The Cardinals didn’t land their top internal or external target when NFL free agency began on Tuesday, but at least they landed the left tackle that quarterback Carson Palmer wanted.
NFL sources confirmed that Arizona has agreed to terms with former Raiders starter Jared Veldheer, 26, who is three years younger than top target Branden Albert and played with QB Carson Palmer for two years with the Raiders. The deal is believed to be for five years and $35 million but won’t likely be announced until Veldheer arrives and passes his physical. The deal includes a $6.25 million signing bonus and $17 million in guaranteed money.
That signing, along with the affordable addition of tight end John Carlson (two years, $4.65 million, only $100,000 guaranteed), should have a significant impact on the Cardinals’ draft. Left tackle was considered the top need, with tight end another one. With Veldheer aboard and Bradley Sowell under contract as an inexpensive backup, the Cardinals can focus on adding depth and Darnell Dockett’s eventual replacement on the defensive line, a pass-rushing outside linebacker, a cornerback or a safety.
The team might also have need of an inside linebacker after Karlos Dansby agreed to terms with Cleveland on a four-year deal worth $24 million, with $10 million coming in the first year and $14 million guaranteed. This signing was likely in the works several weeks ago when Steve Keim told reporters at the Combine: "You have to be prepared to move on from any player. That’s why we drafted Kevin Minter."
While that statement may provide a glimpse into the Cardinals’ plans for replacing Dansby, Minter’s skill-set is decidedly different from Dansby’s. Bruce Arians describes him as a thumper — a physical run-stuffer who doesn’t possess Dansby’s athleticism and ability to cover the field from sideline or in pass coverage.
Dansby led the team in snaps (1,037), tackles (122) and interceptions (four), ranked second in pass breakups (13) and third in sacks (6.5). It is hard to find a player with that sort of versatility, but the four-year deal he received was far more than the Cardinals were willing to offer for a player who will turn 33 in November.
In Veldheer, the Cardinals acquired a player that Pro Football Focus had rated as the ninth-best left tackle in the game in 2012 before a triceps tear in 2013 limited him to five games. Veldheer will be one of as many as four new starters on the Cardinals’ ever-changing offensive line.
While there was no official confirmation of his signing Tuesday, he went so far as to change his Twitter avatar to reflect his next employer.
Thank you #raidernation for 4 great years. You guys are awesome. I was blessed that Mr. Davis brought me into your community.
Albert, the most-often mentioned offseason target for the Cardinals, was expected to sign a long-term deal with the Dolphins for about $10 million per year, compared with the $7.5 million the Cardinals are allocating for Veldheer with $16 million guaranteed and a $6.25 million bonus. Albert’s agent said last month that the Cardinals were one of four teams Albert was seriously considering, but the cost priced Arizona out of the market.
In addition to the Carlson signing, the Cardinals officially announced the re-signing of defensive end Frostee Rucker on a two-year deal and tight end Jake Ballard to a one-year deal. Rucker’s deal is for $2.145 million, with $590,000 in guaranteed money.
Carlson signed a two-year, $3.2 million contract with a $100,000 signing bonus that is the only guaranteed part of the contract. If Carlson is still on the Cardinals in late August he will receive a $100,000 roster bonus. In both years of the contract he can earn up to $600,000 in game-day roster bonuses. Carlson can earn up to $1.4 million in additional compensation based on playing time and production. Base salaries of the contract are $800,000 and $1 million, respectively.
A few notes on some of the Cardinals’ other free agents:
— Tight end Jeff King still has two to three more weeks before he will cleared medically to take physicals and begin working out for teams. King is recovering from knee surgery in December. He is hoping he can latch on with another team by April so that he can take part in offseason workouts, but it’s possible he could be looking up until training camp. King was placed on season-ending injured reserve in late August.
"I’m getting ready to play. The knee is responding really well and I’m training six days a week and getting as healthy as I can," he said. "Last year was tough for me to be honest because I’ve never been through something like that. I’ve always been the guy who didn’t miss any games for eight years. Sitting out all that time, it made me realize how much I loved the game and missed the game."
The signings of Carlson and Ballard pretty much closed the book on a possible return to Arizona for King, which was already considered unlikely.
— Kicker Jay Feely announced via Twitter that he had re-signed with the Cardinals on a one-year deal and the cardinals made that signing official on Tuesday. The Cardinals could bring in competition for Feely again as they did last season during training camp with Dan Carpenter. Coach Bruce Arians wasn’t happy with the depth of Feely’s kickoffs last season. Only 37.8 percent of them went for touchbacks, one of the worst rates in the NFL.
— Guard Daryn Colledge announced via Twitter on Saturday that he would be released on Tuesday, and the Cardinals made that official Tuesday. Colledge was due to make $4.8 million this coming season, with a $7.275 million cap hit and $4.55 million in associated dead money. He will be a June 1 designation, so his $4.55 million cap hit will be spread over two years.
— Wide receiver Andre Roberts agreed to a four-year deal reportedly in the neighborhood of $16 million ($8 million guaranteed) with the Washington Redskins. Roberts was expected to test the market in search of a bigger role than he had in Arians’ tight-end friendly offense. Roberts, who has been most effective in the slot, had just 42 receptions for 471 yards and two TDs last season. He could end up being a nice addition for the Redskins.
— Right tackle Eric Winston said Tuesday that "nothing is imminent" with regards to his signing. He is still in discussion with the Cardinals and other teams but will likely have to wait to see how things shake out with teams’ other priorities and cap situations.