GLENDALE, Ariz. – Bruce Arians has trumpeted competition at every position this training camp. That even applies to the kicker.
The Cardinals signed former Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter on Wednesday to compete with Jay Feely for the job, just two days after Carpenter and his wife had their first child, a boy.
“It’s been a little bit of a tornado the last five days or so,” said Carpenter, whose wife was overdue, leading the couple to induce labor. “
If you’re looking for juicy storylines, how about this? As an undrafted rookie in 2008, Carpenter won the kicking job in Miami. The veteran he beat out? Jay Feely.
“It’s kind of a little déjà vu,” Carpenter said. “He’s a great guy, he’s a great competitor – obviously, a great kicker. He’s been in this league for many, many more years than I have.”
Feely said he met with Arians recently, although he wouldn’t divulge what was discussed in that meeting.
“I’ve had competition my whole career. It doesn’t change anything for me,” he said. “I’m comfortable with what coach Arians told me.”
Feely made a higher percentage of his field goals last season than Carpenter did with Miami. Feely connected on 25 of 28 attempts (89.3 percent), while Carpenter made 22 of 27 (81.5 percent). But Feely has made just 5 of 7 field goal attempts in the preseason, badly mis-hitting a 53-yard attempt against Green Bay and missing what Arians called a chip shot 30-yarder Saturday against Dallas.
The latter miss miffed Arians, who called it unacceptable. There’s also the fact that Carpenter, 27, is 10 years younger than Feely.
“As you get older, you have to prove that you still have it and you can still do the job,” said Feely, who had a list of his statistical accomplishments at his fingertips thanks to Pro Football Focus.
Feely noted that he is third in the NFL in makes longer than 47 yards over the last four years, fifth in overall field-goal percentage and fifth in percentage of makes shorter than 47 yards.
“I’m happy with how I’ve performed over the last few years of my career and happy with my training camp,” he said.
Still, you have to wonder why Carpenter would sign a reported one-year deal in Arizona when he also had an offer from Green Bay. Was there a handshake agreement, or did he just like the idea of kicking inside a dome vs. Lambeau Field?
“It’s not a negative thing,” said Carpenter, who didn’t say if he had been promised anything. “It’s a great opportunity with a great team headed in the right direction.”
Carpenter was due to make more than $2.6 million this season before he lost a training camp battle with rookie Caleb Sturgis, whom the Dolphins selected in the fifth round this year.
Arians would not address the situation at his morning media session because the signing had not been officially announced. But Cardinals spokesperson Mark Dalton later tweeted out a quote from the coach.
“Healthy competition only makes us better. We’ve been consistent that whenever there’s the potential to make our football team better we’re going to explore that opportunity.”
There had been talk that that the Cardinals were unhappy with Feely’s kickoffs, but he was effective in that department vs. Dallas. Two went for touchbacks. The other two were returned to the 20- and 14-yard lines.
“All four of my kicks were over 4.0 (seconds of) hang time and they were six deep, eight deep, nine deep and 11 deep, so I was real happy with that,” Feely said. “(Bruce) let me hit it down the middle and not directional, which is great. He likes that — that you don’t exclude one side from the coverage and that’s great for the kicker because it allows you to just hammer it and not try to be precise with it.”
Feely has made many clutch kicks in Arizona, but none of those was with Arians as his coach. If you think past allegiances matter to a new regime, look what became of Cardinals icon Adrian Wilson. The NFL is a cold business. Past performance doesn’t and shouldn’t matter. It’s all about the here and now.
“I’ve been around long enough to know that the job of management is to always get better and to try and find someone who is better than who you have on the roster,” Feely said. “Your job as a player is to prove to them that you’re the best option.”
Carpenter suited up Wednesday but did not take part in practice, saying the club didn’t want him to kick after a five-hour flight.
Feely is due to make $1.5 million this season. Carpenter’s one-year deal would make it easy to cut him if Feely wins the job.
In the past two weeks, Arians has mentioned a number of receivers who have made good impressions – Kerry Taylor, Charles Hawkins, Jaron Brown, Robert Gill, Jarrett Dillard and Robby Toma – in the bid to win the No. 4 (and No. 5) receiver slot. But you never got the impression the Cards were completely satisfied with what they had in camp.
Arizona drafted Ryan Swope to give them a speedy deep threat, but he retired before camp due to multiple concussions. The addition of former University of Arizona receiver Mike Thomas might fill the same bill.
“The deciding factor was speed,” Arians said, when asked about the signing. “We’ve got eight or nine days to evaluate whether or not he can find a role.”
Arians likes the fact that Thomas has versatility and a significant NFL resume – something those other receivers do not.
Thomas split the 2012 season between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions, playing the first seven games with the Jaguars and the last nine with Detroit after being acquired in a trade. He was released by the Lions on Monday.
He entered the league with Jacksonville as a fourth-round selection (107th overall) in the 2009 NFL Draft. He led the Jaguars in receptions in 2010 (66 catches for 820 yards and four TDs) and 2011 (44 catches for 415 yards and one TD) and set a franchise record as a rookie in 2009 with 48 receptions.
In 61 career games (32 starts), he has 176 receptions for 1,796 yards (10.2 yard avg.) and seven touchdowns in addition to 34 carries for 268 rushing yards.
Of his 128 receptions over the past three years, 77 have come from the slot, according to ESPN Stats & Information, but Arians noted that early in Jacksonville, he played primarily outside, so he has versatility.
The greatest challenge for Thomas might be the limited time he has to make an impression before the preseason ends a week from Thursday, but Arians said that’s just the business.
“There are guys you claim off the waiver wire who get one day and they have to play on Sundays,” he said.
In the meantime, Arians said that the receivers in line to get the most reps in place of injured Andre Roberts on Saturday against the Chargers are Brown and Taylor.
TWO MORE CUTS
The Cardinals released receivers Robert Gill and Robby Toma on Wednesday, bringing the roster to 87 players. The team must reduce that number to 75 next week (after the Chargers game on Saturday).
There were no new injuries to report, but Arians said Roberts (ankle) is getting “real close” to being back: “Hopefully we’ll have him available for the ballgame…but we’re not going to push it.”
Roberts participated in portions of practice on Wednesday afternoon, taking part both in individual drills and 11-on-11 drills. TE Jeff King (knee) and RB Ryan Williams (knee) did not practice.