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On Fitz and Porter

Posted by Darren Urban on February 25, 2011 – 1:01 pm

General manager Rod Graves and coach Ken Whisenhunt met with the media at the combine today. Nothing earthshattering came out of it, but I will have a story in a bit on the homepage and there were a couple of other notes of interest.

— Talks are ongoing on a contract extension for wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, with his contract set to expire after 2011. The Cards can sign him to an extension before the potential work stoppage, but when/if there is a work stoppage, that opportunity ends until a new CBA is reached (and right now, the league year is set to end 10 p.m. Arizona time March 3).

“Obviously the window is getting shorter in terms of being able to close something before the end of the (league) year,” Graves said. “We will see what happens over the next week or week-and-a-half. Again, the objective is to extend his deal. The only real time line on it is the expiration of his contract, so we will work until we feel we can get the deal done.”

That’s was the extent of Graves’ analysis. There are going to be two factors here: The amount of money Fitzgerald can get (and the Cardinals know he’s going to want a lot, and are going to be willing to pay), and then Fitzgerald’s willingness to sign such a deal given the state of the Cards and more importantly, the quarterback situation. The QB situation can’t be addressed before the end of the league year, so I’m not sure Fitzgerald’s situation will change before then.

(And, repeating facts already in evidence, Fitzgerald has a no-trade clause and cannot be given the franchise tag, factors that will impact Fitzgerald as he gets near the end of his deal).

— Meanwhile, Whisenhunt was asked to assess veteran linebacker Joey Porter, who remains in a precarious position for 2011 given his salary of more than $5 million and his struggles late in the season.

“I can honestly say it is hard to say anyone had a good year when we had the type of record last year,” Whisenhunt said. “Joey was in a situation that was tough for him, he was playing a tremendous amount of snaps and for a player his age that was tough and that was not our intent. Our intent was to rotate players in there and give him a break. The latter part of the season, he wore down.

“I give Joey a tremendous amount of credit because he fought every day to get through practice, to work hard and be a good example. But I think he’d tell you he wasn’t as productive, especially late in the season, as he had been in the past. But we could say that about a lot of guys. I expect to see Joey come in and compete and try to get back to the player he had been for us and we’ll see how that progresses.”

I assume the player who was supposed to be Porter’s rotation was Cody Brown, who underwhelmed so much in training camp he was cut before the season began. Whenever the offseason gets started, Porter’s situation — and how he (and his contract) fits on the defense — will be one of the more intriguing storylines.


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Chatting from a room with a view

Posted by Darren Urban on February 23, 2011 – 4:41 pm

Indianapolis is the anti-Dallas — meaning it’s cold, but no snow. You can see Lucas Oil Stadium from my hotel room (proof below). And speaking of my room, that’s where the computer will be hooked up for tomorrow’s live chat with general manager Rod Graves and director of player personnel Steve Keim (the link is here), which will begin a little after 1 p.m. Arizona time. As you can imagine, time is precious here in Indy, but we will have some combination of 15- or 20-minute chats each or one bigger one for about 30-40 minutes. Obviously we will get to as many questions as we can (and try to be realistic; Don’t bother asking flat out if the Cards will take a QB with the first pick, for instance. They don’t know yet and even if they did, I don’t see it being revealed on a live chat in February).

Before then, I’ll be over at the stadium as the first wave of players, coaches and GMs come through the media area. Because so many athletes train at the Valley’s Athletes Performance, our flight today had a heavy NFL-bent — among those I saw on the plane were Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert, Washington QB Jake Locker and Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, along with Cards coach Ken Whisenhunt, offensive coordinator Mike Miller and special teams coach Kevin Spencer.

Welcome to Indy 2011.


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Fitz contract talks begin

Posted by Darren Urban on January 9, 2011 – 12:22 pm

UPDATE: General manager Rod Graves confirmed the Cards have begun preliminary conversations on a Fitz deal.

——

I know there has been a lot of concern about whether the Cardinals will keep wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald long-term. Well, ESPN reported this morning there already have been preliminary contract talks between Fitz and the team for a contract extension.

Recently, Graves said the Cards were still hoping to get a couple deals done before the potential lockout. He didn’t say who with, but given Fitzgerald’s situation, it makes sense he’d be one. Fitz is scheduled to be a free agent after the 2011 season, and since he cannot be franchised or traded without his OK, he has all the leverage and the closer he gets to free agency, the more likely he’d be to test the waters. And if the Cards don’t extend him before the lockout, they have to wait until after the lockout — and no one is sure when that will be.

I am always leery when I hear of “preliminary” discussions, of course. It could be as little as “Hey Fitz, you know we want you back, right?” and Fitz saying, “Sure.” It also usually means nothing is close to being done (and may not be until Fitz has a better understanding what the team’s quarterback situation will be). But the Cards have never been anything but sure they wanted to keep him long-term, and I have always thought his remaining in Arizona was the most likely outcome.


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We can talk QBs if you want

Posted by Darren Urban on January 5, 2011 – 3:23 pm

Let’s get this out of the way: I will be hosting a live chat tomorrow (Thursday) at 1 p.m. Arizona time so we can wrap up the season. You can link to the chat right here.

I know everyone keeps wanting to ask about potential quarterbacks, and that certainly can be a topic. But everyone should also understand I don’t know what’s going to happen and I don’t know enough about the incoming draftees (assuming all come out as expected). Andrew Luck will be the No. 1 pick of the Panthers. On that I have little doubt. After that, I don’t know. I don’t know if Cam Newton’s skills translate to the NFL, or if Ryan Mallett will be accurate enough, or if Blaine Gabbert is just a product of a spread offense. I like to get to the combine, when those players become the focus. Right now it’s other things.

Speaking of other things, there hasn’t been any other things here today, as much as everyone has been waiting for some things to happen. There have been meetings as expected, as coach Ken Whisenhunt talks to assistants and general manager Rod Graves. I will say this: If nothing happens by the end of the week staff-wise, you can feel confident no one is being fired. I’m sure people will want to talk about that subject too.


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For now, no new receivers

Posted by Darren Urban on September 28, 2010 – 8:59 pm

With the surgery and subsequent short-term shelving of Steve Breaston, the Cardinals re-signed receiver Onrea Jones and will see how their current wideout group does Sunday in San Diego before considering any other veteran additions, general manager Rod Graves said in a text message Tuesday night. The team will re-evaluate the position again after playing the Chargers, Graves added. The Cardinals feel if they can get through the next two games with the current group — Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Stephen Williams, Max Komar and Jones — then both Breaston and Early Doucet can likely return after the bye (which comes in three weeks after a home game against New Orleans).


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Farewell to Johnny Bailey

Posted by Darren Urban on August 22, 2010 – 7:38 pm

Johnny Bailey made a Pro Bowl for the Phoenix Cardinals back in 1992, when he led the NFL with 13.2 yards per punt return. He averaged more than 11 yards a punt return as a rookie for the Bears in 1990. But Rod Graves — now the Cardinals’ general manager who was part of the Bears’ front office that drafted Bailey back in 1990 — doesn’t think football when he first thinks of Bailey.

“I remember Johnny as a delightful guy who always had a smile on his face,” Graves said.

Bailey died last week of pancreatic cancer. He was just 43, and only 18 years removed from his all-star season (a picture of Bailey’s Pro Bowl appearance is below).

Only 5-foot-8, Bailey was a superstar at Division II Texas A&I (then Texas A&M-Kingsville), leading all Division II colleges in rushing in 1987, 1988 and 1989. He won the Harlon Hill Trophy — Division II’s Heisman — three times. Graves, who was also from Bailey’s hometown of Houston, and the Bears saw enough to look past Bailey’s size and draft him in the ninth round. Later, Bailey came to Arizona (he also played for the Rams), showing off his spectacular return skills for a couple of years.


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Williams deal closer

Posted by Darren Urban on August 1, 2010 – 9:33 pm

I know a lot of people are wondering when No. 1 pick Dan Williams is going to sign. I traded texts with general manager Rod Graves tonight and he said “we made progress today.” Graves soft-pedals many details in these cases because with contracts — especially first-rounders — there are lots of i’s to dot and t’s to cross. But yesterday he simply told me there was no deal yet, so if he said progress was made today, I get the sense that’s a significant step forward.

I think I have mentioned to a few fans that until we get to Tuesday and Williams isn’t signed yet, then you worry. The bottom line is Williams has only missed two practices. Even if he misses tomorrow, that’s just four in the grand scheme, and with as hard as Williams worked this summer, I have zero concern he’d make up missed time very quickly.

UPDATE: In the middle of the night, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Williams and the Cards had agreed on a five-year deal.


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On the eve of camp

Posted by Darren Urban on July 29, 2010 – 4:22 pm

That quiet you hear is not from Darnell Dockett’s Twitter account, although the big tease threw out his firebomb Tuesday night and has held radio silence since (Now Mike Jurecki is reporting Drew Rosenhaus and Dockett will meet with general manager Rod Graves tomorrow about the contract).

More on Nine-0 in a minute.

No, the quiet is the empty building after all the proper equipment has been packed up and shipped up to Flagstaff. The team reports for a meeting tomorrow night. I have to stay here at the facility most of tomorrow, but azcardinals.com will be covering the players and coaches as they arrive and I will get any important info out on the blog and Twitter ASAP. And I’ll start full bore on the coverage Saturday.

I am guessing LBs O’Brien Schofield and Gerald Hayes will start on the PUP list, but since a player can come off that at any point in camp, it’s not some kind of death knell if Hayes is on the list (If he is still there when the Cards carve up their 53-man roster, then that’s a problem). I would guess no one is going to be revealing Deuce Lutui’s current weight either, unless Deuce has had a Biggest Loser moment and wants to tell the world.

The Dockett meeting is interesting but doesn’t necessarily mean anything concrete. The sides have met periodically and Rosenhaus used to do the same for Anquan Boldin and all his Cardinal clients. I am guessing Dockett isn’t going to be told he’s about to get a new deal right now. I wonder if Rosenhaus will try to go the Chris Johnson route in the short term, although that money was already built into Johnson’s deal.

I could ramble on all night. Lots of topics to discuss. It just means it’s time for football, and now everything starts to mean a little bit more as the regular season approaches.


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Graves talks contracts

Posted by Darren Urban on July 23, 2010 – 3:05 pm

Had a chance to catch up with general manager Rod Graves today to get a state of the state today regarding the three unsigned draft picks — first-rounder Dan Williams, second-rounder Daryl Washington and fourth-rounder O’Brien Schofield — and also where things might stand with defensive tackle Darnell Dockett and his potential contract extension.

Talks are underway with all three draft picks. Graves said he was still hopeful all three will be signed by training camp (the first practice is a week from tomorrow) but “we’ll see how the process goes.”

As far as Dez Bryant, the WR taken 24th overall and two spots ahead of Williams, being signed helping the Williams negotiations, Graves said it does give the area of the round “more clarity” but it’s wait-and-see to find out how or if it will impact things. “It does help to some degree,” Graves said. It may be worth noting the pick between Bryant and Williams is Denver QB Tim Tebow, and quarterbacks always throw off the scale as well.

As for Schofield, Graves is hoping that will be done by camp but he mentioned Schofield’s “unique situation” with his knee injury and “we’ve got to construct a deal that considers that.” “There’s no reason to think we can’t have that deal consummated but there’s not a sense of urgency,” Graves added. “With all three unsigned guys, they have been around and worked hard this summer and been impressive. Schofield has worked extremely hard. Our ultimate goal is to have those guys in on time.”

Right now, only one of 32 first-rounders have signed, and only three of 32 second-rounders. All but four fourth-rounders have signed.

Dockett meanwhile has been talking a lot in media outlets and on Twitter, sounding a least a little more optimistic about his deal. On Sports 620 KTAR he even dropped a line about maybe one being done “sooner instead of later.” Graves said there has been good communication between the sides but acknowledged nothing is done right now. “Dockett has really shown his love for this team and I think in many respects, he has matured quite a bit over the years,” Graves said. “He’s an outstanding football player and at some point, we are going to address his deal. … We’re trying to keep it as positive as we can until we get something done. Our main objective is to keep our main core together and Darnell is one of our core players.”

(Side note from me: I have said it before and I’ll repeat it — I still think the Cards extend Dockett. When I don’t know. If I had to guess — and that’s all it would be is a guess — it would be sometime mid-to-late this season.)


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The first first, LBs and running (under)water

Posted by Darren Urban on July 22, 2010 – 3:51 pm

— One down — ESPN’s Adam Schefter (and others) is reporting the Cowboys and WR Dez Bryant have agreed to a contract, making Bryant the first first-rounder to come under contract. That leaves 31 other first-rounders and most of the second-rounders still as camp approaches. I am not sure exactly where the Cards are with Dan Williams and Daryl Washington, but I don’t think anything is imminent. I hope to catch up with GM Rod Graves at some point.

— Given the circumstances, with Gerald Hayes ailing, you’ve got to wonder if it would get Washington on the field faster (with Paris Lenon filling in for Hayes). As long as Hayes sits, there will likely be some mixing and matching early on.

— The linebacker who won’t be able to play right away, O.B. Schofield, is trying hard to shorten his time frame to return. He is in great spirits in rehab, proudly noting he is back from the 221 pounds he had dropped to after his knee injury to 238 pounds (which is easy to see in the below photo, where you can see how his underwater running is monitored by trainers. Yes, he is wearing shorts).


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