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Blogs

Familiar Faces – Cardinals/Broncos

Posted by since1898 on August 28, 2013 – 12:00 pm

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Stewart Bradley and Paris Lenon

BroncsCardsFaces

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A time for money moves

Posted by Darren Urban on March 1, 2013 – 11:44 am

The moves today to release cornerback William Gay and linebacker Stewart Bradley aren’t really shocking. This is what happens when salary exceeds production, as general manager Steve Keim was talking about just a couple of weeks ago. Bradley’s story is well known, and after he didn’t do much last season and with his salary back to $5 million, his future was all but written. Gay’s 2012 playing time escalated his salary from $1.475 million to $3.225 million, and that too probably cost Gay any chance of returning. With around $7 million of cap savings, the Cards are under the cap now.

There is still work to do, of course, the most glaring the contract of quarterback Kevin Kolb. There has been no word yet of any talks or movement in that area. The Cards have fit his giant $13.5M cap number in for now, but nothing has changed from the fact something has to happen. Kolb is due a $2M roster bonus soon (do not know the date, but anticipate it being the start of the league year on March 12 or right around there) and I can’t see it being paid unless a new deal is in place.

The Cards were about $1.2M over the cap prior to the cuts today according to Adam Schefter, so the savings should put them a little more than $5M under — decent breathing room in the short term, although a tender offer to QB Brian Hoyer would eat up some of that space if one were made. Are further moves, aside from Kolb, coming in the form of a cut or a restructure? Perhaps. Don’t forget, a restructure basically means giving the player more money now for the privilege of pushing cap space on to a future year’s cap. Eventually, it has to be paid. And if there is anything we have learned about the new collective bargaining agreement and the salary cap is that it was set up to no longer have giant spikes from year to year — making cap management for every team a little more challenging year-to-year. Bradley and Gay were not the only NFL veterans cut today, that’s for sure.

It also underscores another NFL reality — for all the gnashing of teeth that goes on when free agency starts about why the Cards (or any team) didn’t sign this guy or that guy — that the draft is the way to build a roster. Ultimately, teams don’t let players get away that they think they can’t afford to lose.

gayblogcapuse


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Keim considers inevitable difficult decisions

Posted by Darren Urban on February 15, 2013 – 11:57 am

Are some difficult decisions coming with the roster for general manager Steve Keim?

“Absolutely,” Keim said.

In itself, that is no surprise. There are the reports the Cards are currently about $3.5 million over the salary cap (teams must be compliant by March 12) but that in itself isn’t a big deal. Contracts can easily enough be manipulated to make it work, especially that close to being OK. For instance, the Cards could work it just by, for example, releasing Kevin Kolb, because while Kolb will still count for $6 million of “dead” cap space if cut, his cap number currently is $13.5M so there would be a $7.5M savings on the cap alone. (Again, I expect the Cards to try and work out a new deal for Kolb, so if he came back, that too will clear space.)

But it’s the “tough” part of the tough decisions that Keim is considering that impacts the equation.

“Anytime you get attached to certain players it’s not only a tough decision from a business standpoint, but it’s a tough decision from a personal standpoint,” Keim said. “But you have to put personal feelings aside, and you have to do what’s best for the organization. But there are going to be some tough decisions, but at the same time, there will be some decisions we are excited about moving forward. Put young players in a position to grow and succeed.”

Keim, obviously, isn’t naming names right now. The first connect-the-dots that pops into your head when thinking about this is veteran safety Adrian Wilson, who carries a $5.4M cap number in 2013 and who himself wondered at the end of last season if his days in Arizona might be coming to an end. There is no player Keim is closer to than Wilson, after both attended North Carolina State and Keim was the one who scouted and pushed for Wilson in the 2001 draft.

As of now, the Cardinals have 10 players scheduled to have salary cap numbers in 2013 of at least $5M: Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald ($10.3), Calais Campbell ($8.8), Darnell Dockett ($7.7), Daryn Colledge ($7.3), Stewart Bradley ($6.5), Levi Brown ($6.4), Kerry Rhodes ($6.0), Wilson and Daryl Washington ($5.4). There are a host of moves any team can make, including extensions — for instance, with Rhodes, who is down to the final year of his deal — that can lower the cap number too.

But this is about more than just money and cap space. It factors in a new coaching staff, a new general manager, a team that went 5-11 and the reality rosters sometimes are purged in such a transition.

“Anytime you are in a position where you are dealing with the salary cap, you have some tough challenges financially, but at the same time, starting with (president) Michael Bidwill giving us the opportunity to do what is necessary to win, we won’t make decisions solely based on finances,” Keim said.  “Now, what is hard in this business is that you have players making quite a bit of money and their production level doesn’t match their financial package.

“Those are the decisions where we’ll weigh the pros and the cons and make the tough decisions based on what are we getting out of this player. Does he schematically fit what we do? Are his finances in line for what we are getting from him?”

KeimBlogCapUSE


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Work to do on the linebacking lineup

Posted by Darren Urban on February 11, 2013 – 11:46 am

With the news, reported multiple places, that the Cards are a little more than $3 million over the salary cap about a month away from needing to get in compliance, general manager Steve Keim still has some maneuvering to do. Knowing now that new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is sticking with the 3-4 base defense, the linebacker corps remains a crucial part of the equation.

What that means going forward is the question as free agency/cap compliance/the offseason gets closer.

Daryl Washington, the Pro Bowler and burgeoning star, isn’t going anywhere. He got his new contract last year and is the cornerstone of the position. But beyond that? The biggest part of the to-do list is got to be the other inside linebacker spot next to Washington. Paris Lenon is an unrestricted free agent, but he is also going to turn 36 in November. With a new staff, those are often the kind of players that are left to move on, or brought back later in the offseason. But Lenon has been playing, which in Stewart Bradley’s two Cardinals’ seasons hasn’t been the case. Bradley took a reduction in salary last season of 50 percent and still didn’t play much on defense at all, relegated to mostly special teams. Again, that could change with a new defensive coordinator, but up against the cap and with Bradley owning a $6.5 million salary cap number for 2013, his return under that deal doesn’t make sense. At best, renegotiation/pay cut would be coming, although the Cards may just part ways. UPDATE: I’m not sure why I forgot to mention Reggie Walker, who played solidly this season. Walker is under contract for another season and surpassed Bradley on the depth chart.

(That’s the dangerous part of this process, however. Bradley would still cost $3M of dead cap space if released, which is still a savings of $3.5M, but it’s not like it’s zero impact. The cap hit has always got to be considered with moving on from any player or trading him. Sometimes it can be spread out over a couple of years, but it’s still a hit of worthless space.)

O’Brien Schofield and Sam Acho, your outside starters, still have to prove themselves to the new staff too, although the decision to go with a 3-4 base helps both tremendously. They might have a much harder time in a 4-3 setup finding a place to play.

BradleyBlogUSE


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Putting a cap on it

Posted by Darren Urban on January 8, 2013 – 1:00 pm

While the reports are out there that VP of player personnel Steve Keim is negotiating to become the next Cardinals’ general manager, the next GM — whether it was going to be Keim or someone else — will have some work to do.

According to figures reported by John Clayton, the Cards are currently set to come in around $720,000 above the 2013 salary cap. That means at the very least there will be some restructuring to do. To have any flexibility for free agents or the like will take some paperwork. That’s why, beyond Kevin Kolb’s injuries, it will be important to try and restructure his deal (his cap number is around $13 million this coming season), or extend safety Kerry Rhodes ($6M), or make a call on linebacker Stewart Bradley ($6.5M). The cap numbers of Larry Fitzgerald (more than $10M), Darnell Dockett ($7.7M) and Adrian Wilson (more than $5M) also could be looked at in some way, shape or form.

Cap space can be found quickly if necessary, and it doesn’t have to be at the cost of losing a player outright, necessarily. Sometimes it just is a matter of shifting contract language. But there is little question there is work to be done.

Most cap space to come, according to Clayton? The Bengals, with more than $55 million. The least? The Jets, at more than $19M on the negative side.

 


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Beanie officially activated, Westerman cut

Posted by Darren Urban on November 21, 2012 – 9:17 am

Since coach Ken Whisenhunt basically announced it Monday, it’s no surprise that running back Beanie Wells was activated to the roster this morning from the injured reserve-able to return list and he is on schedule to play Sunday against the Rams. Will he start? That’s a big question and I am not sure Whisenhunt will be willing to answer before the game. But certainly, a healthy Wells — and he told me yesterday his knee indeed was not right early in the season before he went down with the toe injury, but now it’s good — will help the Cardinals’ struggling offense.

To make room for Wells on the roster, the Cardinals cut linebacker Jamaal Westerman, not a surprise either after he was surpassed on the depth chart by undrafted rookie Zack Nash. That leaves just one “official” backup outside linebacker, although backup ILB Reggie Walker was playing there some in Atlanta and fellow backup ILB Stewart Bradley can do the same.


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Seahawks aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 9, 2012 – 8:33 pm

As well as the defense played – and make no mistake, the Cards would have been in huge trouble if the defense didn’t play the way it did – the way Kevin Kolb played when he came in in the fourth quarter was clearly the story Sunday. He airmailed his first throw well over Fitz’s head in a toss that looked like every ounce of adrenaline being pumped into one pass. But after that he was sharp, everything the Cards hoped he’d be. And that was his lone drive, save for his lone kneeldown at the end. He felt like the equivalent of a comic or rapper who just had the perfect finish, and then dropped the mic and walked off stage.

Kolb certainly didn’t act that way after – “To win a game in that fashion, the way the preseason went, I’ll definitely enjoy this evening,” Kolb said – you know he has to be feeling pretty good inside. The guy is human. Any one of us criticized to the level that he’s been criticized, redemption is always sweeter.

Of course, that’ll last a week, and he’ll start in New England, a brutal test, and he’ll have to put up or shut up again. But that’s in a week. Right now, it’s good.

– Everyone wondering about the relationship between Kolb and John Skelton, people talking about Kolb blowing off Skelton when he came off the field hurt in the Hall of Fame game or Skelton somehow acting happy when Kolb made mistakes in Tennessee are just foolish. When Skelton got hurt, it was Kolb on the field crouched down with the doctors, talking to him at that moment. Again, both guys desperately want to be the starter. But it isn’t personal, it’s why Kolb was never going to be a problem as a backup, and why there was genuine happiness for Kolb’s success in the locker room afterward.

– Skelton’s ankle sprain means he’ll be down a little while, I’d think. Ryan Lindley becomes the backup in that case. You’d think they’d sign someone. It can’t be Rich Bartel – since Bartel was put on IR before being released on an injury settlement, he can’t sign with the Cards for six weeks (at least, that’s what he tweeted.)

– Kolb will need the running game. The Seattle defense is good, but for Beanie and Ryan Williams to combine for 23 yards on 15 carries? Ouch. Wide receiver Andre Roberts was the Cards’ leading rusher with his lone end-around for 15 yards. LaRod Stephens-Howling even vultured the lone touchdown with his one-yard run on third down.

– The run game is what made coach Ken Whisenhunt’s answer to a good day from the pass protection – one sack despite the fears of two new tackles – tempered. “They brought a lot of pressure today, and we didn’t run the ball good enough, so how can you judge a line?” Whisenhunt said. “Based on protection? In that they did well. We didn’t run the ball very well. We have to get that fixed.”

– It’ll be interesting to see how bad the shoulder injury is to Jamell Fleming, but Michael Adams had a very, very good game in his place. He had three tackles and three passes defensed, including a pair of impressive breakups on that final drive. “Like any other day’s work,” said Adams, who probably wouldn’t have played much other than special teams if Fleming hadn’t gotten hurt. “When your number is called, you go out and make plays. Today I was able to make plays. I’m living for today. I don’t know if I’ll see tomorrow.”

– The timeout fiasco wasn’t good. The officials admitted later they basically gave Seattle four timeouts. Here’s an explanation from a guy who knows his stuff. I fall in the it-is-what-it-is camp.

– Two sacks for Paris Lenon, his career high (and he’s below, belting Seahawks QB Russell Wilson). “I just played within the scheme,” he said. He had a very good game and showed why he is such an important cog. Daryl Washington had a very good game too, and Reggie Walker got a ton of playing time – while Stewart Bradley was relegated to special teams.

– Calais Campbell with yet another blocked field goal, after three last year. Huge Sunday, since without the block, the Seahawks are down just one late and easily kick a field goal to win (unless, of course, Campbell would have blocked that one – which is always possible.)

– Tight end Todd Heap came up huge in the winning drive, with two big catches. Larry Fitzgerald didn’t have a gigantic game, but Kolb found him twice on that drive too. Obviously the Cards want him to get the ball more often, although they were so bad in the third quarter, there were hardly any snaps.

– After Adrian Wilson’s interception, he gave the ball to Patrick Peterson for a return attempt at the end of the first half. It was a far cry from in Seattle last year, when Peterson made a pick at the end of the half and Wilson implored him to get down and not risk a fumble. Wilson seemed to have forgotten that. “I know my role, and my role isn’t a runner with the ball,” Wilson deadpanned.

That’s it for tonight. It was a grind for the Cards, but they won, and it’ll make for a much better week than the alternative.


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A guess at the 53

Posted by Darren Urban on August 29, 2012 – 4:59 pm

Every NFL team must have it roster cuts in by Friday afternoon. To be exact, by 6 p.m. Arizona time. I expect the Cardinals – and coach Ken Whisenhunt – to have announced them before, since Whiz will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. that day. Until then, though, this is a guess at how this 53-man roster shakes out.

Whisenhunt made it clear the other day that this last preseason game does matter when it comes to a spot or two on the roster, and I believe that. It means trying to approximate who will be on the roster before that last game is somewhat fool’s gold. I’m certainly not Nostradamus here. Last year, for instance, I had Ben Graham holding off Dave Zastudil for the punter job. I was very wrong. And this only holds for as long as it might take for the Cards to claim/sign a guy or two over the weekend, which would obviously change things. That always happens.

But it’s fodder to chew on until Friday, speculation upon which this time of the NFL schedule is built around. So with apologies to those I miss on, and with a nod to old school Letterman, this is only an exhibition and not a competition, so please, no wagering.

QB – (3) John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley. No, we don’t know the starter yet. But it’s hard to believe that with everything Lindley has shown as a rookie he doesn’t get the nod over Rich Bartel (who is one of the best guys you’ll meet and someday will be a very good coach.)

RB – (4) Beanie Wells, Ryan Williams, LaRod Stephens-Howling, William Powell. This is one of the sticking points. Powell has had a good preseason, but as I have mentioned many times, I think Alfonso Smith has as well. It may come down to how Powell looks Thursday night. Will I be shocked if Smith is the choice instead of Powell? Nope.

FB – (1) Anthony Sherman. The Sherminator running unopposed. It’s like a boring political “race.”

WR – (6) Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Early Doucet, Michael Floyd, DeMarco Sampson, LaRon Byrd. This is a close one, in my mind. The top four are obvious. I think Sampson has had a good camp and he can play special teams. Byrd versus Stephen Williams may just be about Byrd’s upside. I’m not sure Byrd would make it to the practice squad but — given some other positional issues, like, at say, offensive line – I’m not sure either if the Cards may try and keep just five receivers and use the practice squad for relief.

TE – (4) Todd Heap, Jeff King, Rob Housler, Jim Dray. Given the injury history of, well, all of them, I think the Cards play it safe and keep four guys around again.

OL – (8) D’Anthony Batiste, Daryn Colledge, Lyle Sendlein, Adam Snyder, Bobby Massie, Rich Ohrnberger, Jeremy Bridges, Senio Kelemete. This is a very difficult one from the outside looking in. The Cards might keep nine linemen, given their . Has Kelemete shown enough, even as a draft pick? Would Nate Potter be possible given the tackle issues? Where might a free agent or waiver claim fit in? I could see Potter, D.J. Young and/or center Scott Wedige as practice squad material too.

DL (6) – Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, Vonnie Holliday, David Carter, Nick Eason. Seems fairly cut and dried at this position, one of the few like that.

LB – (8) Sam Acho, Paris Lenon, Daryl Washington, O’Brien Schofield, Stewart Bradley, Reggie Walker, Clark Haggans, Brandon Williams. This is another spot that might come down to the Denver game. The backup outside linebacker spot figures to have two places for three guys: Haggans, Williams, Quentin Groves. Groves made some plays early. Williams plays some special teams and has been higher on the depth chart.

DB (10) – Patrick Peterson, William Gay, Adrian Wilson, Kerry Rhodes, Jamell Fleming, Justin Bethel, Rashad Johnson, James Sanders, Greg Toler, A.J. Jefferson. Usually, the Cards wouldn’t keep more than nine defensive backs, and that’s still possible. With 10, Bethel is a special teams keeper despite being a raw DB. Michael Adams is the odd man out there, but it will not shock me to see Adams stick around either and maybe someone like Jefferson out. Watching the reserve defensive backs closely in the finale, because I think that will be part of the equation.

ST – (3) Jay Feely (K), Dave Zastudil (P), Mike Leach (LS). Never should have doubted Leach’s return.


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Wednesday before the Titans

Posted by Darren Urban on August 22, 2012 – 4:27 pm

Ah, Nashville. The last two times we were here, the story was always the quarterback. In 2009, Kurt Warner, last moment, decided his concussion wouldn’t let him play, and Matt Leinart almost had the game he needed – until Vince Young put together a 99-yard drive to finish the game and the Cardinals. The last time here was the beginning of the end for Leinart, the preseason week spent in Tennessee where Leinart was demoted from the first unit in favor of Derek Anderson and we all know how that turned out.

Some things never change. Quarterbacks are still front and center. John Skelton gets the start and ostensibly, the chance to put a stranglehold on the job. Kevin Kolb will play. Coach Ken Whisenhunt hasn’t given any indication this battle is over. This game will mean something. Ron Wolfley made a point the other day both on the podcast and his radio show that Kolb has probably been better in practice where Skelton has been better in games, which is why this is probably closer for coaches than fans (who don’t watch practice daily but watch the games.)

In any case, it looks like this game will only add to the quarterback legacy that Cards’ trips to Nashville have built.

– Watching Beanie Wells in a game for the first time will be fascinating. We’re on the precipice of the regular season. It looks like Ryan Williams is in good shape to be ready as expected. It’s time for Wells to make a similar step. It has been suggested Beanie runs with a limp. Some of that has to do with getting used to his brace and getting back on the field for the first time in a while. But those of us who have observed Beanie have always noticed what to me, at least, seems like an awkward gait when Wells walks quickly or runs half-speed, even when totally healthy. When he turns it up, it disappears.

– Larry Fitzgerald said he knew all along there probably wouldn’t be a choice at quarterback just yet. “You can’t just give guys one game. That’s not much of a competition,” he said. “We knew it would probably come down to the wire.”

– D.J. Young and D’Anthony Batiste get their chance to show what they can do at left tackle. Will one emerge? Maybe. Conventional wisdom seems to be that Batiste has a better shot than Young. There are more options than Batiste at right tackle, which could be Jeremy Bridges or even just sinking or swimming with rookie Bobby Massie (although the Massie move might be easier to deal with if Brown was still in the lineup). A savior isn’t coming, though. The Cardinals might pick someone up in free agency or the waiver wire, but again, anyone on the street is on the street for a reason. Chad Clifton is available, for instance, because he’s been injured and is 36. Anyone cut next week will be cut because there were at least two guys better than him on his previous roster. That’s reality.

(And a quick side note on the depth behind Brown, and the Cards being caught unprepared – you always want the best depth you can get on the roster, but I’m not sure you build a roster with the idea of a guy possibly going down with a season-ending injury. You’re counting on the starter to be there, especially a guy like Brown, who had played every game for the last four seasons. I think they felt Batiste/Bridges would have been fine as a Brown fill-in for a game or two.)

– Brown had his surgery, by the way. The Cardinals have to trim 15 players off the roster by Monday (although it may come as soon as Friday.) One of those moves, I would think, would be Brown’s move to injured reserve. I just don’t see them saving a roster spot for an end-of-season return. We will see.

– Left guard Daryn Colledge on losing Levi: “If anyone was (indestructible) I thought it would be Levi. Anyone who tears a triceps and just takes a knee (after the play) and talks about it, that’s a pretty studly guy to me. But anyone can go down on any play, that’s the hard part about preseason. We lose him in Week 14, that’s something, but lose him in Minus-Week 3, that’s one of the worst things that can happen.”

– Lots of questions about whether Quan Sturdivant is going to make the team, but it seems like a longshot with the way Reggie Walker has been playing. Your starters are Daryl Washington and Paris Lenon, and I think both Walker and Stewart Bradley have played well in the preseason. Four inside linebackers seems like enough. It’s been suggested that maybe the $3 million for Lenon might put him on the bubble, but the way he has performed and with his durability, I just don’t see him anywhere but the roster.

– Besides the first cuts that I mentioned earlier, final cuts must be made the day after the final preseason game, Friday the 31st.


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Hall of Fame game aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 5, 2012 – 11:19 pm

It is way, way late – going on 2 a.m. local time – and I have to get up much too early to catch a plane to Missouri on our next stop of this magical mystery tour of the preseason. So this aftermath is going to be short and sweet (OK, let’s see if it really is once I finish):

– What do you want me to say? I don’t think it’s a character flaw that Kevin Kolb gets hurt. Does it hurt when he’s not on the field? Of course. Dave McGinnis used to say “Availability is more important than ability” and in many ways, that’s true. If you can’ stay healthy, the rest doesn’t matter. But you’re never going to convince me Kolb is less of a person because he won’t “tough out” an injury. Especially in a freaking preseason game. The first one, in fact. I would give tonight to John Skelton, obviously. But this isn’t over, no matter how much everyone wants it to be. We’ll see how Kolb reacts this week. Only a couple days of practice before the Chiefs game.

– It was an early bell to play a game, and I asked Ken Whisenhunt if it was fair to say he expected some of the sloppiness. “That would be the right answer for me to say,” Whisenhunt said, before acknowledging, “I would hope we would have been better.”

– The missed tackles weren’t good, but out of everything NFL teams work on, I always wonder how you can really work on that. Sure you can talk about being in better position, but ultimately, you can never have a full-on tackling practice. That’s reality and maybe the best reason to have five preseason games.

– Dave Zastudil had a great day punting in his home state, including a Hall of Fame game record 79-yarder. Michael Adams showed why he’s so great on special teams with the way he saved the ball from going in the end zone.

– Rookie Justin Bethel will be a killer on special teams with that speed and ability. Blocked a punt, had a great tackle as a gunner. I think he makes the roster on that alone.

– Michael Floyd gets his first catch, a 15-yarder. “It felt good to get the nerves out of me, to get those jitters out. Now I can just go play ball.”

– Every time I see Alfonso Smith run the ball, he shows something. I don’t know if he’d ever be a feature back, but as a fourth back, the Cards have something.

– That goes double for LaRod Stephens-Howling, whom I really would like to see touch the ball more on offense for the same reason – he just seems to make people miss.

– Linebacker Stewart Bradley had a rough year last year, but he made a couple of plays tonight with a sack and a pass defensed. He said he is so much more comfortable. Having him as a workable piece of the defense would make a difference.

– Seriously, though, Stew — that sack dance?

– Whisenhunt said he thought the offensive line played better after they “settled down,” which apparently was after Kolb was knocked out of the game.

– Rookie right tackle Bobby Massie seemed to have a rough night, and Whiz concurred with the assessment: “He looked like he was a young tackle who struggled a little bit. He was beat on up and under (moves) a couple times.” Whiz said they are working on Massie’s set-up so he’s not as mechanical, but that’s something that was going to take longer than a couple weeks of padded practice.

– Whisenhunt talked about dealing with some of the young guys, especially at the end when rookie QB Ryan Lindley drove the Cards in a spot to possibly tie the game (first-and-goal) only to have two incompletions and a Lindley pick end the hope.

“At the end of the game we had the whole team come over on the time out,” Whisenhunt said. “I was like, ‘This is like a college team. (Quarterbacks coach John) McNulty said, ‘About six of those guys are college guys.’ You have to understand what you are working with.”

– Ah youth. While Lindley was conducting the drive, Larry Fitzgerald was making lots of fans happy signing autographs. That’s the preseason for you, and the dichotomy between the young and veteran with the reality of an extra preseason game. “Guys like Lyle (Sendlein) and Levi (Brown) and guys that have been here a while, it’s probably their worst nightmare,” Lindley said. “But for us, it’s a blessing, for the rookies, the younger guys, all the guys fighting to make the 53.”

There. Done in 15 minutes. Goodnight.


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