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About that roster spot …

Posted by Darren Urban on July 10, 2017 – 1:51 pm

As I come back off vacation, things are still quiet around the Cardinals’ facility. Coaches and players won’t start filtering in until next week (report day for training camp is a week from Friday, with the first practice on July 22, a week from Saturday.) This is the time when the radar gets raised for a potential veteran signing for training camp.

The Cardinals currently have one open spot on the 90-man roster, a vacancy created the last time the Cards made moves more than a month ago. Odds are that it would be more of a fringe guy to fill out a position heading into camp, a name that most won’t recognize. But it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to have someone with a better chance of making the roster. The last we heard from GM Steve Keim, the team was monitoring a bunch of veterans who were possibilities (assuming the price was right.)

There are cornerbacks out there, although if  you are floating around right now, there are questions: Darrelle Revis is price v. age (and since he is already making $6 million this season and has offset language, he may not be motivated to play), Sam Shields has dealt with concussions, Brandon Flowers and Alterraun Verner are smaller. When last we heard from running back Chris Johnson, he said he was still in contact with the team. Maybe there is a guard to compete with Evan Boehm (besides rookie Dorian Johnson.)

One thing that seems certain: Adding whomever it is won’t be the only move of camp. Since Keim took over as GM, the Cardinals have averaged 18 roster moves from camp-opening week through the first cut to 75. (Again, don’t forget that a new rule means there won’t be a cut to 75 this season, only the final cut, which will take teams from 90 to 53.) The roster, through performance and injuries, will be churned soon enough.


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Keim looking at “6 to 8” player possibilities

Posted by Darren Urban on June 8, 2017 – 7:32 am

As minicamp wraps up today with a final practice before the veterans scatter for the summer, Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim said in terms of signing a veteran to help the roster, options are still on the table.

“(Team president) Michael (Bidwill) and I talked about six to eight players, who are still on the street, who could potentially come in and help us,” Keim said in an appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7.

Keim didn’t get specific, either in name or position. But he noted the obvious, based on Keim’s past veteran signings in this regard: It’s not just about a scheme fit or need, it’s also about price. The Cardinals see a value in these signings, and even if a player intrigues them, they have weighed the cost-benefit. They are only going to play “x” amount for any particular player, and they won’t blow their salary measurement out of any perceived need.

(To clarify — the Cards won’t sign as many as six or eight. That’s just the number of players that are on the radar. I’d guess some play the same position, so if one signed, the others are out. As usual, I’d anticipate one or two Keim camp specials at most, barring injuries.)

We’ve talked about this before. Maybe a cornerback makes sense (that’s the position I’d look at first). Maybe a guard if Evan Boehm doesn’t keep moving forward. Maybe a running back to fill out the room, depending on what Andre Ellington and/or Elijhaa Penny do. But to think there won’t be a signing or two around/into training camp just doesn’t do the history of Keim any justice.


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Comp picks look good after deadline

Posted by Darren Urban on May 9, 2017 – 4:23 pm

Tuesday was an important day for the Cardinals. In an offseason when the Cards seemed to play for the comp pick game — losing several key free agents, and signing back newcomers strategically — Tuesday marked the final day where the signing of someone on the open market would count against a team in the formula for compensatory draft picks.

Nick Korte over at overthecap.com has been following the comp pick situation. While the actual formula is a secret, some, including Korte, have seemingly gotten at least a little bit of a handle on it. As of now, the estimation is that for the 2018 draft the Cardinals will get an extra third-round pick (because of losing Calais Campbell), an extra fourth-round pick (for losing Tony Jefferson) and two extra sixth-round picks (for losing Marcus Cooper and D.J. Swearinger.)

The picks can shift based on playing time and other factors. If one of these players flames out and is cut by midseason, that will impact things. But for now, this is what it looks like. The hefty contracts received by Campbell and Jefferson likely lock in those picks — Campbell’s deal, actually, was the richest handed out in free agency. By far.

As a recap, the Cardinals currently have five of their own picks remaining for the 2018 draft: First, second, third, fifth and sixth rounds. They traded away their fourth-rounder in order to trade up for Budda Baker, and dealt the seventh-rounder last year when they acquired Cooper. So that would give them nine picks total if they get all four comp picks (the maximum number of comp picks a team can receive.)

Again, the most important part of the news now is that no more free agents (not players cut, which is why signing Antoine Bethea never counted against the Cardinals’ formula) the Cards sign will count against the equation. So if there are any Steve Keim specials from here on out, no comp pick impact.


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Spring Tailgate TV special, and “Groundwork”

Posted by Darren Urban on May 5, 2017 – 11:00 am

Couple of worthwhile projects put together by our excellent video department are finding their way to the public, so if you get a chance, take a look. The first is “Groundwork” a series of short web videos that will be rolled out from now (the initial piece features D.J. Humphries) through training camp. The synopsis, from our VP of broadcasting, Tim DeLaney:

“Groundwork is about the business of getting better from an individual’s perspective.  Each episode will focus on a player and what he is doing to prepare for the season – mentally and physically – in the weight room, the film room and on the field.  We’ll track the progress of the highlighted players through training camp.”

The other will be the Spring Tailgate TV special, shot the night of the third day of the draft and airing Saturday at approximately 8 p.m., following NBA playoff coverage on ABC 15. Hosted by Paul Calvisi and Ron Wolfley, the show features draft analysis from GM Steve Keim and team president Michael Bidwill, as well as talk about the revamped defense with linebackers Chandler Jones and Karlos Dansby.


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Keim seeks “educational briefing” with Washington

Posted by Darren Urban on May 4, 2017 – 9:34 am

Three years have passed since the Cardinals decision-makers have talked to Daryl Washington. Such is the rules of a suspended player, who in that situation is not allowed to have contact with his team. So, while there has been a conditional reinstatement of the linebacker, no, he is not at the facility working out. The next step, already anticipated and now publicly confirmed by General Manager Steve Keim, is a discussion first.

During an interview with Adam Schein on Sirius XM radio, Keim was asked about Washington.

“To be quite honest with you, we have had dialogue with his agent, but have not have had a chance to talk with Daryl yet, just because of how busy we have been,” Keim said. “We will attend to that in the near future and obviously get a chance to talk to Daryl and see what is going on.”

There are a lot of things that would figure to have to be ironed out with Washington — his contract, his physical shape, his mental shape for football, among others — and that can’t be determined without a conversation.

“There will be a sit-down with Michael Bidwill, our president and owner, and myself and Coach Arians, and again, more than anything, an educational briefing on ‘Just where have you been the last three years, what’s going on in your life?’ ” Keim said. “Once that meeting occurs, there will be a decision made (about Washington’s future with the team).

“It’s been three years, and the way the system is set up right now, there is a lot of unknown.”


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No QB yet — and perhaps none at all

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2017 – 9:57 pm

The Cardinals made a big trade to move up in the second round Friday. It gave everyone pause. Quarterback? Deshone Kizer was on the board. But then came safety Budda Baker. No QB there. In the third round, the Cardinals traded down, and still, no QB. Now there is a question of whether there will be one in this draft.

“Those guys aren’t always out there,” coach Bruce Arians said. What about the quarterbacks left on the board? “There are still a couple of quality arms out there,” Arians acknowledged. “Whether they are first-string arms or second-string arms is yet to be seen.”

It’s less than a ringing endorsement for a team looking for a quarterback of the future. But again, this class always was seen with warts, and the last thing the Cardinals have any desire to do is make a pick just because they feel they have to.

“Again, would you love to find one? Absolutely,” GM Steve Keim said. “But as I said, you can’t force a pick and you can’t leave better players on the board, and that would have done if we didn’t take the approach we did. It would be a disservice to the organization and everyone who works here if we were to press something that was out of the norm or to panic.”

The Cards pick eighth in the fourth round Saturday. They have five picks — one in the fourth, two each in the fifth and seventh. We will see if one is a QB.

— The Cardinals really, really wanted Budda Baker. And in the third round, they liked Chad Williams a lot. So it worked out for Keim to make the initial trade, however expensive as it might have seemed, to snare Baker. Because Williams was one of those players that the Cardinals liked probably more than most, they were able to drop down 21 spots in the third, still get him and get back a fourth-round pick.

— Arians believes with the addition of Baker, the Cardinals have one of the most dynamic secondaries in the league. He didn’t rule out drafting a cornerback Saturday — I would be a little surprised if they didn’t — but the addition of Baker gives the Cards flexibility even if there isn’t a ready-to-be-on-an-island corner across from Patrick Peterson.

 


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The draft, prep, luck and David Johnson

Posted by Darren Urban on April 27, 2017 – 11:46 am

Steve Keim was asked about the draft being about luck.

“There is always some luck involved,” the Cardinals’ general manager said. “But through preparation you can get a little luckier.”

That’s how the Cards ended up with David Johnson, of course. It’s a story everyone knows well now, thanks to the “All of Nothing” series. The Cardinals were set to draft running back Ameer Abdullah in the second round in 2015. The Lions traded up, one spot in front of the Cardinals, to get Abdullah — who would have been the running back they were looking for.

The Cards were disappointed. But they traded down a couple of spots (to get an extra pick) and went after pass rusher Markus Golden in the second round. That’s where the prep came in — they liked Golden a lot, even though many wondered if Golden could be productive in the NFL as he had at Missouri. Lo and behold, Golden has been, leading the Cardinals in sacks last season. Then the Cardinals went after the next running back on the board, a relative unknown from Northern Iowa who has just happened to turn into one of the best running backs in the league.

The grades were right for the Cardinals. In both cases, some wondered why the Cards took both those guys as early as they did. It worked out — although luck was involved too. It’s a scene that still echoes around the franchise, given the two players who were picked.


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No waiting for 2018 QB class

Posted by Darren Urban on April 19, 2017 – 2:14 pm

There are lots of question marks about the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft, and lots of enticing names at quarterback that could/should be available in the draft class of 2018. For a team like the Cardinals, who still have Carson Palmer, it’s a question that percolates: Might it be better to spend draft capital in 2017 on immediate non-QB help and plan to go after a quarterback in 2018.

Nope.

“You can look ahead and say there are two or three that we have watched on tape that are fantastic,” General Manager Steve Keim said of the potential 2018 QB class. “But if they are (picked) one, two or three in the draft, and I hope we are not picking anything but (number) 32, how are we going to get up there and get them? Even if we had 11 comp picks, that is not going to get it done.”

Therein lies the biggest problem with any team thinking they can wait. A quality QB is going in the top 5 or top 10. The NFL doesn’t do tanking like the NBA. The sure things in the draft are harder to know than in other sports. So the Cardinals are going to be prepared to draft a QB this year, and actually have a good situation to train one if they do.

Now a) that does not mean the Cardinals will definitely draft a quarterback or b) that they wouldn’t still look at QB next year or even c) that they wouldn’t take a franchise QB talent next year if one were to be there even if they did draft one this year. This is all a year-to-year proposition, folks. Because of that, QB is on the table in 2017, regardless of what better might be there in 2018.

“I just don’t think you can rely on that,” Keim said. “If you have a player you fell in love with, you take them.”


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Age is but a number, as free agency moves on

Posted by Darren Urban on March 10, 2017 – 4:25 pm

Yes, the Cardinals have gotten older. There are caveats to that, though. Phil Dawson, at 42, is way older than Chandler Catanzaro, but then again, that’s one of the reasons the Cards have swapped Dawson for Cat Man, because they wanted someone proven in tough situations. Dawson has shown that (and the fact Dawson wanted to come to Arizona means something too.) Karlos Dansby is going to be 36 in November, but my guess is that Dansby is a bridge for an inside linebacker coming in the draft. (Besides, Dansby played pretty well last year in Cincy, and the Cards obviously felt strongly enough to swap him out for Kevin Minter.)

No, Antoine Bethea’s age doesn’t help in comparison to Tony Jefferson, but Jefferson was leaving regardless. And this is a deep draft in the secondary. I’m sure that has played a role in this too. But age was always going to be a big part of this season, with Carson Palmer (37 in December) and Larry Fitzgerald (34 in August) knowing they are nearing the end.

Said Dansby, when asked what it meant adding that age to the roster, “wisdom.”

— On a personal level, one press conference with Los reminds me how much fun it is to have him around.

— The Cardinals carve out some cap room not only by extending Chandler Jones but also by getting safety Tyvon Branch to take a paycut from $4 million to $2 million this season.

— Dawson comes to the Cardinals, while Catanzaro signed with the Jets and coach Todd Bowles Friday.

— I would still expect a free-agent guard at some point, but I don’t know if it will be soon. I haven’t heard anything, and it’s possible they are going to let the market settle some. The Cards under Steve Keim have usually added some key free agents after the first wave. I don’t see why it would be different this year. We’re barely a day in.


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Keim time at the Combine

Posted by Darren Urban on February 28, 2017 – 11:09 am

Steve Keim is headed to his 19th Scouting combine. A GM now, Keim started as an area scout, has his roots in scouting and still enjoys the evaluation process of college prospects most of all. It’s one of the reasons he likes heading to Indianapolis each year.

“It brings everything full circle, and it reminds me of why I got in this business,” Keim said. “Sometimes, in this position (of GM), you get pulled in a lot of different directions. And I have said many times, you feel like one of things you do well and that put you in this position, is one of the things you do the least nowadays.”

Indy is the place that truly seems to be the kickoff of the new league year. Officially, the new league year (and free agency) begins March 9, but this is really when talk of the new season, and the draft, begins in earnest. The Cards are sending 64 total staff out there to assess various things: Potential draftees, situations with impending free agents, medical updates. It’s the off-field stuff — the medical and the interviews — that are the most important. Everyone has seen these kids play, and what they can do on the field. It’s so much about projection in that regard anyway. Part of that projection is whether the guy can hold up mentally, on the field, in the classroom, in the locker room (and also stay healthy — again, the medical part).

It’s also a time for Keim to speak face-to-face with the agents of impending free agents, most notably those of safety Tony Jefferson and defensive lineman Calais Campbell. Time is running out before free agency. Things are going to move quickly here, and rosters for 2017 will begin to take shape.

David Johnson


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