On free agency eve, the Cards’ FAs-to-be

Posted by Darren Urban on March 8, 2017 – 4:07 pm

By this time tomorrow the Cardinals and the NFL will be well into free agency. The “tampering” period has given everyone plenty of opportunity to get a head start on signing players, although no visits are supposed to have been set up and no players — just agents — are supposed to have talked to teams yet.

What has floated around the Cardinals is all about their own guys so far. Linebacker Chandler Jones, who isn’t going anywhere because he was franchise tagged, is reportedly close to a contract extension with the Cards. That would help cap space, but there is nothing official yet and we’ll see how quickly it can get done. Calais Campbell has been linked to the Jaguars, Bucs and maybe Broncos, but nothing concrete, while Tony Jefferson can apparently break the bank in Cleveland if he wants, while the Ravens and Jets are also showing interest.

Reports also have cornerback Marcus Cooper getting interest from the Jets and safety D.J. Swearinger possible interest from  the Bears.

Where does that leave the Cards? Still with a long list of free agents who will hit the market officially at 2 p.m. Arizona time Thursday unless the team re-signs them beforehand. That current list:

— RB Andre Ellington
— RB Chris Johnson
— RB Stepfan Taylor
— TE Darren Fells
— G Taylor Boggs
— C A.Q. Shipley
— OL Earl Watford
— DT Calais Campbell
— DT Frostee Rucker
— LB Kevin Minter
— LB Sio Moore
— LB Alex Okafor
— CB Marcus Cooper
— S Tony Jefferson
— CB Mike Jenkins
— S D.J. Swearinger
— K Chandler Catanzaro

Free agency has arrived.

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Franchise tagging Chandler Jones(?)

Posted by Darren Urban on January 2, 2017 – 1:49 pm

Bruce Arians, in his season-ending talk with the media Monday, covered a lot of subjects. Most talk about impending free agents was the nod to the team’s desire to bring most everyone back. In particular, though, Arians made clear unrestricted-free-agent-to-be Chandler Jones will be a Cardinal in 2017.

“Chandler’s not going anywhere because if we have to, we will franchise (tag) him,” Arians said.

(A quick refresher: If a team tags a player and he signs the tender, he is guaranteed a one-year salary an average of the top five salaries from the previous year at the position. A player can still sign an offer sheet with another team before he signs the tender, but if he leaves the new team would have to surrender two No. 1 picks and also has the chance to match the new offer.)

General Manager Steve Keim said weeks ago talks about a long-term deal are ongoing. Obviously, no deal is done yet. Free agency begins March 9, so that’s the time frame within which the two sides are negotiating before it comes to a tag. That the Cardinals would use the tag on Jones is no surprise at all; when Jones was acquired last March, he immediately became the most likely one to be tagged as a free agent.

Last year, the linebacker’s franchise tag was slightly north of $14.1 million. It should go up this season.

The Cardinals, including Jones, have 19 scheduled unrestricted free agents. Jones, who finished with 11 sacks this year as a Pro Bowl alternate, said he wants to remain with the Cardinals. Many of the current free-agents-to-be have said the same. The difference is that Jones might not have a huge choice in the matter, at least for 2017.


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No need for the franchise tag

Posted by Darren Urban on February 11, 2014 – 4:54 pm

During this slow time of the NFL year, it’s hard not to notice little things, like the comments of Karlos Dansby saying he expects to remain a Cardinal. Big news? Not really. But it’s more defined than Dansby was at the end of the season, so that, to me, breeds more optimism. Dansby is probably the most high-profile free-agent-to-be the Cards want to re-sign. Which got me thinking of the franchise tag, because of all the free agents the Cards have (and in part because the Cards, Dansby and the franchise tag were synonymous for a while.)

Teams can use the franchise tag as early as Monday. The tag, for those unfamiliar, is a set number for each position based on the top five or top 10 salaries at that position the previous year. It’s a guaranteed salary as soon as the player signs it. If a player is tagged, he can still sign elsewhere, but his original team has a chance to match, and if they don’t, there is a heavy price to pay — usually a pair of first-round picks. The chances are good right now, for instance, that Saints tight end Jimmy Graham will be tagged so he doesn’t hit the open market in March.

The Cardinals, however, don’t have that issue. Dansby is not going to be franchise tagged (at a projected $10.9 million for linebackers for one season.) None of the Cards’ free-agents-to-be fall into that category, in fact. Even for players the Cardinals could want to re-sign — linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, wide receiver Andre Roberts, tackle Eric Winston, for instance — aren’t going to command the kind of money nor get from the Cards anywhere close to the kind of money the tag dictates. There is a reason it is called the “franchise” tag because it is supposed to be for franchise-type players.

UPDATE: I was reminded of a ruling in a case of Drew Brees, who was once franchised by San Diego and later by New Orleans, that tags are considered cumulatively over a player’s entire career, not just if they are in consecutive years. So Dansby, since he was already franchised twice in his career, would be considered tagged for a third time if the Cards were to do so, making his salary an average of the top five salaries in the league. That’s quarterback money, and only underscores why Dansby wouldn’t be tagged again.

The last time the Cardinals used a franchise tag, it was on defensive end Calais Campbell in 2012. That time, the tag did exactly what it was supposed to do — buy the two sides extra time to negotiate a long-term deal. Before that, the last tagged guy was Dansby. He got it two years in a row, and then, well, we know how that turned out. Funny that now that the Cards won’t be tagging him again, he probably has a better chance of sticking around.

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Campbell will wait for now

Posted by Darren Urban on April 15, 2012 – 5:31 pm

With many of the Cardinals gearing up for the start of voluntary workouts tomorrow morning, it doesn’t come as a surprise defensive end Calais Campbell will hold off until his contract situation is resolved. Campbell received the franchise tag in early March, one of 21 players across the league to be tagged.

Asked if he was planning to come this week, Campbell said in text message “Not until I sign a deal and that hasn’t happened yet so hopefully soon but not yet.”

It is certainly not unique for tagged players to not show. Franchised guys like Saints QB Drew Brees, Bears running back Matt Forte, Patriots receiver Wes Welker and Ravens running back Ray Rice are among the tagged players not expected (or having said straight out they aren’t coming) at offseason work. The Cardinals and Campbell have been talking about a new long-term deal for a while now and that hasn’t changed.

It’s tough not to see “hopefully soon” from Campbell’s message as optimism; there is still significant time to get a long-term deal done before the July 16 deadline. Strength and conditioning may start tomorrow, but the Cards don’t get back on the field for football work until May 22.

(And then again, Campbell didn’t get any at-the-complex work last offseason either, and 2011 turned out pretty good, right?)

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Tags all around

Posted by Darren Urban on March 5, 2012 – 3:32 pm

Now that the NFL deadline has passed for teams to use the franchise tag, the list was a lengthy one, which was what everyone was predicting.

A total of 21 players got the tag this year, although that number has already been reduced by one because Colts defensive end Robert Mathis got the tag today and then soon after, agreed to a new contract. That of course is supposed to be the point of the franchise tag in the first place, buying teams time to work out a long-term contract. That’s what the Cards are trying to do with defensive end Calais Campbell. What teams are not supposed to do is tag a guy just so they can trade him. That’s not a rule, but it’s the spirit of the rule. It’s one of the reasons the Packers really didn’t want to tag backup QB Matt Flynn; it’s one of the reasons the Cards didn’t tag either Jake Plummer or David Boston back in 2002 (although part of the reason with Boston too was they didn’t want him getting his guaranteed tender when he was, for lack of a better phrase, unable to be counted upon. That turned out to be pretty smart on their part.)

Although the specific franchise dollar amounts aren’t known yet, they are lower than years past because of the CBA’s new way of figuring them, which helps in the increased use. There are also more free agents, after so many guys either signed one-year deals or didn’t get extensions last offseason because of the labor problems.

Other than Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson, for whom Philly would reportedly would listen to trade offers, the rest of the guys on the list are expected to work toward long-term deals with current clubs, like Campbell. There are actually six kickers/punters that were tagged, amazingly. Certainly those aren’t trade candidates. The question will be how many of these tagged men can get a new deal done before Tuesday, when free agency starts and when the tag contract number begins taking a chunk out of salary cap space (Teams have to be compliant with the salary cap when free agency starts, 2 p.m. Arizona time.)

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After tag, where Cards and Campbell go from here

Posted by Darren Urban on March 2, 2012 – 1:06 pm

The Cardinals, as everyone knew would happen for a while, tagged defensive end Calais Campbell Friday amidst the flood of players across the league getting the tag.

So what’s next?

At this point, it’s impossible to tell where the two sides are in their contract talks. Campbell’s agent hasn’t been talking specifics to the media and general manager Rod Graves has only said that he expects a resolution to come soon. In theory, a new deal for Campbell could still come over the next few days or before free agency starting March 13. The tag is a mechanism to buy more time to get that deal. The deadline was Monday, which is why it came now. If teams could have waited until March 13 to put on the tag, Campbell wouldn’t have it yet.

With the non-exclusive tag, Campbell can solicit offers from other teams as long as he has yet to sign his tender with the Cards. I’m not sure what his plans are on that. Usually other teams don’t want to delve into a tag offer sheet, most of all because signing the guy means it costs two first-round draft picks, and as good as Campbell is, I don’t see any way another team would give up a pair of first-rounders for him. Then there is the reality (which is in play for restricted free agent offer sheets) that all the new team is doing is negotiating a new deal for the player’s current team, since the current team — in this case, the Cards — can match whatever offer is made.

As soon as Campbell signs his tag tender with the Cards, which would guarantee a 2012 salary expected to be around $11 million, he can’t get offers from other teams any more.

All this means is that a) Campbell will be a Cardinal in 2012 and b) the two sides will continue to try to get a long-term deal done. There have been concerns from fans about the last time the Cards used the tag and how that ended, which was the 2008 and 2009 tagging of linebacker Karlos Dansby. He eventually fled as a free agent, never getting a long-term deal done. In Dansby’s case, the team and his then-agent thought they had a deal done at one point, only to have Dansby nix it. Dansby then changed agents and landed in Miami. At the time, the Cards felt Dansby had a worth and he thought it was more, and the Cards weren’t going to break the bank. You can argue both sides of whether that was the right move.

In this case, the Cards know Campbell is a rising star, just 25 and good both on the field and in the locker room. There are things in play here that no one — other than Graves and Campbell agent Ben Dogra — knows for sure the impact. With a new TV deal coming in a couple of years, and the subsequent rise in cap space, how much is that influencing what Campbell wants? At what comps are the Cards putting Campbell’s value, i.e., what defensive ends are they comparing him to? Impossible to know for sure.

I will reiterate what I think. I think a deal gets done this offseason (Campbell must have a new pact in place by July 16 or play 2012 under the tag deal.) How long it takes, I don’t know.

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Free agency before free agency

Posted by Darren Urban on February 29, 2012 – 10:42 am

Free agents can’t sign anywhere but with their own teams until March 13, but that doesn’t mean free agency — from a certain perspective — isn’t already underway. With the final day teams can apply franchise tags coming Monday, we are now counting down the last handful of days that a deal can get done with possible tagged players. Of course, all a tag means in the short-term is that teams can buy time to negotiate with those players for a longer contract extension. If, for instance, defensive end Calais Campbell is tagged by the Cards, that’s the expectation. So too, as another example, with Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

But those things — along with deals/potential deals with guys who might not have had the tag, like 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks — will make an impact on “real” free agency. If the Saints have to tag Brees, for instance, Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks cannot be tagged and will be free to shop himself. And every non-tag guy who signs between now and March 13 obviously removes himself from the market and changes the possibilities. In some cases, it won’t mean anything to the Cards, in others, it might.

(And we won’t even get into any possible cuts for monetary reasons that teams will do for cap and other reasons, like speculated moves such as Raiders linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, any number of Steelers or some guy whose brother just won a second Super Bowl. All those change the landscape too.)

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Fitz’s contract and no franchise tag

Posted by Darren Urban on August 16, 2011 – 9:23 am

Suddenly it became big news again that the Cardinals can’t use the franchise tag on wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald if his contract expires after this season. But that’s always been part of the equation. The Cardinals knew it, obviously, from the time they signed Fitz to the last deal. Originally, the clause was supposed to allow Fitz to be tagged, but that if he was, he had to be paid $23 million for one season. That wasn’t allowed after the NFL reviewed the contract, since franchise tag numbers are set ahead of time based on previous years’ salaries of the top players at the position.

If you recall, at the time the Cards had to re-do Fitz’s deal to create cap space for the 2008 offseason (until it was done the Cards couldn’t make any moves, one reason they couldn’t make a run at guard Alan Faneca at the time). The contract had already been signed and turned in, and basically, changing the $23 million clause to the we-can’t-franchise clause was the only way to get the contract finalized. So that was that.

But again, it’s been known since then. It was part of the narrative last season and again right after the season when the Cards first started contract talks. Fitz has a no-trade clause too — at least one in which he has to approve any destination, but that’s a moot point. The Cards have zero interest in dealing him.

(As a side note, remember Darnell Dockett last offseason? He almost didn’t report to camp because he wanted a new contract. He was assured one was coming, so he showed to Flagstaff. He even make a comment at one point that one was coming, early in camp. That day didn’t come until September. But it came. Before the season. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.)

In the end, that’s why missing an offseason was such a big deal, because the Cards couldn’t start showing Fitz how they were going to re-build their team until about three weeks ago. That’s always been the big issue. As my cohort Kent Somers noted the other day on Twitter, Fitz wants two things: Big stats, and to play for a winner. That’s the only way he can cement the legacy he wants so much. With all that as the backdrop, that’s why the Cards are making this contract push now — this was always going to be a crucial time in the relationship between Fitz and the team. And everybody knew it.

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Talk of the tag

Posted by Darren Urban on February 10, 2011 – 4:53 pm

Today is the first day teams can place the franchise tag on potential free agents (it’s a two-week window) and it may not mean much — with the knowledge the current CBA is expiring, the NFLPA is insisting that the end of the CBA also means any tag applied now goes away without a new agreement by March 4. Nevertheless, stars like Colts QB Peyton Manning and Ravens NT Haloti Hgata are expected to get tags, just so their teams can protect themselves in case.

With the Cardinals, it’s unlikely the tag will get used. The Cards didn’t use it last year (after putting it on Karlos Dansby the previous two seasons) and  looking over the current unrestricted free agents doesn’t seem to hold any names that would draw attention. The money for a franchised player is fairly hefty (average of the top five salaries the previous year at that position), and I don’t see the Cards guaranteeing that kind of dough for a Steve Breaston, a Deuce Lutui or a Lyle Sendlein. You never know, but that how it looks from here.

And besides, it may not matter who is tagged or not.

P.S. Ron Wolfley did a long sit-down interview with new DC Ray Horton that will be posted tomorrow morning on So keep an eye out for that. (And here it is.)

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Cards not using the tag

Posted by Darren Urban on February 25, 2010 – 11:46 am

No surprise, but the Cardinals aren’t using the franchise tag or transition tag this season. It wasn’t going to be used on Karlos Dansby. The only possibility was probably kicker Neil Rackers, but it in the end, it didn’t make much sense.

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