The first Cardinals draft I covered as a beat guy was back in 2001, which just so happened to be the highest pick the Cards have had since I have been around the team — second overall. That’s 13 drafts overall and 14 first-round picks. As the Cards get closer to this year’s draft (jeez, is it ever going to get here?) I thought I’d hit the first-round picks I’ve seen, with both my initial thoughts at the time and what hindsight has brought.
— 2001: T Leonard Davis. It was a no-brainer. Davis was a sure thing, taken right after Michael Vick. He’d be the 10-year left tackle the Cardinals sought since Lomas Brown had left. Bigg (he went by the nickname “Big” and at some point, started adding an extra “g”) was just that, a mammoth man. Sure, the Cards decided to play him at guard his first season, but that was so he could get used to the game. Dave McGinnis even brought myself and Kent Somers to his office one day to show us Davis manhandling a couple of defenders. I remember him totally rag-dolling Bears safety Mike Brown on one play. Problem was, he never really panned out as a left tackle, even though Denny Green insisted on shoe-horning him there. He was a better guard, and the Cards weren’t going to break the bank on a guard, so he later got big money from the Cowboys. And made the Pro Bowl. As a guard.
— 2002: DT Wendell Bryant. What I really remember is hearing how then-defensive line coach Joe Greene had been so impressed with Bryant the player and the person during a workout up in Wisconsin. Uh, yeah, not so much. Bryant was a holdout until the regular season started of his rookie year, and he never climbed out of that hole. A total bust.
— 2003: DE Calvin Pace and WR Bryant Johnson. Ahh, the everyone-assumed-Terrell-Suggs-was-coming-to-the-Cards draft. This was the most surprising first round. The Cards traded down from No. 6 overall, thinking in part they could get DE Jerome McDougle. The Eagles jumped to No. 15 to get McDougle, and the Cards reached for Pace at 17 and then took Johnson at 18. Pace ended up a decent player, although he didn’t really hit his stride until Ken Whisenhunt showed up. This was a thank-goodness-for-Anquan-Boldin-in-the-second-round class.
— 2004: WR Larry Fitzgerald. And to think, if Josh McCown’s pass falls incomplete, would it have been Eli Manning? Or would Denny Green have made sure Fitz was No. 1 overall?
— 2005: CB Antrel Rolle. This was pretty straight-forward. Rolle was considered a top-10 talent, the Cards needed a corner. The problem was Rolle came into the league with most assuming he’d be better at safety. He was.
— 2006: QB Matt Leinart. Green said when the pick was made that Leinart falling to the Cards at 10 was really a “gift from heaven.” Seems really silly now. But it wasn’t at the time. (The Cards likely would have taken Jay Cutler, who went No. 11, if Leinart had been off the board.) Truth be told I thought it was a good pick, and I was convinced he would be that QB the Cards needed after his first two starts, come-from-ahead losses — but not his fault — to Kansas City and Chicago (“We let ’em off the hook!”) Time proved I was way wrong. But it allowed Kurt Warner’s rebirth, so there’s that.
— 2007: T Levi Brown. The Cards wanted a left tackle. Joe Thomas was already taken. The Cards already had Edgerrin James, so Adrian Peterson didn’t make enough sense. And I’ll move on.
— 2008: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. DRC was odd. He was raw. He was good. He frustrated sometimes, going from Pro Bowl talent to a guy who wouldn’t pay attention in stretches. But it was the right call. If only he hadn’t been the price for Kevin Kolb …
— 2009: RB Beanie Wells: Beanie was never really healthy. A prime example of why teams don’t look to running backs early anymore.
— 2010: NT Dan Williams. Williams has been a starter and has improved. He forms a nice tandem with Alameda Ta’amu. Funny, the biggest thing I remember of when the Cards took him was that Tim Tebow was picked right before him — virtually eliminating any chance he was going to get mentioned on national TV broadcasts.
— 2011: CB Patrick Peterson. Yeah, a good pick. Obvious, but good.
— 2012: WR Michael Floyd. He’s turned into a good player in a short time. He wasn’t the left tackle everyone said they wanted, but he was better than the tackles on the board.
— 2013: G Jonathan Cooper. Coop should turn out to be a wise choice. If any of the big three tackles had been left at No. 7, the Cards probably would have nabbed one, but GM Steve Keim was about best players, and he believes Cooper was that.
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Antrel Rolle, Beanie Wells, Bryant Johnson, Calvin Pace, Dan Williams, draft, DRC, Jonathan Cooper, Larry Fitzgerald, Leonard Davis, Levi Brown, Matt Leinart, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Wendell Bryant
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Once, the end of offseason work for the Cardinals wasn’t just a beginning but a much bigger deal, specifically when coach Dennis Green used it in his first season as a time to announce his starting lineup for the season. (That was a crazy time. It really was.)
Now, coach Ken Whisenhunt emphasizes competition and ongoing competition. Nothing up for grabs was going to be settled in a month’s worth of work in May and June. But there was one thing settled that is a significant step for the Cardinals — every draft pick was signed before the work ended. Michael Floyd and Jamell Fleming (below) signed on the dotted line, and just like that, a headache that had shrunk in recent years (yet still existed) was gone.
It’ll be league-wide, and it’s thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement. No longer will players be holding out. I’ve never thought, if a player missed a day or two of camp, it was a huge deal, but looking at the last 10 years and the number of picks that have missed at least some time in camp, this is a welcome change:
— 2011 Patrick Peterson, missed 1 day
— 2010 Dan Williams, 3 days
— 2009 Beanie Wells, 3 days
— 2008 Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, 2 days
— 2007 Levi Brown, 6 days
— 2006 Matt Leinart, 15 days
— 2005 Antrel Rolle, 8 days
— 2004 Larry Fitzgerald, 1 day
— 2003 Calvin Pace, 3 days; Bryant Johnson 4 days
— 2002 Wendell Bryant, all of training camp and two weeks of the regular season
“Knowing the first day of training camp you will have everyone there is a big deal,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “When they miss those first couple of days, it seems like they are always playing catch-up. It’s good we had all our guys here. It’ll be good to have everyone there from Day One. It’s great that our organization, (president) Michael (Bidwill) and (general manager) Rod (Graves), have been so proactive.”
Tags: Antrel Rolle, Beanie Wells, Bryant Johnson, Calvin Pace, contracts, Dan Williams, DRC, Jamell Fleming, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Matt Leinart, Michael Bidwill, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Rod Graves, Wendell Bryant
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There has been a lot of news nationally of late of draft picks signing quickly across the league. Understandably, the question arises whether the Cards will do something soon. But the reality is this: There is no reason, at this point, for rookies to sign. And given the new collective bargaining agreement, it’s not going to matter.
The circumstances provide a two-fold explanation. There has never been a reason for rookies to have signed for offseason work. Other than last season, when there was no offseason, almost every draft pick — and every Cardinal draft pick that I can remember — started offseason minicamp/OTAs without a rookie contract. The players instead sign injury waivers, which basically guarantees a rookie his “normal” contract even if he gets hurt during minicamp or other team work.
(Yes, that’s what we were talking about for those who remember the Wendell Bryant situation in 2002. The team’s No. 1 pick wouldn’t sign the injury waiver because his agent didn’t think the Cards had the right language protecting his player, and Bryant never took part in the summer work. It was repeated the next year with No. 1 picks Calvin Pace and Bryant Johnson. The Cards fixed what they were doing — another step in the way the franchise progressed over the past decade — and it hasn’t been an issue for a long time.)
There will be no issue with the draft picks participating, even though they haven’t scribbled on the dotted line yet.
That brings up the other side of the equation. In years past, the negotiations would have heated up sometime after July 4. The top two or three picks wouldn’t be signed until camp was imminent, or in the case of the top pick, a day or two into camp. Since Bryant — who didn’t sign until September — it’s never made a difference. The rookies never had missed so much to make a difference.
Now, though, because of the new CBA, rookie contracts are slotted and set harder than in years past. The reason guys have signed so fast other places is because there really isn’t much negotiating to do. Because of that, the rookies will sign quicker. Every guy will be signed before camp. There’s no reason to fret right now.
Tags: Bryant Johnson, Calvin Pace, draft, offseason, OTAs, Wendell Bryant
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