Center of NFL universe comes to Phoenix

Posted by Darren Urban on March 18, 2013 – 9:22 am

The NFL owners meetings are underway at the Arizona Biltmore for the next few days, with the power brokers of the league coming together to talk about various topics and the league’s media stalking them on sidewalks and lobbies. From a Cardinals’ perspective, the last three owners meetings to come to town have coincided with two coach hires (Arians this year, Whisenhunt in 2007) and the splashy Emmitt Smith signing in 2003.

Comissioner Roger Goodell will have a press conference today, but we’ll see if there is more local news beyond that. I know the question keeps coming up — over and over — about Josh Cribbs, and there is again another report out of Cleveland today that Cribbs and the Cardinals are talking. To have it termed that he will “possibly” sign does leave the door wide open for nothing to go down. I don’t see the Cards taking on Cribbs unless it was totally on their terms. They don’t need a receiver per se, although I am sure they could fit Cribbs in in a role similar to LaRod Stephens-Howling if they wanted. At this point, when it’s done — if it’s done — is when it’s done.

And for those who still wonder, Rey Maualuga re-signed with the Bengals today. His door closed in Arizona once they signed Jasper Brinkley.

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From quiet to crazy in free agency

Posted by Darren Urban on March 13, 2013 – 4:45 pm

The first day was quiet. Today, not so much.

In come a host of free agents (many necessary after the recent purge of veterans): a quarterback in Drew Stanton, a running back in Rashard Mendenhall, a linebacker/special teamer in Lorenzo Alexander, a cornerback in Jerraud Powers and a safety in Yeremiah Bell. The Bell thing came out of left field a bit, but so too did the release of safety Kerry Rhodes. Dropping both starting safeties in less than a week’s time.

A quick note on Rhodes. The team saves $6 million in both cap space and cash outlay by letting him go in 2013. There was no way that was ever going to stand. The plan late in the season last year was to extend Rhodes’ deal and lower that 2013 number. I don’t know what happened exactly, but I still think there was talk in that regard even after the regime change. Rhodes hits an open market with a secondary glut, and he’ll be fighting Charles Woodson, Ed Reed and Adrian Wilson, among others, for a job. I do not think Bell is to be Rhodes’ long-term solution. For 2013? Maybe. Let’s see how the rest of free agency goes and how the draft plays out. The draft is deep in safeties, and remember, GM Steve Keim said one of the things he wanted to do this year was take a big picture view of how the draft and free agency fit together based on available players in both areas.

As for the players the Cardinals signed, we will see how it plays out. I’m not going to sit here and say they are saviors. But we don’t know how they will fit. I found it interesting, when Stanton was talking about the offensive line, that he mentioned that a change in scheme could change the way a unit or player played. We usually look at the downside of that, but there can be upside too. I don’t know how they will fit.

If Powers stays healthy, I think that can be a good signing, and if the Cardinals manage to nab Antoine Cason too — he will visit soon — to go with Patrick Peterson, all the better. There are still young players like Jamell Fleming and Justin Bethel to add in the mix, and that factors in too. Bell in the end could just be this year’s James Sanders. Mendenhall said he is healthy and has been since about the middle of last season, which is good for a player who could end up being the main back — depending how Ryan Williams responds.

There are more moves to come. Stanton’s arrival, as I keep repeating, doesn’t bode well for the future of Kevin Kolb and that decision has to be made probably by Friday anyway, since his roster bonus is due over the weekend. Linebacker Rey Maualuga left Wednesday without a deal, but reportedly Vikings linebacker Jasper Brinkley is coming in for a visit. Then there is the Josh Cribbs watch, with multiple reports still have him in conversations with the Cards.

There’s a whole offseason to analyze the moves. And I’m sure we all will.


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Cardinals snag Mendenhall

Posted by Darren Urban on March 13, 2013 – 11:31 am

The Cardinals have made a free agency move (and the fan base can exhale.) While the team has not officially announced anything yet, the agent for running back Rashard Mendenhall tweeted out that Mendenhall agreed to a one-year contract with the Cardinals. Mendenhall played under coach Bruce Arians in Pittsburgh and had his best season when Arians was there. He did tear an ACL in 2011 and spent last year coming back from that. But the one-year deal works on both ends — the Cards get a player motivated to prove his worth, and Mendenhall has a chance to boost his stock and re-visit free agency next season. Reportedly, the Broncos were also offering Mendenhall a one-year contract.

The Cardinals also gave recent free agents like DB Richard Marshall and LB Quentin Groves one-year deals and those worked out pretty well (although both got paid elsewhere after the one year.)

Mendenhall will have a chance to work with Ryan Williams in the backfield. Both have battled injuries. Both have much to prove.

And I have a feeling, with QB Drew Stanton and ILB Rey Maualuga and CB Jerraud Powers all scheduled to visit today, and other names in the fire (now Antoine Cason the cornerback will visit), there will be more news today.


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Extra money for Massie and Acho

Posted by Darren Urban on March 13, 2013 – 9:48 am

The Cardinals had two players among the top six in the NFL in terms of earning extra money last season through the NFL’s performance pay plan, which essentially gives bonus checks to players who aren’t making a ton in salary but play a lot. One was tackle Bobby Massie, no surprise as a fourth-round pick who started all season. Massie got an extra $283,776, not bad when his salary was $390,000. The other was linebacker Sam Acho, who received an extra $273,715 on top of his salary of $465,000.

Every team distributes an extra $3.46 million to their players. Every guy who played a snap gets a check, with the money proportional to snaps and salary. The lower your salary and the more snaps you play, the more money you’ll get.

Other odds and ends on this Wednesday morning:

— Linebacker Quentin Groves agreed to a two-year contract with Cleveland, re-joining Ray Horton with the Browns. The Cardinals already needed help at inside linebacker, but now they are thin at outside linebacker too.

— The inside linebacker issue could be helped if they sign ex-Bengal Rey Maualuga, who tweeted yesterday he was coming here for a visit. Other visits expected are quarterback Drew Stanton, running back Rashard Mendenhall and cornerback Jerraud Powers.

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