Every year the website profootballfocus.com compiles a list of players it dubs “secret superstars” — guys who are under the radar but have the potential to break out in some way, shape or form. Their choice for the Cardinals is tight end Darren Fells, which makes a lot of sense given the circumstances.
It’s pointed out that Fells does his best work as a blocker, and at this point, it’s obvious that is what Bruce Arians is looking for first from his tight ends. What strikes me is Fells’ possibility as a leader at the position. Fells is modest, in keeping with his humble NFL beginnings being late to the party after playing professional basketball overseas. He is still inexperienced but he isn’t young — he’s 29 — and the tight ends room needs a voice now that John Carlson has retired. He is definitely playing with more confidence now than he did when he showed up in 2013 or even late last season when he was getting some playing time.
“Superstar” is a loaded term. Fells isn’t going to turn into Antonio Gates. (At least, I don’t think he will.) The Cardinals will need more from the position. Troy Niklas, another blocker-first, is a guy who has to come along, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see GM Steve Keim bring in a veteran tight end when training camp begins. But on a team that needs steady tight end play, I think PFF is on the right track in pegging Fells as a guy who can deliver.
Tags: Darren Fells, Pro Football Focus, Steve Keim, Troy Niklas
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General Manager Steve Keim has spent the offseason building up the roster to a place where the Cardinals have some quality players on the current 90-man roster that won’t be able to stick around by the time the team needs to get to 53 in September. Keim said on the “Doug and Wolf” show this morning on Arizona Sports 98.7 it was a concern, although it was a good concern. What it means is that the Cards might pull off a trade or two, likely in an effort to fetch some future draft picks if possible.
“For the first time we have a certain amount of depth here where we will either have the ability to trade a player or two or four or five at certain positions that not only can make other NFL rosters but could potentially start for some teams,” Keim said. “I have to be active and make sure I address that situation so we are not just releasing players and allowing teams to pick them up. Hopefully we can be active and get some solid value for guys who can help other teams.”
Keim has never been shy about churning the roster, and this is just another potential instance. He also said he is “watching two or three players” at the moment who are free agents that the team could sign. Keim wouldn’t name names or even positions, but he did note that often times, these late veteran signees are guys who are coming off injuries and need until near training camp to get right, and then the Cardinals would talk to them (and likely execute one of Keim’s famous one-year “prove it” contracts.) Tight end anyone?
Tags: free agency, Roster, Steve Keim
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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.
Tags: Darryl Sharpton, free agency, Justin Bethel, salary cap, Steve Keim
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The Cardinals signed linebacker Darryl Sharpton last week and the timing meant something. By signing Sharpton Wednesday, the Cardinals cleared the date for free agents signing counting against them for next year’s compensatory pick equation. Any free agent signed at the point will not count.
(The Cardinals were awarded one comp pick this past draft; they ended up with the final selection of the whole thing, which they used on Lousiville tight end Gerald Christian.)
It’s too early to know exactly how the comp pick equation might play out. Part of how it’s determined is playing time in the upcoming season. It also takes into account how much money for which each player signed. A quick look at who the Cardinals could have counting for and against them in the comp pick equation next draft. As always, a quick reminder that if a player was cut by the Cards or cut by another team, he does not qualify on these lists. For example, losing Darnell Dockett does not factor in because Dockett was released.:
FREE AGENTS GAINED
G Mike Iupati (5 years, $40M)
DT Corey Peters (3 years, $10.5M)
DE Cory Redding (2 years, $6M)
LB Sean Weatherspoon (1 year, $3.6M)
FREE AGENTS LOST
LB Sam Acho (1 year, $825,000)
CB Antonio Cromartie (4 years, $32M)
G Paul Fanaika (3 years, $6.1M)
TE Rob Housler (1 year, $1.76M)
DT Dan Williams (4 years, $25M)
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see GM Steve Keim make another signing (or two) at some point before camp, or even into camp. But the numbers are set for the compensatory math.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, compensatory picks, Corey Peters, Cory Redding, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, free agency, Mike Iupati, Paul Fanaika, Rob Housler, Sam Acho, Sean Weatherspoon, Steve Keim
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The NFL draft, in reality, was the shortest time-wise as it has ever been. It didn’t seem that way when we were sitting around waiting after the second of the Cardinals’ two fifth-round picks all the way until the Cards’ next pick, which was the last of the whole thing. Now that it’s over, and there is little question Steve Keim had a plan that wasn’t chalk. But I’ll say this as I do after every draft — I have no idea how this will turn out. No one does.
The pick with which I’m most intrigued? Markus Golden. The Cards weren’t the only ones who talked about how he kept showing up on video when watching Missouri play. Is that enough to break through on the NFL level? And will he be the first second-rounder since Daryl Washington to make an immediate impact? But there are plenty of intriguing guys here. I thought it was telling when Keim said today that the tough part is projecting guys who can make the team in the Cards’ current state.
How these guys fit it this season, well, that’s what the offseason and training camp is all about.
A few more wrap-up thoughts:
— There were plenty scratching their heads after the Cards picked Delaware State DE Rodney Gunter in the fourth round, and that was more vigorous when adding in the trade up to do so. But Keim and Bruce Arians both said they had reliable intel that multiple teams were on the Gunter in the fourth round. When that happens, and when it’s a guy you want and you have draft pick ammo to do so, you trade up. Keim knows it was a surprise to most. He plans on it being a pleasant surprise.
— The personality of first-round pick D.J. Humphries is real. He drew laughs when he called himself an “awesome person” during his conference call, but during his press conference, he simply wins the room with his smile and demeanor. Easy guy to root for, especially when you read the story about him and his father, who was 15 when D.J. was born.
“My dad always told me when I was a kid, if you be yourself then people are going to love you,” Humphries said.
— Humphries has never been to an NFL game, interestingly.
— Gunter is cousins with the Cardinals’ seventh-round selection, TE D.C. Jefferson. Jefferson had a quick and bumpy tenure with the team, getting a tattoo during the preseason of a birdhead on his torso even though his place on the team was no sure thing. He made it, but was released a few weeks later after a DUI. Gunter said he and Jefferson are “very close but we lost contact for over a year because he has some personal issues going on. I wish him the best.”
— Fifth-round wide receiver J.J. Nelson is one of the last players to be drafted from the University of Alabama-Birmingham now that UAB has shuttered its football program. The school provided an in for Nelson during his visit to the Cardinals; the son of coach Bruce Arians, Jake Arians, played football at UAB.
“When I came to visit, I ran into Coach Arians,” Nelson said. “He said, ‘J.J., I already know you. You’re a Blazer. We love UAB.’ … I just felt like everything fell in my hands in the right direction.”
— It wasn’t all draft at the Tempe facility Saturday. Yes, it was the weekend, but there was quarterback Carson Palmer, working out in his quest to come back from a torn ACL. Significant nose to the grindstone.
— Time for football. The Cardinals are on the field Monday for the first time as Phase 2 of the offseason work begins. Rookie minicamp starts Friday.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, D.C. Jefferson, D.J. Humphries, draft, J.J. Nelson, Markus Golden, Rodney Gunter, Steve Keim
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First things first. Steve Keim and Bruce Arians weren’t committing to any position for their second- and third-round targets by the time the first round was over Thursday night. It won’t be an offensive linemen, but Arians reiterated the Cards will stick to their board when pick No. 55 comes up Friday afternoon, and unless there are a handful of closely graded guys sitting there (which is when need could come into play) the Cards will stay with the rankings.
That means we could see a running back, or a cornerback, a pass rusher or inside linebacker. I could possibly see a receiver with return skills as well. Among players at those positions left (while acknowledging the Cards have to wait until pick 23 Friday): Pass rusher Randy Gregory, cornerback Jalen Collins, pass rusher Eli Harold, cornerback Ronald Darby, linebacker Eric Kendricks and almost all the running backs, like Tevin Coleman, Duke Johnson, T.J. Yeldon and Ameer Abdullah.
— As for the choice of D.J. Humphries, it seemed like there was some surprise from the feedback I got, although offensive line was something I mentioned as a possibility on various outlets. Humphries sounds like an outgoing guy and while he is young, the Cardinals are convinced his upside will turn into something good on the field. He’ll battle Bobby Massie at right tackle, but when you are a first-round pick, usually, you’re going to be expected to play right away.
— Keim said the Cards could have traded up. No way to know if they might have tried to draft pass rushers Bud Dupree or Shane Ray. But obviously it wasn’t so important that the Cards wanted to shred their remaining picks.
— The last three tackles taken in the first round by the Cardinals: Levi Brown in 2007, Leonard Davis in 2001 and L.J. Shelton in 1999. None worked out the way the Cards hoped they would, but Keim clearly has higher hopes this time around. The upgrades to the offensive line in Keim’s short tenure have been drastic and should be effective.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Bud Dupree, D.J. Humphries, draft, Shane Ray, Steve Keim
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The last time Steve Keim talked to Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman was at the March NFL meetings here in Arizona, the Cards’ GM said this morning on the “Doug and Wolf” Show on Arizona Sports 98.7. Given that Spielman has repeatedly said he will not be trading running back Adrian Peterson — which is why the question was asked and who floats through every interview these days with Cards’ decision-makers, whether he is named or not — that gap makes sense.
Trying to get at an answer and trying to avoid Keim having to tamper, Keim was also asked questions in different ways:
Would you feel comfortable drafting a 30-year-old running back with your first pick?
Keim chuckled at that one. “You’re not going to trap me that way.”
The follow-up: Is a running back that age worth a first-round pick?
“That’s tough to answer, and I’m certainly not going to jump into it,” Keim said.
In context, it felt a lot more like Keim was trying to avoid any accusation of tampering than providing comments with hidden meaning, but that’s my opinion. My thoughts on the subject haven’t changed: I don’t see Peterson playing anywhere but Minnesota in 2015.
As for the rest of the draft, Keim said there have been some players who have been “weeded out in the process” of draft meetings and won’t be options for the Cards because of off-field issues. Interestingly, with the Cardinals picking at No. 24 overall, Keim also said he thinks the draft is about “21 players strong” with first-round grades — which keeps both trading up and trading down options depending on who is around. Beyond those 21, Keim said players might be more high-second-round pick-types, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make an immediate impact for the Cardinals.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, draft, Steve Keim
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Whomever the Cardinals take at 24 Thursday night — assuming they keep No. 24, and again acknowledging it could go in a lot of different directions — history shows it can be a fruitful place to be picking. The last couple of 24s are still TBD — the Bengals taking CB Darqueze Dennard last year and the Colts taking DE Bjorn Werner in 2013 — but here’s a sampling of players taken at No. 24 since 2002: G David DeCastro, DE Cameron Jordan, WR Dez Bryant, RB Chris Johnson, QB Aaron Rodgers, RB Steven Jackson, TE Dallas Clark and S Ed Reed.
There have been a handful of other serviceable guys there too.
What GM Steve Keim will do when he’s on the clock remains up for debate. Barring someone they love falling, I’m guessing the first move will be to look into the trade down. Keim would love to get an extra pick, like he did last year to get the extra choice that provided him WR John Brown.
“I think there are going to be (pass) rushers go off the board quickly,” Keim said. “I think there are going to be (offensive) tackles that go off the board quickly. From there, it depends on what’s left. The good news is we put our (top) 130 together and there are 24 names we are excited about.”
OK, of course Keim is going to say he’s got 24 names the Cardinals are excited about, but that’s OK. He’ll make it work.
Tags: draft, Steve Keim
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OK, maybe it couldn’t go a million different ways. A million is a lot. But the closer the draft gets, it’s clear no one really has a good handle on how the picks will play out — and thus, no one has a good handle on who might be there for the Cardinals when pick No. 24 arrives. There are a lot of reasons for that. You have guys that would be locks to be top 10 or top 15 picks if not for off-field problems (Shane Ray, Randy Gregory, Dorial Green-Beckham.) You have a quarterback — probably Marcus Mariota, if you subscribe to the idea that the Bucs take Jameis Winston — that could go No. 2 but certainly seems to be anything but a sure thing, opening up the possibilities of trades very early. You have a ton of wide receivers that are talented and who goes before whom may come down to a matter of preference. You have probably the best running back dealing with a little thing called an ACL rehab, changing his stock.
There could be some serious talent sitting there for the Cards at No. 24. It may have an injury red flag or, more likely, a character red flag of some sort. This team desperately needs a good pass rusher, but they probably don’t need another linebacker who gets suspended. They could use a running back, but the draft is so deep with them, would they pass in the first round even if a Gurley or Gordon were there? (I’ve always thought yes, but I’ve been wrong before.)
Then there was this from the Voice of the Cardinals, Dave Pasch:
Final draft opinions: I still don’t think the Cardinals go RB at 24. Expect pass rusher, Offensive Tackle, Corner or WR/returner.
— Dave Pasch (@DavePasch) April 28, 2015
Pass rusher is not a surprise, nor is cornerback. And Pasch and I (and Kyle Odegard) discussed the reality of looking offensive line a couple weeks ago. Steve Keim is still looking to solidify the group up front to turn them into a unit that can grind out a ground game (and keeping in mind RG Jonathan Cooper remains unproven and RT Bobby Massie is a free agent after the season.) So a tackle makes sense too.
But I guess I’d be surprised if a wide receiver were the pick. Then again, there are some significant game-breaking wideouts that can be had in this draft — it’s the strength of the 2015 class — and another playmaker that can catch/return is always welcome. This all also plays into the very real possibility of a trade-down-for-an-extra-pick scenario for Keim, something of which Keim loves to do. I know this, that picking at 24 can provide a surprise. Last year, the Cards didn’t shock by taking a safety, but I don’t think anyone saw Deone Bucannon ahead of time.
Tags: Dave Pasch, Deone Bucannon, Dorial Beckham-Green, draft, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Melvin Gordon, Randy Gregory, Shane Ray, Steve Keim, Todd Gurley
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Crunching the numbers heading into the draft, the Cardinals currently have 72 players on their roster. With eight draft picks (for now), that leaves room for 10 undrafted rookies to be signed to reach the roster limit of 90 going into offseason work. (Phase 2, which is the first step of on-field stuff during the offseason, begins next week.) This does not include suspended linebacker Daryl Washington; if Washington were to be reinstated by the NFL, the Cardinals would have to find a roster spot for him if they did not release him. I still think it’s hard to believe they would release him after just paying him a $5 million bonus installment he was owed, but we’ll see.
There is a lot of room to maneuver with the roster, however. If they Cardinals trade for more draft picks — or trade away some of them — then the number of undrafted guys could shrink or grow. There is also a possibility the Cardinals could cut players already on the roster to make room for more undrafted rookies if the Cards feel they have a chance to improve the bottom section of the roster. That happened last year when a few guys were cut right after the draft.
The roster churn never ends with GM Steve Keim. He’s proven that. But we’re almost to the point where we will know the vast majority of the Cardinals’ roster for 2015. That’s when the football actually starts.
Tags: Daryl Washington, draft, Roster, Steve Keim, undrafted rookie free agents
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