Supply and demand

Posted by Darren Urban on March 1, 2012 – 3:54 pm

A big reason why many teams like having free agency ahead of the draft is simple: Through free agency, a team can plug some holes, making it much easier in the you-don’t-know-who-will-be-available world of the draft to take the best player available.

(OK, OK, it’s not usually straight BPA, but those are details best served for a blog closer to the draft. Work with me here.)

But plugging holes sounds good only when you can get players to plug. For the Cardinals, that’s where reality and the basic concept of supply and demand can impact the shopping coming up March 13. If I had to carve out a list of prioritized needs, it’d start with tackle and then outside linebacker, both of which would be much higher up the chain than, say, wide receiver (although, with Early Doucet hitting the market and looking for upgrades, receiver fits in on the list too.) Finding tackles and/or outside linebackers though — good ones, with which you feel like you’ve upgraded — aren’t easy to find.

At linebacker, a potential free agent like Dallas’ Anthony Spencer is going to get the franchise tag. Someone like Mario Williams will be way, way too expensive. Maybe Kamerion Wimbley is cut by the Raiders, but with such a dearth of 3-4 pass rushers available, his price tag will likely jump quickly if he does become free. Sam Acho and O’Brien Schofield made big strides last season but the Cards need to add at least a piece there, but again, that doesn’t make it a simple move.

(They were probably looking around last year too, but again, teams just don’t let good 3-4 rushers hit the market.)

Tackle is a similar issue, only perhaps more pressing since in theory the Cards could lose both starters in left tackle Levi Brown and right tackle Brandon Keith. As I have mentioned more than a few times and as what was brought up again today on, Brown would seem more likely to force the Cards to let him go so he can test the market and his value rather than restructure his deal first. That makes sense. It doesn’t mean Brown is looking to break the bank, but realistically, he could end up as one of the most attractive tackles available in that situation. Such is the state of potential available tackles. (To a lesser extent, this applies to Keith as well.)

There are guys like the Lions’ Jeff Backus, the Raiders’ Khalif Barnes and the Steelers’ Max Starks who could be had, but the Cards would like Brown back. The Bills’ Demetrius Bell and the Chargers’ Jared Gaither are popular suggestions because they are younger, but neither have impressively long resumes either — again, their teams aren’t rushing to make sure they stay. Some of these guys might not even make it to market either, if their teams re-sign them over the next two weeks.

And that doesn’t even include all the teams that would like to upgrade at tackle, which, when you look around the league, seems like about half the NFL.

It’s why general manager Rod Graves talked about setting a value for Brown and sticking by that evaluation, and why other decision-makers around the league talked at the combine about not getting caught up in a feeding frenzy. It’s never easy when you want a player but as with anything in life, a big price tag brings with it big expectations, whether the player is capable or not. It’s a fine line that must be walked for the Cards and every other team in free agency.

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52 Responses to “Supply and demand”

  1. By Helldozer on Mar 1, 2012 | Reply

    I haven’t looked at it in that perspective. Though, I think about when you want to keep a player…you should ask yourself some important questions. For example, if I were looking at drafting/signing a kid from college, what are my requirements? I’m assuming you would base your decision on how the kid played the past four years. That said, would you re-sign our tackles based on their previous four years of play? Are there other players that have performed better over the past four years?

    Just some thoughts I have. I’m not sure if they are right or wrong.

  2. By Scott on Mar 1, 2012 | Reply

    I don’t understand why Mario Williams would be “way, way” to expensive. The Cards NEED this guy! He fits perfectly. Spend the money this year and go get a championship! NO EXCUSES!

  3. By Darren Urban on Mar 1, 2012 | Reply

    Scott, Bill —

    RE: Mario Williams

    Careful about being one of those guys who wants everyone with a “name” to be signed with no regard for any details. Doesn’t happen in a vacuum. (which sounds a little more Scott and not really Bill).

    This isn’t about being cheap (The Cards, by the way, were one of the top five spending teams in the NFL in 2011, FYI.). You chase Williams, you’re going to have to let Campbell go. Not enough cap room for everyone.

  4. By Bill on Mar 1, 2012 | Reply


    I’m not advocating this, per se, but my question for you is: does the price tag of a premier name like Mario Williams automatically take the Cards out of the running? From one perspective, adding such a key piece to a defense that was among the top in the league once they figured out what they were doing only makes them that much better as a unit. Not to mention that you can brink O’Brian and Sam along patiently rather than forcing them into a position they may not be quite ready for – yet.

    On the other hand, that’s a helluva lot of money, that could very well be used better elsewhere.

    To sum up my position, I would love to see the Cards a little more aggressive in going out and getting those pieces we need, whether that be by trading up in the draft or persuing a premier name in free agency. At the same time, I don’t want to put the proverbial cart before the horse.

  5. By Chris on Mar 1, 2012 | Reply

    I’m sure Kolb would restructure his contract (and medical insurance) for a better left tackle.

  6. By brad oneill on Mar 1, 2012 | Reply

    Bill- not to mention players rarely if ever live up to the expectations that come with them instantly being thrown in as the one missing piece of the puzzle. look at the dream team in Philly last year. Just because someone was great in one situation doesn’t mean they can repeat it in another.

    Where are team has thrived recently is in later round gems in the draft. I am just happy they are willing to pay their proven commodities like campbell, dockett, fitz, warner then they once were. the next step isnt going broke on a guy that will cost our current guys their future here.

  7. By AZbelgium on Mar 1, 2012 | Reply

    How much cap room is there left atm.. we know about some teams that are left to play with around 50 mill etc like Niners and some others.
    How do we look at the moment? I know i saw it somewhere or something about the players caps, but yeah have you got an idea atm?

    I really hope we can make an upgrade on the WR with someone like Pierre garcon and then still get a good tackle and hopefully OLB. Then Draft some really good players which can maybe be an upgrade too (let’s hope for a good one like Fitz and PP last year).

    I really get a feeling we’ll get there with our QB’s Kolb and Skelton.. we missed it last year with all losses with max 7pts. So even tough our schedule looks tougher i think we’ll be there with a training camp and good pre-season for the whole team!

  8. By Mr.Ramirez on Mar 1, 2012 | Reply

    Mario williams would be to expensive (He probably won’t leave Houston anyway)but there still are plenty of other great players that the Cardinals could pick up through free agency.

  9. By Gilbert on Mar 1, 2012 | Reply

    Good spread Darren. Remind all these weird critics that the Cards are spending n they r not the same from the past.

  10. By Bryth on Mar 1, 2012 | Reply

    – Darren

    Just saw a retweet by Jim Trotter that the Steelers will release Kemoeatu. If Brown and/or Ketih go somewhere else do you see the Cards looking at his as a possibility? I know OG isnt a dire need, but the coaches seem to like players that have played for the Steelers.

  11. By Darren Urban on Mar 1, 2012 | Reply

    Bryth –

    RE: Kemoeatu

    Never say never but yes, T much much more pressing. I guess it depends on what happens with Deuce.

  12. By Chris B on Mar 1, 2012 | Reply

    Second paragraph:
    “But plugging holes”…………………

    I really should not read things out loud first go around…

  13. By AndyStandsUp on Mar 1, 2012 | Reply

    Mario Williams would be too expensive but Peyton Manning could be had?
    If you want a player bad enough you can make it work, that’s why teams have capologists. (I believe I read that here on this site.)

    Speaking of restructuring contracts, Darren, any whispers of players other than Brown being asked? They have several candidates, no?

  14. By Darren Urban on Mar 1, 2012 | Reply

    AndyStands –

    RE: contracts

    You are right, if a team wants it bad enough they can make it happen.

    And no, I have not heard of other restructures.

  15. By johnnybluenose on Mar 1, 2012 | Reply

    a bit off topic here but i heard today that jerry jones said that he is not interested in making a play for manning, luck or RG3. romo is his guy. whether you agree with jones or not you have to think that romo feels pretty good knowing that his management believes in him. i wish our management would give the same vote of confidence to kolb and skelton NOW and not leave them hanging and wondering if they are still cardinals only because those other guys were not at all interested in coming here. let us concentrate on the o-line, receivers and aggressive defenders and keep our core guys together.

  16. By cardsalltheway on Mar 1, 2012 | Reply

    Nice piece Darren but I think we need a Running back as well to back up Beanie. Stephens-Howling, LaRod is a restricted FA, Chester Taylor is an unrestricted FA as is Alfonso Smith. William Powell is on our practice squad and the unproven Ryan Williams should not be expected to produce much out of the gate or at least until Oct. or Nov. If he is expected to before that then his chance of another kind of injury will rise especially the way he runs. Of course we could always “ride” Beanie as long as he stays healthy.

    Or we could sign Peyton Hillis since the market is “soft.”
    Then we wouldn’t have to worry about a speedy receiver until the 6th or 7th round and we’d know we could rely on the run with our current haphazard OL.

  17. By Rich on Mar 1, 2012 | Reply

    Keeping Levi is a good move. NOT so for Brandon Keith.

  18. By Bob Diesel on Mar 1, 2012 | Reply

    How does a 4-3 d-end fit a 3-4 perfectly? If you do sign Mario Williams, does that mean you don’t extend CC, or say goodbye to DD?

  19. By Darren Urban on Mar 1, 2012 | Reply

    Bob Diesel –

    RE: Williams

    Williams moved to 3-4 OLB this past season and by all accounts was doing pretty well when he got hurt.

  20. By georgiebird on Mar 1, 2012 | Reply

    Cardinals have failed miserably in FA. It’s time for Whiz and Graves to get their act together and show they can pick FAs who will flourish with the Cards. We have seen guys come in here (under current & prior HCs) and play anywhere from ok to terrible. Maybe there has been one FA who has come in and been a difference maker (I can’t remember).
    If either of our QBs, can have a QB rating near 90 and if the 2nd half defensive performance was for real, then the Cards can compete for a wild card by getting Levi back.
    It’s funny how Levi’s stock has risen- it wasn’t long ago that I was just about the only one on this site sticking up for Grimm and the OL.
    Time to draft a WR- one who can stretch the field and make things happen. And let’s stop going overboard trying to create a offensive line that won’t give up a sack so that KK will survive. This is the NFL-defensive guys are paid to punish the QB.

  21. By Darren Urban on Mar 2, 2012 | Reply

    Georgie —

    RE: FA

    Please tell the the percentage of free agents across the league that come in and become a difference-maker. The vast majority don’t. Teams don’t let difference-makers reach free agency. There is a reason guys who are free agents become free agents, either because of talent or because their price tag is out of whack with what they bring to the table.

    There are some big FA finds. Drew Brees comes to mind. But those guys aren’t out there.

  22. By Cactus jeff on Mar 1, 2012 | Reply

    My take on free agency is a team should go after the top free agent. Bears with Julius Peppers and Packers with Charles Woodson are 2 examples. Otherwise teams overpay for average players.

    I want the cards to zero in on one top free agent and then build the depth from within. Go get the guard from the Saints or Peyton Manning. Resign Levi and Duece and get a pro bowl player in the first round (DL, OL, or WR).

  23. By Shaun Church on Mar 2, 2012 | Reply


    As this is a middle-of-the-night comment and I’m half asleep, I have not read a single comment above mine. So if this has been asked, I apologize.

    What is your opinion of Melvin Ingram, the DE/OLB from South Carolina? I’m absolutely in love with the kid and feel he can be one of the best pass rushers in the league in a few years’ time. He’s incredibly versatile and can play anywhere in the front seven.

    Cards need to pursue his talents should he be there for them at No. 13

  24. By Darren Urban on Mar 2, 2012 | Reply

    Shaun —

    RE: Ingram

    I have never seen him play. I’ve heard his name. Sounds reasonable, but I have no idea.

  25. By cardsalltheway on Mar 2, 2012 | Reply

    Here is what one Colts fan(Malakai543) wrote…
    “In terms of Manning, if he and Wayne ended up going to Arizona teaming up w Fitz & Wells & also maybe drafting DeCastro or another talented offensive player, that would be one potentially epic offense.”

    That Colts fan must not know who actually calls the plays in AZ and even with K. Warner I wouldn’t say we were “epic.” However, I’m all for dropping you know who and signing P.M.

    The link above predicted the records of 6 different teams with P. Manning but AZ Cardinals weren’t one of the six. I guess an inflexible HC/GM would prevent such a move from happening in AZ no matter if they really thought it would improve our team. No lost face is AZ as hardly ever are mistakes made by them. A twenty million $$$ mistake/decision, heaven forbid there be an about face. If only Ken W. could be a bit more like the Jets Rex Ryan in how he admits mistakes.

  26. By D on Mar 2, 2012 | Reply

    Bottome line is that AZ can’t take the normal sit and wait thing they normally do in free agency because only a few players that are good will be available for a very short time. These positions we are talking about are very important to a successful year- both tackles an OLB spots..this is the offseason that Michael B can show everyone he is serious about winning, and No I am not talking about a QB with #18 on his back….fill the holes now or fall that much farther behind a possible dynasty in SF

  27. By Darren Urban on Mar 2, 2012 | Reply

    D —

    RE: SF “dynasty”

    Whoa there, Tex. The Niners had one good season and didn’t reach the Super Bowl. How about we put the brakes on calling them a potential “dynasty.”

  28. By Jeff Gollin on Mar 2, 2012 | Reply

    I’m guessing that the process has become sophisticated enough for teams like the Cardinals to draw up “job descriptions” for each of the 53 spots on the roster cross-filed by what they want (& what they want) within the context of each position depth-chart.

    This is where intangibles like “veteran leadership” come into play – or specific roles/physical profiles enter the picture (i.e. “we need 2 pass rushing Woodley type OLB’s – 6-2 260+ lbs, can hold the edge against the run and get us 6+ sacks per year”…).

    Where it gets really interesting is at WR and CB (where you now need specialists and subspecialists for nickel, dime, slot and unique size/speed matchups). It’s not enough to say you want “3 CB’s who can start. One has to be an inside guy, another an outside guy and a third a slot guy etc,. etc,. etc.

    Perhaps you might do a “team needs” predraft analysis based on all 53 roster spots (if WIz and his people will share that with you).

  29. By D on Mar 2, 2012 | Reply

    SF Niners are resigning core players and have more talent across the board than AZ…Larry, Adub and Dockett aren’t getting any younger. In this day and age of NFL, you can’t build for the future, you have to go for it in the present.I just don’t want to see Marshall and Levi walk away and we end up on March 30 to sign some stop gap players hoping we get lucky in the draft to fill some holes…

  30. By Rugbymuffin on Mar 2, 2012 | Reply

    I am not sure if I am buing into the fact that Levi Brown is a better option at tackle, then the free agent you list.

    Yes, none of the free agents available are future all-pros but when you tackles are listed as the worst tandem last year, and your LT is THE worst OT in that last three years, I cannot see how they are better options then a Backus, Starks, Barnes, etc., etc.

    An upgrade is an upgrade. I would take another Mike Gandy to hold the fort down, as the Cardinals try to figure something out long term. Again, not an All-pro but an upgrade.


  31. By John the draft guy on Mar 2, 2012 | Reply

    If I can, let me weigh in on the Super Mario debate;

    Lets get this out there, Super Mario is no Demarcus Ware. Mario has been injured the last 2 years, playing 5 games and 13 games respectfully. In the last 3 years, he has not had double digit sacks. As Darren said, watch chasing big names.

    He is 6’6″ and 290 pounds playing OLB. I don’t think he is very good dropping into coverage. And, although they put him at OLB this year, you don’t see the Texans tripping over themselves to get him back.

    My opinion, he goes back to being a DE on a team that plays a 4-3 defense. Hopefully he can return to his 2007 form when he put up 14 sacks.

  32. By Brian on Mar 2, 2012 | Reply

    cardsalltheway –

    We get it, you hate Whiz and the front office. Go be a Jets fan!

  33. By Jay on Mar 2, 2012 | Reply

    Darren, Off the topic of tackles, but any news on the Calais Campbell signing? Are the sides getting closer or the Cards probably have to use the franchise tag to buy more time to work something out?
    The problem with that is the franchise tag eats up a lot of cap space immediately possibly restricting any free agent moves until a long term more cap friendly deal can be reached.
    If I remember correctly was that not the case with Fitz be franchised and the Cards being unable to come up with the $$ to match the deal the Jets gave Alan Faneca.

  34. By Darren Urban on Mar 2, 2012 | Reply

    Jay —

    RE: Campbell

    At this point, I expect him to be tagged and talks continuing.

    The Fitz deal was different. Wasn’t the franchise tag. He just had a giant final year of his contract that needed to be lowered (like Levi Brown now) and the Cards weren’t going to risk putting him on the open market. But you are right, same type of result.

  35. By Mike Ellingboe on Mar 2, 2012 | Reply


    “If you want a player bad enough you can make it work, that’s why teams have capologists. (I believe I read that here on this site.)”

    Problem with that is you can only restructure so much before it comes time to pay up. Ask the Steelers, who just had to tender Wallace instead of franchising him, or Houston, who will have to say goodbye to Williams, about that.

  36. By Matt in Philly on Mar 2, 2012 | Reply

    I don’t necessarily think that we have to rush out and grab a linebacker. Sam Acho had five sacks and three forced fumbles in the last 9 games of the season. That’s coming from a rookie who had virtually no training camp and played in a defense in transition. Schofield had three sacks in the final five games of the season, and also hasn’t really had a training camp or a consistent defensive scheme. These two guys showed that they had some real skill in the latter half of the season, and should only improve with a full training camp, and what is developing into a real defensive scheme. Let’s also remember that things will only get easier for those OLBs when the secondary gets back to full strength with Toler and Rhodes. I would say that finding a reliable OT is the top priority, followed by a REAL #2 option at WR, and then some depth at both the inside and outside linebacker positions. My dream scenario: draft Kendall Wright (WR), sign Jared Gaither, re-sign Levi, sign a serviceable OLB for depth.

  37. By Darren Urban on Mar 2, 2012 | Reply

    Matt in Philly —

    RE: LB

    Understood on Acho/Schofield to a point. But who else do you have at OLB besides them? What if one gets hurt? Have to have more there, and more talent.

  38. By Mike Ellingboe on Mar 2, 2012 | Reply


    “No lost face is AZ as hardly ever are mistakes made by them. A twenty million $$$ mistake/decision, heaven forbid there be an about face. If only Ken W. could be a bit more like the Jets Rex Ryan in how he admits mistakes.”

    I think releasing your projected starting QB at the end of preseason is about as big of a concession that you’ve made a mistake as there is.

    An obscure comment on a Colts blog site doesn’t predict our record, and you take that to mean we’re out of the running for Manning, should he become available?

    Ask a Jets fan how excited they are about Ryan’s blustery demeanor – why would you wish for the most divided locker room in the league? Whisenhunt held his together after a 1-6 start.

  39. By Mike Ellingboe on Mar 2, 2012 | Reply


    “Maybe there has been one FA who has come in and been a difference maker (I can’t remember”

    Jesus, Georgie. Does the name Kurt Warner ring a bell with you?

  40. By Mike Ellingboe on Mar 2, 2012 | Reply

    @Cactus Jeff,

    “My take on free agency is a team should go after the top free agent. Bears with Julius Peppers and Packers with Charles Woodson are 2 examples. Otherwise teams overpay for average players.”

    In hindsight, I think Daniel Snyder would take issue with that strategy.

  41. By Mike Ellingboe on Mar 2, 2012 | Reply


    I apologize for fanning the flames on this, but in light of the current forum it’s sort of relevant. Any eyebrows raised around there about Mike Wallace only getting tendered? I know Pittsburgh is scrambling like crazy right now to clear up some cap space, but I’m thinking there could be a few teams with more cap room that would see him being worth a first rounder. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not on board with heading into April with nothing higher than a third rounder (and handcuffing our own future cap) but an offense with Fitz and Wallace does have it’s appeal (imagine the numbers Fitz puts up without seeing a double team most of the year). I know you’ve continually advocated against two #1’s but the skill sets involved would make coverage nearly impossible.

  42. By Darren Urban on Mar 2, 2012 | Reply

    Mike Ellingboe —

    RE: Wallace

    Given all the reasons you said, it’s not going to happen.

  43. By cards62 on Mar 2, 2012 | Reply

    Risk and reward you cant have one without the other.

    Our offense needs an overhaul and our defense needs some fine tuning.
    I think we would all agree on this point.

    I agree with Darren on our areas of need and I think most of our fans will also agree. I just want to see us take some chances and make some moves so we have potential to be great next year.

    Am I happy with Kevin Kolb right now no I am not. I do hope to be happy with him in the future, but no guarantees, but I am glad the Cardinals made a move and brought someone in to compete with Skelton, Bartel, and released Derek Anderson.

    I just do not think we can fill all of our needs with the draft so I am hoping we sign 2 or 3 very good free agents. Now after 2012 QB could be our biggest need, but I think we need to give our guys 1 more year with better protection, and more weapons. Of course if Peyton Manning is healthy and available we would definitely have to try to get him this year.

    Go Cards and Rod Graves take some chances.

  44. By cardsalltheway on Mar 3, 2012 | Reply

    Albert Breer of NFL Network says it’s confirmed, P. Manning throwing – see video…

    Where is Kolb and Skelton throwing?

  45. By cardsalltheway on Mar 3, 2012 | Reply

    Mike Ellingboe,
    “An obscure comment on a Colts blog site doesn’t predict our record.”

    Huh? Obviously you didn’t click on the link, read, or understand one of my simple sentences…”The link above predicted the records of 6 different teams with P. Manning but AZ Cardinals weren’t one of the six.”

    There was no AZ team record prediction, what made you think so? And about Rex Ryan, I don’t know what happens in the Jets locker room but I do hear and see him admitting specific mistakes. A rare feat for Ken W. and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything specific, at least not last year. Last year the only ONE thing I heard was something like…,”We(coaches) could do better.” That’s it, in Whiz we combust!

  46. By Mike in Mesa on Mar 3, 2012 | Reply

    Boy I can really see Levi Brown wanting to play here with all the love he got from the fans here. It wasn’t like everyone and their brother were blaming him for every lapse on the offensive line.

  47. By Mike in Mesa on Mar 3, 2012 | Reply


    All the experts gave the Cards an A- last year after free agency. Don’t know how you figure they failed miserably.

  48. By Mike Ellingboe on Mar 3, 2012 | Reply


    Having trouble comprehending? I think it’s clear that I noted the article “doesn’t predict our record.”

    What I don’t understand is why you think a blogger on a Colts site that leaves us out of potential bidders for Manning is automatically right about that? Unless it was Rod Graves using a pseudonym I think you’re putting way too much stock into it.

    “Combust?” Not how I’d define a 7-2 finish, and if you paid attention to the NFL at all last season there was no way to miss the drama coming from the Jets’ locker room.

  49. By Eazy E on Mar 5, 2012 | Reply

    I really think at tackle, we need to start anew. At guard, Daryn is straight and Rex is also really. Our needs on the O-Line are at tackle for sure. Just let both guys walk(Brown,Keith) and get new and better ones.

  50. By dvail on Mar 5, 2012 | Reply

    Bringing back Levi will be a great asset to the organization.

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