Some things to consider on Tuesday, as the Cardinals are set to unveil their complete team in on-field work for the first time as organized team activities begin later this morning:
– The one-year contract of Karlos Dansby calls for a salary of $1.25 million this season, according to the NFLPA. Kent Somers reports Dansby also got a $1 million signing bonus. That’s $2.25M (yes, I am sharp at math), which is obviously well below the $6M-plus Dansby had been originally scheduled to receive from the Dolphins before he was released. The Cardinals had approximately
$8.5 $10.5 (forgot about the money cleared in the Hoyer release) million in cap space before Dansby (A $2.25M cap hit, obviously) and second-round pick Kevin Minter (who should count about $800,000 against the cap, and I’d figure he’ll slide into the top 51).
– One roster move already this morning. The Cardinals decided to sign tryout tight end Kyle Auffray out of New Hampshire, releasing undrafted rookie cornerback Prentiss Waggner. Again, with 90 on the roster (because all the unsigned draftees figure to sign sooner rather than later) the Cards will continue to cut for every player they sign.
– Could there be another potential veteran signee? Josina Anderson is reporting that tackle Max Starks is visiting the Cardinals today, including a physical. Don’t read too much into that — any vet is going to need a physical first, especially at the point in the career Starks is at. Starks has been available for a while and in the past, there was always a question of whether Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm would bring him in after working with him in Pittsburgh. Obviously, Bruce Arians also has worked with him given Arians’ Steelers ties and offensive coordinator (and offensive line coach) Harold Goodwin also worked with Starks in Pittsburgh. We’ll see if that develops. Starks has also talked to the O-line-needy Chargers.
Tags: Harold Goodwin, Karlos Dansby, Kevin Minter, Kyle Auffray, Max Starks, Prentiss Waggner, salary cap, Steelers
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Through all the talk about what the Cardinals might do at quarterback and who their potential targets might be through trade and through the draft, one name has remained somewhat in limbo — Brian Hoyer. Hoyer flashed a bit at the end of the season for the Cardinals and he was a player new GM Steve Keim had long considered. With the Cardinals looking everywhere for QB answers, Hoyer likely remains a candidate for the roster in some capacity at this point.
Originally, Hoyer was thought to be an unrestricted free agent. But as free agency approaches in a couple of week, Hoyer instead ended up in restricted free agent limbo. A restricted free agent is a player with three accrued seasons. Hoyer was an RFA going into the offseason of 2012, and the New England Patriots tendered him a contract offer then, restricting him from shopping his services on the open market. Yet Hoyer was cut at the end of training camp in favor of Ryan Mallett — a signed tender offer still doesn’t make it a guaranteed deal — and Hoyer waited.
To get an accrued season — and a fourth would allow someone like Hoyer unrestricted free agent status — a player must spend six games on a 53-man roster during the season. As it turns out, Hoyer just missed. He was with the Cardinals for three games. Before that, and after the Patriots let him go, the Steelers signed him for two games. He was cut the Saturday before the third game. It led him to a better opportunity with the Cards when they claimed him off waivers the following Monday, but those two days off the roster also meant he compiled just five games on a roster total — and a second straight year of restricted status.
What it all means is that the Cards have control over Hoyer staying if they choose to. The Cards could tender Hoyer at the lowest RFA amount — about $1.3 million — and have the right to match any other offer Hoyer might get. (For another $700,000, the Cards could tender Hoyer so that any team signing him away would owe the Cards a second-round pick. I don’t see the Cards doing that, nor would I see a team giving up a pick for the one-time undrafted Hoyer.)
I do think Hoyer will be tendered an offer as the Cards search for a QB. It would have been easier for him to get away as an UFA, but I think the Cards will want to see more of what they got a glimpse of down the stretch last season.
Tags: Brian Hoyer, free agency, Patriots, Steelers
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Ken Whisenhunt coached in Pittsburgh for six seasons before coming to the Cardinals and knew what he’d be seeing when the AFC teams played his new team in Arizona. That’s worked out well.
The Cardinals have been a good home team since Whisenhunt’s arrival in 2007, and no place does that show up more than when AFC teams come to visit, like will happen Sunday when the Buffalo Bills will be the opponent. It’s the second and final AFC visitor of the season, and of the 11 previous AFC teams to come to town, the Cardinals have beaten nine of them and will be the favorite Sunday against the reeling Bills.
The only two home AFC losses in Whiz’s tenure came in 2009, when the powerful Colts beat up the Cards on “Sunday Night Football” and last year, when the Steelers caught the Cardinals at arguably their lowest point in the season in a 32-20 Pittsburgh win. Because of the way the schedule has worked out, the Cards have seen repeat AFC visitors in that time. The Cards have beaten Miami twice, Cleveland twice, along with a then-undefeated Buffalo (when Adrian Wilson knocked QB Trent Edwards out of the game, below), Houston (late goal-line stand), Oakland (Janikowski’s shocking missed field goal) and Denver (the Jay Feely score-a-thon.)
Next season, the AFC teams who will visit Arizona are the Texans and Colts again.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, AFC, Bills, Broncos, Browns, Colts, Dolphins, Ken Whisenhunt, Raiders, Steelers, Texans
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The Cardinals officially have sold out Sunday’s game, meaning it will not be blacked out locally and instead be shown on Fox (Ch. 10) in the Valley. The game is the 61st straight time – out of 61 possibilities – in which the Cards have sold out University of Phoenix Stadium.
That’s an impressive total (46 of those games are from the regular season) but they have a while to go to match the longest streaks. Both the Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins have sold out all their regular season games since 1974. The Steelers since 1976. The Jets date back to 1981, the Giants 1981 and the Packers 1989.
Tags: Broncos, Giants, Jets, Packers, Redskins, sellout, Steelers
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Coach Ken Whisenhunt opened his press conference like this: “I don’t have a lot to say.” I think I need to steal the line.
What else is there after Sunday’s loss to Pittsburgh? There were moments where you thought, “OK, maybe here.” Then they disappeared. You hope Kevin Kolb can connect on a couple of those throws – it’s hard to believe that play down the middle to Rob Housler was open again to no avail. You hope the defense can come up with a stop, or at least hold the Steelers to a field goal after LaRod Stephens-Howling electrified the stadium with his 73-yard touchdown reception.
It could have made a difference but the plays aren’t made and that’s what happens with a team that’s reeling. The plays aren’t made. What’s next? A trip to Baltimore, that’s what is next. The Cardinals have to play a lot better than this on a trip like that.
– The health of running back Beanie Wells will be under the spotlight. He left, walking under his own power, with what was called a right knee sprain late in the first half. Whisenhunt said he didn’t know what that meant in terms of time, and my early guesstimate is that we’re not going to know so the Ravens will be guessing all week. Obviously, the Cardinals need a healthy Wells badly.
– The inability to sustain some momentum just keeps coming back to bite the Cards. With the Cards trailing 7-0, the place exploded when Kolb hit Larry Fitzgerald for a 31-yard gain out to the Arizona 41-yard line, and then rookie fullback Anthony Sherman made a beautiful snare over the middle for a 15-yard gain. The Cards even got a pass interference call against Pittsburgh a couple plays later. But the drive then stalled with a loss on a Beanie run, an incompletion and a sack.
– You have to be wary and make the plays, but man, is Mike Wallace fast.
– The defense has to come up with rebound stops – the possessions by the other team after an Arizona score. With less than two minutes left in the first half, the Steelers managed to get a field goal after the Cards got their first touchdown. And of course, there was the TD drive after Stephens-Howling’s TD.
– Cards had some NFL firsts Sunday. Linebacker Sam Acho had his first sack, running back Alfonso Smith his first touchdown, receiver DeMarco Sampson his first catch.
– Stephens-Howling took out a couple of kickoffs that were pretty deep, and the Cards ended up without the greatest field position, because the Steelers had good coverage. Stephens-Howling said he did ask special teams coach Kevin Spencer if he should change things up, but Spencer said to keep doing what he was doing.
– Whisenhunt repeated again the looking at “what we do and who we’re doing it with” line. I know everyone – or many, at least – are wondering about Kolb. I don’t expect a change. If nothing else, you want to find out about him this year, and the season is only six games old. My guess, though, is that the quarterback is going to be a bigger and bigger story — if he isn’t already.
I’m trying to come up with a good walkoff line. No dice. Not after this one today.
Tags: Alfonso Smith, Beanie Wells, DeMarco Sampson, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Rob Housler, Sam Acho, Steelers
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Everybody has a story. Mine was standing in the bowels of Raymond James Stadium, suit on and lugging my computer backpack among a host of other Super Bowl media types waiting for the game to end and to have access to players/the field. And watching the game on a TV – seven-second delay – as Fitz caught that crossing route and raced for that 64-yard touchdown, and seeing the crowd go crazy and roar. I remember the emotion smacking me hard enough I bent over for a moment to catch my breath, thinking, “Holy crap, the Cards are going to win this thing.”
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was asked earlier this week on his conference call about how long ago that Cards-Steelers Super Bowl seemed. His answer was succinct: “Eons.”
I can’t disagree. So much has happened in the two-and-a-half seasons since the last time the Cardinals and Steelers played a game that counted, which will happen again Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Steelers have been back to another Super Bowl, losing this time. The Cards have undergone a huge metamorphosis, losing one way or another many of key figures that played on that team in 2008.
Not only does the Super Bowl seem like eons ago, so too does that playoff game against Green Bay a year later, when the Cards lit up the scoreboard like a pinball machine.
Now they have – at this moment in time – a chance to beat the Steelers, which in no way would make up for the Super Bowl loss but would be certainly welcome nonetheless, given their dire straits.
“It doesn’t erase the fact we got there and it was a good run for us,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “I think that’s what makes us so confident we are doing the right thing, as far as how we prepare and how we work.
“I’m more worried about where we are as a team right now and getting our team some wins.”
– Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett called the recent players meeting that included coaches – a rare occurrence – “one of the most emotional meetings I have ever been in.” The hope is whatever messages were delivered carry over. As Fitz said (and I am paraphrasing here), meetings are good but it comes down to playing on Sundays.
– The Steelers can be run on. They have the best pass defense in the NFL. This may be a weekend where running back Beanie Wells, now healthy from his hamstring issue, gets 30 carries (his career-high is 27, set against the Giants earlier this month).
– You figure the Steelers are going to test these young cornerbacks. Wide receiver Mike Wallace has established himself as one of the – if not the – scariest deep threat in the league. He already has five catches this season of at least 40 yards. He averages 21 yards a reception, and it will be one of the keys to the game how he is dealt with by cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and A.J. Jefferson.
– Speaking of Peterson, he may be a rookie, but he isn’t fazed by the Cards’ current rough patch. “My confidence will always stay high,” Peterson said. “I let bygones be bygones. I have amnesia. This team will continue fighting.”
– In terms of yardage gained on third-down receptions, this game will have the top two receivers in the NFL: Wallace (228 yards) and Arizona’s Early Doucet (214).
– Nice job by Kent Somers to ferret out the conditions of the conditional draft pick the Cards got in the trade that sent running back Tim Hightower to Washington and a pick plus defensive end Vonnie Holliday to Arizona. The Cards get a sixth-rounder unless Hightower plays in 60.41 percent of the offensive snaps for the Redskins. Currently, Hightower has played 54 percent of the snaps and shares time with Ryan Torain and Roy Helu. That doesn’t seem to be a good combination for the higher pick, barring an injury.
– With defensive coordinator Ray Horton seeing his former team Sunday, I wanted to remind everyone of the feel-good story from the offseason, when Horton gave his car to a Steelers cafeteria worker before leaving the team to come to Arizona.
– If you get to Big Ben, tackle him. It changes everything when you don’t.
I thought it was interesting today as Horton spoke and a visiting Pittsburgh writer asked about the matchup between Fitzgerald and cornerback Ike Taylor and what he thought of the matchup.
“Back in Tampa, there was a call late in the game where our guy caught a pass and went up the field,” Horton said. “I hope there is a lot of that this week.”
Of course, back in Tampa, Horton was working for the Steelers at the time and probably wanted to throw up when Fitzgerald split the defense for his touchdown. Today, though, the memory comes up and it’s “our guy.”
Tags: A.J. Jefferson, Darnell Dockett, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Ray Horton, Steelers, trade, Vonnie Holliday
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No surprise, but the game Sunday between the Cards and Steelers at University of Phoenix Stadium is a sellout, making the franchise 58-for-58 — including preseason and postseason games — in sellouts since moving into the building in 2006. Pittsburgh, for now, is the sellout bookends, since the first Cards’ game at UoP was a preseason game against the Steelers.
Tags: sellout, Steelers
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It happens all the time — two teams meet, and ex-teammates on each side end up with some good-natured smack talk before the game. It just doesn’t usually happen in the middle of the locker room. But there was Cardinals’ reserve defensive lineman Nick Eason Wednesday, about to do an interview, when his phone rang. The caller ID said it was Chris Hoke — a defensive lineman from the Steelers. Instead of letting it go to voice mail, Eason picked up.
“Don’t call me now, I’m about to do an interview about we’re gonna beat y’all,” Eason said, smile growing on his face. Then he punched speaker to let everyone in on the brief conversation.
“Is Casey playing?” Eason asked, knowing that Steelers starting nose tackle Casey Hampton has been banged up with a bad shoulder. “Don’t worry about that,” Hoke said.
(A quick side note: Eason, along with fellow long-time D-line vet Vonnie Holliday, have fit perfectly into their roles. Would each like to play more? Yes. But both have embraced their jobs as wise sages in the locker room, there to mainly support guys like Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Dan Williams and David Carter.)
“Is Casey playing? Why can’t you tell me? We aren’t friends?” Eason repeated through his grin, only to get the same, “Don’t worry about that” answer from Hoke. “So we’re enemies now,” Eason said. “I thought we were boys. That’s how you’re gonna act.”
It was Hoke’s turn to dig, noting that “Ramon” — Steelers offensive lineman Ramon Foster — told Hoke he was going to “pancake” Eason. That drew another grin from Eason. “You tell Ramon he ain’t gonna be able to move me,” the 6-foot-3, 305-pound Eason said. “He never has, and he’s not going to start now.”
There are only three ex-Steelers playing for the Cards right now: Eason and linebackers Joey Porter and Clark Haggans (cornerback Crezdon Butler is on IR). For all the ties to Pittsburgh — and there are still plenty on the coaching staff — the Cards have looked to downplay that aspect of the game this week. Eason is no exception, save for his jabs to Hoke.
“I’m not jacked up,” Eason said. “Obviously, it’s a dominant opponent. Pittsburgh is a dominate team. You’ve got to give it to them. But right now we are 1-4. I just want a win here. I don’t care if it was whomever, it’s the next game. And we need a win.”
Tags: Nick Eason, Steelers, Vonnie Holliday
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Ray Horton would hear it from Maurice Matthews all the time when he was coaching in Pittsburgh: “When are you going to let me use your car?”
Horton’s car – a red 1999 Mercedes Benz SL500 convertible roadster – was a prize. Horton was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive backs coach, and Matthews was a cook at the Steelers’ cafeteria. But Matthews was “one of the guys” too, Horton said, always chiding Horton about how he was coaching his position.
Matthews would also drive himself to road games of the Steelers, and made the drive to Canton last summer when the entire Steelers team showed up for defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s Hall of Fame induction.
When it came to the car, however, Horton would hear Matthews’ request and shoot back “You can’t afford the gas in it.”
But Horton also came up with a plan. And when Horton took the job as defensive coordinator with the Cardinals, he came up with a big surprise for Matthews.
Under the guise of having lost his wallet, Horton – knowing Matthews would help him no matter what – asked Matthews how much money he had on him. Immediately, Matthews forked over the $20 he had. Horton flipped him the keys to the convertible. “Sold!” Horton announced, and Matthews was dumbfounded.
“I’m like, ‘Stop playing with me Ray; don’t play with me,’” Matthews told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “The other [workers] were looking at me, their jaws dropped. Ray said, “Hey, you always liked the car, you’re a good dude, I know you’ll take care of it. It’s yours.’ “
Horton said Matthews couldn’t believe it, “but he believes it now.”
Matthews drove Horton to the airport the next day, when Horton gave Matthews all the proper paperwork to take ownership himself.
“I just told (Steelers coach) Mike (Tomlin), ‘It’s just taking care of guys who took care of you,’ ” Horton said.
Tags: Ray Horton, Steelers
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The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:
The accomplishments certainly weren’t lost as the Cardinals went on their most exciting month-long journey ever back in the first few weeks of 2009, but I’m not totally sure what Larry Fitzgerald was doing in the playoffs that year could have been completely appreciated given the circumstances.
As the wins came and the Super Bowl got closer, talking just about one player didn’t make sense (let’s not get it twisted – Fitz still got plenty of attention over those five weeks of the postseason, and I just thumbed through his clip file if I hadn’t remembered). When you go back and think, however, it almost started innocently against the Falcons.
At that point, the Cards just wanted to win a playoff game, after the 2-5 slide on which they entered the postseason. Fitz had 101 yards on six receptions that day, including an acrobatic catch in double-coverage for a 42-yard touchdown. But that was early, and the moments burned more harsh in the brain were things like Anquan Boldin’s 71-yard catch-and-run TD on which he came up hurt, the Dockett/Rolle combo that created a fumble for a touchdown, and tight end Stephen Spach’s game-clinching catch.
Fitz had nice numbers, but that was supposed to happen.
The next game, though, that’s when the momentum began to build. And when Fitz truly exploded.
Boldin was injured. The Cards were on the road in Carolina. And yet Fitzgerald ran roughshod, finishing with 166 yards on eight catches, with 122 of those yards coming when there was still five minutes left in the first half and the Cards were in complete control. He caught another bomb in double-coverage. He did whatever he wanted against the Panthers (who shouldn’t have been surprised; he had seven receptions for 115 yards when the teams met earlier in the season in Carolina and instead they looked like they had no idea how to deal with him). When Fitz scored his TD – an amazing effort on a crossing route in which he dove for the pylon and scored – it was still the first half and yet it felt like an exclamation point had already been stamped on the game.
His numbers were incredible. The Eagles knew this. They insisted during the week they would not let Fitzgerald go off. A noble pursuit. Yet at that point, impossible to back up with actions. Fitzgerald had three touchdown catches in the first half (he finished with nine receptions for 152 yards). The Eagles slowed him down in the second half, but he had done enough damage. It had reached the expectation that Fitzgerald was certain to get 125 yards in a game, that every jump ball would be his, that he could do no wrong and would carry the team all the way to a title. I mean, Boldin was back for the Eagles, but at that moment, Fitz was alone in the receiving stratosphere, not only on his own team but the entire league. There was no question.
(Well, I guess there was some question. But what is the two weeks leading up the Super Bowl about if not hyperbole.)
In the Super Bowl, Fitz had just one catch in the first three quarters. He had finally been tamed by the famed Steel Curtain. Except he wasn’t, suddenly going off in the final 15 minutes during the Cards’ furious rally, coming up with six receptions and capping it all with that magical 64-yard catch-and-run that seemed destined to be the highlight to signify the Cards’ improbable championship. Then it wasn’t, instead a reminder of what could have been.
The loss didn’t take away from what Fitzgerald did, however. He had seven more catches for 127 yards in the game and he had played so well for so long some were even marveling about the plays he almost made. He set playoff records for catches (30), yards (546) and TDs (7). It was a performance for the ages. “A lot of those playoff catches, he had guys draped over him and he was just making plays,” fellow wideout Steve Breaston said at the time. “You did kind of wonder: When was anyone going to stop him?”
That postseason, the answer was never.
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Eagles, Falcons, Larry Fitzgerald, Panthers, Steelers, Stephen Spach, Steve Breaston, Super Bowl
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