Cardinals Rumors

Brice Butler No Lock To Make Cardinals?

  • Although Brice Butler signed with the Cardinals a few months ago, he’s experienced a shaky offseason in the desert. He may not be a lock for their 53-man roster, Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com writes. The Cards have a void opposite Larry Fitzgerald after losing multiple contributors, but they still have JJ Nelson and 2017 third-rounder Chad Williams, and drafted Christian Kirk. And the Cards just signed Greg Little as well, perhaps indicating they’re not happy with their receiver situation at present. Butler chose Arizona over a host of other suitors.

Bradford Still Expected To Be Cardinals Starting QB

  • First-round quarterback Josh Rosen is undoubtedly impressing in Cardinals‘ camp, but Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com believes Sam Bradford will still be the team’s starter heading into the season. The veteran has the upper hand when it comes to accuracy and throwing power, and while the team is planning on bringing him along slowly (Bradford suffered another knee injury last season), he’s expected to be atop the depth chart at the start of the season.

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Examining Key 2018 Holdouts

The 2014 first round produced some of the NFL’s best players, and they comprise part of an extensive group of that skipped minicamp and could well be training camp holdouts. But several other standout players didn’t show for their respective teams’ mandatory workouts either. Here’s a look on where things stand with this absent contingent.

Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams: The reigning defensive player of the year is holding out for a second straight summer. He skipped the Rams’ minicamp, as expected, and remains focused on a landscape-changing deal. Both Donald and Khalil Mack are in line to eclipse Von Miller‘s $19MM annual salary, but the California-based franchises may be hesitant to be the first to authorize a $20MM-per-year pact for a defender. However, Les Snead‘s already conceded the Rams will have to finalize a Donald deal that makes him the league’s highest-paid defender. But with the Broncos superstar having signed his extension in a $155MM cap year, it’s likely Donald’s camp — particularly on the heels of a season where the all-world interior defender won DPOY honors after his holdout induced a two-game absence — is targeting a figure well north of Miller’s, with the cap now at $177.2MM.

The Rams see this process unfolding in a less contentious fashion this year, but a Donald deal — one that’s putting other priorities on hold — isn’t imminent.

David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals: Unlike Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers, this process features no immediate deadline. But Johnson’s contract expires after this season, with no fifth-year option available to the franchise. Johnson and the Cards are engaging in extension discussions, and Steve Keim said this week — as his All-Pro back skipped minicamp — the team looks forward to signing Johnson long-term.

This has not proven to be an acrimonious situation, but Johnson is on a slightly different timetable than Bell. Despite being a fourth-year player compared to Pittsburgh’s All-Pro entering his sixth season, Johnson is a few months older than Bell and will turn 27 in December. However, it may be in his best interests to wait and see what happens with Bell by the July 16 franchise tag extension deadline.

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons: The NFL’s seen its wide receiver salary landscape shift since Jones signed his extension in August 2015. That contract made Jones the NFL’s highest-paid wideout, but seven receivers have since surpassed him. This includes Sammy Watkins and slot target Jarvis Landry, who respectively signed 2018 deals for $16MM and $15.1MM annually. Atlanta’s top weapon wants a revised contract and skipped OTAs and minicamp, and the Falcons are discussing such an amendment.

Jones has three seasons and minimal guarantees remaining on his deal, which averages $14.25MM per year. The team’s response a Jones camp proposal did not meet with the group’s approval, but the sides continue to negotiate. The 29-year-old pass-catcher said recently he has no intentions of forcing his way out of Atlanta.

Taylor Lewan, Tennessee Titans: The left tackle is part of the 2014 first-round contingent entering fifth-year option seasons, and he joined some of the group’s higher-profile players in skipping mandatory June workouts. Jon Robinson said upon being informed of Lewan’s impending minicamp absence that the parties are participating in ongoing re-up dialogue, but as recently as late May, no reports indicated this was the case.

A two-time Pro Bowler, Lewan is entering his age-27 season and is now shooting for Nate Solder‘s $15.5MM-AAV standard. That’s $2MM-plus more than any other left tackle makes, and the Giants authorized that contract amid free agency circumstances. This will complicate matters for Lewan and other extension-seeking tackles. Lewan’s option season is set to be worth $9.341MM.

Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders: After not joining Donald in a 2017 holdout, despite being in essentially the same situation, Mack is doing so this year. He has not reported to the Raiders this offseason. The 2016 defensive player of the year saw 2014 draftee teammates Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson sign lucrative extensions, only to see the Raiders put his on hold — mirroring other teams’ processes with ’14 first-rounders — because of the franchise-friendly fifth-year option. Reggie McKenzie‘s maintained the franchise intends to extend Mack in 2018 and said other players’ situations aren’t factoring into these discussions. Though, it’d be hard to believe Donald’s process isn’t impacting Mack’s at all.

The Raiders and Mack weren’t close on terms in April, but both Carr and Jackson signed their extensions in June of last year, perhaps pointing to a near-future resolution. Unlike the Rams, however, the Raiders have a top-tier quarterback salary on their books. That could cause issues elsewhere on the roster. Although, the cap’s perpetual rise negates some of those potential problems.

Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks: Perhaps the most interesting of these situations, the Seahawks have dangled Thomas in trades but expect him to report for training camp. Like Jones, Thomas saw several at his position usurp him in the salary hierarchy since signing an extension. Thomas signed a $10MM-AAV contract to make him the highest-paid safety in 2014. Again in a contract year, he’s threatened a holdout for months and is following through. The Cowboys and Seahawks discussed a draft-weekend deal for the three-time All-Pro. While Dallas balked about sending a second-round pick for the 29-year-old defender, the teams may well revisit these talks.

Either way, Thomas is going to want Eric Berry money ($13MM AAV) on his third contract. With Richard Sherman in San Francisco and Kam Chancellor‘s career in doubt, Thomas is the last remaining member of the Legion of Boom. It’s just uncertain if he’ll finish out his second contract in Seattle or be shipped elsewhere and end that dominant era.

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Minor NFL Transactions: 6/15/18

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Denver Broncos

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Cardinals Sign WR Greg Little

The Cardinals have swapped one wideout for another. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that Arizona has signed receiver Greg Little. The 29-year-old had participated in the team’s rookie minicamp earlier this week. To make room on the roster, the team has released wideout Cobi Hamilton (via Rapoport).

The 2011 second-round pick has been unable to put it together during his seven years in the NFL. He did show promise during his tenure with the Browns, including a 2011 rookie season where he hauled in 61 receptions for 709 yards and two scores. The receiver hasn’t played in a game since since 2014 when he was on the Bengals. He’s also had brief stints with the Raiders and Bills.

Behind Larry Fitzgerald, any one of the Cardinals’ wideouts could realistically make the team. Little will ultimately be competing with a number of receivers for a gig, including JJ Nelson, Christian Kirk, Brice Butler, Chad WilliamsCarlton Agudosi, and Rashad Ross.

Hamilton, a 2013 sixth-round pick, has spent time with seven different teams during his four-year career. In 14 career games (nine starts) with the Steelers and Texans, the 27-year-old has compiled 18 receptions for 234 yards and two touchdowns.

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Cardinals Sign Andy Lee To Two-Year Extension

Punter Andy Lee will be sticking around Arizona for the foreseeable future. The team announced today that they’ve signed the veteran to a two-year extension. The deal will kick in next season and last through the 2020 campaign.

The 35-year-old joined the Cardinals last offseason and proceeded to play in all 16 games for his new organization. The three-time Pro Bowler ended up averaging 47.3-yards per punt, a franchise record. He also managed to land 29 punts inside the 20 yard line, his highest total since 2012. Predictably, Lee also served as the holder for field goals and extra points.

The 2004 sixth-round pick spent the first 11 seasons of his career with the 49ers before brief stints with the Browns and Panthers. His 1,135 career punts ranks 12th all-time, and he should easily secure the sixth spot on that list by the end of the 2018 season. His 52,666 punting yards already ranks in the top-five on the all-time list. The veteran has missed only seven regular season games during his career, with all of those coming during his stint with Carolina.

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Cardinals To Sign Greg Little?

  • Odds are the Cardinals will sign wide receiver Greg Little after minicamp, Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic tweets. Little likely would have signed with the club after his first tryout, but a hamstring injury got in the way. Little, a second-round of the Browns in 2011, spent three seasons in Cleveland before being waived. Since then, he has had stints with the Raiders, Bills, and Bengals. Little, 29, has played in 54 games with 42 starts over the course of his career. His most productive season came as a rookie when he had 61 catches for 709 yards and two scores. He followed that up with 53 catches for 647 yards and four scores as an NFL sophomore.

Larry Fitzgerald Eyeing Post-’18 NFL Future?

Larry Fitzgerald has deliberated about retirement the past two offseasons, and he’s returning to head up the post-Carson Palmer Cardinals offense. But might the future Hall of Famer now be considering playing beyond 2018?

Whispers around the organization point Fitzgerald to a possible future with the team that goes beyond his age-35 season, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic reports. Setting a rough timeline for his hopes, Steve Wilks included the possibility of 2019 and perhaps 2020 in his hopes for the all-time Arizona great.

I think really that’s a question for him, but I would love to have him back,” Wilks said Wednesday, via Somers. “As I’ve said earlier, next year and maybe even a year after that.”

Fitzgerald’s put together three strong seasons in his early 30s and has made the Pro Bowl in 10 of the past 11 years. His future with the Cards could depend on how quickly Josh Rosen can acclimate, and Arizona does have a new supporting cast of wideouts — headlined by second-rounder Christian Kirk — it’s installing this offseason. Poor quarterback play in between Kurt Warner and Palmer limited Fitzgerald in the early 2010s, so Rosen figures to be an important component to Fitz’s future. As will his fit in Arizona’s new offense after he flourished in Bruce Arians‘.

Fitz, naturally, did not make any big proclamations about a longer-term future.

I’m just trying to get through February in one piece,” Fitzgerald said, via Somers. “I don’t buy green bananas. I don’t have time to watch ’em ripe. I’ve got to get it now.”

If Fitzgerald stays healthy this season, he will almost certainly surpass Terrell Owens for No. 2 in all-time receiving yards. He has 15,545 in 14 seasons; that’s 389 shy of Owens’ mark. Fitzgerald is 315 receptions away from Jerry Rice‘s standard of 1,549. That’s his best chance to catch one of the legend’s marks, and it would take at least three more seasons to get there. He’s 18 touchdown receptions away from moving into the top five, thus supplanting Marvin Harrison (128).

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Opinion: Johnson Holdout Makes Sense

  • David Johnson‘s decision to holdout from the Cardinals is a good call, Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap writes. Although new 49ers running back Jerick McKinnon proved to be an exception this offseason, RBs typically do not garner big money in free agency, so Johnson’s best bet for a big contract is to land one as soon as possible with the Cardinals. Fitzgerald expects Johnson’s camp to push for a deal similar to Devonta Freeman‘s $8.25MM/year pact with the Falcons, given that Johnson is also a former mid-round pick and had a better 2016 than Freeman. However, Freeman is the younger player and has had a more consistent career overall. Ultimately, Fitzgerald expects to see a deal that works out for both sides.

Cardinals Likely To Add Free Agents Before Season?

The Cardinals are likely to make a free agent addition before the 2018 season begins, as general manager Steve Keim noted on 98.7 FM Tuesday (story via Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com).

“I can’t forecast what we’re going to do, but we’ll certainly stay active and continue to look at a number of different positions and players out there on the market,” Keim said. “We’ve done that year in and year out and had some success with some of those guys later on. It’s constantly a fluid deal for us. We will continue to look at the market and gauge where the money goes with certain players. And be aggressive, trying to improve this roster.

“Probably a signing that not many expected, or late in the process that we’ve had success with,” Keim added when asked what type of addition to expect. “Generally they are a guy who we talked to through free agency and the summer, whether it is a Jermaine Gresham, whether it is a Tramon Williams, John Abraham, guys that for whatever reason, whether it is injuries, whether it is financial, things that have changed that these football players are ready to get off the couch and go.”

As Urban indicates, the Cardinals have recently met with two high-profile free agent defensive backs in corner Bashaud Breeland and safety Jamar Taylor, but didn’t reach an agreement with either. Arizona will reportedly re-evaluate Breeland — whose original three-year, $24MM deal with the Panthers was nullified due to a failed physical — later this summer. Boston, meanwhile, has taken other visits, but is part of a safety crop which never got off the ground in free agency.

After signing their entire draft class, the Cardinals still have nearly $16MM in available cap space, per Over the Cap, so the club should have ample funds to deploy on veteran free agents in the coming weeks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.