The draft, thank goodness, is close.
There are many who love the run-up to the draft each year. I’m not really one of them. Let me know who the new Cardinals will be and we’ll go from there. It’s a little different when this franchise was picking top 10, but 29th (or 30th, we’ll get to that in a second)? There’s just so much that can happen that changes the dynamic whenever it is the Cards actually make a pick. Still, I wanted to put out some thoughts as we head into the 2016 selection process.
— I won’t be surprised if the Cardinals trade down Thursday night. Yes, Steve Keim said it’ll be harder for picks to make the team, but if they can spin the late first-rounder into an early second-rounder and maybe an early fourth, those guys are far enough up the food chain to be near-locks. So much of it has to do with who is available when the Cards are on the clock. That seems obvious but it’s also true. You figure the quarterbacks available — and teams trying to move up to get one — would influence that the most.
— The Cardinals (without a trade) will pick the 29th player but the NFL is still listing them with the 30th pick. No. 29 was supposed to be the Patriots, who lost it in DeflateGate, so if you are curious to know why the league’s draft tracker has a difference, that’s it.
— If I had to guess, I’d say the Cardinals do draft a QB at some point but it’ll be Saturday.
— It’s hard to argue with those who think the Cards would take center Ryan Kelly in the first round if he’s there. I don’t think he will be. I think it’ll most likely be defense — a cornerback if one is there, a defensive lineman if not. Wouldn’t rule out linebacker/pass rusher, but I’d lean toward an up-front guy.
— I don’t do mock drafts these days — I know, a crushing disappointment — but we do have a mock coming from the Cardinals, straight from the mind of safety Tony Jefferson. He has the Cards taking Clemson safety-or-corner T.J. Green. Maybe Jefferson eventually follows in the footsteps of one-time Cardinals defensive back Corey Chavous, who was a draft guru even when he was playing and continues working in that role these days.
(Cohort Kyle Odegard will have a full mock draft roundup of all the picks made across the internet for the Cardinals tomorrow.)
— The Cardinals currently have 73 players on the roster, so room for 17 right now. With six draft picks, that means 11 undrafted free agents. I think there will be more than 11 undrafted rookies signed, so I expect some cuts, and that doesn’t include the possibility of adding picks.
Even if the Cards don’t make a pick tomorrow, it’ll be an interesting night all the way around. See you then.
Tags: Corey Chavous, draft, Patriots, Ryan Kelly, Steve Keim, T.J. Green, Tony Jefferson
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Lyle Sendlein and Ted Larsen are gone. And while A.Q. Shipley remains and the Cardinals have signed a couple of other street free agents in Taylor Boggs and Valerian Ume-Ezeoke, it’s pretty clear the Cardinals are on course to draft a center at some point. Maybe it’s the first round, a guy like Alabama’s Ryan Kelly (who has been a favorite for mock drafters to scribble next to the Cardinals at 29th overall.) But it won’t be a surprise, even though the Cards don’t have a second-round pick, if they wait. After listening to both Steve Keim and Bruce Arians Tuesday, it shouldn’t even be a surprise if one comes later — and isn’t even technically a center. Not yet.
“In this draft, there are several opportunities to draft centers in all rounds,” Keim said. “Some of those guys are projections. There are some guys in the second, third, fourth rounds, who are going to be guys who played left tackle or they played guard at the collegiate level, who we worked out at center or they played center previously in their career that we think has the skill set. There are going to be opportunities to address that position if we feel necessary.”
Arians noted a couple of very good NFL centers like Jeff Hartings of the Steelers and Tim Grunhard of the Chiefs (Grunhard played guard in college, Hartings started his NFL career at guard before moving to center) that made the move. “When you say a college center, there might be three college centers, but there are 15 potential centers,” Arians said.
Options obviously open up a lot of possibilities for that first pick. Waiting on a center makes it easier to take a cornerback. Or a defensive lineman. Whatever Keim might want.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Bruce Arians, draft, Jeff Hartings, Lyle Sendlein, Steve Keim, Ted Larsen, Tim Grunhard
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On a day when the Cardinals nabbed Evan Mathis for the offensive line — the team’s second outside free agent acquired, exactly one week into free agency — GM Steve Keim wasn’t sure how much more the team will do in signing players. “I think we’re at a point where you let it come to you,” Keim said. The price has to be right in every spot. And there are still some moving parts.
— Running back Chris Johnson was in Miami to visit the Dolphins Wednesday. The Cardinals could still bring Johnson back, but with David Johnson in place, both the money and opportunities for CJ2K in Arizona would be limited. From afar, it looks like the Dolphins — who lost Lamar Miller to free agency — could offer more of both. UPDATE: Johnson is coming back.
— Karlos Dansby was cut by the Browns Wednesday — interestingly, two years after going to Cleveland, after the Cards offered a two-year contract themselves back in 2014. (Although Dansby got more guaranteed money from the Browns, so financially, it made more sense). The Cardinals will look at Dansby, but a third term as a Card seems unlikely. At 34, he’s likely not the same physically he was two or three years ago. Plus, would Los go for a minimum salary-type of deal?
— The visit of guard Geoff Schwartz doesn’t figure to happen now that Mathis was signed. Haven’t heard anything else about tackle Andre Smith. UPDATE: Smith signed with the Vikings.
— Cornerback Leon Hall visited Dallas after Arizona, but Hall still isn’t signed (which likely says something about how Hall has overpriced himself at this point.) It still stands to reason the Cards want to sign a veteran cornerback. Maybe it could still be Hall. It could still be Jerraud Powers.
Tags: Andre Smith, Chris Johnson, Evan Mathis, free agency, Geoff Schwartz, Karlos Dansby, Leon Hall, Steve Keim
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Steve Keim has proved excellent at bringing in players on one-year deals and having them make an impact: Eric Winston, Matt Shaughnessy, Karlos Dansby, Antonio Cromartie, Larry Foote, Chris Johnson, Dwight Freeney. They won’t all work out, though, and Sean Weatherspoon — which looked so promising when it happened — did not work out.
Weatherspoon is re-signing with the Falcons after his one year out West. Weatherspoon only had 12 tackles in an extremely limited defensive role (he played just 125 snaps all season) over 14 games. He needed to show he could stay healthy again and he did that, although it was a red flag to his time in Arizona when he was active but didn’t play against the Rams in October and then the next week, was a healthy scratch against the Lions.
It’s hard to believe that Weatherspoon played with the first unit through the entire offseason work, although at that point, Deone Bucannon was working a lot at safety too. But training camp came, Weatherspoon’s hamstring became a problem, and when he missed most of the month, he had dug himself a hole he could never escape — especially after Kevin Minter showed more than expected when he was on the field.
To Spoon’s credit, he never sulked (although he did seem resigned to the fact early on he wasn’t moving up the depth chart). It was clear he wouldn’t be around in 2016. And that’s the upside about seeking one-year deals. Yes, sometimes a guy like a Dansby blows up and leaves for another team. Then you have a “miss” like Weatherspoon who creates no issue because his contract is up and both sides can just move on.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Chris Johnson, Dwight Freeney, Eric Winston, Falcons, free agency, Karlos Dansby, Larry Foote, Matt Shaughnessy, Sean Weatherspoon, Steve Keim
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Is there an urgency for the Cardinals to develop a young quarterback, given that starter Carson Palmer is 36 years old? That’s not even a question that needs to be asked at this point. It’s not like the Cards haven’t been talking and thinking about this since Steve Keim and Bruce Arians came into power, though. There was a reason they drafted Logan Thomas in 2014.
So Thomas didn’t work out, and the team traded for Matt Barkley, and at this point, Barkley too is mostly an unknown. He didn’t get any significant practice time in the Cardinals’ offense, and they haven’t seen him in a preseason game. Pinning their hopes on his development — at least, pinning them only on his development — wouldn’t be prudent. The Cardinals probably need to draft a quarterback, and as I sit here in Indianapolis for the current version of the Scouting combine, long before the Cards have had any draft meetings, I will guess they will take one at some point in April.
But it’s not a guarantee. Both Keim and Arians acknowledge the need and importance to obtain a young QB. But both left the door cracked that the Cardinals might not. Keim insists he does not want to force a pick, especially at quarterback. The Cards will scour the background of these second-tier QB hopefuls — like Michigan State’s Connor Cook (pictured below) — knowing the top guys will be gone by the time they draft, and see if one makes sense. If you don’t feel a guy has a legitimate chance to play in the league, it doesn’t make much sense to draft one.
But the search is important. Someone has to play QB when Palmer is done. You’d rather make that decision pro-actively, rather than having it made for you when the time comes.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Connor Cook, draft, Logan Thomas, Matt Barkley, Steve Keim
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The plan is to extend safety Tyrann Mathieu at some point. That’s never been a question with the Cardinals or General Manager Steve Keim. But that doesn’t mean it will necessarily get done anytime soon either, Keim said at the NFL Scouting combine Wednesday.
“We’ve made our goal clear, which is to re-sign him to a long-term deal,” Keim said. “Yet at the same time, there are always obstacles in negotiations so we’ll see where it goes.”
Mathieu still is under contract through 2016. He is coming off a second ACL tear. More importantly right now, the Cardinals and Keim have a lot on their plate in terms of working not only with draft prep but also with the free agent class — both the Cardinals’ own and those from other teams the Cards will be chasing — that is upcoming. Mathieu is important, but he’s not going to be the top priority here in February.
Tags: Steve Keim, Tyrann Mathieu
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The NFL Scouting combine starts this week and free agency begins with the “legal tampering” on March 7 (Players can officially sign March 9). In the meantime, if there are any teams that want to bring back their own players who are free agents-to-be, this is the home stretch to make that happen before the open market.
Given the amount of salary cap space available across the NFL — and there should be a ton of it once the 2016 cap is set — there are plenty of guys who will get contracts that likely will exceed expectations. That’s one reason Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim has noted multiple times that getting extensions done at this point are often difficult because by now, there is little reason not to want to at least test the market.
Because all it takes it one team — and that one team isn’t necessarily the Cardinals, whether it is bringing back a key player or bringing one in via free agency. As the Cards go into free agency (and as they mull what they want to do with their own free-agents-to-be), Keim and the front office build a “free agent board.” It’s similar to the draft “top 100” board, except it also includes the money the Cards are willing to spend on each player. It’s based on the analytics of the situation — the player’s performance, age, position, etc. — and it gives what Keim sees as his line in the sand.
If that works for the player, then the Cardinals might have a deal. If the player wants significantly more, then the Cardinals move on.
The Cardinals, as Keim sees it, have created a lot of reasons for a player to want to come to Arizona. The facilities are top notch. The weather is good. Oh, and the team is winning. Oftentimes, overpaying a player in free agency doesn’t work out anyway — so the Cards, for the most part, avoid it. Something to keep in mind this time of year.
Tags: free agency, Steve Keim
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The NFL Scouting combine has almost arrived. Next week the Cardinals (and every other team) will be sending personnel to Indianapolis to scouting the 300 or so college players invited that are expected to be drafted in a couple of months. It’s also the time when decision makers like Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians take some time to not only answer some questions from the media, but also from the fans.
As has been the recent custom, I’ll be sitting down with both Arians and Keim for a video chat while in Indy. What I’ll ask them is up to you. Submit your questions either in the comments below, or via Twitter (using the hashtag #CardsCombine) or you can even e-mail me at email@example.com. Be sure to indicate if the question is for Arians or Keim. I’ll get to as many as I can.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Steve Keim
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Safety Tyrann Mathieu at some point is going to get a new contract from the Cardinals. He’s been perfect for the franchise, both on the field and off it, even with all the questions about him coming out of college. General Manager Steve Keim, in fact, acknowledged Tuesday that Mathieu — who was Keim’s third-round pick in Keim’s first draft as a GM — actually has had an impact on Keim’s draft philosophy.
“Going into my first draft as a GM, there’s no way I thought a player like Tyrann Mathieu should get a second chance,” Keim said during the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “Now that we gave Tyrann that chance and he’s become the player and the person that is is, he’s changed my thinking on that a little bit that some — some — players deserve second chances.”
It’s a pretty significant acknowledgment. But it’s also worth noting that Keim emphasized that only “some” should get a second chance in his eyes. There are things to figure out from a player who is about to be drafted and those frequently intangible things are what would sway Keim one way or the other.
Keim has to see a player who is “genuinely embarrassed” for whatever mistake might have been made. Keim also needs to believe in a player’s passion for the game, which is something he is searching for from every single one of his draft picks anyway. Mathieu had that passion (which is easily seen daily now) and a love, and Keim was certain that Mathieu understood the Cardinals would be his last chance.
There are a lot of parts of the Mathieu story that helped get him drafted (the Patrick Peterson connection perhaps the most important) but that Mathieu’s impact reached all the way to Keim’s core beliefs is just another reason why Mathieu has been so important to this franchise.
Oh, and when asked about Mathieu’s potential contract extension and whether his two ACL tears could push the Cards to do a shorter deal, Keim made it clear — the Cardinals want to work out a long-term deal with the Honey Badger.
Tags: draft, Steve Keim, Tyrann Mathieu
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Tyrann Mathieu wants to remain a Cardinal, and he has said as much. General Manager Steve Keim agrees, and with the safety due to become a free agent after the 2016 season, Keim said Thursday night on the Big Red Rage the team wants to get an extension done. When that might be is still a question, Keim acknowledged, but “I don’t think there is any doubt that’s our goal.”
Keim has been mostly holed up in his office this week watching as much college video as he can in advance of the upcoming Scouting combine. But he took some time to be a guest on the Rage, hitting on a variety of topics, including the fact he remains disappointed with the way the season ended, with the Cardinals “embarrassed” in the NFC Championship game against the Panthers.
“Our expectations as an organization, our expectations as a fan base, are to hang banners every year,” Keim said. “Not just the West (division) championship, but the big one.”
Among the other topics Keim addressed:
— Yes, an edge rusher is an important target, but it’s not the only spot. Keim said there are “a lot of areas we need to improve,” and he said that includes depth positions and not just looking at starters.
— Keim said the Cardinals will be as active in free agency as they usually are. But he reiterated that when looking at players who are seeking longer contracts with big guarantees, there must be a certain amount of caution with that aggressive mindset. There are usually reasons these players couldn’t get such deals with their original teams.
— While he would not get into specifics about the Cards’ own free agents — saying there are, as usual, some the team would very much like back — he knows the market could dictate how many return. As for both free agency and the draft, “you can’t force signings and you can’t force picks,” Keim said. “I’ve said that for a long time. When you get into a habit of forcing need, you are leaving better players on the board.”
— Keim wouldn’t be specific with how much cap space the Cardinals will have but added he feels “very good” with where the Cards are right now. Since arriving in 2013 to his current job, “the thing we’ve done the best job of is eliminating the dead money,” Keim said.
— There is always planning for the future, but even with the possibility of guys like QB Carson Palmer or wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald retiring in the next few years, that doesn’t change the expectation of the franchise.
“The NFL doesn’t allow you not to be in a win-now mode,” Keim said.
— Speaking of Palmer, Keim didn’t hesitate in saying he thinks his quarterback will be fine in 2016 even after the rough NFC Championship and has no concerns there is a mental hurdle for Palmer to overcome.
“When we made the trade for Carson three years ago, there was a perception, because you’re talking about a guy who sat out a year in Cincinnati, that maybe he was a quitter or whatever the thought was across the country,” Keim said. “After getting to know him for three years, I haven’t been around many people who are as tough mentally or as competitive as he is. I have a tremendous amount of confidence in Carson Palmer in every aspect of the game.”
“I think Carson Palmer has good football left in him,” Keim added, noting that there are 12-to-15 teams looking for a quarterback. The Cardinals are not one of them. “I’m proud to have Carson Palmer as our quarterback.”
Tags: Carson Palmer, draft, free agency, Steve Keim, Tyrann Mathieu
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