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Blogs

The ’11 draft class, and that Peterson extension

Posted by Darren Urban on January 24, 2014 – 3:17 pm

Under the new collective bargaining agreement put together in 2011, draft picks must be in the league three years before they can negotiate a contract extension. That means that 2011 class — which features Patrick Peterson, Cam Newton, Von Miller, A.J.Green, Julio Jones, Aldon Smith, J.J. Watt and Robert Quinn, among others — are all now eligible for new contracts, and the assumption has long been that many of those will happen. Certainly that has been a subject of speculation with Peterson. The Cardinals want to keep Peterson long term (of course) and it was not a coincidence that Peterson recently changed agents with that opportunity now looming.

But, as usual when it comes to big-money deals, none of this is a simple process. Jason Cole wrote an interesting piece about the situation of the 2011 draft class (he never touched on Peterson, specifically). In it, he talked to 10 GMs and/or cap specialists, and all expected that instead of a long-term extension this year that teams will opt to invoke the fifth-year option on each contract. Every first-round contract now as a fifth-year team option that, inevitably, will be a more affordable (and non-guaranteed) salary. In the case of 2011 picks, all are locked up through 2014 and then the team can invoke a 2015 year. This doesn’t even include the option to franchise tag a player for 2016.

(Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick are in similar situations as a fifth- and second-round picks in 2011, except as non-first-rounders, teams do not have a fifth-year option on those players. It actually gives non-first-rounders more leverage this offseason.)

In short, there isn’t an incredible urgency to extend one of those 2011 contracts now, other than the fact some of those 2011 draft picks probably won’t be thrilled they wouldn’t be extended right away given the level of play many of them have reached already. It will make for an interesting offseason when it comes to those players — including Peterson.

PPcontractblogUSE


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Playing it “safe”

Posted by Darren Urban on April 15, 2011 – 2:23 pm

The talk about grabbing a “safe” pick high in the draft has been used for a long time now. As I have responded to a few people in blog post comments over the past month or so, there really isn’t such a thing as a “safe” pick. Now ESPN’s John Clayton has written a really good column on the subject, and the reality of going “safe.”

Clayton uses the example of the Dolphins going with tackle Jake Long (three Pro Bowls in three seasons already) and then taking QB Chad Henne in the second round, instead of taking QB Matt Ryan over Long. Henne isn’t working. They are still looking for a QB. Long was “safe” and he has been excellent. But was the pick for the best?

That’s why there is so much hair-pulling (figuratively, of course) about Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert, and what they could mean. If you are the Bills, for instance, and you go with Von Miller over Gabbert, and Gabbert turns into Matt Ryan — even if Miller is another, say, Clay Matthews — did Buffalo make the right call? (The same argument can be made for the Cards, for instance, for taking Larry Fitzgerald over Ben Roethlisberger). It’s why the Panthers seem likely to take Cam Newton No. 1 overall, because no matter how “safe” a Patrick Peterson or Marcell Dareus might be, they can’t trump the impact of a franchise QB.

Then again, you don’t know if that QB is going to be a franchise guy (see Leinart, Matt — among others). Another concept: Is it better to take a QB who might wash out or end up with a position player who washes out? The upside of impact usually rests with the most important position. It’s another reason why making the decisions on draft day are never simple, even when sometimes they look that way.


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Taking the thought process wide

Posted by Darren Urban on April 7, 2011 – 3:29 pm

Took part in a mock draft (it’ll be on Patriots.com sooner rather than later) today and got another version of the top four. I wasn’t told who took who, but by the time my “pick” came up, these were the four gone — Cam Newton, Von Miller, Marcell Dareus and Blaine Gabbert.

(That was the order listed too; it’d be interesting to see if that matches the teams. Miller to Denver? Dareus to Buffalo? Gabbert to Cincy?)

I stayed chalk with my thought process in that regard. I stuck with defense and went with cornerback Patrick Peterson. But … obviously, wide receiver A.J. Green remains on the board in that scenario. Anyone reading my stuff knows I think receiver here is highly unlikely. Highly unlikely. The Cards already have a top receiver in Larry Fitzgerald and they clearly want/expect him to be here long-term. Bringing in a second such playmaker at that position — especially when you very well should  be able to find a playmaker at another position (like Peterson, for instance) — makes little sense to me. You aren’t even sure you have a QB who can get it to Fitz yet, much less to two such guys.

That being said, there are those who’d like to see it (I’m looking at you, Georgiebird) and there are arguments that can be made, as long as you operate under the assumption the Cardinals see Green as an exceptional, off-the-charts talent. (I’m not saying they do, and there are those who don’t even think Green is better than fellow draftee-to-be Julio Jones). For the moment, let’s make that assumption.

The Cardinals aren’t sure if they can keep Fitzgerald, whose contract runs out after the 2011 season, long-term. He needs to sign an extension, and while both he and the team have said many times they want it to happen, Fitz has also made plain his desire to win, and that involves the fluid situation of finding a QB. Even if Fitz is a lifetime Card, the rest of the receiving corps is still in question. Steve Breaston doesn’t have a contract. Early Doucet hasn’t proven he can stay healthy. Andre Roberts, as well as he finished the season, hasn’t proven he will succeed.

Then there is the idea — again, depending on the grades we won’t know — that Green would be the best player available, too good to pass up. We’ve played this game before, back in 2007, when it was Levi over Peterson when Edge was around. Need was above “best player,” and maybe this year the need — other than QB — lies on the defense.

(But even then it’s not always cut-and-dried even when it works. Cards went BPA in 2004, because Fitz was the BPA. Would the Cards, who already had star-in-the-making Anquan Boldin, been better off with a top three class of Roethlisberger, Dansby and Dockett instead? Sure, Kurt Warner came along a year later, but it’s interesting food for thought).

I reiterate, I think the Cards go defense. I think Peterson would be the pick over Green. But there’s always room to speculate.


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The Top Five

Posted by Darren Urban on March 30, 2011 – 1:54 pm

No, we’re not talking former Cardinals cornerback Robert “Top Five” Tate, who used to put together top five lists all the time — including football lists, which inevitably included himself. Instead, we’re talking about the guys who will be considered for the top five picks in the draft. It sure seems like this is the list:

  • QB Cam Newton
  • QB Blaine Gabbert
  • DT Marcell Dareus
  • WR A.J. Green
  • DE Da’Quan Bowers
  • LB Von Miller
  • CB Patrick Peterson

I don’t include DT Nick Fairley anymore because it doesn’t seem like anyone else is either. It leaves us with seven names, and the all-powerful quarterback situation. In Carolina, my man Darin Gantt believes there are only three legit possibilities for the No. 1 pick, and he has long believed it will end up being Cam Newton. For Denver, the pull has been strong for Dareus, since a) John Fox has always been a guy who likes to build up front; b) the Broncos were so porous and c) they have Elvis Dumervil coming back from injury so Miller might not be as necessary. Although Miller and Peterson have been mentioned (It has to be defense in Denver, right?).

Buffalo could use a QB, but Chan Gailey seems to want defense, so Miller has been a popular possibility for a team that uses the 3-4 and needs a pass rush. If the Cards want Miller, it seems the Bills will be the key. The Bengals figure to go offense, whether a QB or WR. The Cards, who have hinted many times they aren’t necessarily looking QB early, still don’t seem to make sense with a pick like that. Here’s the question, assuming Miller is gone: Could you make Bowers work in your defense? Is Peterson good enough? Do you reach outside the above list of names? By the time we get to the draft, would my list above change?

I wonder what Top Five Tate’s list would look like?


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The case of Quinn and Bowers

Posted by Darren Urban on March 29, 2011 – 11:13 am

While everyone continues to wonder about how the first five picks of the draft will go — including me — this week could make an impact on the upper part of the round. Friday, Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers is holding a private workout to show teams his knee surgery was minor and he indeed is ready to go and perform as the player who notched 16 sacks last season. The day before is North Carolina’s pro day, where teams can further scrutinize perhaps the biggest wild card that high in the draft — defensive end-who-can-be-a-linebacker Robert Quinn. Quinn (pictured below at the Scouting combine) didn’t play in 2010 after being ruled ineligible by the NCAA for improperly taking benefits from agents.

In 2009, Quinn had 11 sacks. He is athletic but raw and would have to make the transition from defensive end to linebacker if he played for the Cardinals. But he is a pass rusher to consider if Von Miller is indeed gone by pick No. 5 (The Cardinals will have multiple representatives at both Bowers’ and Carolina’s workouts).

Even if the Cards wouldn’t take them (Bowers doesn’t seem to fit the Cards’ scheme) they could be candidates to go in the top four, Bowers especially.  That, of course, could change some things.


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Mockingly, a vote for Peterson

Posted by Darren Urban on March 28, 2011 – 4:53 pm

I know people love to look at mock drafts but they seem rather silly to me, especially more than a few days out — so much can still change (the Cards, for instance, haven’t even started to build their draft board) and it’s usually an exercise in futility anyway.

That said, it is fun to talk about and debate, and NFL.com has been doing a video mock the past few years, getting someone who covers the team to make a pick for that team and explain some of the reasoning behind it. I did that last week, and now the top eight picks are posted on NFL.com. The way it works is they come to you and let you know what players are gone and you move from there. In this mock, the top four picks before the Cards were on the clock looked like this:

  • Carolina — QB Cam Newton, Auburn
  • Denver — DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama
  • Buffalo — LB Von Miller, Texas A&M
  • Cincinnati — WR A.J. Green, Georgia

Obviously, Miller being off the board takes away a player many link to the Cards right now. It leaves two names that have floated around consistently in QB Blaine Gabbert and CB Patrick Peterson.

In this instance, as you can see in the video, I went with Peterson.

I am not saying I feel sure about such a pick. Peterson is expected to be one of the best, if not the best, players available. As I noted in my explanation, however, there seem to be a lot of parallels to Antrel Rolle that would at least make me hesitate. It’s also possible Gabbert is impressing the Cards when they get a chance to talk to him. Some, at this point, think Gabbert would be impossible for the Cards to pass up. And maybe the need for a pass rusher goes beyond keying on Miller, too.

As has been said many times, the quarterbacks hold the key to the top five. If Newton and Gabbert are both chosen, it looks so much different than if they are not. Realistically, all five teams need a QB — or at least it can be said that none are sure they have their long-term quarterback currently.

In this case, Peterson seems to be an impact player on the defense, which the Cards could use (yes, I do have concerns about a low Wonderlic score; it’s not the end-all, be-all, but it can’t be ignored either). I think impacting the defense is important. Would they go with him over say, Gabbert, if this is how it plays out? I guess we won’t know unless this is how it plays out.

P.S. By the way, just in case anyone wasn’t sure


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Analyzing Whiz and Newton

Posted by Darren Urban on March 9, 2011 – 10:16 am

So yesterday’s Auburn pro day dragged on and on and on just to get to the end part, which was the part everyone was looking for — Cam Newton throwing passes. After his ragged showing in Indy, he needed a good day. He had it, although again, how can you not, throwing against no defenders?

More importantly — and more relevant to anyone reading here — was the end, when coach Ken Whisenhunt stepped up to ask Newton to make a particular throw or two that he had not, and then made sure to shake Newton’s hand after it was over, apparently the lone coach to do so. This was caught on camera, and from a Cardinals’ perspective, tough not to notice.

I agree with Kent Somers: The request from Whisenhunt was less about seeing how Newton made the throws and more about seeing how Newton reacted to being asked to make those throws. I’m sure Newton’s sequence was scripted yesterday; so you ask for something off the script. Playing quarterback in this league is often about adjusting on the fly.

But I wouldn’t read too much into it. Whisenhunt traveled across country to see this pro day (and that’s a fuzzy Whiz on the far left of the Newton picture below). He might as well get something out of it besides what Auburn was trying to portray to the NFL. It doesn’t mean the Cards are suddenly looking at Newton — to me, any interest was always going to come down to how Newton interacts with the Cards during interviews, and what kind of things are said about the kid by those who had to work with him all the time (coaches, trainers, etc.). And I still think there’s a good chance he is taken in the top four picks anyway.

A couple of other things I wanted to touch on:

– There was that “other” pro day yesterday. Arkansas, with QB Ryan Mallett. And he ran a 5.37 40-yard dash. That’s way slow. As a point of reference, Cards tackle Levi Brown ran a 5.40 40 when he came out, guard Deuce Lutui a 5.45 and center Lyle Sendlein a 5.24. Peyton Manning and Dan Marino, neither of whom are considered runners, were under five seconds when they came out.

Does it matter? Maybe not. It’s not like you are going to ask Mallett to rush 15 times a game. But it definitely makes you wonder about his ability to move in the pocket if the play breaks down.

– Seems like almost everyone has linked Texas A&M pass rusher Von Miller to the Cardinals — even me — but there are those who aren’t fans of Miller. Former Cardinals scout Dave Razzano, who frequently does work for Comcast in the Bay area, is one of those guys. Razzano compared Miller to Jets bust Vernon Gholston, who was cut after three seasons and zero sacks.


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Pro days and the case for No. 1 Cam

Posted by Darren Urban on March 8, 2011 – 9:54 am

The Cardinals have a handful of decision-makers — including head coach Ken Whisenhunt — attending Auburn’s pro day today, as colleges begin to host their home-cooking workouts. Obviously Auburn has a pair of potential top five picks in QB Cam Newton and DT Nick Fairley. Arkansas also has it’s pro day today; is it notable Whisenhunt chose to go where Newton is and not Ryan Mallett? Maybe. Maybe he already has seen what he wants to see from Mallett. Maybe the Cards will schedule Mallett for a one-on-one workout. The point is I don’t think you can make assumptions based on today’s choice.

At this point, the general feeling is that Newton and Misouri’s Blaine Gabbert (who, after not throwing at the combine, has his pro day March 17) are the top two QBs available. So to me, choosing to watch Newton over Mallett is logical. Doesn’t mean the Cards will take a quarterback.

Which leads me to this point: So many people are wondering if the Cards will take a QB first. What if Newton and Gabbert are both off the board in the top four picks? It may be a moot point for the Cards in the end.

My friend Darin Gantt, who covers the Panthers, told Bengals.com he thinks (at least on March 8th) that Newton will be the Panthers’ pick after losing out on Andrew Luck. That’d be a surprise. But I also remember about this time last year when everyone was just starting to talk about Sam Bradford going to the Rams No. 1 after he was hurt almost his entire final season in college. Everyone at first didn’t think Bradford would be the pick. Then he was, and it turned out pretty well for St. Louis.

That same top-three mock has Denver taking Von Miller at No. 2 and Alabama DT Marcell Dareus going to Buffalo at No. 3. That’d leave Cincinnati before Arizona. But all four teams in front of the Cardinals could conceivably be looking for a quarterback of the future. Would it really be a stunner to see both Newton and Gabbert off the board that early? I don’t think so.

We will see. In the meantime, the Cards will continue checking out the pro days (general manager Rod Graves is scheduled to attend the pro days of TCU, LSU and Texas A&M over the next six days) and doing due diligence. There can only be four players taken before the Cards go. Someone high-profile is going to be sitting there at 5. Who that is, however, remains vague.


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Off the edge

Posted by Darren Urban on January 31, 2011 – 3:25 pm

By the time I arrived to cover the Cardinals full-time, Simeon Rice’s best Cardinals’ season was behind him, with 16½ sacks in 1999. I was in place just in time for a contract dispute and “Don’t-tell-Mike-Jurecki-come-talk-to-me!” from then-GM Bob Ferguson. Rice had only 7½ sacks in 2000 and then left as a free agent.

Since then, finding a difference-making pass rusher hasn’t been easy for the Cardinals.

They signed one as a free agent in 2004, when they got Bertrand Berry and he collected 14½ that season (including four on Giants quarterback Kurt Warner, if you recall) but then injuries and eventually age shredded Berry’s chances to reach double digits again. That year was the only one where a Cardinal had at least 10 sacks since Rice’s big 1999 season; amazingly, Berry’s five sacks led the Cards in their Super Bowl season. Defensive end Calais Campbell led the Cards this season with six.

The Cards did get pressure-by-committee more in 2009. Campbell and Darnell Dockett tied for the team lead with seven, although the Cards had 43 as a team (sixth in the NFL), the most they had ever posted since moving to Arizona in 1988. That number dropped to 33 this season, and the current problems on offense – last season, the Cards had the lead much more often, providing more chances to rush the passer – certainly had something to do with it. In any case, that one guy the other team has to fear all by himself, he remains absent.

So that brings us to where the Cards stand now. Let’s, for a moment, assume the labor issues are resolved relatively quickly. Can they get that guy now? Could they, perhaps, pry someone like LaMarr Woodley away as a free agent (although reports are that Woodley expects to remain in Pittsburgh)? Then there is the idea of someone like Von Miller of Texas A&M would be a good draft pick, because of the pressure he could provide. (There is also the idea of someone like O’Brien Schofield developing into that dynamic guy, which he was in college). For a moment, forget about specifics. To get such a player, whomever he might be, improves your secondary/pass defense, because the more pressure you can deliver without blitzing means the more defenders you have in pass coverage.

And besides, it’d be one more guy who – as coaches and players alike like to say – “makes plays.” Those are the guys who tilt the game in your favor.


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