Cardinals Rumors

Ten Unsigned 2024 Draft Picks Remain

The NFL collectively is ahead of where it was last year with regards to draft signings. Teams have navigated the guarantee issue second-round contracts presented in recent years. Unlike 2023, when 30 players were unsigned in late June and nearly half the second round was without contracts entering July, we are down to 10 unsigned rookies from the 2024 class. Here is the lot still without NFL contracts:

Round 1:

Round 2:

Round 3:

The clearest difference between this year and last comes from the second round. On June 17, 2023, half the second-rounders were unsigned. The 2011 CBA introducing the slot system has removed most of the drama from rookie-deal negotiations, but second-rounders continue to make guarantee gains. This contractual component has complicated matters for teams in the past, but that has not been the case — for the most part — this year.

A number of 2021 second-round picks remain attached to their rookie deals. Those terms illustrate the improvements Round 2 draftees have made on that front since. The Jaguars did guarantee 2021 No. 33 pick Tyson Campbell‘s first three seasons; his fourth brought $50K guaranteed. This year, the Bills needed to guarantee nearly Keon Coleman‘s entire rookie contract. Coleman has three years locked in and $1.74MM of his $2.1MM 2027 base salary is guaranteed at signing. This year’s No. 59 overall pick (Texans tackle Blake Fisher) secured more in Year 4 guarantees than Campbell’s deal contains.

A sizable gap does exist between Coleman’s final-year guarantees and those of Falcons DT Ruke Orhorhoro (No. 35 overall). The Clemson product has $966K of his $2.1MM 2024 base guaranteed. This gulf has likely caused the holdup for the Chargers and McConkey, a player who — after the exits of longtime starters Keenan Allen and Mike Williams — stands to be a central figure in the Bolts’ first Jim Harbaugh-era offense. With the top players in Round 2 on the cusp of seeing fully guaranteed deals, McConkey can set another notable precedent while gaining some additional security for himself.

First-round contracts have only been fully guaranteed en masse since 2022, when Vikings safety Lewis Cine — chosen 32nd overall — secured those terms. Though, matters like offset language still have been known to slow negotiations. Extended holdouts into training camp no longer occur among rookies, with players risking the loss of an accrued season toward free agency — a product of the 2020 CBA — by doing so. Corley and Benson were this year’s top third-round picks. The 49ers gave No. 64 overall pick Renardo Green two fully guaranteed years. That has likely caused a holdup for the Jets and Cardinals, considering the progress made via contracts agreed to by earlier draftees.

WR Pharoh Cooper Announces Retirement

Pharoh Cooper did not play in 2023, and he will not pursue a comeback this summer. The veteran receiver/return specialist announced his retirement on Monday.

Cooper entered the league with the Rams in 2016, and he showed promise in the return game as a rookie. His follow-up campaign proved to be the best of his career on special teams, as he racked up 1,421 all-purpose yards while averaging 27.4 kick return yards. The former fourth-rounder earned a Pro Bowl nod along with first-team All-Pro honors that season.

The South Carolina product’s run with the Rams came to an end following an ankle injury in 2018. That marked the beginning of a span in which he bounced around the NFL while trying to remain a standout returner and carve out a role on offense. In the latter regard, his best season came in 2019 (243 yards, one touchdown on 25 catches) while splitting his time between the Cardinals and Bengals.

Cooper went on to spend the 2020 season in Carolina before joining the Giants the following season. His last game action came in 2022 when he returned to Arizona; in all three stops he saw sparse offensive usage while serving as the his team’s returner. For his career, Cooper racked up over 3,900 return yards and averaged 9.2 yards on punt returns and 23.6 yards on kick returns.

“Farewell football, I’m officially retiring from the NFL,” his retirement announcement reads in part. “I appreciate all the love and support I’ve received from my family, friends, and fans through out my career. Much love.” 

Cooper will hang up his cleats at the age of 29. A veteran of 76 combined regular and postseason games, he amassed roughly $4.77MM in career earnings. After a full season away from the game in 2023, he will turn his attention to his post-playing days.

Evan Brown Favorite For Cardinals’ LG Job; Latest On Paris Johnson Jr.’s Position Change

Although the Cardinals swapped out D.J. Humphries‘ veteran contract for new right tackle Jonah Williams‘, the team is keeping costs low along its offensive front. Only one player — Williams — is tied to a deal worth more than $7.5MM per year.

Paris Johnson Jr.‘s first-round salary checks in behind Williams’ $15MM-per-year pact at this Cardinals position group. Among Arizona’s interior O-line, backup-level salaries are present. One of those is allocated to Evan Brown, who signed a one-year, $2.35MM contract with the team in March. Brown spent last season as the Seahawks’ starting center, but he will shift positions once again.

The Cardinals have installed Brown at guard, and the Arizona Republic’s Bob McManaman notes the veteran is in the lead to win the team’s left guard post. While a host of competitors are vying with Brown for the only undecided spot along Arizona’s offensive front, Brown came to the desert after three seasons as an O-line regular.

The Seahawks used Brown as a 16-game center starter last season. That came after Brown worked as a fill-in starter in back-to-back seasons in Detroit. The Lions plugged Brown in as a Frank Ragnow injury replacement in 2021; that season brought 12 starts for the former UDFA. He operated as Halapoulivaati Vaitai‘s RG fill-in during the 2022 season. All 40 of Brown’s career starts came over the past three seasons, as he bounced around between four teams from 2018-20.

Brown, 27, played for similar terms in Seattle (one year, $2.25MM) to plug a hole created by Austin Blythe‘s retirement. Pro Football Focus graded Brown as a bottom-tier center in 2023, slotting him 27th last season. The advanced metrics site viewed Brown’s pass protection as an issue in 2022 as well, though it graded the former UDFA as much better in that department as a center in 2021. As the Cardinals continue to rebuild, Brown will attempt to hold off some competitors — including last season’s Week 1 starter at the position — on an inexpensive front featuring another journeyman starter.

Hjalte Froholdt, a 2019 fourth-rounder who played for three teams from 2019-21, is entrenched as the team’s center. Will Hernandez is locked in as the team’s right guard, McManaman adds. Brown will battle LG incumbent Elijah Wilkinson (nine starts last season), Trystan Castillo-Colon, Carter O’Donnell and third-rounder Isaiah Adams in the primary competition for the job. Adams’ presence figures to be important here, though the Cardinals appear to be planning to ease the Day 2 draftee into the mix slowly. Brown is a stopgap guard option, and Jonathan Gannon said he is also seeing time at center — perhaps in preparation for a swing role if Adams becomes the LG starter.

Johnson and Williams, of course, are locked in as starters as well. Johnson is making the switch from full-time right tackle as a rookie to the left side. This aligns with D.J. Humphries‘ trajectory, as the former first-rounder moved from RT to LT after one season as a starter. Johnson is now replacing Humphries, and McManaman adds the 2023 No. 6 overall pick began preparing for the position switch before officially receiving word it was a go. Noting he and Humphries still communicate regularly, Johnson — an All-American left tackle at Ohio State in 2022 — said the Cardinals informed him a switch could happen depending on how free agency unfolded.

I got a text one day and it said, ‘Hey, can you play left?’” Johnson said. “I’ve been training both. I asked after the season and they were like, ‘Honestly, we’ll talk to you at some point in the season,’ and I got a text, and it was like, ‘Depending on what happens in free agency.

I had a whole season at right tackle, so if I get the word I’m staying at right tackle, I’ll just do what I did before. But I thought I might as well train at left tackle now as if I’m going to be left tackle. I’d rather do that than train all at right tackle and get the call, ‘Hey you’re at left tackle now.’ … I was just preparing in advance.”

Humphries, the Cardinals’ LT starter for seven seasons, remains a free agent. Johnson is under contract through the 2026 season. Kelvin Beachum remains in place as a swingman behind Johnson and Williams, who is staying at the position he played — following a trade request based on a left tackle role — in his Bengals contract year.

S Budda Baker Hopes To Remain With Cardinals Beyond 2024

The Cardinals’ 2023 offseason included a Budda Baker trade request which lasted for months. The Pro Bowl safety ultimately worked out short-term resolution to his contract status, but he remains a pending free agent.

Baker saw his 2023 earnings bumped up via incentives as a result of the deal reached last summer. He is now due $14.6MM this season while carrying a cap hit of just over $19MM. If the 28-year-old has his way, he will remain in the desert for the foreseeable future.

“Me being here seven years, this’ll be Year 8, of course you would love to be on a football team that you got drafted to,” Baker said (via Tyler Drake of Arizona Sports). “I know it’s the not the same GM or it’s not the same head coach, but I understand if I continue to do my job at a high level – this is our fourth coaching staff and I’m still on the team – it shows what type of character I have and what kind of work ethic I put onto the field no matter what.”

Baker originally inked a four-year, $59MM pact in 2020. Even with his revised agreement slightly lowering his AAV to $14.1MM, that figure ranks seventh in the league amongst safeties. The position has taken a financial hit this offseason, with a number of accomplished producers being released in the lead-in to free agency. The former second-rounder missed five games in 2023 due to a hamstring injury, but he still managed to receive a fifth consecutive Pro Bowl nod, the sixth of his career.

That could help his leverage in contract talks, whether they take place this summer or closer to free agency. Baker is positioned to remain a starter on the backend along with Jalen Thompson in 2024, and their collective play will go a long way in determining Arizona’s defensive success. The team did add Dadrion Taylor-Demerson in the fourth round of the draft as a developmental option at safety and/or the slot, and his play as a rookie will be worth watching.

As Baker noted, the Cardinals have a different regime in place (general manager Monti Ossenfort, head coach Jonathan Gannon) in place than when he first signed his extension. Those two are tasked with overseeing the team’s rebuild, and a step forward from last season’s 4-13 record will be a target in 2024. A healthy and productive campaign from Baker would help in that regard as he prepares for what could be his final Arizona season.

“A lot of people think about the money. Some players might think, ‘Contract year, I gotta do extra.’ I treat every single year like a contract year,” the Washington alum added. “For me, I’m an honest believer in controlling what I can control and do my job. At the end of the day, everything else will take care of itself.”

11 Teams Gain Cap Space From Post-June 1 Cuts

Early June no longer means a mid-offseason update to the free agent market, as teams can designate players as post-June 1 cuts months in advance of that date. But June 2 does bring an annually important date in terms of finances. This year, 11 teams will see their cap-space figures expand thanks to post-June 1 release designations. One other club — the Broncos — used a post-June 1 designation, but they will not save any money from the historic Russell Wilson release.

Teams are permitted to designate two players as post-June 1 cuts ahead of that date. This designation spreads a player’s dead money hit over two years as opposed to a 2024-only blow. Courtesy of Spotrac, here are the savings this year’s teams to make post-June 1 designations will receive:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

New Orleans Saints

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Broncos’ overall Wilson cap hit, even with the quarterback’s $1.21MM Steelers salary factoring into the equation, will more than double any other single-player dead money number in NFL history. The now-Sean Payton-led Broncos, after a failed effort to move Wilson’s guarantee vesting date beyond 2024, will take their medicine for bailing 18 months after authorizing a five-year, $245MM extension. Denver will absorb the lion’s share of the dead money this year, taking on $53MM. The team will not receive the cap credit from Wilson’s Steelers deal until 2025, per Spotrac.

Annually making exhaustive efforts to move under the cap, the Saints will be hit with more than $30MM in total dead cap from the Thomas and Winston contracts. Redesigning both in 2023, the Saints will take on $8.9MM in 2024 dead money on Thomas and $3.4MM on the Winston pact. Mickey Loomis‘ operation is once again at the bottom of the NFL in future cap space, being projected to come in more than $84MM over the 2025 cap.

Baltimore structured Beckham’s one-year, $15MM contract to void, and the team will take on more than $10MM in total dead money on it. The bulk of that will come in 2025; the post-June 1 cut will produce $2.8MM in 2024 dead cap this year.

RB James Conner Aiming To Remain With Cardinals Beyond 2024

James Conner is entering a contract year, and a repeat of his production from 2023 could help his free agent stock next offseason. If the veteran running back has his way, though, he will remain in Arizona for years to come.

The 29-year-old earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2021, his debut Cardinals campaign. That landed him a three-year, $21MM deal, an investment which has proven to be worthwhile on the team’s part. Conner has served as the team’s lead back when healthy, and in 2023 he eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career.

The former Steelers third-rounder averaged five yards per carry last season, a figure which also marked a personal high. That success will be countered by his age and the underwhelming valuation of running backs compared to other positions around the league. In any case, a new Cardinals pact is still on Conner’s radar.

“It would be awesome to finish my career here, but nothing changes,” he said when speaking about his 2024 approach (via Darren Urban of the team’s website). “If anything, it’s time to turn it up even more going into the last year of my deal. I’m thankful I got to see the last year of it… We’ll see what happens next year, hopefully [I] stay, but I understand it’s a business.”

Veteran backs have generally not fared well with respect to landing multi-year deals in recent years, and even a strong season for Conner could merely set him up for a move to a new team via free agency. Arizona added to the backfield this offseason by drafting Trey Benson in the third round. The Florida State product was one of the top RB options in this year’s class, and after logging 310 carries across two Seminoles campaigns he has experience serving as a clear-cut lead back.

Conner and Benson will likely share reps this season, but an impressive rookie showing by the latter could incentivize the team to move on from the former. Benson is under contract through 2027, and he will no doubt have a notable role throughout much of that time. Conner’s free agent stock could be buoyed by the speed with which teams signed running backs this March, but it will be interesting to see if his desire for another new contract is reciprocated.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/30/24

Two draft pick signings to pass along:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Dadrion Taylor-Demerson had a standout career at Texas Tech, collecting 238 tackles and 10 interceptions in 58 games. That included a 2023 campaign where he earned second-team All-Big 12 honors after finishing with four interceptions and eight passes defended. In Arizona, the rookie will serve as a significant backup to Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson.

Brandon Dorlus‘s Oregon career saw him earn three All-Pac-12 recognitions. Between the 2021 and 2023 campaign, the defensive lineman compiled 27 tackles for loss and 12 sacks, putting him firmly on the NFL radar. With Bud Dupree and Calais Campbell off the roster, the rookie should be Zach Harrison‘s main competition for playing time at defensive end.

Cardinals Sign Round 1 DL Darius Robinson

The Cardinals are one step closer to completing their rookie signings. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Cardinals have signed first-round defensive lineman Darius Robinson. The rookie inked a four-year, fully guaranteed $13.8MM deal.

[RELATED: Cards Sign Round 1 WR Marvin Harrison Jr.]

The Cardinals entered the draft armed with a pair of first-round picks. After selecting star wideout Marvin Harrison Jr. with the fourth-overall pick, the front office used pick No. 27 on the Missouri defensive lineman.

Considering the unprecedented run on offensive players to begin the draft, Robinson was still one of the first defenders to hear their name called. The 22-year-old was the eighth defensive player off the board (and the sixth defensive lineman). This wasn’t a huge surprise considering the prospect’s breakout 2023 campaign. After establishing himself as a starter at Missouri in 2022, he took it to another level this past year, finishing with 14 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. For his efforts, Robinson earned a first-team All-SEC nod after the season.

The Cardinals’ 33 sacks last season ranked 30th in the NFL, so the organization is hoping the rookie can provide a spark. Likened to Arik Armstead, Robinson has the ability to play multiple positions on the defensive line, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he slots in at defensive end during his first season in the NFL.

With Robinson now signed, the Cardinals have two unsigned rookies: third-round running back Trey Benson (Florida State) and fourth-round safety Dadrion Taylor-Demerson (Texas Tech).

NFL Contract Details: Singletary, Jones, Peat

Here are some details on recent new contracts around the NFL:

  • Devin Singletary, RB (Giants): Three years, $16.5MM. We had a number of details on Singletary’s contract in our original report, especially noting that the veteran rusher would have the ability to earn up to $3MM in incentives. Thanks to Dan Duggan of The Athletic, we now know how he can earn around $1MM of those incentives. $625K will be available based on his performance; Singletary can earn $125K for reaching 1,100 combined rushing and receiving yards, an additional $250K for 1,200 yards, and another $250K for 1,300 yards. The remaining $325K of the amount previously mentioned would come from playing time. Singletary can earn $125K for playing 56 to 65 percent of New York’s offensive snaps and an additional $250K for playing 66 percent or more.
  • Zay Jones, WR (Cardinals): One year, $2.25MM. In our original post, we noted that Jones’ deal will be worth up to $4.25MM. OvertheCap.com lists his contract value at the $2.25MM amount listed about. The deal has a guaranteed amount of $1.15MM consisting of $650K of his 2024 base salary (worth a total of $1.41MM) and a $500K signing bonus. Jones can also earn a per game active roster bonus of $340K for the season.
  • Andrus Peat, OL (Raiders): One year, $2MM. We didn’t see much in initial reports on Peat’s deal with Las Vegas on salary, but thanks to Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football, now we know that his contract will be for the $2MM-figure noted above. Underhill also tells us that Peat’s deal will include a guaranteed amount consisting entirely of a $450K signing bonus.

Cards Sign Round 1 WR Marvin Harrison Jr.

Marvin Harrison Jr. will enter Cardinals training camp as the team’s highest-ceiling wide receiver prospect in 20 years. This year’s No. 4 overall pick will not carry any contract drama into Arizona’s minicamp; the team signed its top draft choice Thursday.

The Ohio State prospect, who is following his father as a first-round NFL draft choice, will be tied to a fully guaranteed rookie deal that runs through 2027. Viewed as one of the highest-floor WR prospects to ever enter the draft, Harrison can be kept through 2028 on this contract via the fifth-year option. It is a $35.37MM deal.

With none of the quarterbacks chosen in the top three signed yet, Harrison is the first of this year’s top-five draftees to ink his rookie contract. The fifth-year option was not in place when Larry Fitzgerald signed his rookie deal in 2004, though the future Hall of Famer lasted quite a bit longer with the team, playing 17 seasons. Marvin Harrison Sr. played 13 in the NFL — all with the Colts. High expectations will be placed on the Hall of Famer’s son.

With Kyler Murray locked in as the team’s starting quarterback, the Cardinals were closely tied to trading down from No. 4. Arizona’s draft slot was viewed as a place QB-seeking teams could jump to for one of the non-Caleb Williams/Jayden Daniels prospects. Drake Maye generated extensive trade interest, as it turned out, with the Giants and Vikings offering the Patriots future first-rounders for their No. 3 draft slot. Interest in the other QBs did not lead to similar aggression, and the Cardinals — after trading down from No. 3 overall last year — stayed at 4 and selected their new WR1. Close Cards connections to Harrison emerged well before Round 1.

The Cardinals received at least two trade offers to move off No. 4, but GM Monti Ossenfort said no proposal was strong enough to convince the team to move out of Harrison range. Had the Cardinals traded down to No. 6 (via the Giants), they would have risked losing Harrison. Moving to 11 (the Vikings’ slot) would have all but certainly sent the second-generation WR prospect elsewhere. Carrying major questions at receiver going into the draft, the Cards will plug Harrison into their lineup. The 6-foot-4 talent will be expected to become Arizona’s top receiver as a rookie.

Arizona released DeAndre Hopkins last May and, despite talks about re-signing Marquise Brown, let the 2022 trade acquisition (and ex-Murray Oklahoma teammate) walk in free agency. The team has since added veteran starter Zay Jones to team with 2023 third-rounder Michael Wilson, but Harrison is the clear centerpiece of the rebuilding club’s receiving corps.

While some teams viewed Malik Nabers as a higher-ceiling prospect and a more explosive player, Harrison checks just about every box. Harrison carried a high enough pedigree as a prospect he was able to pass on Combine participation and pro day work. The Harrison camp’s plan featured training for an NFL offseason program, not pre-draft workouts. Few prospects can pull off this itinerary; Harrison being able to — and seeing it not dock his draft stock — illustrates the league’s view of his potential.

A crisp route runner who brings a desired size-speed combination, Harrison averaged north of 16 yards per reception in 2022 and ’23. With a hamstring injury shutting down Jaxon Smith-Njigba for longer than expected in 2022, Harrison broke through and became the Buckeyes’ go-to weapon. He totaled 14 touchdown catches in both 2022 and ’23, topping 1,200 receiving yards in both seasons. Viewed as this draft’s top wideout prospect for months ahead of the event, Harrison will get to work on establishing a rapport with Murray ahead of Drew Petzing‘s second season as Cards OC.