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The Arizona Cardinals are losing one of their defensive starters in free agency. The latest is linebacker Joe Walker is staying the the division and, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, is headed to the San Francisco 49ers on a one-year contract.

Tom Pelissero

@TomPelissero
The #49ers are signing LB Joe Walker to a one-year deal, source said. Walker took a first-round pick’s job last year, started 11 games and had 65 tackles for the #Cardinals. Now, he stays in the NFC West.

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2:31 AM – Mar 24, 2020
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Walker will likely be a backup and special teams player there.

That is what he probably should have been for the Cardinals in 2019 but he played himself into the defensive rotation.

He played in all 16 games, starting 11. He had 65 tackles and a forced fumble.

As Haason Reddick struggled, Walker impressed coaches in practice. He first went from being a backup to playing in base defensive packages. Later in the season he completely replaced Reddick at inside linebacker and Reddick moved outside.

Walker filled in a void and was productive but his position needed to be upgraded. With the addition of De’Vondre Campbell in free agency, Walker now moves on to the 49ers.

The Cardinals still have Dennis Gardeck, Keiswhan Bierria and Zeke Turner as backup linebackers.

Walker is the fourth Cardinals free agent to head elsewhere. Receivers Damiere Byrd and Pharoh Cooper signed one-year deals with the Patriots and Panthers. Defensive lineman Rodney Gunter got a three-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

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Defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard is one of the 12 players the Arizona Cardinals tagged or re-signed this offseason. We now have the details of his one-year contract.

The Cardinals structured the deal to use the veteran salary benefit, which makes his contract count less against the salary cap than it is worth.

According to Over the Cap and the NFLPA site, he will make $910,000 in salary. He gets a signing bonus of $137,500, for a total value of nearly $1.05 million.

Because of the veteran salary benefit, his contract will count only $887,500 against the cap, saving the team $160,000 in cap space.

It is the same salary and bonus as backup quarterback Brett Hundley, with one exception. Hundley has $750,000 of his salary guaranteed.

Bullard was acquired last season after the preseason on a waiver claim. He appeared in nine games last season, starting six. He had a career-high 1.5 sacks to go with 22 total tackles, four tackles for loss and seven quarterback hits.

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One of the most important aspects of this offseason for the Arizona Cardinals is not nailing it and becoming an instant contender (though no one would complain) it is nailing it and being prepared for the next four seasons.

The Cardinals have a unique opportunity similar to the Ravens and Chiefs to build around a young, budding superstar quarterback and take advantage of their skill level and low salary.

The key though is finding supplemental players to pair with Murray that allows the Cardinals to maintain their level of play when Murray gets paid.

That’s why the draft will be more important than ever. The Cardinals need to find not just impact players, but they need to find fellow building blocks on day two and day three of the draft.

When you look at the Kansas City Chiefs, most of their defense was bought, with Chris Jones, Tanoh Kpassagnon and Derrick Nnadi all being the only draft picks on the starting defense for the Super Bowl Champions.

All three were day two picks and only Chris Jones played over 50% of the snaps as a rookie.

What the Chiefs did was draft and develop a defensive line that could supplement their 8 other starters. Jones has developed into a star, and that should not go unnoticed, but the foundation was built by consistently investing on day two along the lines.

Over the last five NFL Drafts the Chiefs have drafted these players on day two:

2015 – Mitch Morse (started 49 games in 4 seasons for Chiefs and 16 games in 2019 for Bills)

2016 – Chris Jones (started 41 games in 4 season)

2017 – Tanoh Kpassagnon (started 8 games in 3 seasons)

2018 – Breeland Speaks (started 4 games as rookie IR in 2019)

2018 – Derrick Nnandi (started 27 games in 2 seasons)

2018 – Dorian O’Daniel (started 1 game in 2 seasons)

2019 – Khalen Saunders (started 4 games as a rookie)

Five drafts, seven picks spent on the defensive front or offensive line. O’Daniel would be the only “bust” and is a key special teams contributor.

The Chiefs also traded away first round picks in 2016, 2018 and 2019. 2016 was for additional draft picks, 2018 was for Mahomes and 2019 was for pass rusher Frank Clark.

The Chiefs have consistently put their front seven on defense as a day two priority in the NFL Draft. They spend at least one pick every season on it and are not afraid to continue to cycle through.

The Cardinals in the same span of time:

2015 – Markus Golden (24 starts in 4 seasons for Cardinals 16 starts in 1 season for NY Giants)

2018 – Mason Cole (18 starts in 2 season for Cardinals)

2019 – Zach Allen (1 start in 2019 before going on IR)

Compare the numbers. Three picks since 2015 on day two for offensive line and defensive front players.

The Chiefs have two players that have nearly as many starts alone as all the picks for the Cardinals combined. The Cardinals have 43 total starts out of day two players. The Chiefs have 134 starts out of their day two players along just the offensive line and defensive front.

The Cardinals have the quarterback, they have the weapons, they need to find a way to invest as heavily and consistently along the lines.

It’s not about using day one picks, the Chiefs have not drafted an offensive linemen in the first round since Eric Fisher or a defensive front player since Dee Ford, it’s about consistently drafting these positions. It is about consistent investment, not premium investment.

That’s where the Arizona Cardinals are now. It doesn’t have to be the eighth pick to get help, but you can’t get help if you never consistently invest.

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A quick check of our Arizona Sports Mock Draft Tracker revealed eight new 2020 NFL mock drafts posted Thursday.

Every single one of them has the Arizona Cardinals selecting an offensive tackle with the No. 8 pick. But why?

The thought process is simple. It’s assuming the Cardinals will draft based on need.

The Cardinals were sacked 50 times last season, tied for fifth-most in the NFL. While they re-signed left tackle D.J. Humphries and are bringing back right tackles Justin Murray and Marcus Gilbert, do they trust them?

Gilbert has played in only 12 of 48 games over the past three seasons due to injury. Murray only has 12 career starts, all of them coming last season.

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Do Cardinals need an OT? McShay’s NFL mock draft, Nagy disagree
There is not a lot of proven talent behind them unless the Cardinals trust in rapid development of 2019 seventh-round pick Joshua Miles or 23-year-old Brett Toth, who has not appeared in an NFL game.

Is it likely Arizona drafts a tackle No. 8 overall? Yes, and I get it.

But it’s no forgone conclusion. Here’s the nuance that general manager Steve Keim and his staff will be healthily debating for the next few weeks.

The DeAndre Hopkins trade shouldn’t end WR consideration

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Recent mock drafts cite the Cardinals’ trade for receiver DeAndre Hopkins as a reason for Arizona to forget about taking one of the top receivers: CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs III.

It’s important to remember that while the Cardinals trended more toward 11-personnel (three receivers, one tight end) and away from 10-personnel (four receivers, no tight ends) as coach Kliff Kingsbury navigated his first season, they were still wildly in favor of four receivers relative to the rest of the NFL.

They lined up with four receivers on 18% of their snaps with talent including Damiere Byrd, Pharoh Cooper and KeeSean Johnson, among others.

Now, trading for Hopkins might change what type of receiver the Cardinals want. Lamb gets comparisons to Hopkins, and it’s a wonder if Arizona would want two physical jump-ball threats on each side of the field. Would they rather have Jeudy’s versatility meshing with Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk or a vertical stretcher like Ruggs bringing something that neither of those three have?

Who is the No. 3 and 4 WR of the future?

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Here’s where we remind ourselves that Fitzgerald is 36 years old and continues to string together one-year contracts. For the 2021 season, the Cardinals don’t even have a clear-cut third receiver after Hopkins and Kirk.

Johnson, Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler and Trent Sherfield return and could assume that role if Fitzgerald calls it a career. If Arizona still feels good about one of them panning out, there’s less pressure to take a receiver in the 2019 draft.

While we’re talking about those young players, it’s important to remember the 2020 draft class has first-round receiver talents who could fall to the second or third rounds. Arizona, however, doesn’t have a second-round pick after the Hopkins deal.

It’s hard to say which receivers are left at 72nd overall, 114th overall and so on.

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The Arizona Cardinals still have an unsettled tight end room to deal with
Currently the Arizona Cardinals have three tight ends on their roster. Maxx Williams, Dan Arnold, and Darrell Daniels are the only tight ends under contract.

The Cardinals did bring in Charles Clay last season but he is currently not on the roster. He is a free agent but has not yet signed with any team. Would the Cardinals bring him back?

It is possible but the Cardinals have been fairly quiet about the position. Tight end proved to not be an essential part to the 2019 offense under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury.

It would seem Williams isn’t going anywhere. Arnold played well in his short time with the team at the end of the 2019 season. He played in three games in December, grabbing six receptions and two touchdowns.

Despite the lower usage of the position, it is still important the Cardinals have tight ends they can count on. It is still hard to imagine them sticking with just these three.

Williams caught just 15 passes for 202-yards and a touchdown. In case you were still interested in seeing Clay come back, he just 18 receptions for 237-yards and one touchdown.

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That’s 30 receptions and two touchdowns from their top two tight ends from last season. If they do make any more additions, look for one to possibly be drafted.

The Cardinals could go into next season with just three tight ends, which could be a possibility given the number of receivers that could fight for a roster spot in camp and preseason. Still, it is hard to see a Williams/Arnold one, two going into 2020.

NEXT: If the Cardinals didn’t play in 2020
Williams is fun to watch. Last season though was the first time he played in all 16 games of a season since being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2015. He will be around for the next two seasons though but needs help.

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NFL free agency started on March 18th, but technically does not end until the end of the season. However, after a firehose of news the first week, and another run the second week, things quiet down to a trickle. There are still big names out there, but it’s going to take some time to get them signed, sealed and delivered.

With that in mind, it’s time to take a look at where teams stand after the early rush of free agency and what it means for fantasy football. We’re going to take a look at the skill positions, breaking down what the starting lineup and reserves will look like to assess fantasy value heading into August drafts.

Today, we’re taking a look at the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals made what was arguably the biggest trade of the offseason this year by sending David Johnson and two future draft picks to the Houston Texans in exchange for DeAndre Hopkins. Arizona didn’t even have to fork up a first-round pick in the exchange, which made it a real bargain. Its receiving corps got a major upgrade while retaining Larry Fitzgerald on a one-year extension. Other key returners include running back Kenyan Drake and offensive lineman D.J. Humphries. The Cardinals could improve significantly in 2020.

Quarterback
Starter: Kyler Murray
Backups: Brett Hundley, Drew Anderson, Chris Streveler

Murray burst onto the NFL scene by finishing as a QB8 in standard and PPR leagues, as well as on DraftKings. He accomplished this feat with 36-year-old Fitzgerald as his top receiver. But now the second-year signal caller will have a top 5 wideout in Hopkins, which should help him exceed the 3,722 passing yards and 20 passing touchdowns he totaled in 2019.

Murray also ran for 544 yards and four scores during his rookie campaign, trailing only Lamar Jackson in rushing yards among quarterbacks. Every other quarterback who ran for at least 400 yards last season totaled seven rushing scores, and that’s within Murray’s reach. He should be a lock for the top 10 in 2020 and could climb as high as the top five.

Running Back
Starter: Kenyan Drake
Backups: Chase Edmonds, D.J. Foster

Drake was a breath of fresh air for the Cardinals in the backfield after Johnson failed to live up to expectations. The versatile running back led Arizona in rushing yards (643) despite only playing in eight games with the team. He also caught 28 passes for 171 yards and accounted for eight scores.

Drake ranked 18th among running backs in standard leagues despite barely being a factor through the first six games he played with the Miami Dolphins. Top 15 production should be the bare minimum for Drake in 2020, and he could crack the top 10.

Wide Receiver
Starters: DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk
Backups: Andy Isabella, Trent Sherfield, Johnnie Dixon

Hopkins has been a top 10 wideout in standard leagues for three straight seasons and has a good chance to extend his streak. He’ll be Arizona’s top pass catcher and should get the lion’s share of the targets.

Second behind him will be either Fitzgerald or Kirk. Fitzgerald ranked 35th among wide receivers on DraftKings and led the team in receiving yards (804) and receiving touchdowns (4) last season. Kirk ranked 37th and could surpass Fitzgerald, who is entering his 17th NFL season.

Tight End
Starter: Dan Arnold
Backups: Maxx Williams, Darrell Daniels

Arnold appears to be the replacement for Charles Clay, who started at tight end in 2019 but is testing free agency this offseason. The Cardinals claimed Arnold off waivers and he was the team’s leading pass catcher in Week 17 when Clay was sidelined. The third year tight end has only caught 20 passes in his career, but did score two touchdowns last season. Arizona totaled 40 tight end completions for 545 yards split between four players in 2019, so it’s hard to see Arnold being even a top 32 tight end.

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Brett Hundley likes to spend his off-time traveling the world, but it took coming home to find a spot he truly fit in the NFL.

The free-agent quarterback, who worked well as Kyler Murray’s backup in 2019, agreeing to re-sign with the Cardinals Sunday on a one-year deal.

The Chandler High School product appeared in only three games last season. But one was crucial, coming in for an injured Murray and engineering enough of an offense in the second half for an impressive win in Seattle in Week 16. For the season, Hundley completed 5-of-11 passes for 49 yards and added seven rush attempts for 41 yards.

More importantly, he clicked with Murray as they navigated Murray’s rookie season together.

The Cardinals also have Drew Anderson at quarterback as well as CFL signee Chris Streveler, who could evolve into a Taysom Hill-type jack-of-multiple trades. Hundley will be expected to remain Murray’s top backup.

“This offense is perfect for me, everything about this organization I like, from the top down,” Hundley said in December. “I want to do the most I can with the opportunities I have.”

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Former Giants star Ottis Anderson has won a battle over time before.

It’s been 26 years since he retired, and when he quit, his 10,273 yards rushing was eighth on the NFL’s all-time list and his 81 rushing TDs ranked seventh. You’d think those numbers could get him consideration for the Hall of Fame, but he’s never even been a semifinalist. And as the years pass, Canton seems to get smaller and smaller in the distance.

But Anderson, buttonholed by TMZ, isn’t holding any grudges against Hall of Fame voters: “One day, they’ll figure it out,” he says.

“If you check my credentials, I think I earned the right to be considered [a Hall of Famer],” Anderson says. “Put me in … until then, we’ll just keep on enjoying what I accomplished as a 14-year vet.”

Giants fans remember how Anderson, thought to be washed up, helped Bill Parcells’ team stun the Buffalo Bills, 20-19, in Super Bowl XXV by rushing for 102 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Anderson was the game’s MVP.

Ron Borges of SI.com recalled how Parcells, with running back Joe Morris injured and youngster Lewis Tillman waiting his turn, motivated Anderson with the story of Old Red.

According to Anderson, “Bill said to me, ‘Old Red was a coon dog. Loved to hunt coon. He was great at it, too. But as Red got older, he didn’t get off the porch as quickly. He’d already made a name for himself.

“Well, the farmer went out and got himself a puppy as a way to motivate Red. Every time the door opened the puppy was there, ready to go. Red didn’t jump up. But then the puppy came back from a hunting trip with some coon. That got Red’s attention.

“Bill said to me, ‘Here’s the moral of the story. I can let Lewis Tillman play. He’ll do a good job. But if you want to stay on the team, you’ve got to decide to get motivated.’

“That’s the year I was 32, and became the oldest back at the time to gain over 1,000 yards. Bill would walk by me at practice and say, ‘Ooo, that dog, he wants to hunt today.’ He was great at pushing people’s buttons to get them to play harder.”

So, Anderson has won one battle over time. Can he win another?

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The Cardinals’ injured reserve list grew Wednesday by two, when inside linebacker Tanner Vallejo (ribs) and cornerback Kevin Peterson (shoulder) landed there to end their season.

It kick-started a handful of roster moves for the Cards, which promoted outside linebacker Vontarrius Dora from the practice squad and signed two players away from other practice squads: cornerback Andre Chachere from Carolina and linebacker Keishawn Bierria from Jacksonville.

The Cardinals had three open roster spots, after releasing linebacker Terrell Suggs on Friday.

The loss of Peterson means Chris Jones is likely to get the bulk of the work as the No. 2 cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson, with Byron Murphy having moved back into a role as slot cornerback. Chachere is familiar with the defense, having spent time on the Cardinals’ practice squad earlier this season.

With the loss of Vallejo, Dennis Gardeck — who was named as a special teams Pro Bowl alternate — figures to be the top reserve at inside linebacker behind Jordan Hicks and Joe Walker.

The Cardinals also signed cornerback Duke Thomas and linebacker Jamey Mosley to the practice squad.

Custom Kylie Fitts Jersey Large

Kylie Fitts, teammate of Heisman Trophy-winning QB Kyler Murray from Oklahoma who now plays for the Arizona Cardinals, says he never touched him once during practice this past season.

“Not once,” he said.

“I’d get in real trouble if I did.”

Teams protect their QBs to keep them from getting hurt.

Fitts, of course, is under no restrictions in hitting rival QBs, such as Jared Goff or Jimmy Garappolo or Russell Wilson from his outside linebacker spot.

Upcoming in these pages: A piece on Fitts, the former Redlands East Valley star, will be published soon.

* * *

I was checking the Redlands Community News website back on Dec. 23 — two days before Christmas, incidentally — and the most popular story was that 14 people were arrested in a prostitution sting.

In Ontario, for crying out loud. I’ll refrain from making any lewd cracks, like if anyone was arrested from among your flock of friends and associates. Is that what readers are looking for in your top reads?

I’m knocking myself out running down local basketball trends, athletes committing to major colleges, NFL connections and major college football insight, plus an array of otherwise athletic brilliance on the local front, not to mention a bunch of other locally based stories.

And you’re reading about a prostitution sting in Ontario?

* * *

From Joe Jurado, head football coach at highly successful Rim of the World High School: “Coach the kids in your school’s district. If you don’t like those kids, go somewhere else. If you have to recruit, how good a coach are you? Recruiting shouldn’t be a part of the high school atmosphere. Win with your kids! Coaches, end this recruiting garbage!”

The Fighting Scots are three-time CIF champions, multiple playoff entrants and are in the unenviable position of being far enough away from civilization in their mountain digs where they won’t get a lot of recruits.

* * *

We’re looking at a new head track coach at Redlands East Valley. Outgoing coach Perry Davis isn’t happy, but he’s apparently under siege by his employers on some charges that he’s vehemently denying.

He’s served as security at REV for years. There’s been a shakeup in security staffing on that campus.

The dude wants to coach, but there’s a lot to this story. He’d like to invite the public to his hearing, which is open to the public. We’re hearing that a nice glut of supporters are building up on his behalf.

When you think of REV track, you think of speedsters Billy and Emerald Bowen, state 1500-meter champion Elias Opsahl, not to mention current stars like Matt Casillas. Plus, there’ve been vast relay and field events champions throughout the years.

“I think I’ve made my mark there,” he said. “I want people to know that I’ve been a positive influence on that campus.”

Track has been a highly successful sport at REV. Davis has been a key figure.

* * *

Apropos of nothing: Standing in the balcony at Studio Movie Grill on Dec. 27, I watched five straight couples enter the theater with the male member holding the door for himself first.

Unless I’m being politically overcorrect, my sense is still that the male members hold the door for their female guests. I stopped looking when, finally, a man opened the door for three female movie-goers.

The problem in writing this is that in my readership, the offenders won’t see this rant. My readers are way too classy.

* * *

Nice piece by Wayne R. Scott on four-time Emmy Award winner Sue Ann Staake (Jan. 3), a retired CBS employee for years with ties to the likes of legendary David Brinkley and Bob Schaefer. She was the first-ever female director for “Face The Nation.”

I would’ve loved to know if Sue Ann rubbed shoulders with legendary CBS sportscasters like Pat Summerall or Al McGuire or Ken Ventur or any of the CBS sports crew.