determined by the top 51 cap numbers on the roster. Once the regular season begins, every player’s cap number — the 53 on the roster, the eight on the practice squad and anyone on injured reserve — counts against the cap.
– A player’s salary is counted against the cap each season, as is a pro-rated part of a bonus. Say a player signs a three-year contract for $2 million salary each year, and gets a signing bonus of $3 million. He gets $5 million in real money the first year — salary plus the bonus check — but his cap number that first year is $3 million ($2M plus $1M in pro-rated bonus.)
UPDATE: A bonus can be pro-rated over the first five years of a contract. Which is why, prior to this latest restructure, Fitzgerald had no pro-rated bonus money on his contract past the 2015 season. Because he signed an eight-year deal in 2011, the pro-rated part only worked through the first five seasons.
– Cap numbers can be lowered, like it was in the case of Fitzgerald. His cap number was set to be more than $18 million, which included $12.75M in 2014 salary and about $6M in various pro-rated bonuses. The Cards made $11.75M of that scheduled $12.75M salary into a bonus for March. Fitzgerald benefits because instead of taking that $12.75M 1/17th at a time in his weekly in-season paychecks starting in September (which is how players get their salaries, only in-season), he gets $11.75M of it in one big check in March. The Cardinals benefit because now, with his salary shrunk to $1M and the $11.75M pro-rated over the remaining five years of his existing contract is spread out. It shaves $9.4M off Fitz’s cap number now, but adds another $2.35M to his cap numbers for each of the final four years of the contract (because all five years absorb $2.35M of that $11.75M).
– When talking about a player adjusting his contract, there are basically four directions it can go: A player can get a brand-new deal, where he is never a free agent but the team rips up his existing contract for a better one. A player can get an extension, which usually keeps the deal in place for the current year but tacks on more years and adds, usually, a signing bonus. A player can restructure, which is what Fitzgerald did. The money stays the same, and essentially, paperwork is used to adjust what the money is called (and when it’s paid out) so it lowers/increases the cap number. And then there is a pay cut, which is exactly how it sounds. From time to time, players are willing to accept pay cuts — reductions in salary — that will obviously lower a cap number without future cap hits.
– Dead money is the cap hit left by a player once he is no longer on the roster. It’s something every team ideally wants to avoid, although it’s all but impossible to have zero dead money. Even an undrafted rookie with a tiny signing bonus leaves some dead money if cut.
– Dead money is accounted basically by all the leftover pro-rated money that hasn’t already been used. With Fitzgerald, for example, if he were cut (or traded) after this season, his dead money would start at $9.4M of cap space, or the remaining four years of pro-rated bonus money for his restructuring earlier this week. That doesn’t include his other pro-rated bonus money he already has (which would take his dead money to more than $14M next season.)
– The dead money is almost always hits the cap the first season and then is over with. The exception is if a player is a post-June 1 cut — or is designated a post-June 1 cut — in which case the team takes a hit of one season’s worth in Year One and the rest the subsequent season. For example, Adam Snyder was cut last season with $4M in dead money and four years left on his contract. Cards made him a June 1 cut, meaning they only had to take a $1M hit in 2013 (pro-rated of what was left.) This year, however, the Cards most absorb the remaining $3M in dead money from Snyder.
– Those are the basics. For a much more in-depth salary cap FAQ, this page is pretty good.
Tags: Larry Fitzgerald, salary cap
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There are only two head coaching openings left, both of which Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles interviewed for: Cleveland and Minnesota. Bowles has now, according to multiple reports, pulled out from the consideration for the Cleveland job. Mike Zimmer, interviewing a second time in Minnesota, is the favorite for the job there but, as I mentioned earlier today, I didn’t think Bowles was going anywhere anyway. There is a chance Bowles will be a head coach again some day (after his interim stint in Miami) but it’s going to have to be the right fit. I’m not sold Bowles is aching to be a head coach, not when he knows the pitfalls of bad situations. Assuming Bowles stays, that would be great news for a defense that flourished under his watch.
UPDATE: On Wednesday morning, Mike Zimmer was officially hired as Vikings coach. Bowles is going to be in Arizona.
– Numbers guru Brian McIntyre reported today that QB Carson Palmer earned an extra $1 million for his 2014 salary (I’d assume for reaching performance incentives) and now will make $9 million in 2014 with an $11 million cap hit, raising each number by that aforementioned million and shaving another million off the Cardinals’ current cap space.
– Along those same lines, linebacker John Abraham earned an extra $375,000 for 2014, raising his 2014 salary to $2.875M.
– Congrats to Tyrann Mathieu, who was named as a cornerback to the Pro Football Writers of America’s all-rookie team for 2013. And GM Steve Keim was named Executive of the Year by profootballtalk.com.
Tags: Carson Palmer, John Abraham, salary cap, Steve Keim, Todd Bowles, 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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– The Cardinals get a conditional draft pick. Many have asked what it is, or even, what conditional means. Terms were not specified, but a conditional pick means the teams have agreed to two possibilities, a baseline pick the Cards will get regardless, and then a chance for that pick to be higher in the draft if Brown meets a certain criteria — either number of starts or percentage of snaps or something like that. The teams have not said what the possible picks are. I’d be surprised if we were talking anything higher than the fifth round. Maybe lower. For instance, the Steelers could offer a seventh, with it becoming a sixth if Brown starts a certain number of games.
UPDATE: According to the NFL transactions list released by the league, the Cardinals and Steelers swapped “unannounced” draft picks in the deal — meaning in addition to getting Brown, the Cards also sent a pick to the Steelers, while the Steelers sent a pick to the Cards. The details of what went where are unknown. And I’m sure it still has to do with some sort of playing time condition.
– The Cards will take a pretty significant hit of “dead” cap money next season. According to Brian McIntyre (and also reported elsewhere), the Cardinals gave Brown a $3.086 million bonus as they traded him. That represents most of the $3.6 million or so Brown was still due in salary this season, minus the $546,000 or so the Steelers will pay him as a veterans minimum salary. (Brown is due $715,000 a season at vet minimum at his experience; That number is divided by 17 weeks and figured for the 13 weeks left.)
That extra bonus pro-rates over the final four seasons of Brown’s deal. It means some goes on the Cards’ 2013 cap, but most goes on the 2014 salary cap. Brown was already going to cost $4.2 million in dead money (on his original signing bonus being pushed into next season) and the “new” bonus creates another $2.3M — totaling $6.5 million of “dead” Brown cap money in 2014. It lowered the cap hit the Cards are taking from Brown in 2013 by almost $3 million, however, creating more cap space if they want to re-sign anyone during the season.
Tags: Levi Brown, salary cap
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The Cardinals have a three-year outlook for their roster, the prism in which the front office and General Manager Steve Keim views the team. That’s how they look at the salary cap, and how they evaluate contracts.
Not surprisingly, the sorting of big contracts that occurred this past offseason, contracts that were put in place before he became GM, will happen again after this season. And Keim thinks the Cards are still an offseason away from being able to get where the Cards want to be.
“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 on a special edition of the Cardinals Underground podcast. “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.”
Keim made tough decisions this past offseason, jettisoning Adrian Wilson, among many others. He didn’t name names. But the contracts that will likely be under the microscope aren’t hard to narrow down. Big money is owed to offensive linemen Daryn Colledge (with Earl Watford, Nate Potter and Paul Fanaika as cheaper options) and Levi Brown. Darnell Dockett is due a lot of money, although he just had a big three-sack game and dominated. Patrick Peterson is in line for an expensive extension. Larry Fitzgerald and his $18 million salary cap number might have to be reworked. None of this means the Cards have to cut people, but guys might be asked to take pay cuts. There are minefields to maneuver for Keim, and he acknowledged, the Cards are “handicapped to a degree.”
Philosophy-wise, it dovetails with Keim’s thoughts anyway. “I’ve always felt it was more important to get rid of a player a year too early than a year too late, because when players get to a certain point in his career and he starts to decline it can have a negative effect on your football team.”
(There’s Keim below, talking to Tyrann Mathieu’s parents before the Saints game. I feel confident Mathieu will not be going anywhere next year.)
The full Cardinals Underground podcast is posted right here.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett, Daryn Colledge, Earl Watford, Larry Fitzgerald, Nate Potter, Patrick Peterson, Paul Fanaika, salary cap, Steve Keim
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