The Arizona Cardinals re-signed the big-time wide receiver many wanted the Seahawks to sign.
The San Francisco 49ers say the regressed Colin Kaepernick has been suddenly “dedicated” this winter, a term not associated with the quarterback much last season. Their general manager also said he wants to bring back veteran free-agent rusher and Seattle nemesis Frank Gore.
The St. Louis Rams’ GM refuted a report his franchise quarterback Sam Bradford has permission to seek a trade. He said “deleting” Bradford from the roster is not St. Louis’ formula to catch Seattle.
The Seahawks news on the first day of the combine was what the rest of the NFC West did — or vowed not to do — for 2015.
Arizona general manager Steve Keim began Wednesday at Lucas Oil Stadium by officially squashing the dreams some around Puget Sound had of eight-time Pro Bowl selection Larry Fitzgerald signing with the Seahawks, who could use a physical, veteran receiver. Keim said the new contract that will bring the 31-year-old Fitzgerald back to the Cardinals is “essentially for two years” through the 2016 season.
The Arizona Republic reported the deal is worth $22 million, all guaranteed. Fitzgerald’s old one was scheduled to pay him $31 million in 2015 and ’16, but none of that was guaranteed. His previous cap number of $23 million for 2015 and career-low two touchdown catches last season fueled speculation Arizona might allow him to become a free agent.
The Cardinals started last season 9-1 but lost two games in five weeks to Seattle, then lost in the wild-card round at Carolina while playing a third-string quarterback. Fitzgerald’s new contract frees Arizona of about $13 million under the 2015 salary cap, which sounds like it is going to settle at $140 million-
143 million per team this year. It was $133 million in 2014.
“Once we decided to really put the foot on the gas pedal in the last week or so, we were able to get the deal done pretty quickly,” Keim said. “The two biggest goals for us were really pretty simple: Number one, for us to compensate Larry for the player, the talent that he is and the leader that he is; and second, to clear salary cap space for us moving forward so we can be aggressive and proactive when free agency starts (next month).”
Keim said the Cardinals “would love” to have Darnell Dockett back and that the team will be talking with their star defensive tackle, who missed all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee. “Talking” likely means Arizona is going to ask Dockett to restructure his contract to more cap-friendly terms. Dockett is currently due a $6.55 million base salary that would be a $9.8 million salary cap hit for Arizona in 2015. That’s a steep cost for a 33-year-old, 10-year veteran coming off reconstructive knee surgery.
Keim twice mentioned the need for Arizona to get “more athletic” at outside and inside linebacker. That may be an eye north toward the two-time defending division champion Seahawks’ ultra-fast linebackers Bobby Wagner, Bruce Irvin and K.J. Wright.
The Seahawks and Cardinals both lost defensive coordinators to head coaching jobs recently. Dan Quinn left Seattle to lead Atlanta a day after its 28-24 loss to New England in Feb. 1’s Super Bowl. Todd Bowles, the architect of Arizona’s blitzing defense through last season, left recently to become the coach of the New York Jets.
“Todd is a guy we are going to miss,” Keim said, noting how the coordinator had a knack for getting the most of Cardinals defenders by putting them in schemes ideal for them.
The 49ers face-planted from coming within a tipped pass in Seattle’s end zone from the Super Bowl two seasons ago to 8-8 and third place in the division in 2014. San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke, who with owner Jed York forced out coach Jim Harbaugh in January, praised quarterback Colin Kaepernick for how diligently he is working this winter in Arizona. Kaepernick is drilling with 1999 and 2001 NFL MVP Kurt Warner on mechanics of the position such as footwork and arm angles, plus throwing with more balance and versatility in the pocket.
“He’s a very dedicated player,” Baalke said of the object of much Bay Area scorn this past season. “The only reason he’s down there is to get better.
“Hopefully it translates to (this coming season).”
Baalke said he spoke a couple days ago with Gore, the 10-year veteran who is now a free agent. This was after Gore posted on his Instagram account Sunday: “I know the fans love me but I need to know if the (49ers) management does” now that he is 31.
The Colts are reported to have strong interest in signing him. But Baalke said Wednesday, “I still think he’s got it in him” and that the 49ers “are going to do everything we can to bring him back.”
Washington and Miami are also reported to have interest in Gore.
The Seahawks wouldn’t mind him gone from the NFC West. Gore’s 1,421 yards rushing in 18 career games against Seattle are his most against any NFL team. He has averaged 5.13 yards per carry against the Seahawks.
St. Louis, which finished 6-10 and last in the division in 2014, has $76 million franchise quarterback Sam Bradford running again on his way back from a second torn ACL in as many years.
Asked about a CBSSports.com report Wednesday that Bradford has permission to seek a trade, chatty, natty Rams general manager Les Snead (black suit coat, matching V-neck shirt, black training sneakers with bright-gold bottoms) responded: “Deleting him is not the answer.”
Seahawks GM John Schneider is scheduled to speak here Thursday morning. He’s going to get asked for the latest on whether RB Marshawn Lynch wants to play next season. Schneider said on 710-AM radio in Seattle last week he wasn’t sure whether Lynch, who turns 29 in April after rushing for 1,306 yards and scoring an NFL-best 17 total touchdowns last season, wants to retire or return. Lynch has a year and $5 million in base pay left on his contract. Schneider has said the team wants to renegotiate that deal. It would be a more cap-friendly total heavy in bonuses. … How big a show has this combine become? Ten folks and four cameras were crowded around a table to talk to a kicker from Louisiana-Monroe. … Offensive lineman Ali Marpet of Hobart College in New York, the only Division III player at the combine, had reporters four deep around him. Marpet said he consumes 7,000 calories a day to maintain his weight at a more NFL-conducive 307 pounds. If only we could all be so lucky.