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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32 Responses to “A line in the sand with free agent money”

  1. By Carlo milano on Feb 22, 2016 | Reply

    Darren which positions Keim would like to add some new pieces in free agency
    They said pass rushers and a defensive back with lenght
    Sean smith and Trumaine johnson could be on the radar?
    Oliver vernon is young and effective, but probably too costly
    In that case they could be interested in the cheaper nick perry,he didnt reach his potential playing behind Peppers and Matthews.
    Do u Think he could be a target for Steve Keim?

  2. By Darren Urban on Feb 22, 2016 | Reply

    Carlo —

    RE: FAs

    Hard to know right now. Johnson could still be tagged. Definitely don’t see them signing big-money guys. Will be outbid.

  3. By Colin Watson on Feb 22, 2016 | Reply

    Any chance James Laurnitis or Chris Long sign with Arizona?

  4. By Darren Urban on Feb 22, 2016 | Reply

    Colin —

    RE: Ex-Rams

    Never say never.

  5. By Jason on Feb 22, 2016 | Reply

    Hey D-Do you think the Cards will give Cro another look since the Jets released him?

  6. By Darren Urban on Feb 22, 2016 | Reply

    Jason —

    RE: Cromartie

    I would not expect so.

  7. By clssylssy on Feb 22, 2016 | Reply

    This is the same story every year and it’s hard not to be a little worried that some of our free-agents-to-be won’t get grabbed up while we are waiting for a fire sale. I see the Rams as a rising star in the west with $35M in Cap space, a young top rated young defense, and a new billion dollar home in Tinseltown as a pretty seductive lure, and, oh yeah, good draft position! The NFC definitely is going to be tougher and if we let our assets walk now, instead of possibly having a couple more good years, we are back to rebuild mode instead of tweeking. We need to keep what we know works (Freeney, R Johnson CJ,Powers) and sign some linebackers for depth & the heavy lifting. Also need a Center & R guard who are proven. Hopefully, our guys will be so Elamites with what we have here and the resort weather that they will consider a home town discount or in Freebey &cJ’s case want to give it another go for the ring!

  8. By HarleyZ on Feb 22, 2016 | Reply

    What is the likelihood of CJ2K staying since DJohnson came alive?

  9. By Darren Urban on Feb 22, 2016 | Reply

    HarleyZ —

    RE: CJ

    Depends on how much money he might want.

  10. By red2616 on Feb 22, 2016 | Reply

    Rams could very easily be #2 in NFC west. Not because they will be that much better but that the 49ers will get worse and Seattle has been more luck (look at their wins the last 3 years, the QB’s they played and the win% of the team they beat) 6 GOOD wins in 3 years, the rest wins by injury to the other team. Seattle and 49ers fight for last. Rans won’t win with their Ciach and their plan of attack. Plus no QB. A lot of wok is needed but a team no to be dismissed easily wait her.

  11. By D on Feb 22, 2016 | Reply

    I don’t see Mr. Keim signing any big name free agents…okay, maybe one at the most…free agency is such a crap shoot…

    Iupati worked out (big $)
    S. Weatherspoon didn’t work..
    C. Johnson worked out until injury..
    J. Gresham..didn’t exactly light the field on fire…
    D. Freeney worked out…

    my guess on first free agent types signed by Mr. Keim

    (D. Freeney in the summer if he doesn’t retire)
    D. Stanton
    A Kelvin Beachum or M. Schwartz OT type

    I would like for them to go after DE William Hayes from the Rams..

  12. By Big Ken on Feb 22, 2016 | Reply

    Cro has had his day in the Sun, he’s too old now.

  13. By Andy Kw on Feb 22, 2016 | Reply

    DL Akiem Hicks (NE) is a guy I want the Cardinals to look into. He can be our DE on the left side or play NT. He can be a steal in free agency and surprise many. $4M per year would be cheap for what he can do.

    CB Trumaine Johnson (LA): Bethel can play well in the nickel position. He has struggled way too much as a starter opposite PP. Trumaine Johnson is a very physical CB and can play man coverage. He also has the size. He must be brought in. Allowing the Cardinals to finally be able to call the plays they want with two shutdown corners. He should be affordable for the Cardinals

    DE/LB Chris Long (LA): He can still be the pass rusher he once was. Bringing him in on Keim’s signature on year prove it deals will help. We can never have enough pass rushers, especially since we really don’t have any other than FA Freeney. Just make him a situational pass rusher. Freeney rotates with Okafor. Long rotates with Golden. We need to look into Noah Spence or Jordan Jenkins. One of these two will be our future pass rusher. This future PR will steal reps from Okafor. I like Okafor but he just can’t stay consistent.

    -Re-signings RB Chris Johnson and Dwight Freeney are musts. David Johnson is our future but by splitting reps with the speedy CJ2K, both will be able to produce maximum and fresh outputs. Dwight Freeney is still an elite pass rusher and is definitely worth bringing back, especially since we don’t have a consistent pass rusher like him on our team.

    -Getting back RFAs Tony Jefferson and DJ Swearinger would be nice. They will be cheap to bring back for one more year, allowing the Cardinals to spend more on free agents at other positions. Keep an eye our for Jayron Kearse in the draft. He really reminds me of a raw Adrian Wilson. Rare size and speed for a SS. Mathieu is our leader in the back field, with Rashad likely gone.

  14. By Tradersbrain on Feb 22, 2016 | Reply

    Darren, Do you think Keim would ever consider bringing in a contrite Greg Hardy if the price was right?

  15. By Darren Urban on Feb 22, 2016 | Reply

    Traders —

    RE: Hardy

    1) Nope.
    2) Hardy will never be contrite.
    3) Nope.

  16. By georgiebird on Feb 22, 2016 | Reply

    Not long ago winning 9 games meant success to Cardinals’ management, players and fans. Thankfully, those days are over and the now the goals are winning a Conference championship and a SB.
    It’s a given that the Cards should beat the bad and mid-grade teams, now it’s about beating the high echelon teams.
    Things to do in FA and the draft with an eye at beating the top teams:
    1) get 4 new LBs (good luck) and keep Golden, Okafor and Feeney as backup
    2) move CC out of the middle- he’s too easily cut down by falling bodies
    3) return DB to safety
    4) need another CB
    5) need a DE
    6) develop the TE position for the games against the top teams
    The above is in lieu of a more user friendly 4-3 defense

  17. By Andy Kw on Feb 22, 2016 | Reply

    I hope we finally seek Shaq Riddick play. He has potential.

  18. By Todd on Feb 22, 2016 | Reply

    i am already concerned with the extensions! Bethel for $5 million a year? And now punter Butler the 32nd best punter last year re-signed?

  19. By Tim on Feb 23, 2016 | Reply

    Definitely way out there any chance they bring in RG3 I know Stanton is here but he could replace Palmer at some point?

  20. By Darren Urban on Feb 23, 2016 | Reply

    Tim –


    I would be surprised to see Griffin in Az. I think he’ll have more immediate opportunity.

  21. By texascard on Feb 23, 2016 | Reply

    Free agents can upset the chemistry of a team. The defensive chemistry is exceptional when all were healthy. Don’t try to buy big names in free agency unless you are confident they will fit seemlessly with what’s in place. Clssy is correct in saying this is not a rebuild. It is a run for a Super Bowl.

  22. By irlfannphx on Feb 23, 2016 | Reply

    Overpaying Fitzgerald this year, damned SURE worked out for them!

  23. By barry on Feb 23, 2016 | Reply

    Cro was released today by Jets..Unexpectedly…don’t expect to see him hear again.

    Are the Cards going to reach out to Chris Johnson? He adds such great depth to this team. I would love it to be Johnson and Johnson backfield.

  24. By Andy Kw on Feb 23, 2016 | Reply

    Hey Darren,
    On the website, there was a four round mock draft by Chad Reuter and he had us getting a 4th Round Compensatory Pick because of the loss of Dan Williams. Any chance this is true?

  25. By Darren Urban on Feb 23, 2016 | Reply

    Andy —

    RE: comp picks

    Those are announced in mid-March.

  26. By Scott H on Feb 23, 2016 | Reply

    Regarding Cro….and the possibility of him returning here….don’t know about that. He was a God-send for us in 2014 but as soon as the season was over, he made it clear to anyone who was listening that he wanted to be back in NY. Even with a team here that was obviously on the verge of being a top contender in the league going forward ( which we were ). That didn’t seem to matter to him. Hate to be petty, but that just didn’t sit well with me. I really didn’t even pay much attention to how he played in 2015, so I don’t know. But if he’s already been released by the Jets….that sure says something.

    I’m not interested in a Karlos-Dansby like encore from Cro. If he’s still available later on and available for a bargain price, then…..maybe. But shy of that scenario? I say no thanks. Our needs seem better served elsewhere.

  27. By CreditCard on Feb 23, 2016 | Reply

    This year’s draft reminds me very much of the 2013 draft. That is, very few true 1st rounder talents, but a huge pool of 2nd and 3rd round talent.

    Playing GM: I would trade down the Card’s 1st round selection in consideration for a mid to low 2nd round pick and low 3rd round pick (provided another team is gullible). My opinion players pegged to be drafted between 40th and 70th are equally as talented as those pegged to be taken between 15th and 39th.

  28. By joe holst on Feb 23, 2016 | Reply

    I wouldn’t count on any comp picks, they signed to many high $$$ , the ones they lost only Dan Williams was a middle tier, so maybe best case scenario a 7th rounder.

  29. By John The Draft Guy on Feb 23, 2016 | Reply

    Credit Card,

    I don’t think I agree.

    I think there is 5 CBs in this draft that are 1st rounders. There are 4 legit 1st round QBs, 3 outstanding LBs and several edge rushers, along with a few Olineman.

    I love Noah Spence but I can’t see him falling to 29. But I think the cards would be very lucky if Eli Apple was there at 29. This guy will become a shut down CB. Love to get him.

  30. By red2616 on Feb 23, 2016 | Reply

    Lol, funny how I got 8 thumbs down but not ONE person replied why? Funny how those Seattle fans trill Cardinal sites. I did misspell Coach. Sorry

  31. By Andy Kw on Feb 24, 2016 | Reply

    Xavien Howard will be a shut down CB. We would be lucky to get him in the 3rd Round

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