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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.

FightFor65


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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.

KeimBlog


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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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On CJ and other free agency odds and ends

Posted by Darren Urban on March 16, 2016 – 7:49 pm

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.


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Weatherspoon exits as rare one-year miss

Posted by Darren Urban on March 11, 2016 – 10:18 am

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.

SpoonBlog


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Cardinals will draft a QB – unless they don’t

Posted by Darren Urban on February 26, 2016 – 7:50 am

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.

NFL Combine Football


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Patience with Mathieu extension

Posted by Darren Urban on February 24, 2016 – 11:54 am

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.

Packers Cardinals Football


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A line in the sand with free agent money

Posted by Darren Urban on February 22, 2016 – 1:23 pm

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.


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