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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.

KeimCap

 


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Dockett and the chance to return

Posted by Darren Urban on February 27, 2015 – 4:06 pm

Normally, a key veteran like Darnell Dockett is released and I try to sum up his career in Arizona as his tenure comes to an end. Dockett certainly is one of those guys. But that plan is in a holding pattern now because, quite frankly, his tenure might not have come to an end yet. This has happened before; Levi Brown was released because of his big contract numbers, he spent a few days to explore what else might be out there for him, and he decided to return.

Dockett gets that chance. He’ll have more than a week’s jump on the scheduled free agents out there waiting for March 10 (although there are plenty of other veterans who have already been released) to see what is available. No reason to talk about Dockett as if he’s gone when it could turn out that he’s not.

In some ways, Dockett is in the same place Karlos Dansby was last year when Dansby became a free agent. Or Antonio Cromartie figures to be in this year. The Cardinals want such players, but with the way they have organized their roster and salary cap while using analytics, there are contract numbers the team can live with. In Dansby’s case, the money per year was about the same that he was offered from Cleveland, but the Browns offered four years (so naturally, more guaranteed money) and the Cardinals two. So Dansby went with Cleveland. Cromartie is expected to be in the same boat in terms of considering competing offers, and it makes sense that Dockett will too, judging by Steve Keim’s comments today.

Dockett has played a huge role in how this franchise has turned it around in the last decade. Team president Michael Bidwill has said that, like Larry Fitzgerald, he wants to have Dockett retire a Cardinal. I don’t think that thought has changed.

So if Dockett ends up signing elsewhere, then yes, I’ll post a retrospective. We’re not there yet.

DockettBlog


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The notion of Adrian Peterson

Posted by Darren Urban on February 27, 2015 – 10:26 am

I’m always hesitant to bring up Adrian Peterson in any context with this team because of the emotions it evokes. The story has been told countless times, how the Cardinals, picking fifth in 2007, passed up the chance to draft Adrian Peterson and instead took tackle Levi Brown. We all know how that worked out for both sides. The Cardinals had allowed Leonard Davis to leave in free agency and needed a left tackle. And Edgerrin James was coming off his first season in Arizona. Plus, new coach Ken Whisenhunt and offensive line coach Russ Grimm felt the Cardinals had to upgrade their offensive line because without that, it didn’t matter who might be behind that line carrying the ball.

Yeah, it didn’t quite work out. Did I mention that?

The other part of that story is that, while Whiz and Grimm ruled the day getting the tackle they wanted in that draft, that then-director of college scouting Steve Keim wanted to take Peterson. He felt Peterson was a difference maker.

(It’s fun to look back at that 2007 draft. Tampa could have had Peterson at No. 4, they went DE Gaines Adams. The just-cut Ted Ginn went ninth to the Dolphins. Meanwhile the Niners got Patrick Willis at 11 and Buffalo took Marshawn Lynch at 12. That seems so long ago.)

So we flash forward to 2015, and yesterday’s news that Peterson’s ongoing suspension, or whatever it might be, has been bounced back to an arbitrator after a judge ruled his ongoing punishment for last year’s issues with child discipline went too far. Peterson’s situation has not been resolved. That’s the most important part of this right now. It’s also important to note that a) Peterson is under contract with the Vikings and b) the Vikings continue to say they want Peterson on their team in 2015. So any speculation about him being anywhere but Minnesota this season is just that — speculation and guesswork.

There was a report that Peterson’s agent and someone from the Vikings got into a heated discussion at the Scouting combine and that Peterson’s agent wasn’t keen on Peterson staying a Viking. Then Peterson’s dad came out and said Peterson isn’t trying to leave Minnesota, although there is a chance the Vikings could part ways with him. Peterson does have three years left on his current contract (he turns 30 in a couple of weeks) and is due to make $12.75 million, $14.75 million and $16.75 million. Those numbers would seem to me to make a trade for Peterson for many teams cost-prohibitive without a significant restructuring and/or pay cut.

Someone suggested to me yesterday that Nelson Peterson (the father) said the Colts, Cowboys and Cardinals would be on Adrian’s short list if he left the Vikings. I haven’t seen that. The elder Peterson merely mentioned to the St. Paul Pioneer Press he had heard those teams as rumored destinations — and this time of year is king for NFL rumors.

But it was interesting to see Nelson Peterson go into some depth about the Cardinals and their near-miss on Peterson in 2007.

“Arizona had the opportunity to draft him and they didn’t,’’ said Nelson Peterson. “They had an opportunity to take him in 2007 with the No. (5) pick and they went and picked Levi Brown. If they would have taken Adrian Peterson, then (quarterback) Kurt Warner would probably still be playing and they probably would have numerous Super Bowls.

“Can you imagine (Peterson) with Kurt Warner and with Larry Fitzgerald in his prime? Oh, man, Arizona would probably have a couple of Super Bowls by now.’’

Keim is still around, although now he’s calling the shots. It’d make sense he probably still likes Peterson as a player. It’s not like he can comment on the possibility — that’s tampering — although I’ve heard him asked in a couple of interview situations. Until free agency starts though, such ideas are going to be bounced around. I’ve been bombarded with the question: Could I see Peterson as a Cardinal? Maybe, although there sure seem to be a lot of moving parts here. I will say this, with all the players around the league getting cut and with a free agent class with a lot of names in the first place — plus issues like Peterson’s future playing out — it’s going to be an interesting month of March.

Adrian Peterson


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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.

PalmercontractBLOG

 


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A nice career on the money side for Fitz

Posted by Darren Urban on February 25, 2015 – 9:55 am

Larry Fitzgerald may be taking less money than was on his original contract, but many have noticed that the $22 million he’s getting guaranteed over the next two seasons is a great deal. That was Andrew Brandt’s theme as he analyzed the situation in a MMQB.com piece. Brandt’s thoughts — “With NFL finances clearly tilted towards management, there are few outliers who have ‘won’ on the business side like Fitzgerald” — took me back to something Fitz said during training camp.

It was the day Patrick Peterson had his press conference for his new lucrative contract, and Fitzgerald — as a veteran around the team — was asked his opinion of where the Cardinals were in terms of spending money.

I for one can tell you the Cardinals are not a cheap organization,” Fitzgerald said. “I will stand on a table and say all day long they are not. We can put that to bed.”

Indeed, Fitz has made around $120 million already from the Cardinals on his various contracts since 2004. That doesn’t include a dime he’s made in endorsements, just the cash he’s gotten from the team. Now he gets another $22M guaranteed. It also dovetails nicely with the first part of Brandt’s column, which explains how the salary cap — in the end — doesn’t have to kill a team in terms of getting players.

You want cap space, but in the end, when asking about a marriage between a player and a team, just know that if the team wants the player bad enough, it can happen — regardless of the cap space or how expensive the player might be. Now, there is a give and take. You might be causing cap complications down the road, or the player you want may want more than you are willing to give him. But it’s rare that a player simply can’t be fit under whatever cap you might have.

Bringing it back to Fitz, it would have been interesting to see what Fitzgerald might have been able to get on the open market. Conventional wisdom says it wouldn’t have been as much as the Cardinals gave him, but it was important on many levels to keep Fitzgerald around. The two sides made it work. The Cards are trying to do the same with Darnell Dockett — and GM Steve Keim said those talks are ongoing.

FitzcheapblogUSE


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With Fitzgerald done, next on to-do list

Posted by Darren Urban on February 18, 2015 – 2:10 pm

The first thing the Cardinals needed to get done was re-doing Larry Fitzgerald’s contract. That’s done. Cap space has been cleared. But the Cardinals probably will look for more.

GM Steve Keim said today he will be talking to DT Darnell Dockett about his contract, which has one year left and a cap number of $9.8 million. That’s lofty anyway, but especially for an older player who is coming off major knee surgery. Ted Ginn, who sunk to the fifth receiver by year’s end, is another player who seems likely to be looked at, contract-wise. There are other veterans with higher cap numbers who could get a look from Keim. But there are lines to walk; CB Jerraud Powers is due more than $4 million in salary this season, for example, but if Antonio Cromartie leaves in free agency, you have to make sure you have the depth you want. A total of 13 Cardinals carry cap numbers of more than $3 million for 2015, including Powers ($5.3M), C Lyle Sendlein ($4.3M), Ginn ($4M), and QB Drew Stanton ($3.9M).

Keim’s point that the Cardinals, with Fitz’s new contract, will allow the Cards to be active in free agency is crucial. There is little doubt the Cardinals need to upgrade, but what will the market bear? I could see the Cardinals looking heavily at running back, at linebacker (both inside and outside), perhaps interior offensive line. If Cromartie doesn’t return, they could look at cornerback. And one of the quieter stories of the offseason is the potential loss of nose tackle Dan Williams and what the Cards do if Williams does not return.

Fixing the Fitz situation was important. But it wasn’t the only thing in front of Keim that needs tending.

“There are some additional tough decisions we will have to make,” Keim said.

Steve Keim


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Fitzgerald, Cards deal done

Posted by Darren Urban on February 18, 2015 – 7:53 am

Here’s one way to start the Scouting combine: The Cardinals and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald are moving closer to a new contract that will ease the $23.6 million salary cap hit Fitzgerald is scheduled to have in 2015. It’s good news, especially since General Manager Steve Keim has been trying to get this done. Multiple reports have noted this (and an NFL source confirmed), and it looks like the Cards will be able to adjust their Fitz cap issue well ahead of the March 10 deadline. It was first reported by Adam Schefter.

UPDATE: Keim announced the contract is set. It is “essentially a two-year deal,” Keim said.

Until details emerge, it’s hard to know what Fitzgerald and the Cardinals were each willing to do to get this done. Fitzgerald had already been under contract through 2018, but his $8M salary and $8M roster bonus, plus other dead money was untenable. But there is no question the Cardinals winning of late and Fitzgerald’s deep ties to Arizona after 11 seasons helped in talks.

This will also allow the Cardinals to have some ability to chase free agents March 10 when that time comes. Even once Fitz is resolved, there is more work for Keim — defensive tackle Darnell Dockett carries a $9.8M cap number for 2015, for instance.

Keim is addressing the media here in Indianapolis at 11:30 a.m. (9:30 a.m. Arizona time). I’m guessing this will be a topic (the only topic?). More to come as soon as he speaks.


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At combine, Cards’ braintrust on the schedule

Posted by Darren Urban on February 17, 2015 – 4:40 pm

Let the Scouting combine begin. There’s snow on the ground (hey, that’s unique for someone like me) and we’ll quickly get to a talk with General Manager Steve Keim. Keim is speaking on the podium at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday (9:30 a.m. Arizona time). Interestingly, he’s sandwiched between two guys with Cardinals ties. Before him, good friend and former Cardinals VP of player personnel Jason Licht, now the Buccaneers GM, talks. After Keim, it’s former Cardinals coach and current Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt.

Just to add to the Cardinals’ flavor Wednesday, Jets coach and former Cards defensive coordinator Todd Bowles speaks at 2:30 p.m. (12:30 p.m.) Wednesday as well.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians talks at 10:15 a.m. Thursday (8:15 a.m.)

Keim is also supposed to be speaking with Larry Fitzgerald’s agent while both are here in Indianapolis. While I continue to get questions about where negotiations might be, I don’t think anything is about to happen yet. We still have a lot of time before the league year starts March 10.

Combineonthegrounduse


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Combine coming, so send in your questions

Posted by Darren Urban on February 16, 2015 – 8:37 am

It feels like that interception was just made to end the Super Bowl, and here we are in Scouting combine week. Time to head full speed into the 2015 season.

I, along with a few of my co-workers, are headed Tuesday to chilly Indianapolis (high of 16 degrees Wednesday and 14 Thursday, so there’s that) to cover the week. The combine has been moved up a day compared to years previous, so media availability runs Wednesday through Saturday as opposed to Thursday through Sunday. Cardinals GM Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians are speaking to the masses again, tentatively scheduled to talk Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.

And, as has become the custom, I will host a pair of short video chats with each man while in Indy, asking questions from the fans. If you’d like to submit a question, you can do so in the comments below, you can submit it via Twitter using the hashtag #CardsCombine or you can email me at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Make sure you specify for whom the question is intended — either Keim or Arians.

Things will start to move quickly here. Free agency officially opens March 10 (which is also when teams must be salary cap compliant.) The Cardinals’ offseason conditioning program starts April 20. And the draft is set to start on April 30.


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Larry Fitzgerald, his contract and “it takes two”

Posted by Darren Urban on February 12, 2015 – 1:45 pm

Back in 2008, Bertrand Berry was asked to take a pay cut to remain with the Cardinals. He decided to do so. In 2012, Adrian Wilson was asked to take a pay cut to remain with the Cardinals. He did so (and that didn’t save him from being released after the season.) The only leverage either player had was to say, “I’ll leave” if they didn’t like the offer. It’s not ideal, but it was reality.

That’s where we are with Larry Fitzgerald and the Cardinals. This is not a surprise, not with a $23.6 million salary cap number, an actual payout of a scheduled $8M salary and another $8M roster bonus due in about a month. Not with the Cardinals, even with a carryover of $4.2M from last year’s cap to tag on to a projected $140M salary cap for 2015, around $11M over the cap at this point (according to ESPN) and needing to get to at least even by March 10. Regardless of specific numbers, the Cards need to slice some cap money.

Again, none of this is new.

I’ll be honest – I listened to Michael Bidwill’s interview Wednesday morning on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 and nothing stood out. When he talked about bringing Fitzgerald back and working out a contract, it was the things you’d expect to hear.

At one point, Bidwill did say “it takes two” to reach a deal. That raised eyebrows. But should it? At some point, the Cardinals and General Manager Steve Keim were going to want to harness the salary cap, and that was going to start with Fitz’s current deal. I thought for a while that might come last offseason, but instead, the Cards — and Fitz — kicked the can down the road a season with a simple restructure to buy cap space. We have come to the rip-the-band-aid-clean-off stage of this thing.

There are 10 wide receivers right now averaging at least $9M on their contracts. Only three — Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson and maybe Vincent Jackson, given all the Buccaneers’ cap space — aren’t serious candidates to renegotiate/restructure/get released this offseason (and Johnson, as good as he is, is headed that way in the next year or two himself, given his cap numbers.) Fitzgerald’s situation, especially at his position, is not unique.

Like Berry, like Wilson, the ball will be in Fitz’s court, basically. Yes, there are salary numbers to figure out — as always — but the Cards aren’t going to change their thought process. Carson Palmer was asked to do something similar in Oakland; he declined and was traded to Arizona. Maybe that’s what Fitz will want to do. Maybe a new deal will work for him, and maybe the other benefits of being in Arizona on a personal level make it worth an agreement. Maybe a different opportunity is more intriguing, or maybe the numbers just won’t be good enough, and Fitz uses what leverage he has. But there are really no new angles that can come out on this thing. It’s not hard to analyze.

FitzBlogagain


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