Peterson, comp picks and Cards’ draft ammunition

Posted by Darren Urban on January 25, 2018 – 9:57 am

The Saints acknowledged that they will indeed get that conditional draft pick from the Cardinals — expected to be a sixth-rounder — in the trade for Adrian Peterson. With the draft in April and the announcements of this year’s compensatory picks (based on 2017 free agency) coming in late March, here is an early look at what draft picks the Cards could hold this season.

Already gone are the Cardinals’ original fourth-round pick (dealt in the Bears trade that allowed them to move up for Budda Baker in the second round last season), original sixth-rounder (for Peterson) and seventh-rounder (in the 2016 trade with Chiefs for cornerback Marcus Cooper.) The Cardinals also acquired a conditional seventh-round pick from the Ravens for offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom at the end of training camp, but given that Bergstrom was released about six weeks later, it’s unclear whether that pick conveys.

On the plus side, the Cards are in line for three comp picks, according to overthecap.com, which always has a pretty good handle on the byzantine equation the NFL uses to determine comp picks. It’s based on free agents lost versus free agents gained, using contract numbers and snaps. According to OTC, the loss of Calais Campbell would earn the Cards the top comp pick in the third round (all comp picks are slotted after the regular round ends), the loss of Tony Jefferson would earn the Cards the top comp pick in the fourth round, and the loss of Alex Okafor would earn them an additional seventh-round pick.

The FA losses of D.J. Swearinger, Cooper and Kevin Minter are offset by the signings of Phil Dawson, Peterson and Karlos Dansby.

Peterson wasn’t a free agent signing, you say? He was with the Saints. The trade for Peterson looks like it could actually ding the Cards in two ways — not only costing the sixth-rounder in trade, but also a potential sixth-round comp pick because he was acquired in the season in which he was signed as a free agent. (This is one of the reasons it’s been reported that the 49ers released QB Brian Hoyer as they traded for Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots. The Patriots wanted Hoyer, but to get him back in a trade after he signed as a free agent with the 49ers would have hurt the Pats in the comp pick equation. With the 49ers cutting him, there was no such issue.)

So, if the projections are right, the Cards picks are:

— First round
— Second round
— 2 Third rounds (comp)
— Fourth round (comp)
— Fifth round
— Seventh round (comp, and maybe a regular seventh-round if Bergstrom trade comes through)


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Bettcher headed to Giants as Wilks builds staff

Posted by Darren Urban on January 24, 2018 – 8:21 am

New Cardinals coach Steve Wilks said Tuesday that he wants to have his coaching staff filled out by the Super Bowl (10 days from now) and already names are leaking out. Some could be holdover assistants from Bruce Arians’ staff. One will not be James Bettcher, the defensive coordinator who was among the candidates to succeed Arians. Multiple reports have Bettcher headed to the New York Giants as their defensive coordinator under new coach Pat Shurmur.

None of Wilks’ new assistants have been officially announced, but reports have Wilks potentially bringing Panthers linebackers coach Al Holcomb with him from Carolina to be his defensive coordinator. And, of course, Wilks is a defensive guy himself and figures to have a large say on that side of the ball.

As for Bettcher, Cardinals GM Steve Keim called him a “strong candidate” for the Cards’ job following Wilks’ press conference Tuesday.

“James Bettcher is a fantastic coach and he had a great interview,” Keim said. “He did a great job. I thought he did a phenomenal job with our defense. He’s going to continue to grow in this league.”

(The Browns, in announcing they hired Todd Haley as their offensive coordinator, also added a pair off Arians’ staff: Freddie Kitchens, who after 10 years with the Cards will be Cleveland’s running backs/associate head coach, and Amos Jones on special teams.)

Besides Holcomb, there have been reports of Wilks bringing in Ray Brown to coach the offensive line and David Merritt to coach the secondary. If Merritt’s name rings a bell, Keim mentioned it Tuesday during the press conference — noting that Merritt, a teammate of Keim’s at North Carolina State — was the one who originally introduced Keim and Wilks. Keim, of course, said Merritt was a Giants’ assistant coach, where he has been since 2004. With Shurmur’s arrival, he apparently is moving on. Another report has Don Johnson as Wilks’ defensive line coach.

Interviews for offensive coordinator are ongoing, Wilks said Tuesday.


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Wilks, Bidwill wait on Fitz like everyone else

Posted by Darren Urban on January 23, 2018 – 2:44 pm

New coach Steve Wilks said Tuesday he had a conversation with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, but the wide receiver has not indicated to him one way or the other if Fitzgerald was planning on playing in 2018. Wilks made it clear it was important to him — and the Cardinals — that Fitz return.

“We would definitely love to have him back,” Wilks said. “He’s a major part of our success, past, present and future. First ballot Hall of Famer, so we’d definitely want him back.”

Team president Michael Bidwill, who has said before he had no interest in speculating — or even speculating on the speculation — was asked what his gut told him about what Fitzgerald might do.

“My gut says everyone needs to relax, let Fitz go through his process, and give him a few weeks to make his decision,” Bidwill said. “He’ll let us know.”


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In the wake of Steve Wilks arrival

Posted by Darren Urban on January 22, 2018 – 3:44 pm

The wait is over, and even with all the talk/speculation about potential assistant coaches hung up working in the playoffs, the Cardinals, Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim went with a man whose team was sent home a couple of weeks ago — Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.

This comes with all the caveats, the same ones that show up with every head coach. We won’t know what this means on the field until September at the earliest. Even in the case of Bruce Arians, when the Cards stumbled around for half a season, it took a minute for things to settle in. And as we all know, Wilks’ first year will be dictated in part by a quarterback that we not yet know. Well, we might know of him, we just don’t know if which one will be the Cardinals’ guy.

All that said, in my brief interaction with Wilks today, you can see why he can command a room. Michael Bidwill said recently that in the second round of interviews, usually someone stands out, and I can see why that would have been Wilks. We will see how his staff builds out. But now, the offseason feels like it can officially get started.

— No official word yet on assistants, but there has been some speculation. Jason LaCanfora reported that the Cards will have former Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell in for an interview. Bevell interviewed for the Cardinals’ vacant head coaching job in 2013 that went to Arians and is a product of Scottsdale Chaparral High School. Meanwhile, LaCanfora said Panthers offensive line coach Ray Brown (who began a long NFL playing career with three years as a Cardinal) could be coming to Arizona, with Joe Person saying Panthers linebackers coach Al Holcomb could be as well.

One thing to remember about all the assistant coach talk and speculation is that while some names will accurately land on staff, others won’t, for various reasons. It always plays out like that.

— There are some Cardinals assistants still under contract that Wilks will undoubtedly sort through over the next couple of days. I know many are asking, but there is nothing yet about what might happen with defensive coordinator James Bettcher.

— Speaking of defense, yes, Wilks ran a 4-3 in Carolina. The personnel he has inherited is for a 3-4 base. Something is going to have to change, although do not forget that the vast majority of defensive snaps these days are spent in packages that usually include extra defensive backs. And when the Cards rush in obvious passing situations, they line up with four up front anyway.

— I’m thinking it’s too early to know what the impact of Wilks is on Larry Fitzgerald’s decision. I’d think he’d want to know who the offensive staff will be first.

— The Wilks press conference is Tuesday at noon, and it’ll be streamed live on azcardinals.com. (Thanks to the Panthers for the pic.)


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David Johnson talks coach, contract, Fitz

Posted by Darren Urban on January 18, 2018 – 4:44 pm

David Johnson’s wrist is healed, with his strength and full range of motion having returned, and he’s anxious to play again given that he doesn’t even feel like he played football in 2017. And like everyone else, the running back is paying attention to the Cardinals’ current search for a head coach.

“I’m definitely staying aware but I don’t know what (GM) Steve Keim and (president) Mike Bidwill are thinking,” Johnson said on the PFT PM podcast. “I know they will get a coach that fits the team and is going to be ready to elevate this team and get us to that Super Bowl.”

Johnson touched on a few subjects, including the possibility of a new contract. The 2015 third-round pick has a year left on his rookie deal and now is finally eligible for an extension. The collective bargaining agreement prevents extensions for players on rookie deals until after their third season.

“I hope so,” Johnson said about talks for a new deal. “But I’m really focusing more on getting this injury (healed) and making sure I’m ready to play in 2018, that I am healthy as possible. Especially with so much going on in the offseason with the coaches and the quarterback and stuff, I can’t really focus too much on the contract talk.”

— On the subject of Larry Fitzgerald’s potential return, Johnson was blunt. “Larry is going to come back,” Johnson said. “He’s still playing at a high level.”

Johnson rattled off Fitz’s stats, including another year of more than 100 catches and more than 1,000 yards. “He’s gotta come back,” Johnson added. “He’s got to help us get us to that Super Bowl we’re trying to get.” Along those lines, Johnson had been hoping quarterback Carson Palmer wouldn’t retire and tried to “recruit him to come back.”

— Johnson said he was “hit hard” by the retirement of Bruce Arians, and that he believes he and Adrian Peterson “can really elevate each other’s game” if they play together this season.

— The running back said he has no idea who the quarterback will be, but that he has confidence in both Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton if one of them is the starting signal-caller.

— His injury and season on the sideline left him more grateful to play the game. “Football can end in the blink of an eye,” Johnson said. “So I feel more grateful to where I’ll do as much as I can to stay on that field as long as I can.”


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Campbell thanks Fitz, Dockett for age defiance

Posted by Darren Urban on January 17, 2018 – 1:57 pm

It’s been a magical year for former Cardinals defensive lineman Calais Campbell, who went for the big money in Jacksonville as a free agent all the while insisting the Jaguars could win this year — and he was right. It’s been in no small part because of Campbell, who had a career-high 14.5 sacks and was named Wednesday as the Pro Football Writers of America’s choice as NFL defensive player of the year.

Obviously, Campbell’s career was built in Arizona, regardless of what happens in Jacksonville. That subject came up during Campbell’s press conference this week prior to the AFC championship game, as Campbell was asked about his huge year as a 31-year-old. Campbell said he simply has worked hard to make sure he has stayed in shape and preserved his body — something he had to learn in his early years as a Cardinal.

“When I was younger I wasn’t as active in taking care of my body,” Campbell said. “But I did have some good leadership from guys that taught me how to take care of my body, so it becomes just a habit. That makes a big difference. I’ve got to take my hat off to Larry Fitzgerald and Darnell Dockett. They were two guys that definitely pushed me to take care of my body at a young age and I think that’s really paying off now.”


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Another coaching opening (and more all-pros)

Posted by Darren Urban on January 15, 2018 – 3:01 pm

The Cardinals, Giants, Lions and Colts still have coaching vacancies, but this morning, the Titans added themselves to the list when they and coach Mike Mularkey agreed to part ways. The rules say coaches still in the postseason can only interview again next week if they had been interviewed once already, but Ian Rapoport tweeted that meant any coach who had been interviewed period, not just by the Titans. So they have a small window for the Super Bowl coaches. Obviously, by next week, there will be only two teams left playing.

Also Monday came a bunch of reports of coaches heading places, none official yet but certainly more strong than previously. With those reports, Pats DC Matt Patricia will coach the Lions, the Giants have Pat Shurmur as their frontrunner and the Colts would get Josh McDaniels. There have been no such reports on the Cards (or the Titans, obviously). Patricia and Shurmur were both on the Cards’ candidate list and it was reported that the Cards like Shurmur. It will be interesting to see if the Cards get any more clarity this week.

— The Pro Football Writers of America released its all-pro team today, and like the Associated Press all-pro team, linebacker Chandler Jones and special teamer Budda Baker made it for the Cardinals.


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As expected, Larry Fitzgerald waits for coach news

Posted by Darren Urban on January 12, 2018 – 2:26 pm

Larry Fitzgerald hasn’t yet made a decision about playing this season or not. It was easy to figure that he couldn’t make a choice without knowing who the coach would be, and Fitz confirmed that Friday during an NBC Golf interview.

“I don’t have a head coach right now so there is a lot going on,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m going to take some time, figure it out. Our owner and president, Michael Bidwill, and General Manager Steve Keim are out right now interviewing head coaches. I’m interested to see what is going to happen and I’ll make a decision shortly after (they get a coach), I would imagine.”

It seems that this time of year, Fitz often talks about his future on the golf course. It makes sense, since a) his future has been up in the air in January and b) Fitz’s time in public in January is usually on the golf course. (And Fitz will be out doing things at the Phoenix Open in a couple of weeks too.) Again, there is a holding pattern that was going to be expected while the Cards sort out the coaching situation. Then Fitz can get an idea not only of personality but also how how he might be used in a new system.

UPDATE: Later in the day, Fitz had an interview with the NFL Network. His retirement has nothing to do with Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer, he stressed, and “I’ll go as long as I feel I can play at a high level.”


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Seeking QB without QB is new for Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on January 11, 2018 – 4:55 pm

Michael Bidwill mentioned the other day — after Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer had announced their retirements — that the Cardinals didn’t have a coach or a quarterback in 2013 for a time, and that worked out OK. So being without both right now is not a concern. The coach situation will be sorted out sooner rather than later, and then comes the QB. What exactly will happen is TBD, in part based on whoever the coach will be. Besides, a shift in QBs (with Palmer’s retirement) is often coming with a new coach.

The Cards were looking for a new QB in 2013 as Bidwill noted, but unlike now when the non-Palmer QBs all have expiring contracts — Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert and Matt Barkley — the Cards actually did have quarterbacks they could have kept in 2013 when Arians arrived. They actually had four as free agency began.

Kevin Kolb, beat up as he was, was due a big contract. John Skelton was still around, as was Ryan Lindley, and the Cardinals even extended a tender offer to restricted free agent Brian Hoyer for 2013. When Stanton signed as a free agent the second day that was possible, the Cards basically had four QBs. A couple of days later, the team let Kolb go. When Hoyer finally signed his tender offer on April 1, the team released Skelton. Palmer arrived the next day in trade. Hoyer was later released in mid-May. Lindley stuck around as the third QB that season.

There is much more up in the air right now. There is no pat hand to play, unless one or more of the FAs-to-be get an extension — which could happen. There were at least placeholders back in 2013, had the Cards not found what they wanted.


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Arians: “Too much to live for to die on the sideline”

Posted by Darren Urban on January 9, 2018 – 10:16 pm

Bruce Arians was doing the media tour Tuesday, talking with both Rich Eisen and Colin Cowherd a week after retiring and mentioning he’d like to get into the media business. I can’t imagine someone won’t be willing to give him a chance. During his appearance on the “Rich Eisen Show,” Arians talked again about retirement, touching on familiar subjects with some more detail.

— He admitted his 2016 health scares “were eye opening.” He didn’t want cancer to drive him out of the game, and he was able to return. But there was concern for both himself and his wife, Chris.

“The stress of being a coach’s wife, of watching my health go up and down with wins and losses,” Arians said. “I knew I was done too, I was, ‘Yeah, you’re right, there’s too much to live for to die on the sideline.”

— He reiterated he knew he was done in the last game in Seattle when Phil Dawson made his field goal and then Blair Walsh missed. But he acknowledged the family had talked about it as far back as the weekend after the Thursday night home loss to Seattle. “My wife, she was done,” Arians said. “God bless her, 47 years in this business is enough.” (Arians had previously written he was considering staying one more year and renting an apartment if his wife went back to their “forever home” in Georgia.)

— He remains bullish on the Cardinals being a contender, and that GM Steve Keim will find the right coach and make the right roster moves. “I think the Cardinals can win a championship,” he said. “The talent is here.”

— That said, he admitted he was hoping defensive coordinator James Bettcher (who interviewed last week for the head coach opening) was the one who ends up with the job. Calling himself “selfish,” Arians said “I want to be able to go back and be a small part of it” and apparently he feels that would be the case if Bettcher was his replacement.

— As for Larry Fitzgerald, Arians said he thinks he will come back “with the right situation.” It isn’t a surprise that it would include the right coach and system, and the right quarterback.

 


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