Front office changes: UPDATE

Posted by Darren Urban on May 2, 2012 – 10:32 am

In the NFL, the week or so after the draft is the time when personnel changes happen. The rules are such that personnel men can’t move from team to team as the draft approaches for obvious reasons. But new jobs are offered and teams make moves with scouts and the like right after, in that month or so when the scouting finally gets a break before gearing up for another marathon of work before the next draft.

So today comes a couple of reports concerning the Cardinals. A report first came out of New England, where Shalise Manza Young tweeted Patriots director of pro personnel Jason Licht was leaving the Patriots to take an unknown role with the Cards. Then Adam Caplan tweeted out Cardinals director of pro personnel T.J. McCreight was leaving to take a job with the Colts (which I have since confirmed.) The Cardinals have not announced anything officially.

If Licht sounds familiar, it’s because he worked for the Cardinals in 2008, hired away from the Eagles and was with the Cards for the Super Bowl year. He left after the Super Bowl to take the Patriots job, and McCreight was the one hired to replace him.

(Here’s a story I wrote about McCreight and fellow pro personnel guy Quentin Harris, for those wondering about what the job entails.)

UPDATE: It was all true and now official: Licht has returned to Arizona. McCreight, as I noted earlier is working for Indy. And on top of everything, Steve Keim — who was in the mix to be the Rams’ GM earlier this offseason, has been promoted to VP of player personnel. Read all about it here.

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An “incredible” and “fluid” week for the front office

Posted by Darren Urban on August 2, 2011 – 10:16 am

General manager Rod Graves is hoping to make it up to Flagstaff today or tomorrow, after the whirlwind week that was. Now, there is the ability to step back a little bit and absorb what happened since a week ago today when the free agent process officially began.

Graves praised the support the front office had from president Michael Bidwill, noted the hard work put in by assistant Justin Casey, the scouting department led by director of player personnel Steve Keim and the pro personnel department fronted by director T.J. McCreight.

“We had the support to be aggressive and we all played a part,” Graves said. “We were organized from day one and we expanded the negotiating team. … But we had to be fluid every step of the way. We determined early we weren’t going to get caught up on one guy. We couldn’t afford to wait around.”

Said coach Ken Whisenhunt, “We had every position evaluated. We had players ranked. We knew where we wanted to go. If we weren’t going to be able to get in play for one guy, we’d move to the next guy.”

A good example of the smart work the group put in came at the guard position. The Cards wanted Deuce Lutui back, but when it looked like Lutui was going in a different direction, the team turned to Daryn Colledge, who it eventually signed.

No bridges were burned, however, even after Lutui agreed to sign with the Bengals. So when Lutui flunked his Cincinnati physical, the Cards and Lutui figured out a deal.

“The way that negotiation was handled allowed him to come back,” Graves said.

Whisenhunt said the group had a laundry list of ways to attack the past week. But as Graves said, the Cards were fluid, adding, for instance, a drive for a cornerback once it became clear the team was going to have to include Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the Kevin Kolb trade. Yet the Cards had done their due diligence on cornerbacks already, making the eventual signing of Richard Marshall that much easier (and there were reports the Cards were farther reaching that normal, for instance talking with arguably the top free agent available, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha).

“There’s always got to be a little bit of adjustment you have to make to navigate your way through that, and once again, it was a great team effort,” Whisenhunt said. “To be honest with you, it all starts with Michael. Michael set the mentality of going into this period to be aggressive. He’d said that. He’d said that publicly, and he stood true to that.”

Said Graves, “The whole process has been incredible.”

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Growing the negotiating team

Posted by Darren Urban on July 20, 2011 – 9:53 am

Whenever this lockout wraps up, there will be a lot of work to do in a short amount of time before training camp. There will be so many players/agents to contact/negotiate with — from drafted rookies to undrafted rookies to the Cards’ own free agents to universal free agents — that it was going to be difficult if not impossible for general manager Rod Graves and salary cap administrator Justin Casey to get everything done.

But I had a chance to speak to Graves this morning and given the circumstances, the Cardinals will be expanding the negotiating team. Director of player personnel Steve Keim, director of pro personnel T.J. McCreight, assistant director of pro personnel Quentin Harris and director of football administration Reggie Terry will be joining Graves  and Casey in the work. Obviously the more complicated contracts will be left to Graves and Casey, but the expansion will allow the Cards a chance to function in what is certain to be warp-speed work.

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Ho-hum … another Fitz catch of note

Posted by Darren Urban on June 1, 2010 – 1:45 pm

It was early in today’s OTAs. The quarterbacks and pass catchers were going through the drill in which five receivers go out in patterns and the four QBs (plus a coach) throw passes to each. I have no idea who threw the ball to Larry Fitzgerald, who was running half-speed down the right sideline, but it was a bit back over the wrong shoulder. Without a pause — and looking like he had planned it the whole way, Fitz reached back with his right hand, twisting his body, and snatched the ball from the air one-handed. No fuss, no muss and certainly no bobble. Incredible.

I was furiously scribbling down the play to note when the director of pro personnel T.J. McCreight came walking down the sideline on which I was standing asking if I had indeed seen it. Turns out McCreight was equally impressed and wanted to talk about with someone — yet it seemed almost everyone on the sideline was deep in their own conversation or looking elsewhere.

Note to self: Don’t ever become jaded at some of the marvelously athletic plays I get to see often.

Back with OTAs today after the long weekend:

— Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Onrea Jones has, at least early on, established himself as the leader in the fight for the fourth receiver spot. “O.J. has done a great job of working hard, made a lot of plays in the OTAs and did a good job for us last year on the practice squad,” Whisenhunt said.

— Under the category of this-is-what-OTAs-are-for, the Cards worked Brandon Keith some at left tackle today (Keith has been working as first-string right tackle) and Jeremy Bridges got some work at right tackle. Versatility is what the Cards are looking for, and it helps with the offensive line depth they have built.

— Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie tried to give it a go on his sore toe today, but he had to shut it down after awhile. Linebacker Gerald Hayes remains working on the side with his back issues.

I’ll have more in a notebook I post this afternoon on the home page.

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