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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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Cards will take Washington absence into account

Posted by Darren Urban on January 29, 2015 – 3:19 pm

One of the many things the Cardinals must sort through this offseason is what to do with suspended linebacker Daryl Washington if and when he returns — and how to plan for the season with his status in limbo for the next few months. Washington’s suspension, which is for a year before he can request NFL reinstatement, lasts until late May. That’s after free agency, and it’s after the draft. Until this suspension ends, it seems unlikely the NFL will hand down whatever suspension Washington might get for his assault conviction from last year.

That’s a lot of uncertainty, and why team president Michael Bidwill said Thursday the Cardinals are going to go through the offseason ready to not have Washington available — and if he is around, the Cards will be that much better off.

“He’ll be facing the issue with the domestic violence and there has been no determination of what happens there,” Bidwill said. “He was only suspended for the drug issue, so we want to make sure we understand what that (other punishment) is. Last year, we learned about his suspension after free agency. This year we are going to plan to make sure we address all the issues not knowing whether Daryl will be back for part of next season or all of next season. ‘Next man up’ is real but we have to make sure we’ve gone into free agency and addressed that situation.”

— Bidwill reiterated once again he is optimistic the Cardinals and Larry Fitzgerald will come to an agreement on a new contract.

“Larry and I have met about it, just he and I talking about it, and I know he’s interested in getting something resolved,” Bidwill said. “After the playoff game, he got away, left the country. He’s back now, it’s a busy week this week and we’ll start working on this next week. I think we’ll get this all worked out.

“He’s such a great person and a great player, he’s got many years left and I want to see him retire as an Arizona Cardinal. I want to see us move past getting this contract resolved and move forward.”

— The other Cardinal facing legal issues, running back Jonathan Dwyer, had his case play out Thursday. The running back, who had been arrested in September, pled guilty to a misdemeanor of disorderly conduct. He was sentenced him to 18 months probation and community service. Dwyer is scheduled to become a free agent in March.

— Bidwill said again he plans on giving General Manager Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians contract extensions soon.

BidwillWashBlogUSE


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Keim talks Bowles interest and QB status

Posted by Darren Urban on December 29, 2014 – 8:25 am

The playoffs are here, but for 20 non-playoff teams, the business of the NFL does not stop. Black Monday arrived in the NFL and already there are five teams with head coaching openings: The 49ers, Raiders, Jets, Falcons and Bears. Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is expected to generate interest in that market, and while the Cards gave Bowles a big raise this season, they also know there is the possibility Bowles could be offered and accept a head coaching job. It has always felt more like a question of when rather than if.

“Our expectations are that several teams will reach out to us,” General Manager Steve Keim said Monday during his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “Now, it remains to be seen whether there will be mutual interest or not, but Todd has done an excellent job and at some point he deserve an opportunity. Hopefully for us we can keep him in place for a little while longer.”

The defense has had its issues the past two games but I do not expect that to undercut Bowles’ potential candidacy. I also think Bowles likes it in Arizona, and have always believed he will be very choosy in what jobs he may or may not want.

As for Keim, some of the other topics he covered the day after the Cardinals finished the regular season with an 11-5 record:

— The fact the Cardinals won 11 games playing four quarterbacks “is a testament to the coaching staff and their flexibility and quite frankly some of the young players who have stepped up,” Keim said.

The Cardinals are “the epitome of team,” Keim added.

— As for the status of quarterback Drew Stanton, he is “day to day and we’re hopeful” he can play this week, Keim said. Certainly the GM gave no indication Stanton was anything of a sure bet to be back. Keim said it was still unknown if Stanton could practice Tuesday.

— Even without Stanton, Keim (not surprisingly) professed confidence in Ryan Lindley’s ability to start. “I thought Ryan played a good game” Sunday, Keim said.

— Keim said rehabbing quarterback Carson Palmer is doing well and is “as fired up as ever” to play in 2015. “He’s very excited about the future here,” Keim said. “I think it goes back to show you, when you go through some injuries, how valuable Carson Palmer really was. The guy was having an excellent year. I think he’ll have a little bit of a chip on his shoulder, and he’ll be ready to prove some people wrong.”

I think it’s pretty clear that Palmer will be the No. 1 in 2015, barring something crazy happening in the offseason.

— Keim, like coach Bruce Arians, wasn’t happy with the tackling. “The tackling in general was unacceptable,” Keim said. He went on to say that he tends to be old school on the subject, and that tackling does have a technique to it, it is “mostly want-to.” He reiterated he had been disappointed Sunday. “(The 49ers) made us look extremely bad in space,” said, noting that against the Panthers in the playoffs, “we’re going to have to get that fixed in a hurry.”

— Guard Jonathan Cooper (wrist) will also be day-to-day, Keim said.


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Keim: Fitzgerald cap number “baked in”

Posted by Darren Urban on December 22, 2014 – 8:21 am

We take a moment to look beyond last night’s ugliness against the Seahawks to talk Larry Fitzgerald. Or more specifically, Fitzgerald’s future.

Right before kickoff last night, profootballtalk.com reported that the Cardinals will not release Fitzgerald, even with that bloated $23.6 million salary cap number Fitz has on deck for the 2015 season. General Manager Steve Keim was asked about it during his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 Monday morning.

“We have to make good business decisions,” Keim said. “I don’t think it’s any secret that we said all along that it is our intent to have Larry Fitzgerald retire a Cardinal. I don’t want to get into it too deep, but with planning purposes and financially, from a cap standpoint and all those sort of things, we have Larry’s (cap) number already baked into our numbers.

“Now, any kind of business decisions moving forward, renegotiations with Larry and that sort of thing, we’ve had ongoing talks with (agent) Eugene Parker and we will continue to have ongoing talks. But again, the best I can tell you is that it is our intent to keep Larry and make sure he stays a Cardinal the rest of his career.”

It’s an interesting situation. If the Cards don’t want to release him, Fitzgerald has the leverage to say he won’t take any kind of pay cut. (It’s not a situation of restructuring anymore; That just balloons further cap numbers, Fitz gets all his money and the Cardinals will eventually pay an even harsher cap price.) Of course, Fitz’s huge cap number — without knowing what the overall cap will look like in 2015 — also could take away from upgrading other areas on the roster. This story will continue to be one to watch.

Other Keim comments this week:

— He said the Seattle loss left him “disappointed for our organizaton and disappointed more for our fanbase.”

— Keim wasn’t super specific with areas he was unhappy with after the game. “With the circumstances we were dealing with we knew it was a tough task,” Keim said, alluding to the quarterback situation. “We had to play mistake-free and that certainly wasn’t the case last night.”

— Keim said he was “a little disappointed” in the safety play and taking angles in space, the overall tackling and mistakes on defense. Offensively, he was disappointed in the lack of efficiency, which was not only poor throws from Ryan Lindley but also a failure to catch some balls.

— As bad as it got, the scenario still exists where the Cards can win the division. Keim said his feeling Monday morning is “no different” than the one he had after the ugly Atlanta loss, and the Cards bounced back from that.

— Keim is feeling personally responsible right now. “I put a lot of it on my shoulders as the General Manager,” Keim said. “I am so proud of our organization and in particular, our coaching staff. They have done a phenomenal job, and at the end of the day, I take it personal because I feel like I have given our coaches a gun with not enough bullets. Where we have let them down because they don’t have enough players, or healthy players, for that matter, to get the job done. But Bruce (Arians) has shown week in and week out he’ll defy all the odds.”

 FitzcapUSE


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Keim talks Stanton rehab, QB situation

Posted by Darren Urban on December 15, 2014 – 8:14 am

Steve Keim had a way to put things in perspective.

“The three best records in the NFL after the fourteenth game are Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Ryan Lindley/Logan Thomas,” the Cardinals General Manager said Monday morning during his regular appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “It’s a credit to our organization and the job all the way down from Michael Bidwill to Bruce Arians, our coaching staff, our players, they have all done a fantastic job.”

There wasn’t a ton of specific info coming from the GM about his team’s quarterback situation. But he did acknowledge that the Cardinals will be going with some combination of Lindley and Thomas to play against the Seahawks Sunday. The Cards will add a quarterback, but it will be to the practice squad “for emergency purposes.” No, Kurt Warner is not walking through that door. (Which he never was, but I just wanted to use that line. Rick Pitino keeps on giving.)

UPDATE: The practice squad QB is Jeff Mathews, an undrafted rookie from Cornell who spent time earlier with Atlanta and Indianapolis.

Who the starting QB will be is TBA. Keim said simply “that’s a better question for Coach Arians.”

As for the injured Drew Stanton, Keim also sidestepped a timetable, because he said it’s really impossible to give one.

“With that type of knee injury, everybody heals different,” Keim said. “I know ESPN and some other outlets have put a timeline on it, which is extremely difficult to do. You can say it’s going to be four weeks, I’ve heard people say one-and-a-half weeks.

“Drew will be in there around the clock rehabbing. I know he’ll be ready to go as soon as possible.”

Keim reiterated Thomas could get a package of plays for the Seahawks game (that’s was as detailed as he’d get), so again, it sounds like both QBs could see the field. (Or the Cardinals are just building a nice ruse for the Seahawks to worry about during prep work.) Running the ball will be important, which really goes without saying.

“The thing that is extremely difficult to replace at any level is the quarterback,” Keim said. “I’ve said many times, there’s not even 32 quarterbacks to go around (to all the teams), so let alone you lose your starter — and it really hurt us because Carson (Palmer) was playing at a high level — and then you saw what Drew could do when he had the opportunity, which was win games for us and play solid football.

“To lose both those guys, it’s been extremely difficult to go through. But again, it goes back to the resiliency of our team.”

— It was the offensive line’s best game to date, Keim said. Guard Jonathan Cooper is “playing like a rookie” and needs to improve technically quite a bit, but it’s a start, Keim said.

— Keim called defensive end Frostee Rucker “an unsung hero” for his work of late. I’d second that. Rucker has been crucial in his role this season.


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Cromartie has ankle injury, and other Keim notes

Posted by Darren Urban on December 8, 2014 – 8:19 am

The short week has started. The Cardinals are already in meetings this morning, prepping for a Thursday night game in St. Louis, even as the win Sunday against the Chiefs has barely had a chance to register. That’s what happens on a short week; Bruce Arians said the coaches probably won’t even grade the Chiefs game because it’s already time to move ahead. Today is “Wednesday” in terms of the prep schedule, Tuesday is “Thursday” and Wednesday is a combo “Friday/Saturday” with travel mixed in. Hectic doesn’t begin to describe it.

So the newsiest thing coming out of GM Steve Keim’s weekly segment on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 this morning was an update on cornerback Antonio Cromartie. When Cromartie first got hurt it did not look good, having to be helped off with help. Then it was announced it was an Achilles injury, which is really not good. A tear there and you are done for a long time.

But after the game, Arians said it wasn’t the Achilles, and Keim this morning said the preliminary diagnosis was an ankle injury affecting the peroneal tendon. Keim said at this point Cro is day-to-day, although he is getting more extensively checked out by doctors this morning.

“Things  can change, but it wasn’t on the surface as severe as I thought it looked,” Keim said.

More from Keim:

— He said he wasn’t sure how Andre Ellington’s workload will be handled next year, but that he needs to get fixed up now. The running back is will go on injured reserve as soon as today and is getting surgery on a hernia in Philadelphia.

“Sometimes in football there are those fluke injuries,” Keim said. “And there are those guys who have rough seasons in terms of durability.

“Andre has got to stay healthy and I think this is an important offseason for him in terms of strength and conditioning, getting bigger, stronger.”

— Keim said the offensive line had its best game of the season, and thinks left tackle Jared Veldheer is “having a Pro Bowl season.”

— Linebacker Matt Shaughnessy banged up his shoulder late in the game and didn’t return, but Keim said he should be OK.

— Keim said he and Arians had “several conversations” over the last few weeks whether to make running back Kerwynn Williams active. They liked what they saw on the practice field, but there was an unknown once he would get into a game. Guess Williams answered that concern.

— It was director of football administration Mike Disner — the Cardinals’ salary cap guru, among other duties — who saw the ball pop loose from Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and told Arians he should challenge. The resulting Cardinals’ recovery was a turning point in the game. Disner spends every game with the coaches in booth upstairs, and one of his duties is to help figure out replay challenges.

“Dis gave us for good information for once,” Keim joked. “Not many people know this, but one of my nicknames for him is ‘Dismal.’ Because he is the money man. So many times we are talking about potential free agents or guys I’d like to sign ad he’s the guy who gives me the thumbs up whether we can afford him or not. I call him ‘Dismal’ because too many times I get the thumbs down. (Sunday), ‘Dismal’ gave us some great news.”

— Keim opened his segment by praising the home fans. “They were a big reason why we won Sunday.”


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Keim: “We have two options”

Posted by Darren Urban on December 1, 2014 – 8:18 am

Sunday’s game in a microcosm, said General Manager Steve Keim, came down to that 55-yard Steven Jackson run just a couple of plays into the game. It should have been for about five or six yards. Instead, Jackson rumbled all the way inside the Arizona 5-yard line, and Keim wasn’t thrilled to see how he got there.

“The 55-yard run says it all, particularly the way we played all day,” Keim said during his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “A combination of poor fundamentals and bottom line, want-to. It should have been a six-yard run, and you had a couple guys come up, bounce off him, not wrap up and use proper fundamentals, and you had a couple guys who didn’t look like they wanted any part of it. Which is disappointing.

“We have two options. We can feel sorry for ourselves and make excuses about being decimated by injuries, or we can come out swinging.”

— Keim didn’t have any injury updates. To recap: Running back Andre Ellington suffered a hip injury (Bruce Arians called it a hip pointer) but didn’t think it was serious. Safety Tyrann Mathieu broke his left thumb and was wearing a cast after the game. Right guard Paul Fanaika suffered a high-ankle sprain.

— Keim thought the run game wasn’t good enough (no surprise). He thought the pass protection was above average, but he reiterated a familiar refrain on quarterback Drew Stanton, that ball placement and accuracy must improve (although he noted receivers don’t always run the right routes or run to the right depth, which impacts passing woes as well.) The Cards definitely can’t afford a play such as Michael Floyd’s fumble when the offense looks like it’s moving.

As for waiting for Stanton, the Cardinals need him to play better. They can’t afford to wait for Stanton to gain experience. There is also the reality of the situation and a reason Carson Palmer is the normal starter. “He’s got to make throws when he has to,” Keim said. “In the NFL, some of these tight-window throws not many guys can make. That’s exactly why there is a supply-and-demand at the position. It’s hard to find elite quarterbacks. … But it’s not just Drew.”

— Keim called the play of guard Jonathan Cooper a “bright spot.” “He knocked some rust off,” Keim said, and while Cooper still needs to tighten up technically, “he finally looks like the guy we drafted in terms of quickness and movement. He looked, compared to the other four offensive linemen we had out there, like he was playing at a different speed. He looked very explosive.”

Not surprisingly, Keim said he expects to see a lot more of Cooper, but with Fanaika’s injury, that may have been a given anyway.

— Keim said Patrick Peterson’s issues covering Julio Jones came down to the same issues of making sure he was technically sound, an area that Keim has previously talked about wanting to be more consistent from his cornerback. As for Peterson’s talk earlier in the week about winning a matchup with Jones, “You hate to take away a guy’s swagger,” Keim said, “but at the same time he’s got to compete and he’s got to produce.”


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Keim: Cards didn’t match intensity

Posted by Darren Urban on November 24, 2014 – 8:23 am

GM Steve Keim said he as a tendency to be a pessimist, and in some ways, his job is inherently so as the man in charge of trying to upgrade the team — even when they are 9-2. Sometimes, Keim said during his weekly appearance on “Doug and Wolf” on Arizona Sports 98.7, he said he can think “the sky is falling.”

The sky isn’t falling after a lone loss following six straight wins, of course, but now it’s about curtailing that losing streak. To make sure it’s not a streak. Ron Wolfley made a cogent point following the interview too, noting that a GM and a coach probably see the video through a different prism given their jobs. But Keim and Bruce Arians could certainly agree on one main point after Sunday’s Seattle loss: “In a hostile environment, you have to match their level of intensity in all three phases,” Keim said. “We certainly didn’t do that in two.” Offense and special teams didn’t do nearly enough.

— Keim said he thought the offensive line needs to be more physical. Other that acknowledging a comment that right tackle Bobby Massie didn’t have his best game, Keim wasn’t specific on the offensive line but instead talking about them as a group. The entire offense has to play “in better unison” in the run game. The protection could have been better too.

— It was hard to evaluate QB Drew Stanton because the run game gave him no help, Keim said, but it wasn’t Stanton’s best game, noting Stanton’s inaccuracy at times.

— There was a miscommunication between cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Rashad Johnson on the early 48-yard pass to Ricardo Lockette, Keim said.

— Keim said he thought new defensive end Josh Mauro stood out (so did I). The rookie out of Stanford has long been on the Cardinals’ radar. Keim said the Cardinals tried to sign Mauro as an undrafted rookie back in May, but he decided to go to the Steelers. When the Steelers cut him at the end of the preseason, the Cards again tried to sign Mauro to their practice squad, but Mauro chose to stay with Pittsburgh’s practice squad. Finally, the Cards decided to sign Mauro off the Steelers’ PS to the active roster.

— Here’s why the sky isn’t really falling for Keim: “The thing that gives me confidence is men in that locker room and that coaching staff.”

 


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