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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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Seeking questions for Keim and Arians

Posted by Darren Urban on February 18, 2016 – 10:31 am

The NFL Scouting combine has almost arrived. Next week the Cardinals (and every other team) will be sending personnel to Indianapolis to scouting the 300 or so college players invited that are expected to be drafted in a couple of months. It’s also the time when decision makers like Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians take some time to not only answer some questions from the media, but also from the fans.

As has been the recent custom, I’ll be sitting down with both Arians and Keim for a video chat while in Indy. What I’ll ask them is up to you. Submit your questions either in the comments below, or via Twitter (using the hashtag #CardsCombine) or you can even e-mail me at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Be sure to indicate if the question is for Arians or Keim. I’ll get to as many as I can.

CoachSpeak


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How Mathieu impacted Keim’s draft philosophy

Posted by Darren Urban on February 16, 2016 – 8:13 am

Safety Tyrann Mathieu at some point is going to get a new contract from the Cardinals. He’s been perfect for the franchise, both on the field and off it, even with all the questions about him coming out of college. General Manager Steve Keim, in fact, acknowledged Tuesday that Mathieu — who was Keim’s third-round pick in Keim’s first draft as a GM — actually has had an impact on Keim’s draft philosophy.

“Going into my first draft as a GM, there’s no way I thought a player like Tyrann Mathieu should get a second chance,” Keim said during the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “Now that we gave Tyrann that chance and he’s become the player and the person that is is, he’s changed my thinking on that a little bit that some — some — players deserve second chances.”

It’s a pretty significant acknowledgment. But it’s also worth noting that Keim emphasized that only “some” should get a second chance in his eyes. There are things to figure out from a player who is about to be drafted and those frequently intangible things are what would sway Keim one way or the other.

Keim has to see a player who is “genuinely embarrassed” for whatever mistake might have been made. Keim also needs to believe in a player’s passion for the game, which is something he is searching for from every single one of his draft picks anyway. Mathieu had that passion (which is easily seen daily now) and a love, and Keim was certain that Mathieu understood the Cardinals would be his last chance.

There are a lot of parts of the Mathieu story that helped get him drafted (the Patrick Peterson connection perhaps the most important) but that Mathieu’s impact reached all the way to Keim’s core beliefs is just another reason why Mathieu has been so important to this franchise.

Oh, and when asked about Mathieu’s potential contract extension and whether his two ACL tears could push the Cards to do a shorter deal, Keim made it clear — the Cardinals want to work out a long-term deal with the Honey Badger.

Tyrann Mathieu

 

 


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Keim: Mathieu extension is “our goal”

Posted by Darren Urban on February 11, 2016 – 6:50 pm

Tyrann Mathieu wants to remain a Cardinal, and he has said as much. General Manager Steve Keim agrees, and with the safety due to become a free agent after the 2016 season, Keim said Thursday night on the Big Red Rage the team wants to get an extension done. When that might be is still a question, Keim acknowledged, but “I don’t think there is any doubt that’s our goal.”

Keim has been mostly holed up in his office this week watching as much college video as he can in advance of the upcoming Scouting combine. But he took some time to be a guest on the Rage, hitting on a variety of topics, including the fact he remains disappointed with the way the season ended, with the Cardinals “embarrassed” in the NFC Championship game against the Panthers.

“Our expectations as an organization, our expectations as a fan base, are to hang banners every year,” Keim said. “Not just the West (division) championship, but the big one.”

Among the other topics Keim addressed:

— Yes, an edge rusher is an important target, but it’s not the only spot. Keim said there are “a lot of areas we need to improve,” and he said that includes depth positions and not just looking at starters.

— Keim said the Cardinals will be as active in free agency as they usually are. But he reiterated that when looking at players who are seeking longer contracts with big guarantees, there must be a certain amount of caution with that aggressive mindset. There are usually reasons these players couldn’t get such deals with their original teams.

— While he would not get into specifics about the Cards’ own free agents — saying there are, as usual, some the team would very much like back — he knows the market could dictate how many return. As for both free agency and the draft, “you can’t force signings and you can’t force picks,” Keim said. “I’ve said that for a long time. When you get into a habit of forcing need, you are leaving better players on the board.”

— Keim wouldn’t be specific with how much cap space the Cardinals will have but added he feels “very good” with where the Cards are right now. Since arriving in 2013 to his current job, “the thing we’ve done the best job of is eliminating the dead money,” Keim said.

— There is always planning for the future, but even with the possibility of guys like QB Carson Palmer or wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald retiring in the next few years, that doesn’t change the expectation of the franchise.

“The NFL doesn’t allow you not to be in a win-now mode,” Keim said.

— Speaking of Palmer, Keim didn’t hesitate in saying he thinks his quarterback will be fine in 2016 even after the rough NFC Championship and has no concerns there is a mental hurdle for Palmer to overcome.

“When we made the trade for Carson three years ago, there was a perception, because you’re talking about a guy who sat out a year in Cincinnati, that maybe he was a quitter or whatever the thought was across the country,” Keim said. “After getting to know him for three years, I haven’t been around many people who are as tough mentally or as competitive as he is. I have a tremendous amount of confidence in Carson Palmer in every aspect of the game.”

“I think Carson Palmer has good football left in him,” Keim added, noting that there are 12-to-15 teams looking for a quarterback. The Cardinals are not one of them. “I’m proud to have Carson Palmer as our quarterback.”

BRRKeim

 


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Cards could use some Super pressure

Posted by Darren Urban on February 8, 2016 – 3:24 pm

Just two weeks ago, Steve Keim was emphasizing the need to improve the Cardinals’ pass rush. This is no state secret, or hard to analyze. After watching what the Broncos did to the Panthers in the Super Bowl — and what the Cardinals could not do to Cam Newton in the NFC Championship game — that plan of action couldn’t have been made any more crystal clear.

It changes the game to be able to pressure off the edge consistently. It makes a difference in the biggest games. After the 2007 season, the Patriots, with their 18-0 record and a passing game that scored more than 50 times by itself, stalled in the Super Bowl. The Giants’ defense wasn’t even that powerful overall, necessarily — but it had a front four that could get to the quarterback (and depth up front), that made life hellish for Tom Brady and brought down the undefeated season with a crash.

This has been a constant topic around the Cardinals in recent years. Even looking back at the 2011 draft, when the Cardinals picked future All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson with the No. 5 overall choice, the team was eyeing Super Bowl 50 star Von Miller had he dropped that far (although it became clear in the days leading up to the draft he would not.) You can scheme all you want and blitz more than any other team — which the Cards have done the last couple of years — but blitzing is a risk that can burn a club. And the Cards didn’t always provide the pressure even when they did blitz. The pass rush doesn’t guarantee a title (ask the Panthers, who harassed Peyton Manning pretty well themselves) but it’s an uphill climb without it.


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Search for a pass rusher

Posted by Darren Urban on January 28, 2016 – 9:54 am

Steve Keim was blunt when bringing up his number one priority of the offseason: “Create a pass rush.” It’s nothing new. This is something the Cardinals have been talking about every offseason for a decade pretty much. Yes, John Abraham had a nice 2013 but he wasn’t brought in until training camp and it was always known he’d be a short-term solution.

It’s not like the Cardinals didn’t look at it last offseason. They tried to trade up in the draft to get one of the “name” pass rushers in the first round. They still took Markus Golden and Shaq Riddick among their seven picks. Golden was solid as a rookie. Is he ever going to be the dynamic edge guy every team wants/needs? Maybe not, but he’ll be an important cog. We’ll see on Riddick, who never got on the field as a rookie, but they love his size and speed if he can learn the game.

Going forward, the Cards still need much more. Dwight Freeney helped, but he isn’t the answer at this point even if he comes back. I thought it was interesting that Bruce Arians, talking on Arizona Sports 98.7 said of the edge rusher sought “I doubt it would be a free agent.” Now, if Von Miller were to actually hit the open market and not get the inevitable franchise tag from the Broncos, that might change but still — it says something about the potential available pass rushers (or those who could be available but likely won’t by March.)

The next three months leading into the draft will be interesting in that regard. But it was clear there were too many times when the Cardinals didn’t pressure the quarterback enough, even when they blitzed. That’s a tough way to live in the rarified air of the upper echelon teams in the NFL.

Rusherblog


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