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Keim: “Good chance” Nkemdiche plays Sunday

Posted by Darren Urban on August 22, 2016 – 8:16 am

The Cardinals had a bunch of players come back to practice this week, and — barring anything between then and Sunday’s third preseason game in Houston — General Manager Steve Keim said the team will be in pretty good health against the Texans.

During his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7, Keim said that, after talking to head athletic trainer Tom Reed, the Cardinals may only have “one or two” players too injured to be available for the next game. Keim also said that rookie defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, who has been out since suffering a high-ankle sprain during quarterback school work and hasn’t practice in camp, has a “good chance” to play against the Texans. Coach Bruce Arians said that Nkemdiche should be back at practice Wednesday.

Other news and thoughts from the Keim conversation:

Like Arians, Keim isn’t worried about the Cardinals or their preseason performances in terms of how they will do in the regular season. But “we need to pick up our level of urgency.” Keim said. “You can’t go out when the season starts and turn the switch on. … You can’t sleepwalk through the preseason. (Friday) was a great lesson for our players.”

— Keim told MMQB.com’s Peter King that it was a “chicken(expletive) call by me” not to take a chance on quarterback Russell Wilson in the 2012 draft, and that he “didn’t have the balls to take Russell Wilson.” Keim is constantly preaching the need to self-evaluate, and that certainly qualifies.

“He is a great learning lesson for all of us,” Keim told Arizona Sports.

— Aside from allowing a pressure on the first snap, Keim said he thought right tackle D.J. Humphries was better than his first game. Keim also liked how guard Evan Mathis played, and he likes the progress — although it’s slower — of rookie OLs Cole Toner and Evan Boehm.

— On the idea Arians would like the Cardinals to practice against another team a couple of times in next year’s training camp: “I love it,” Keim said. The Cardinals might try to visit one team for a week and host a team another week. A handful of NFL teams did that this year. Keim (and Arians) love the idea of going up against another team as a measuring stick and to break up the monotony of camp.

— Keim said potential trade talks, with the Chargers or any other team, are ongoing and usually don’t heat up until the end of the preseason.

— There is still a learning curve for rookie cornerback Brandon Williams, Keim said, but “quite frankly, I thought (his struggles) would be a little worse.” Keim is pleased with Williams’ progress thus far.

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Keim: No signings, but maybe a trade?

Posted by Darren Urban on August 15, 2016 – 8:52 am

Since training camp started, there was the possibility — given the inexperience of right tackle D.J. Humphries, and in total, the inexperience of every tackle on the roster not named Jared Veldheer — the Cardinals would bring in a veteran tackle to shore the position up. The Cards have already done that at cornerback, although rookie Brandon Williams has been basically unchallenged for a starting role. Mike Jenkins got hurt, and Alan Ball hasn’t done anything to change the equation (and Justin Bethel remains on PUP.)

After a first preseason game where both Humphries and Williams had rocky moments, might that change? General Manager Steve Keim said no. And he’s got a good reason.

“There’s nobody on the waiver wire that has these guys’ skillset,” Keim said bluntly on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “Unless you can tell me somebody we can find out there, I mean, we’re always looking at the waiver wire to try and improve this team and we’ll be aggressive and pro-active. But when you take 90 (men on a roster) and times it by 32 (teams), you tell me who’s out there, and when you look at who’s out there, why are they out there.”

Now, that might and very well could change once cuts start coming. But for now, pickings are slim.

On the other hand, Keim reiterated he and Chargers GM Tom Telesco will get together this week when the Cards and Chargers have their joint practices and discuss the two rosters, each team’s deficiencies, “in hopes where we can talk about, ‘Hey, is there an area where we can help each other improve?’ ”

Maybe that could mean a trade.

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Veldheer restructure would help cap space

Posted by Darren Urban on August 9, 2016 – 9:01 am

The Cardinals have been tight up against the salary cap — overthecap.com estimates they have (had?) only about $2.2 million in space, the NFLPA puts the number around $3.4 million — and usually at this time of year, GM Steve Keim likes to have more wiggle room than this. That’s partly to account for unknowns (IR players, needing to sign veteran help) and for potential other plans (like a contract extension.)

That’s why it was interesting but not altogether shocking to see the Field Yates tweet this morning saying the team had converted $6M of left tackle Jared Veldheer’s $7.25M salary into a signing bonus. It would be an immediate win-win. Veldheer gets his money now instead of in 17 installments over the season, the Cardinals create $4M more of salary cap room (although they push some of Veldheer’s cap hit into future years, so there is a down side.)

It becomes a little more interesting after Bruce Arians’ comment on Arizona Sports 98.7 Monday that the Cardinals are hoping to have another three or four extensions done at some point. That may be overly optimistic, but we will see — the Cards certainly have a laundry list of players who are up after the season. The Cards also might want to add a vet for depth on the offensive line too, although in my opinion D.J. Humphries is progressing just fine at right tackle. But the final decisions at center and right tackle remain up in the air for now.

There’s another point to be made about extensions too, and that’s any bigger one probably could lower the current salary cap number for a particular player, say a Chandler Jones (who I would guess be next of the big names the Cards would want to try and lock up) or a Michael Floyd or Calais Campbell. Their cap numbers for this year, respectively, are $7.8M, $7.3M and $15.25M. The recent Palmer and Fitzgerald extensions didn’t impact the cap. Those moves were about gaining roster certainty for 2017.

In any event, Keim now would have some room to do any number of things as the Cards set up for what they hope is a deep run this season.


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Analyzing the Fitz and Palmer deals

Posted by Darren Urban on August 6, 2016 – 12:57 pm

The news that both Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald received one-year extensions was certainly noteworthy, especially when it comes to Fitzgerald. Yes, Fitz could still decide to walk away after the season and retire. But I don’t think that’s likely now that he’s agreed to another year. No longer will he be a free agent, and I just don’t see him choosing to walk away. I could be wrong — and if the Cardinals were to win a Super Bowl, I’d guess the temptation would be there — but if Fitz comes anywhere close to posting similar numbers as last year while the team can win, I’d guess he fulfills the 2017 portion of his deal.

— As for Palmer, Bruce Arians was blunt: “I don’t think anything changes other than he’s got another year.” Palmer was going to be around.

— Kent Somers reported the move doesn’t have an impact on the salary cap. Which again would revert back to the roster certainty the Cards get out of these moves as a reason to do them.

— What it does do with both is create a roster certainty for next season, important on a team that still has a number of key free agents-to-be. Michael Floyd will be a free agent and figures to command big dollars. If the Cardinals lose him, at least they know they (probably) still have Fitz to anchor the receiving corps.

— Arians also said Palmer’s deal doesn’t impact the search for a QB of the future. “It depends on who the hell is out there,” Arians said. “Who is it? If he’s there, we’ll take it. If he’s not there, we don’t need him.”

— Big props to Mike Disner (pictured below with GM Steve Keim), the team’s director of football administration who is the main contract negotiator. It was a big week for him, getting the the Tyrann Mathieu extension done and then the Fitz and Palmer deals. Maybe he can get some down time now.


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Culliver could give Cards another CB

Posted by Darren Urban on July 20, 2016 – 7:56 am

On the heels of Mike Jenkins signing, Cardinals GM Steve Keim confirmed Tuesday night that the Cards will also bring in free agent veteran cornerback Chris Culliver in for a visit next week.

“He’s a guy that’s had some success in the NFL and is coming off the ACL, so we’ll see where it goes,” Keim said.

The caveat is that Culliver is coming off an ACL and MCL tear in November, suffering the injury in a practice while playing for Washington. He was released this offseason a year into a four-year contract, although Washington GM Scot McCloughan told the Washington Post Culliver is on schedule in his rehab and should play this season. Culliver, a one-time 49ers, turns 28 in August, although knee injuries have been a constant issue with him over the years. He also tore his ACL in 2012, missing that entire season. Culliver played in only six games last season, but had four interceptions for the 49ers in 2014.

The Cardinals have to figure out (besides how much money he might want) where Culliver’s health is and how it fits into the secondary. Already, Tyrann Mathieu is coming off an ACL and his availability for the opener is still uncertain. Can the Cards afford another player like that? Does he become someone with which Jenkins battles for a spot or could the Cards sign and keep both with younger cornerbacks moved to the side?

One thing Keim made clear: There are expectations for Justin Bethel to start. “The more Justin plays the better he’ll get,” Keim said.

Chris Culliver

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The Rock isn’t coming, but Arians attracts

Posted by Darren Urban on July 11, 2016 – 10:10 am

So Sunday, actor, former professional wrestler and one-time college football player Dwayne Johnson — The Rock — tweeted out a video of Bruce Arians with the message “Would’ve loved to play for this man.” It got me thinking about something GM Steve Keim said about one of the benefits of having the “All or Nothing” series out there for public consumption.

It helps not only the brand, but it helps create resources you didn’t have before,” Keim said. “Sometimes, when you talk about free agency, there is a recruiting aspect to that. So when there is a perception of a team or an organization and it is good, it makes it that much easier to talk players into signing here and sometimes signing for less money, because they want to be part of something special.”

OK, The Rock isn’t signing a contract with the Cardinals (and, it should be noted, the video clip Johnson used was actually from the Arians bio “A Football Life” and not from “All or Nothing.”) But it underscores what Keim said about the Amazon series. It’s clear the biggest “star” of the whole thing is Arians. Without his personality, I’m not sure the series is as successful as it is, and that’s not to knock anyone else in the program. But the head coach is naturally going to be at the epicenter of a series like that, and — as all of us know who work with Arians on a daily basis — Arians has that kind of charisma.

Yes, he can MF you on the practice field, but players can see it’s about the football. Arians forgets about it as soon as the work is over. He can separate the player and the man. That’s why guys love to play for him. And while The Rock isn’t coming anytime soon, you can bet there are active players out there who have watched “All or Nothing” or Arians’ “A Football Life” and are thinking that they too want to play for Arians and the Cardinals. That’s a powerful tool.

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More than 53: No bad days allowed

Posted by Darren Urban on June 21, 2016 – 10:48 am

There were multiple things that ranked as priorities for GM Steve Keim when he first got his current job, and one of those was to build depth on the roster. On that, he has most certainly succeeded. Where might that leave the Cardinals at the end of training camp?

“We have more than 53 (players),” Arians said at the completion of minicamp. “We have 65 probably that I am comfortable with. You can’t have a bad day. Especially with certain position groups, you just can’t have a bad day. You’ll fall too far behind.”

There are still areas in which the Cards could fortify. A veteran cornerback. A veteran right tackle. If the team ends up signing one or both of those guys, then the Cards have 66 or 67 guys with whom Arians would be comfortable. It sets up the possibility of a camp trade for a late-round draft pick, but it means the Cardinals will definitely release some players who will be considered “surprises.”

So much is left to be fought before then. The defensive line was one of those overstuffed spots last training camp, but the dynamic changed considerably when Corey Peters hurt his Achilles and was lost for the season. Still, it was a mild surprise when Matt Shaughnessy was released, and someone else would have had to go had Peters stayed healthy.

What are the positions this year? Defensive line, once again. The back end of the secondary — while there is inexperience, drafting three defensive backs will make those choices intriguing. Reserve offensive linemen and outside linebackers. Arians isn’t wrong. Bad days won’t help.


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Late signings on Keim radar

Posted by Darren Urban on June 9, 2016 – 11:38 am

The Cardinals are done for the offseason. The football side of the building is on vacation until late July, getting a chance to recharge before the season starts in earnest. So roster moves are unlikely for a while.

But then comes training camp, and a time when General Manager Steve Keim likes to shop in the bargain bin for veterans who can help.

“I’m going to continue to stay active,” Keim said during an appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show Thursday on Arizona Sports 98.7. “If there is a player out there — and we have monitored a few different players this time of year — we’ll bring them in and we will be aggressive about it. Now, it takes two sides. It takes one side to give an opportunity and the other side has to be on board from a financial perspective. But I really do think we will be able to add a player or two that can help and contribute this year.”

Keim acknowledged it would probably be a position of need in that regard. He didn’t get specific, but it’s not hard to think that right tackle and cornerback could be areas where he’d look. D.J. Humphries has to prove himself at right tackle, and the Cardinals have already had a similar situation when they signed Eric Winston in 2013 to compete with still-yet-to-prove-himself Bobby Massie. Winston won the job that season. At cornerback, the Cards are young and Justin Bethel has to show he can start, so throwing a vet into the mix could push all involved.

But again, the vets “have to have the mental makeup” to fit, Keim said. In part, that vet has to be coming because of the situation, and not because of the paycheck — because the Cardinals aren’t going to be paying big at that time of year.


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Wednesday before the 2016 draft

Posted by Darren Urban on April 27, 2016 – 4:57 pm

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.

2016 NFL Draft


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Center may be college non-center

Posted by Darren Urban on April 19, 2016 – 4:51 pm

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.

Ryan Kelly

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