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Ramifications of Washington’s suspension

Posted by Darren Urban on May 30, 2014 – 11:00 am

This one I’m not sure anyone saw coming. Forget the length of Daryl Washington’s suspension, which is not good for a defense that figured to miss him for a couple of games but certainly not 16. It’s at least 16, by the way. He has to be reinstated. It’s not automatic. It’s just that, with the news Washington violated the league’s substance abuse policy again (no, this has nothing to do with his assault case), I can’t help but think back to Washington’s tweet last summer after it came out that violating that same policy was going to cost him a four-game suspension to start 2013.

I promise to work even harder and to not let you guys down anymore.”

That was before his arrest and obviously long before this latest news, which comes with no details, including how this impacts Washington beyond the 2014 season. What this means for Washington’s future in Arizona would only be a guess right now, although coach Bruce Arians is scheduled to meet the media after Monday’s OTA. Speaking of Washington as a person, he’s obviously made some bad, bad decisions and if he doesn’t figure it out at some point he’s in danger of losing his livelihood. Just last week, Washington was sounding genuinely in the dark about his situation.

In a statement released to the media, Washington acknowledges the violation was related to marijuana. Under the league’s substance abuse policy, punishment for being in Stage 2 of the league’s system is a four-game suspension. Washington got a four-game suspension last year. It is in Stage 3 where the minimum suspension is for at least one year. According to that policy, the player has to apply to be reinstated after that year. A return is not automatic. He spends the rest of his career in Stage 3, with unannounced testing and the ability to be tested up to 10 times a month.

GM Steve Keim left no doubt where he stood: “It’s completely unacceptable that Daryl has once again put us in this position.” Football-wise, the Cardinals don’t need this. The organization made the prudent decision to let Karlos Dansby go and not try and overpay him given his age. But I’d guess that was based partly on knowing Washington – even if he had been out a couple of games suspended through his assault plea – was mostly going to be around. Now Washington is not going to be around. It makes the step forward from Kevin Minter that much more important. It makes the signing of Larry Foote that much more crucial. And I’d guess sooner rather than later, the Cardinals will bring in another veteran linebacker. (Ernie Sims visited the other day.)

Washington can’t be at the facility. He won’t get his $2.9 million salary. (For a full breakdown of the suspension’s financial impact on Washington, check out this stuff from overthecap.com.) Cap relief might not come until 2015.

There is time to regroup. Arians will undoubtedly push next man up, and, again from a football perspective, this is just like losing a player with a major injury before the season begins. It happens. But given Washington’s history and cloudy future, there is obviously more that goes into it. And that makes this a difficult situation.

I know some have said cut Washington. That won’t happen. He just got his huge bonus. He doesn’t get paid while he is suspended. He will only be 28 next year, and depending on what happens over the next year (and whether Washington can get his life in order), he figures to return to the field. Of course, things can always change.

“I sincerely apologize for the effect of my actions on my teammates, coaches and other colleagues at the Cardinals,” Washington said in his statement. “I also apologize to Cardinals fans for the time I will miss. I will work diligently during this suspension and will return as a better man and football player.”

We’ll see.

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#ThrowbackThursday – Steve Keim’s college days

Posted by since1898 on May 22, 2014 – 1:15 pm


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Peterson will be smart during contract talks

Posted by Darren Urban on May 13, 2014 – 9:48 am

First of all, Patrick Peterson isn’t going to hold out. If that was a question, Peterson stepped on it and killed it when asked about his contract extension situation yesterday.

“There won’t be no holding out for me,” Peterson said. “I want to continue playing football at a high level. … I have two years left so there’s no sense holding out.”

Peterson was holding a presser yesterday to talk about his charity dinner and foundations (all details are at patrickpeterson.org) but inevitably it turned into a discussion about the Pro Bowl cornerback’s contract status. Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman just got a big contract extension, Browns cornerback Joe Haden just received one Tuesday morning, and these days, most consider Sherman, Haden and Peterson the top three young cornerbacks in the game. Peterson is going to need an extension, and while the Cardinals have some time after exercising Peterson’s 2015 team option — hence the “two years left” — it’s coming sooner rather than later.

Peterson, though, understands the process. He talked of working on something “bigger” than just a contract, and insisted he’ll be patient.

“I think I’m definitely well-deserving of a new contract, but at the end of the day it’s a business,” Peterson said. “You’ve got (salary) cap numbers, you’ve got other guys you need to take care of, the rookie pool. All that stuff falls into perspective, but at the end of the day I know (GM) Steve Keim, coach (Bruce) Arians and Mr. (Michael) Bidwill, they want me here for the long haul.”

That’s true. Ask Keim and he couldn’t act more confident that Peterson’s situation will eventually get worked out. Will it get messy? I don’t see it. Peterson is a smart man. He works in the big picture, not unlike teammate Larry Fitzgerald. Fitz has had a couple of uncomfortable contract situations (always with the leverage over the team, but still) and he has deftly worked around any bad feelings it might have caused not only with the team but the fan base. Peterson knows a holdout wouldn’t go over well with anyone and it probably wouldn’t make a huge impact either given how much time is left on his deal.

Instead, he’ll work within the system. And in the end, like Sherman and Haden, he’s gonna get paid.

“They drafted me for the long haul,” Peterson said. “I want to be that Adrian Wilson of the organization, that Larry Fitzgerald, that Darnell Dockett. I believe I’ve done some great things here early in my career, and I want to be here for a while.”

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And that’s the 2014 Cards’ draft

Posted by Darren Urban on May 10, 2014 – 3:43 pm

Seven picks, six rounds and a whole lot of hand-wringing over the Cardinals’ picks, but the draft is over. So are three long days, but before I head out to an abbreviated weekend, it’s time to wrap this up.

The Cards went with an eventual starting strong safety, a starting tight end who can block, a pair of future picks for the defensive line, a pair of receivers to fill out the corps and an intriguing (I know some of you have stronger words for it) quarterback prospect. Some of the picks, especially Logan Thomas, feel like a swing for the fence, as in if they work out, they could be very, very good.

But let’s make no mistake, not everyone is going to work out and frankly, that’s how every draft ends up. Steve Keim said he looks for three impact players out of each class. That’s just being realistic.

“What I love about (this class) is I look at all those names and I see guys who are big-time competitors, who love the game and bring an element of toughness to our locker room, which I don’t think you can ever have enough of,” Keim said. “That’s the whole thing. I’ve walked out of this building for many years when we got ‘A’s’ and ‘B’s’ (as grades), and those players didn’t turn out to be good players. You have to trust what you’re doing and trust your board. I trust the people in our room.

“Again, you have to avoid the noise sometimes and avoid what people are saying. You can’t get caught up in some of the hype. Again, I’ve always trusted what I see on tape and I think we came away with a pretty good class.”

– I don’t know how Thomas will turn out. I know he looked erratic the very limited times I saw him play in college. I’m pretty sure the Cards saw the same. I’m leery about being about change a guy who has long been inaccurate. Is it a risk? Sure. But everyone has a different opinion. I still think that, if you try him at QB for a couple of years and it isn’t working out, you can put him at tight end and still get a good fourth-round choice out of it. Sorry, but I don’t lose any sleep about the draft picks. They are what they are, and I’ll chronicle how their careers play out, good or bad.

– Keim said the Cardinals tried to trade “multiple times” in the draft. “We would’ve moved three or four more times if we would have gotten cooperation in other spots from other teams,” Keim said.

– Finishing the draft in the sixth round meant an early jump on recruiting potential undrafted rookies. The Cards after the draft class have 76 players on the roster, leaving 14 spots (although as long as the draft class is unsigned, they officially don’t count toward the 90-man roster limit.) Keim said he would’ve liked a seventh round pick but it’s a benefit to start on recruiting. “Quite frankly, I think that’s one of the things Bruce and I do best,” Keim said.

– Of those undrafted rookies, Keim said he’d like to add two running backs and three-to-five offensive linemen. I’d guess they will add a couple of defensive backs and receivers too.

– The undrafted names will slowly leak out. I don’t expect an official list until Monday. I may check out Twitter and mention some there (@cardschatter, if you aren’t already following) but otherwise, I’ll catch up to that group later.

 


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Need, speed, no QB: Day Two wrap

Posted by Darren Urban on May 9, 2014 – 9:12 pm

Four picks and no quarterbacks. People keep wondering if the next draft spot would draw a QB choice and it didn’t. It certainly doesn’t sound like it will happen either, now that the Cardinals have moved into the fourth round. Bruce Arians was asked what he would say to fans who were expecting a quarterback to be picked. Arians was blunt.

“Why?” Arians said.

“We’ve got three pretty good ones and you don’t take quarterbacks if they’re not going to beat out the ones you have,” Arians added. “I know people rate quarterbacks. I’ve been doing this a long time. I like ours better.”

So there’s that. As for some other notes after three more draft picks on the draft’s hump day Saturday:

– As a QB follow, Arians said there was “no doubt” Carson Palmer could play a couple of more years after this one. “Look at Peyton at 38,” Arians said. “The longevity of the athletes today, with the technology in the medical profession, they are going to go a lot longer. As long as you stay injury-free.”

– The Cardinals don’t want to draft for need. Then the first three picks go to a safety, a tight end and a pass rusher and that certainly felt like need.

“That’s the emphasis you put into building that (120) board,” GM Steve Keim said. “We say best player available, but there is an emphasis on who impacts our football team the most. We are never going to leave a good player to the side, but we will take who impacts us the most.”

– Keim said the Cardinals tried to trade back up into the second round, but could not get a deal done (he did not say who the Cardinals wanted to try and get.) But a trade remains possible Sunday when the Cardinals have a pick in the fourth, fifth and sixth round. “The phone has been ringing a lot,” Keim said. “We’ve been active.”

– The Cardinals’ two third-round picks echoed exactly what Keim has been talking about this offseason, which is adding speed. Defensive end/outside linebacker Kareem Martin is 6-foot-6 and 272 pounds and Keim compared his frame to the 6-8, 284-pound Calais Campbell when Campbell came out in 2008. Now, Campbell weighs 305. Martin can rush from the outside in the base 3-4 and be both places in sub-packages. More importantly, he has the size and speed that is difficult to find. Keim also said he wanted to get longer and more athletic on the edges, better to chase down the Colin Kaepernicks and Russell Wilsons of the world.

– The other third-round pick was a stunner. “Got to keep you guys on your toes with a small-school guy,” Keim quipped. That’s exactly what it was when Pittsburg State wideout John Brown was picked. But it didn’t take much research to see Brown, at 5-foot-10 and a 4.34 40, was the Cardinals’ attempt to find Arians another T.Y. Hilton. Arians loved him some T.Y. in Indy in 2012. Keim’s been looking for a clone since. Arians also compared Brown in some ways to another of his former wideouts, Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown. He’s older — 24 — but they love his makeup and his speed.

– It’s not surprising that Arians said he plans to cut back on Patrick Peterson’s punt returns. There are enough other guys on the roster now, with Brown and Ted Ginn, to do it that you wouldn’t risk your Pro Bowl cornerback. Arians acknowledged the Tyrann Mathieu injury had an impact on that thinking. Plus Peterson isn’t going to play wide receiver most likely, but after adding pieces at receiver, it doesn’t make a lot of sense anyway.

– What’s left Sunday Saturday? (It’s been a long day.) Assuming the Cards stick with three picks, I wouldn’t be surprised with an offensive lineman. Beyond that, we’ll see. Obviously I’m not counting on a QB. Maybe another guy for the front seven. Then it’s time to get this roster together for the full offseason.

 


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Notes after a first-round pick

Posted by Darren Urban on May 8, 2014 – 10:52 pm

Before I head home for the night, some notes to clean up with after the Cardinals took safety Deone Bucannon with their first-round pick:

– I can see, on various platforms of communication I have with fans, that some are upset (and some are very, very upset) with the fact the Cardinals didn’t take a quarterback. Folks, I feel I’ve made this pretty plain over the weeks (and I’m not the only one covering the team that did) that the Cards could consider a QB but it was going to have to be the right QB in their eyes. If the right guy wasn’t there, they weren’t gonna take him. Taking a QB you don’t believe in is a reach of the highest proportions. It’s what the Titans did with Jake Locker and the Vikings did with Christian Ponder. It’s a recipe for disaster.

I appreciate some of you believe so much in Manziel/Carr/Bridgewater. But it’s not like Steve Keim and his crew aren’t scouting these guys. I think they have a pretty good handle on what they think they should do.

– Speaking of Derek Carr, Bruce Arians actually addressed him specifically, when talking about how the hype of the draft provided skewed perspective for both fans and prospects.

“Sometimes people forget about the player (and his skills) and they start pairing players with teams and push and push and push and it doesn’t happen,” Arians said. “I felt terrible Derek Carr has been attached to us by some people. There he is sitting there on television when we are coming on the clock. That (pick) wasn’t going to happen.”

– Keim got his extra pick. The Cards have No. 52, 84 and 91 Friday. The Texans are first with No. 33.

– Did the Cards have players ranked higher than Bucannon? Of course. But those guys all came off the board by 20, and that’s when you look to trade back. It made sense.

– Arians and Keim both said Bucannon can cover tight ends. That would help a team that desperately needs to do a better job of that.

– You have to like that Bucannon talks about his “aggressive energy.” “I’m not afraid to go in there and stick my nose in anything or anybody,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how big you are, I’m coming downhill regardless.”


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The NFL Draft can mean only one thing

Posted by since1898 on May 8, 2014 – 4:35 pm

KEIM-TIME-DRAFT

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On the clock, the Cards have choices

Posted by Darren Urban on May 8, 2014 – 10:42 am

It’s draft day. The final mock drafts of hundreds have been filed and there is still a lot of intrigue. It gets even more interesting with the Cardinals selecting at 20. A deep draft and flexibility given the current roster will give plenty of room for speculation all the way up to the pick. As the draft comes closer, it seems more and more people expect a quarterback at 20. Something Bruce Arians said last week resonates, about how a rebuilding team can’t afford to pick a QB early and let him sit — but a team that isn’t rebuilding could. Clearly, the Cards aren’t rebuilding — Arians even said he doesn’t like to use the word — so that leaves open the door for a QB. Carson Palmer doesn’t have a problem with a QB pick, and for the right guy, I don’t think the Cards will either.

That said, Steve Keim has his own thought process. I don’t think Keim/the Cards like a ton of QBs, not in the first round. But I think there are one or two. Is it Derek Carr or Blake Bortles, the guys who have become the chic mock picks? To me, Bortles makes a lot more sense than Carr, but what would be the chances Bortles falls all the way to 20? That too seems a long shot. People want to talk about dropping QBs but in the end, QBs rarely drop. Especially if they have a decent chance to be special.

Keim too said something that sticks with me, the idea of being patient because there are usually unexpected players that could drop. Maybe that means someone who has been universally expected to go top 10 or 12 — I saw one mock with tight end Eric Ebron dropping into the 20s. Keim definitely is a fan of linebacker Ryan Shazier, who could be there and who makes a lot of sense in this defense. An interesting name is pass rusher Anthony Barr — another guy expected to go before 20, but you never know.

Regardless, Keim’s confidence in his staff’s draft process is obvious when he talks about it. The belief is that the first-round pick, whoever it is, will be the right one. And in the end, you don’t know exactly who you have even after the draft anyway. Players are chosen, and you have to wait a little while to find out exactly what you have.

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Actually, 120 is enough for the draft

Posted by Darren Urban on May 7, 2014 – 10:21 am

The numbers went like this: First, there were 13,000 possible draftees between seniors and potential juniors. That was cut, pretty easily, to 2,000. That group is whittled to 591 decent draft prospects. The Cardinals, led by General Manager Steve Keim, then apply what Keim calls a “Cardinal filter,” which screens out some players based on character concerns or medical concerns or players that don’t fit the Cardinals schematically.

From there, the team builds their now famous “120” board, which ranks the players from 1 to 120 in order of how the Cardinals believe they are the best. In theory, if their pick comes up at No. 20 overall, they are taking the top guy left on that list (which won’t be the 20th guy regardless of what happens, because all teams see things differently.) When their second round pick comes up at 52, again, who is the top guy left on the list?

The best example of this came in the Cards’ impressive 2004 draft, the one that netted Larry Fitzgerald, Karlos Dansby and Darnell Dockett in the first three rounds.

“The first three picks were all within the top 17 players on our board,” Keim said. “That’s unheard of, to get guys through 60-plus picks that are in the top 17 on your board. Some of it is the ability to identify as a staff who can play who can’t play, who is a good fit. Sometimes taking a chance on a guy who may have had some issues, whether it is Darnell coming out, Tyrann (Mathieu) coming out, whatever was attached to them off the field we were convinced we knew who they were as football people. Passionate, love the game. I’ve said it many times, if they love it enough, you feel you have a chance to steer them down the right path.”

Here’s the kicker: Those 120 names? They get the Cardinals all the way through the draft. It doesn’t seem like it should. With 254 draft picks, math says 120 names shouldn’t cover a team. But it does every year, sometimes to the first-time amazement of front-office folks who have come on board and gone through the process. It speaks to the differences teams have in how they see players and how needs and scheme fit into the draft process. As the draft goes on, needs might impact the choice between two closely regarded players, but as the Cards proved last year with Andre Ellington — noting his grade stuck out like a sore thumb in the sixth round even though the Cards had just drafted Stepfan Taylor — staying true to the board matters.

 

 


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Draft doesn’t end after the seventh

Posted by Darren Urban on May 6, 2014 – 4:12 pm

As GM Steve Keim mentioned last week, the Cardinals had already begun to reach out to call players (or their agents) who they think could go undrafted, beginning the weird recruiting process that is the undrafted rookie class. At once, the best of these undrafted guys are wooed by multiple teams like they are trying to pick a college all over again, while at the same time dealing with the disappointment that they were not picked at all.

(That’s not always an easy thing. Safety Tony Jefferson was one of those priority undrafted guys last year and while he ended up in a good place and was wanted, he admitted his undrafted reality actually affected his play for part of last year.)

The Cardinals usually assign a scout to a coach and then the two work together to reach out to the players. Yes, as was pointed out on Twitter today, if a team likes the player that much, they could instead draft him, but that’s a story for another day. Bottom line, only so many guys can be picked, and other potential worthy draftees are going undrafted.

“We’ve been aggressively calling players and planting seeds that if somehow they go undrafted, we feel like this would be a great fit for them,” Keim said.

This early UDFA push isn’t unique to the Cardinals. It came out Tuesday the Seahawks not only are doing their own recruiting but actually put together a brochure to send to agents with their own recruiting pitch. The race when the draft is over to pick up the other players to be included in the draft class is always intriguing. If the Cardinals don’t add any late picks — remember, they right now are scheduled to be done after the 20th pick of the sixth round — they will have plenty of time to work the phones and hoping their targets aren’t picked in the extended seventh round. These guys make a difference and some make the team every year. It’s where you find depth through the Jeffersons and Jaron Browns and Lyle Sendleins.

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