So teams could legally start talking to free agents Monday. No deals can be executed before Wednesday (at 2 p.m. Arizona time). Any of the rumors floating around today and until then are mainly that, especially since it is agents who are getting most of the information that is being reported and agents have a reason to drive up interest in their particular clients.
The biggest name floated by multiple reports Monday was linebacker Bruce Irvin, who has played for the Seahawks. He’s young and rushes the passer, although his production on that front has only been OK. He’s wanted (former Seahawks coordinators are now head coaches in Jacksonville and Atlanta are reportedly interested, and Jacksonville in particular has a LOT of money.) Kent Somers noted that the Cards have interest in Rams defensive lineman William Hayes as well.
Kent also tweeted Drew Stanton’s return might be iffy, after Bruce Arians just said on Arizona Sports 98.7 Monday morning he was hoping Stanton would be back in place as Palmer’s backup. Stanton just said last week he wasn’t sure what was going to happen — which, for a guy who was already able to talk to his own team about returning, does not sound all that optimistic if the guy was actually going to be returning. If Stanton left, it would certainly change up the urgency of looking for quarterbacks behind Carson Palmer.
Finally, Jason Cole suggested that interest in free-agent-to-be tackle Bobby Massie could push his contract to $8 million a year average. That’d be quite the windfall for Massie, who wasn’t expected to return anyway but certainly wouldn’t at $8M a year. That’d be more than Jared Veldheer is getting, and while it is two years later, I never would’ve expected that to be a possibility.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Bruce Irvin, Drew Stanton, free agency, William Hayes
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Cardinals GM Steve Keim didn’t go to bed after the team landed around 4:30 a.m. from Philadelphia after their win Sunday night. And when he made his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” Show on Arizona Sports 98.7 a little more than three hours later, there was no definitive answer yet on the status of safety Tyrann Mathieu and his right knee injury. (Mathieu hurt his left knee in 2013.)
Keim said Mathieu was undergoing an MRI Monday morning to determine the extent of the problem.
“We’ll keep our fingers crossed,” Keim said. “He’s such a valuable piece to this defense, this organization.”
UPDATE: Bruce Arians announced Monday Mathieu’s season is over after he tore his ACL.
Some other Keim thoughts:
— On the NFC West title, with a chance to clinch a first-round bye by beating the Packers in a week, I “just like the fact we control our own destiny.”
“It was nice to see a complete football game from our club” against the Eagles, Keim added.
— He said he was happy with the play of the offensive line. Keim thought it was one of the best games for right tackle Bobby Massie, he liked the aggressiveness of guard Mike Iupati, and he thought A.Q. Shipley played well in place of injured center Lyle Sendlein.
— As for the injured finger of QB Carson Palmer and the knee of RB David Johnson, Keim said both should be fine.
— Keim praised the play of newcomer D.J. Swearinger at safety. He also liked the games of ILB Deone Bucannon and DT Josh Mauro
“That’s what makes a team, when you have different guys step up each week,” he said.
— His biggest concern going forward? There was a mention of consistent pass rush, but the main thing comes as no surprise with the Mathieu situation hanging over the team’s collective head. “The ability to stay healthy through the process,” Keim said.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Bobby Massie, Carson Palmer, David Johnson, Deone Bucannon, Josh Mauro, Mike Iupati, Steve Keim, Tyrann Mathieu
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With the season halfway over and talk here and there about possible contract extensions, it felt like a good time to note who is scheduled to have their contract run out after the season ends. We’ve talked for a while about the secondary decisions that are coming, but in terms of players that are making an impact, it’s a lengthy list. This is only the players set to be free agents; There have been some of you wondering if, for instance, Tyrann Mathieu could get an extension. He is under contract through 2016, so I don’t expect anything soon. The Cardinals, according to the NFLPA, have about $5.3 million of cap space right now.
CB Justin Bethel
LB Dwight Freeney
TE Jermaine Gresham
RB Chris Johnson
S Rashad Johnson
G Ted Larsen
LS Mike Leach
T Bobby Massie
CB Jerraud Powers
C Lyle Sendlein
T Bradley Sowell
QB Drew Stanton
LB Sean Weatherspoon
LB LaMarr Woodley
WR Jaron Brown
P Drew Butler
LB Kenny Demens
S Tony Jefferson
(Tight ends Darren Fells and Ifeanyi Momah and defensive tackle Josh Mauro are all exclusive rights free agents, meaning they can be tendered and not go anywhere.)
Again, a long list. The restricted free agents, if you want to prevent them from hitting the market unfettered, can be tendered with one of three designations: A first-round tender (a one-year contract of about $3.3M), a second-round tender (about $2.3M) or the original draft spot ($1.5M). That means, if tendered, if another team signs them away, that team owes the Cardinals the tendered pick. Given that all those guys were undrafted, the Cards would get nothing for the low tender. It makes for hard decisions on a Tony Jefferson, and even to Jaron Brown.
As for the unrestricted guys …
It seems likely that the older one-year guys — Chris Johnson, Gresham, Freeney — would want to see what they might get on the open market. The secondary is the most intriguing area. It wouldn’t be a surprise that some team might want to swoop in and Greg Toler-contract a guy like Bethel, especially if they’d want him to start right away at CB. The Cardinals like Powers. They like Rashad Johnson too, but with all the safeties around, what will be the offer? What does the future hold (or rather, where is the future) for Deone Bucannon? Is he a linebacker or safety? That’ll come into play.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Bradley Sowell, Chris Johnson, Darren Fells, Drew Butler, Drew Stanton, Dwight Freeney, free agency, Ifeanyi Momah, Jaron Brown, Jermaine Gresham, Jerraud Powers, Josh Mauro, Justin Bethel, Kenny Demens, LaMarr Woodley, Lyle Sendlein, Mike Leach, Rashad Johnson, Sean Weatherspoon, Ted Larsen, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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The play was controversial when it happened, and while a week later it’s fairly anticlimatic (and moot when it comes to the result of the game), Cardinals linebacker Markus Golden was not fined for what was called a helmet-to-helmet hit on Mike Vick in Pittsburgh. There isn’t any explanation that comes with that, but usually, no fine for a play like that means the league office didn’t feel a penalty should have been called. (Plenty of you out there made sure to show me at the time, in still photos off the TV and Vines of video, that Golden’s hit was to Vick’s shoulder.)
In fact, even with all the 15-yard penalties flagged in Cardinals-Steelers, there was only one fine handed out: Cardinals running back Chris Johnson was fined $8,681 for a chop block.
But tackle Bobby Massie and linebacker Kevin Minter were not fined for their unnecessary roughness penalties called after the play (although in both cases, I would have also thrown a flag). Not surprisingly, Steelers linebacker James Harrison was not fined for his crushing, helmet-knocked-off hit of wide receiver John Brown that caused Brown’s fumble. Brown was a runner by then, and Harrison’s hit, while vicious, was clean. Now, Harrison wasn’t fined for his unnecessary roughness call when he drilled Brown just after Carson Palmer’s last interception, it’s possible they decided Harrison should’ve been allowed to “block” Brown since Brown was going to touch safety Mike Mitchell down.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Chris Johnson, James Harrison, John Brown, Kevin Minter, Markus Golden, Mike Vick, Steelers
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The Cardinals ran for 120 yards against the Saints, 115 against the Bears and 139 Sunday against the 49ers. It is the first time the Cardinals have rushed for at least 115 yards in each of the first three games of the season since 1988. The 374 rushing yards are the most for the franchise in the first three games of the season since the Cards had 416 in 2002. (That 2002 start was aided by Thomas Jones’ 173 yards in the first regular-season game ever at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, a Cardinals’ win, the second week of the season. The Cardinals had 249 yards rushing in that game alone.)
The Cardinals have done it with nearly equal contributions from Andre Ellington — who looked great against the Saints before he got hurt — and David Johnson and Chris Johnson. Chris Johnson had 110 yards rushing and two touchdowns against the 49ers, and showed plenty of burst just a couple of days after his 30th birthday. Better yet, after Bruce Arians said that generally Earl Watford was a better run blocker than Bobby Massie at right tackle, the Cards had their best rushing game against San Francisco with Massie in there. And this team hasn’t even gotten to see what guard Mike Iupati — arguably their best run blocker — has to offer yet.
“It’s just a start,” veteran center Lyle Sendlein said. “You can’t just show up and expect you’ll get that kind of yardage every week.
“Obviously it had a level of importance in the offseason that they had been working on, and when I got here (in training camp) it was pretty apparent we were going to commit to getting yardage in the run game.”
Under Arians, the Cardinals are 14-1 when rushing for at least 100 yards. That can be misleading; Arians always says being committed to balance only counts in the first three quarters and then the game itself dictates how the fourth quarter will be called. Against the 49ers, for instance, the Cardinals went into the fourth quarter with a 40-7 lead and 10 of 13 Arizona offensive plays were runs as they drove for one more touchdown. (The final “drive” was three Drew Stanton kneeldowns, which count as “runs” but also screw up the stats with minus-one yard on each kneel.)
Like everything else, Sendlein emphasized it’s only a start. But it’s a start. The Cardinals, since 1995, have ranked higher than 21st in the NFL just once — 15th in that 2002 season — and haven’t been higher than 23rd since 2004. Seven times they have been ranked 30th or lower. This year, the Cards are currently 11th in the NFL.
Tags: 49ers, Andre Ellington, Bears, Bobby Massie, Chris Johnson, David Johnson, Earl Watford, Lyle Sendlein, Saints
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An inability to get on the practice field fully wasn’t a good sign for Mike Iupati this week. The guard is not going to play today against his former team, his knee not quite ready to go yet after surgery. Ted Larsen remains the left guard for the Cards — although there is a change on the offensive line with Bobby Massie playing right tackle.
Because of injuries, the inactive list against the 49ers was predictable today:
— QB Matt Barkley
— WR J.J. Nelson (shoulder)
— RB Andre Ellington (knee)
— LB Shaq Riddick
— T D.J. Humphries
— G Mike Iupati (knee)
— DT Xavier Williams
Tags: Bobby Massie, inactives, Mike Iupati
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Given Bruce Arians’ comments that Bobby Massie is a better pass protector – and given that Carson Palmer’s health is paramount to the success of the Cardinals this season – there was not much surprise Saturday night when Arians said Massie would be moving into the starting lineup at right tackle against the 49ers, replacing Earl Watford, who had started the first two games of the season.
“We’re going to go with Bobby Massie and see how it goes,” Arians said during his weekly TV show, “Flight Plan with Bruce Arians.”
“Earl did a heck of a job. We had a few too many hits on the quarterback. I’ll say this: Bobby is on a short leash.”
Massie missed the first two games of the season because of suspension.
“It’ll be good to get back on the field with those guys and help them win,” Massie said this week.
Arians also said he’d like running backs Chris Johnson and David Johnson to each get 10-to-15 touches this week. David Johnson only has nine touches in two games so far, including two kickoff returns.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Chris Johnson, David Johnson, Earl Watford
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Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin was blunt talking about rookie running back David Johnson.
“He could be special,” Goodwin said. “Very special.”
That’s an easy conclusion to reach after three touchdowns on just nine NFL touches, including a 55-yard touchdown reception and a 108-yard kickoff return. One thing coaches and teammates love about him isn’t his talent – although, yes, they love his talent – but his ability to be humble. Of course, he does have to absorb some grief.
“I don’t believe no one in this locker room is really reading their press clippings,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “Well, maybe David. David is probably reading his.” Mathieu chuckled. “I’d be reading them too.”
Johnson chuckled himself when he heard Mathieu’s comments. “It was a little harder this week,” Johnson said, “but the coaches made sure I stayed grounded, and the players around me reminded me it’s a long season.”
It is going to be a long season. That’s why almost everyone around the Cardinals followed Bruce Arians’ lead this week in brushing off the 2-0 start. Playing the 49ers Sunday is both a step up in opponent and a foray into the NFC West, and the Cards understand both cannot be underestimated.
— No word on the offensive line as of yet. The fact Mike Iupati still has not been able to practice fully any one day has to raise a red flag, but we’ll see if he’s able to go against his former team Sunday. As for right tackle, Arians said Bobby Massie is better at pass protection and Earl Watford is better in run blocking. He’s also noted Watford has given up too many quarterback hits. The Cards like to the throw the ball. We’ll see if that impacts the decision.
— The 49ers are a grind-it-out team. That makes sense because a) they have a talented running back in Carlos Hyde and b) quarterback Colin Kaepernick, while he has made strides as a passer, still isn’t someone you’ll lean on the majority of the time.
Then there is Kaepernick’s ability to run himself, which will force the Cardinals to be on top of things while he scrambles around back there.
“From an awareness standpoint, I think our guys have to know that any down, any distance, he could tuck the ball and run with it,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said.
— Goodwin, talking about the Bears game Thursday: “Last week there were a lot of things I didn’t agree with in terms of hitting the quarterback, a couple of shots he took. (Carson Palmer) is going to get hit. We just have to minimize it.”
Friday, Bears linebacker Pernell McPhee was fined $17,363 for his low hit on Palmer on the flea-flicker touchdown to Larry Fitzgerald. McPhee was flagged for a personal foul on the play.
Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson was also fined $17,363 for his hit to the helmet of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. Johnson did not draw a flag on the play.
— Don’t forget Adrian Wilson will be inducted into the Cardinals’ Ring of Honor at halftime of Sunday’s game. What was behind Wilson growing into one of the best players in franchise history? Take a look back at my “Making of A-Dub” piece from 2010.
— Bettcher said the defensive line has a “great rotation” right now, and that includes some snaps for Calais Campbell at nose tackle. In reality, the Cards don’t really use a true nose tackle – Xavier Williams has been inactive, and starter Rodney Gunter (whom Bettcher said is doing well) is more like a Campbell. Again, the Cards were going for versatile on the line this season.
— Campbell makes it on Sports Science.
— Will Larry Fitzgerald go off again this week? Who knows? Arians is always coming up with different things. Even Fitz knows things can change.
“Coach Arians is like a mad scientist,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s always finding ways to get guys involved, to create mismatches for his playmakers.”
— Anquan Boldin gets another chance at his former team. He’s said in the past playing the Cardinals is just another game, but frankly, I don’t believe him. Q is too intense along those lines to have it be otherwise.
“He’s a physical receiver,” Mathieu said. “He’s 100 percent for 4 quarters. I’ll be matched up with him so I have to bring my big boy pads.”
Tags: 49ers, Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin, Bobby Massie, Calais Campbell, Carlos Hyde, Carson Palmer, Coline Kaepernick, David Johnson, Harold Goodwin, Jay Cutler, Pernell McPhee, Rashad Johnson, Tyrann Mathieu
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Bruce Arians admitted he has an “pretty good idea” who will start at right tackle for the Cardinals Sunday. But he isn’t saying who. Arians declined to name his starting offensive line Friday. “We’ll wait and see what is best,” he said when it came to whether Mike Iupati is going to be able to go at left guard and whether right tackle is manned by Bobby Massie or Earl Watford.
Whoever starts at right tackle is the right tackle. There will not be any switching “unless it’s a problem,” Arians said. Iupati is officially listed as questionable, and he has yet to practice fully since returning to the field. The Cards may end up erring on the side of caution with him Sunday.
One minor upset: Running back Andre Ellington (knee) was limited in practice and Arians is calling him a game-day decision. There’s no need to rush him back, Arians acknowledged, but if he is ready to play he’ll play, because he provides a skillset David Johnson and Chris Johnson do not have. Ellington is listed officially as doubtful.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bobby Massie, Earl Watford, Mike Iupati, offensive line
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The Cardinals had to make a roster move to create room for reinstated tackle Bobby Massie, so Tuesday the team cut running back Kerwynn Williams — who had just been promoted from the practice squad Saturday. It wasn’t the only move. On the practice squad, the Cardinals released guard Anthony Steen and tight end Brandon Bostick, and signed to the practice squad running back Mike Gillislee, who had spent time with the Miami Dolphins.
With Massie back and Williams out, it means the Cardinals have decided to keep 10 offensive linemen on the 53-man roster. It’s a big group, especially considering that Mike Iupati is likely healthy enough to play. So there are no injuries of those 10 linemen. Who is active on Sunday against the 49ers will be an interesting choice. You figure first-round pick D.J. Humphries will remain an odd man out, but there are a lot of other variations available.
Tags: Anthony Steen, Bobby Massie, Brandon Bostick, D.J. Humphries, Kerwynn Williams, Mike Gillislee, Mike Iupati
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