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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The Cardinals have a handful of games back East (or at least in the Eastern time zone) this season and the team requested at least a couple of them back-to-back so they could just spend a week out there without having all the flying. According to Peter King, that’s what the games in Detroit Oct. 11 and Pittsburgh Oct. 18 are about — a week back East for the team. Obviously, coach Bruce Arians has deep roots in Pittsburgh having coached there for so long and being from Pennsylvania. (GM Steve Keim is from the area too, so it works for those guys.) Both Keim and Arians have a pre-draft press conference today so I’m sure the subject will come up. UPDATE: Arians confirmed the Cards plan to stay back and that the team is looking for an indoor facility within which to practice.
The last time the Cardinals spent a week away, there were some rain issues in Tampa, when the Cardinals got beat up in New Orleans in Week 3 of 2013 and then barely pulled off a win against the Buccaneers in Week 4.
A week in Pittsburgh. It’ll be interesting.
Tags: 2015 schedule, Bruce Arians, Lions, Steelers, Steve Keim
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Steve Keim has mentioned it a few times over the years, that all the time before the draft simply allows for too much analyzing of players. It’s inevitable, really, as the days pile up and the draft still has not arrived. For a team, it can be controlled in a way; the Cardinals have been conducting their draft meetings for a little over a week and are finally winding down in the parade of personnel people, scouts and coaches going in and out of the draft room about 25 feet from where I type this.
But it came to mind with all the talk about Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota and where those quarterbacks might go in the draft and the sudden surge — at least among the media — of talk that Mariota is now considered by many as the No. 1 QB prospect when Winston seemed to be the consensus choice through most of the offseason. Now there is somewhat of a sea change, even though none of Winston’s 18 interceptions this season came in recent weeks and even though Mariota’s quiet personality probably hasn’t suddenly morphed into bold and loud.
In the end, I don’t think the draft is going to have any significant deviation than what everyone originally thought back in February — I think Winston goes first to Tampa, I think Mariota goes top five somewhere. I think people will keep talking about the running backs but that if they go first round, it’ll be late, because that’s where running backs go. I think, even though the Cardinals probably hope there is a drop, that all the top pass rushers are going to be top 20 picks, regardless of off-field issues. It’s always a fallacy that players are “moving” on team’s boards. Again, the Cards just started with their draft grades last week, so nobody was graded at that point anyway.
The draft is still more than two weeks away. There will still be plenty of time for all these players to be analyzed and reanalyzed over and over. The goal for teams — and the Cardinals — is to make sure that doesn’t happen. Grade a guy, and move on.
Tags: draft, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Steve Keim
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The Cardinals may or may not sign another noteworthy free agent (although knowing the history of Steve Keim, it’s likely they will at some point.) But there is little question, with the draft just about a month away, the Cards are going to be turning their attention there. Bruce Arians left little doubt what he wanted to see when the Cards use their eight picks.
“In the draft, it’s still speed,” Arians said. “Speed at running back, speed at receiver, speed at linebacker, another interior player.” (I’m guessing the speed isn’t as important for that last one.)
At this point, assuming no significant changes to the roster pre-draft, I would guess there is a chance the Cardinals could take a running back with their first pick. I still think that’s unlikely, although it’s so hard to predict anything when you are talking about the 24th overall pick. So many different options could be there. I still think the Cards would like to get that edge pass rusher in the first round. If he’s not there, would anyone be surprised if Keim tried to trade down? Maybe a young cornerback could be the pick (at this point, both Justin Bethel and Jerraud Powers are scheduled to be free agents after the season.)
The running back will be the position that draws the attention. Nothing has happened to change my mind about a certain potential trade for a vet running back. Paying a running back who has been in the league a ton of money doesn’t make a lot of sense in the grand scheme of things. Not when the Cardinals could take a running back on a rookie contract and pair him with Andre Ellington.
“This might be the best group (of running backs) top to bottom that I’ve seen in about 10 years,” Arians said. “There’s some teams in college running the ball and not just at the top two or four guys but all the way down. There are 15 really quality running backs in this draft.”
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Jerraud Powers, Justin Bethel, Steve Keim
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Bruce Arians talked for an hour today on a lot of subjects at the NFC coaches breakfast during the NFL spring meetings. We’ll have a lot of stories and video on the various topics today and in the coming days. Among the things Arians touched on:
— The Cardinals would still like to bring back Lyle Sendlein to compete for the center position;
— Logan Thomas will get a ton of reps in the offseason and could even get some “field one” work (the Cards have players working on two fields) depending on the health of Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton;
— There was nothing to say on Adrian Peterson (“Are you trying to get me fined?” he said);
— The Cardinals will look at Kareem Martin at outside linebacker. Arians thinks Martin has the body-type of Aldon Smith.
— He wants DE Calais Campbell to be more consistent, saying “he disappears too much.”
There was much more. But the line of the day came when Arians was talking about the reluctance of General Manager Steve Keim to accept his award for Executive of the Year from the Sporting News the other day in front of the other GMs and coaches. The trophy itself was a big glass vase-looking thing.
“You check your ego at the door, because everything is for the Cardinals,” Arians said. “We’ve both been fortunate enough to get some accolades. You can’t take them. The entire room got you there. Don’t think you’re special. We both laughed, he was embarrassed as hell the other day to get his. I said, ‘Dude, you got a cup. We can drink out of that.”
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Kareem Martin, Logan Thomas, Lyle Sendlein, Sporting News, Steve Keim
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It was quite the weekend, with free agency around the league slowing down and some tidbits floated here and there about the Cardinals and Adrian Peterson. No, I don’t think anything is imminent and I continue to hold to my original thought — that the Vikings will find a way to keep him. Keeping him, even at his salary, to help with young QB Teddy Bridgewater, is in my opinion the best football decision for the Vikings. Maybe Peterson is unhappy and doesn’t want to stay. But I don’t see them just cutting him, and the reality is, Peterson only has so much leverage. What’s he going to do — sit out a second straight season in his prime? That doesn’t make sense to me.
As for some of the other stuff that’s been said:
— Peter King is saying the Cardinals haven’t even had any discussions with the Vikings.
— Charles Robinson, who certainly seems to be talking someone in Peterson’s camp, keeps saying Peterson wants $25 million guaranteed over three years. OK. If you are just doing the guaranteed money, that’s a little more than $8M a year, but it’d be all guaranteed. Most deals have money beyond guaranteed too. Do you do that for a guy who will be 30 next week? Yes, it’s less than what he’s making, but …
— Robinson says Peterson is willing to restructure. What Carson Palmer did was restructure. Is Peterson willing to take a pay cut? If so, how much?
— The draft is full of prospects. Cheap prospects. If you still like Andre Ellington — and there is no reason to think the Cardinals do not — the Cards could pick up a good between-the-tackles guy in the first or second round and pair him with Ellington and still be left with cap room.
— Everyone assumed the Palmer restructure was a harbinger of something. It still could be. But the Cards might have just been getting low on cap space — they have, according to the NFLPA, about $9.9 million in space, and Palmer’s move created about $7M — and if they were going to do something with Palmer’s deal they had to when they did because his bonus was due last week. It might’ve been as simple as that. The Cards need around $4 million in cap space to bring in their top draft picks. Without Palmer’s move, they had about $3 million.
— Fitz isn’t being traded. Period. Forget the logistics or cap hit or anything. Ownership wanted Larry Fitzgerald in a Cardinals uniform. He is an important face of the franchise, and that’s why this new deal was done. The Cardinals aren’t going to let him go.
Again, I’m not saying a Peterson trade could not happen. But there are so many moving parts, between what his contract would be, what the Vikings might want in trade, whether the Vikings would even want to part with him, and what other teams around the league might offer (just because Peterson says he wants to go to this team or that doesn’t mean the Vikings have to accommodate him) it’s tough to get a true handle where this will go.
As far as “going for it,” I just keep coming back to this thought from GM Steve Keim, who has said a version of this to me many times: “You always have to think about the long-term health of the organization.” He’s talking in terms of the salary cap. Keim often mentions “sustained success.” That doesn’t mean you can’t add a veteran who costs some money. But any undertaking will have some deep thought, and deep research, behind it.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Andre Ellington, Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Keim, Vikings
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Carson Palmer raised some eyebrows when he mentioned Thursday he had restructured his contract to help the Cardinals create salary cap space. It wasn’t that the idea was a shock — indeed, the notion was out there — but the fact Palmer said it was done.
Turns out, Palmer wasn’t quite on point, of which he was informed after the fact. Palmer has indeed agreed to a restructure — which likely would include turning an option bonus into signing bonus, clearing about $7 million of cap space — but it has not yet been executed. So the Cardinals still figure to have around $14 million of cap space heading into next week. What it does mean is that the Cardinals and GM Steve Keim have some reserves in their back pocket if the team were to need more cap space during free agency. (And there are probably a couple of other players who might also be in that position to restructure if needed too.) If the Cardinals don’t need the space, they would hold off on doing the restructure, because any restructure would push dead money into future caps, and you want to avoid that if possible.
The question becomes, just who might the Cardinals be eyeing on the market that Keim would want to have such flexibility? That’s where these next couple of weeks turn fun. Let the speculation begin.
Tags: Carson Palmer, salary cap, Steve Keim
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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.
Tags: Darnell Dockett, salary cap, Steve Keim
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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.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Darnell Dockett. Karlos Dansby, free agency, Steve Keim
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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.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Steve Keim, Vikings
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