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Offseason Primers: Arizona Cardinals

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Cardinals made two important moves this offseason, and Larry Fitzgerald couldn't be any happier. They added an offensive-minded coach who likes downfield passing in Bruce Arians, and they traded for a capable quarterback in Carson Palmer.

Has Fitzgerald stopped smiling yet?

The Kevin Kolb experiment is over after he was cut this offseason, and the Cardinals are now going with Palmer after he was added in a trade from Oakland. Arians will do a great job of helping Palmer improve. After all, he turned Ben Roethlisberger into a star and helped Andrew Luck develop into a future standout in his past two stops as offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, respectively.

2012 Touches Leaders
689 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
LaRod Stephens-Howling 127 (110 car., 17 rec.) 18.4%
Beanie Wells 89 (88 car., 1 rec.) 12.9%
William Powell 79 (60 car., 19 rec.) 11.4%
Larry Fitzgerald 71 rec. 10.3%
Andre Roberts 68 (4 car., 64 rec.) 9.8%
All Others 255 37.0%

The Cardinals still have to fix an abysmal offensive line that allowed 58 sacks, which were the most in the NFL, and that should be a tough task for Arians. But there are plenty of positives in the desert, and Fantasy owners should pay attention on Draft Day.

They also added Rashard Mendenhall, and he should return as a starting Fantasy running back. And Fitzgerald should rebound from a down year in 2012 thanks to Arians and Palmer. Arizona also has other quality receiving options in Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts and Rob Housler, and we hope Palmer can maximize their talents, which would create more options for us to choose from.

Larry Fitzgerald -- Bounce-back candidate

2012 Target Leaders
608 pass attempts
Larry Fitzgerald 156 25.6%
Andre Roberts 114 18.7%
Michael Floyd 86 14.1%
Rob Housler 68 11.1%
Early Doucet 53 8.7%
All Others 131 21.5%

No one was happier with the addition of Arians and Palmer than Fitzgerald. He needs a change because 2012 was the worst season of his career, and it was predominately because of poor quarterback play. Fitzgerald was limited to 71 catches for 798 yards and four touchdowns, and he finished as the No. 41 receiver despite being the seventh-most targeted receiver (156) in the NFL. So it was clear the Cardinals were trying to get Fitzgerald the ball, but they weren't having much success. Now, the Cardinals have a coach who likes to get the ball down field and a capable quarterback, and that will only help Fitzgerald improve. He should be considered a low-end No. 1/high-end No. 2 Fantasy receiver on Draft Day, and we recommend drafting him with a pick in Round 4. If he bounces back as expected then he should be a steal. And something to keep in mind: Arians took Reggie Wayne in Indianapolis coming off a down year in 2011 and returned him to prominence in 2012. Of course, he had Luck on his side. We can only hope Fitzgerald has a similar outcome with Palmer in his future.

Rashard Mendenhall -- Bounce-back candidate, take II

I spoke with Arians at the NFL owners meeting in Phoenix, and he hinted that Mendenhall would be the starter this season. "I prefer one guy," Arians said, and he gushed about Mendenhall since the two have a history going back to Pittsburgh. "Adding a player the caliber of Rashard, a proven back who can carry you to the Super Bowl, not only helps the football team but it helps your locker room. Obviously we have a good history together. I know how to use him. He's a heck of a player in all phases. He never has to come out of the game." Mendenhall struggled in 2012, his last with the Steelers, after coming back from a torn ACL in 2011. But he averaged over 1,000 rushing yards a season from 2009-11 before getting hurt. He will likely share carries with Ryan Williams, but Mendenhall has the potential to be a No. 2 Fantasy running back. He's worth drafting as early as Round 5 in the majority of leagues.

Michael Floyd -- Late-round flier

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Carson Palmer 155-163 overall
Brian Hoyer Undrafted
Rashard Mendenhall 39-44 overall
Ryan Williams 92-100 overall
Larry Fitzgerald 42-49 overall
Michael Floyd Undrafted
Andre Roberts Undrafted
Rob Housler Undrafted

Floyd, like most of the Cardinals offensive players, had a down year in 2012. He's hoping his second year in the NFL will go a little better. As a rookie last season, Floyd had 45 catches for 562 yards and two touchdowns. He was the No. 3 receiver behind Fitzgerald and Roberts, but his role is expected to expand this season. He closed 2012 on a high note with eight catches for 166 yards and a touchdown in Week 17 on 14 targets, and we hope he can build off that performance. Floyd is worth a late-round flier in all leagues this year, especially with the addition of Palmer, and he should be taken with a mid-round selection in dynasty leagues. We expect Floyd to eventually become a playmaker, but the passing attack in Arizona will have to improve for that to happen.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
Buccaneers' Vincent Jackson not accepting pay cut for 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:05 pm ET) Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson is likely to remain with Tampa Bay this offseason, but he is not willing to accept a pay cut, according to CBSSports.com NFL Insider Jason La Canfora.

Jackson, who was shopped by the team before the trade deadline, is set to make $10 million in base salary and has a $12.2 million cap hit. He totaled 70 catches for 1,002 yards and two touchdowns in 2014.


Falcons' Dan Quinn wants to re-sign Sean Weatherspoon
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:40 pm ET) Though Sean Weatherspoon missed most of the past two seasons due to injuries, Falcons coach Dan Quinn is hopeful the franchise can re-sign the standout inside linebacker to a new contract before he hits the free agent market on March 10. 

"With him, it's that toughness and the speed that he can play with so, yes, definitely someone that we're talking to," Quinn said via ESPN.com. "I know he's got that kind of attitude. And you know me, just from watching our style of defense, it's fast and physical. And that's what Sean is. So, we're certainly hoping that he can be a big part of it moving forward."

Weatherspoon played in only seven games during the 2013 season due to a Lisfranc sprain in his foot. He missed all of 2014 due to an Achilles tear. 

Weatherspoon was the Falcons' first-round pick in the 2010 draft. He's totaled 290 tackles, eight sacks and two interceptions during his career. 


Falcons waive defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:24 pm ET) Jonathan Massaquoi is the latest to feel the change in direction of the Falcons' new coaching staff. 

On Friday, the Falcons announced that the defensive end has been waived. Under previous coach Mike Smith, Massaquoi was a fifth-round selection out of Troy in the 2012 NFL draft. Smith was fired this offseason with former Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn hired as his replacement. 

Massaquoi totaled 22 tackles and two sacks this past season. This announcement follows the Falcons cutting running back Steven Jackson and receiver Harry Douglas. 


Vikings RB Adrian Peterson releases statement on court decision
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:21 pm ET) Vikings running back Adrian Peterson released a statement Friday regarding Judge David Doty's decision to overturn arbitration decision to uphold his suspension, according to ProFootballTalk.com.

"I was pleased to learn about Judge Doty's decision.  It is a positive step in protecting players' rights and preserving due process for all players.  It also brings me one step closer to getting back on the football field and playing the sport I love.  As I prepare for my return to football, I am still focused on my family and continue to work to become a better father every day.  I want to express my gratitude for all of the support I have received from the fans, NFLPA, Jeffrey Kessler, and my agents Ben Dogra, Tracy Lartigue, and Mark Heligman from Relativity Sports."


Lions re-sign long snapper Don Muhlbach to one-year deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:48 pm ET) The Lions have re-signed long snapper Don Muhlbach to a one-year contract, the team announced Friday.

Muhlbach made the Pro Bowl in 2012 and has spent his entire 12-year career with the Lions. 


Saints TE Orson Charles pleads guilty in road rage incident
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:44 pm ET) Saints tight end Orson Charles will enter a diversion program after pleading guilty to wanton endangerment in a road rage incident, according to CBS affiliate WKYT.

Last April, Charles was accused of pointing a firearm at another driver on a Madison County, Ky. road. As part of the diversion program, Charles must check in with a parole officer once a month via telephone. If he has no other run-ins with the law, this charge will be dropped from his record. 

Charles spent most of the 2014 season on the Saints' practice squad.

Charles was a former fourth-round pick in the 2012 draft by the Bengals. A standout tight end in college at Georgia, Charles was moved to fullback in Cincinnati before being released prior to the 2014 season. 


Cardinals release defensive tackle Darnell Dockett
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:14 pm ET) The Cardinals are set to move on from defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, the team announced Friday.

Dockett has played his entire 11-year career with the Cardinals, totaling 459 tackles and 40 1/2 sacks. He missed the entire 2014 season after tearing his ACL in the preseason.

Dockett was entering the final year of his contract and saves Arizona $6.8 million in cap space. He also may return to the team wit ha pay cut.

"We have been very clear about our feelings for Darnell and our desire to have him back," Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said of the announcement.

Dockett reportedly failed a physical, leading to his release.


Dolphins release wide receiver Brandon Gibson
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3:46 pm ET) The Dolphins have released wide receiver Brandon Gibson, the team announced Friday. Gibson was entering the final year of his three-year contract, but played in just 21 of a possible 32 games for Miami. He totaled 59 catches for 621 yards and four touchdowns.

The Dolphins will save $3.2 million in cap space for 2015 by cutting Gibson, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.


Broncos defensive lineman Mitch Unrein hopeful to remain with team
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3:28 pm ET) Broncos defensive lineman Mitch Unrein is set to become a free agent this offseason, but he is hopeful to re-sign with the club, according to the team's website.

"Hopefully I can be back in Denver because this is the place I want to be and the only place I want to be," Unrein said. "Only time will tell, but it's been a good offseason. It hasn't snowed too much—it's snowing tonight, obviously, but it's just good to be in Colorado, no matter what it's doing outside."

Unrein has spent all five seasons in the league with the Broncos, totaling 49 tackles in 54 games. He only played eight games in 2014.

"I had Kubiak my rookie year when I was down in Houston—great guy, great motivator," he said. "Unfortunately, I wasn't good enough my rookie year to stick on that team but hopefully I'm good enough this time to stick on this team. The D-line coach, Bill Kollar, great motivator. He gets anyone to work for him. Blood, sweat and tears, as they say, for that guy. So I'm looking forward to it, and hopefully be here in Denver next year."


Report: Ravens, Christo Bilukidi reach agreement on two-year deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3:24 pm ET) The Ravens and defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi have an agreement in principle on a two-year deal, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Bilukidi played just four games with Baltimore in 2014 because of injuries, totaling three tackles. In his four seasons in the league, Bilukidi has played a 24 of a possible 64 games.


 
 
 
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