Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim has made re-signing
inside linebacker Karlos Dansby one of the top priorities of the
offseason. But he also knows it will be difficult to pull off.
Last year, Dansby, 32, was the most valuable player on one of the
NFL's top defenses. His leadership was invaluable. So was his
intelligence, and he called all the defensive signals.
But Dansby also thinks he deserves to be paid like one of the NFL's
top linebackers. He made $2.25 million last year on a one-year deal.
Dansby wants to be paid, but Keim knows it's not prudent to sign a
32-year-old linebacker to a long-term, lucrative deal.
"He's a great leader. He's a good football player," Keim said this
week at the NFL Scouting Combine. "Hopefully, we can get something
done but you have to be prepared to move on, from any player."
The Cardinals are in a tough position because Dansby is close to
irreplaceable. The other inside linebacker, Daryl Washington, is
immensely talented. But he also was suspended four games a year ago,
and is facing assault charges as a result of an alleged domestic
The Cardinals, however, aren't going to bowl Dansby over with a rich
offer early in free agency. In his first year as general manager,
Keim showed great patience in free agency and picked up bargains
late in the process, including Dansby.
The Cardinals likely will wait to see what market there is for
Dansby. And they are hoping that Dansby realizes Arizona is a nice
place to finish his career.
At the combine, Keim lauded Dansby but tried to make the case that
the Cardinals are prepared to move on if they have to.
"That's why we drafted Kevin Minter in the second round last year,"
Keim said. "We saw some good things out of Kevin in training camp,
in preseason football. And that's how you have to build your team.
"You know at times, you are going to lose players. You have to have
the right kind of depth. That's why on draft day you can never draft
for need because needs are always changing."
Minter, however, hardly played on defense as a rookie. He had four
tackles for the season, all on special teams. In training camp, he
looked physical and competent against the run, but he struggled at
times in coverage.
He doesn't appear to have Dansby's speed and range, two important
attributes for a linebacker in the NFC West. Dansby's athletic
ability proved to be an asset when playing against 49ers quarterback
Colin Kaepernick and Seattle's Russell Wilson.
—Coach Bruce Arians believes quarterback Carson Palmer has plenty
of solid play left.
Said Arians, "There is no doubt he has plenty of juice left in the
tank. He's in great condition. I would think he could play until 36,
Palmer is 34 and turns 35 in December.
—Arians was pleased with the production from wide receiver Michael
Floyd in 2013.
I think Michael is starting to reach his potential," Arians said.
"He had what I consider to be a breakout year, over 1,000 yards. He
still needs to be more consistent each week. He played through
injuries for the first time which is a huge step for a young player
to play through injuries. A lot of times they just sit themselves
down. He wanted to win, he wanted to help us win. I thought he made
great strides. This year, can he do it again?"
—The play of wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald improved in the second
half of the 2013 season, and Arians said it was because he moved
around to different positions something that 30-something receivers
usually have to do.
"I thought Larry really improved, like Carson did, the second half of
the season," Arians said. "He got more comfortable playing different
positions and people couldn't know exactly where he was going to
line up all the time and start running routes in the slot where he
could use his size to his advantage."
As for liking to move receivers around, Arians said, "Yes,
especially the ones who are hitting 30. Hines Ward was great at it.
Reggie (Wayne) accepted that role. He spent his time on the left
side all those years. Just to line up on the right side was tough at
the beginning but he embraced that role and had a breakout year.
Larry embraced the role with those two guys as comparisons. Here it
is, this is what we are going to try to do, instead of you staying
on the X all the time. He got much better at it.
"Guys lose a step at age 30. It's just natural. As hard as they
train and everything, at 30 it's just a different ballgame. They
accept it, they want to become better players, they say help me
become a better player than when I was 26. This is how you do it."
--Arians can't wait to see how running back Andre Ellington improves
in his second season.
"We are really looking forward to it," Arians said. "He's already
gained 10 pounds and he is in the weight room every day. He wants to
get better. I've never been around a running back who stepped on the
field and tried to do things he's never done before and played wide
receiver as good as he does. He plays it as well as most of our
starting wide receivers. He has a unique talent we want to look at
and continue to build our offense around this year."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Last year was a fairy tale. My first three years
were fantastic working with Peyton (Manning). Two years ago was a
true fairy tale. No one will ever buy the rights to that movie I
don't think, but it was fun. There is a blue horseshow in here
(points to his heart) forever." — Coach Bruce Arians on his season
as interim coach with the Colts in 2012.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
—The Cardinals hired Buddy Morris as their head strength and
conditioning coach a week after firing John Lott, who had been with
the team since 2007.
Morris was in Cleveland when the Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians
was the offensive coordinator with the Browns from 2001 to 2003.
Scheduled to be unrestricted in March:
CB Javier Arenas
SS Yeremiah Bell
CB Antoine Cason
ILB Karlos Dansby
TE Jim Dray
K Jay Feely
C/G Mike Gibson
TE Jeff King
CB Bryan McCann
RB Rashard Mendenhall
WR Andre Roberts
DE Frostee Rucker
OLB Matt Shaughnessy
TE Kory Sperry
RT Eric Winston
LEFT TACKLE: If they don't sign a left tackle in free agency, they
will look for one high in the draft. Bradley Sowell is tough and a
battler, but the Cardinals need someone more athletic.
DEFENSIVE END/OUTSIDE LINEBACKER: Their best pass rusher, John
Abraham, is 35. There are no young ends behind starters Calais
Campbell and Darnell Dockett.
QUARTERBACK: Carson Palmer is 34 and under contract for one more
season. It's time the Cardinals use a high draft pick on a