Tagged in: Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals sign ex-Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner

The Arizona Cardinals added much-needed depth in the backfield on Tuesday when they agreed to terms on a one-year deal with former Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner.

Conner, 25, will be paired with Chase Edmonds to form the Cardinals’ 2021 backfield. It’s expected that they’ll share reps and responsibilities in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense that asks running backs to be both rushers and receivers.

Conner will reunite with Cardinals running backs coach James Saxon, who was his position coach in Pittsburgh in 2017 and 2018. He received a one-year, $1.75 million contract, including a $500,000 signing bonus and $1.25 million salary fully guaranteed, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

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Connor went to the Pro Bowl in 2018 under Saxon’s guidance after rushing for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns, tied for the third most in the NFL that season, and while catching 55 passes for 497 yards and a touchdown in 13 matches.

Arizona was in need of another running back after letting Kenyan Drake go in free agency. He signed with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Conner, 25, joins the Cardinals after spending the past four campaigns with the Steelers. In 50 career games (33 starts), he rushed for 2,302 yards and 22 touchdowns on 532 carries (4.3-yard average) and caught 124 passes for 963 yards and four touchdowns.

A third-round pick out of the University of Pittsburgh who was named to the Pro Bowl in 2018, Conner becomes the latest well-known veteran to join the Cardinals.

The team previously signed edge rusher J.J. Watt, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, wide receiver A.J. Green, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, cornerback Malcolm Butler, a two-time Super Bowl champion, along with kicker Matt Prater, guard Brian Winters and safety Shawn Williams.

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J.J. Watt agrees to two-year contract with Arizona Cardinals

Free-agent pass-rusher J.J. Watt has agreed to a two-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals, the team revealed Monday.

Terms were not disclosed, but a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the deal is worth $31 million and includes $23 million guaranteed.

“I’m excited to get started,” Watt said on the tarmac after the plane landed. “Very excited to get started, get to work, get to know the people of Arizona.”

Watt, 31, was released by the Houston Texans, who granted his request on Feb. 12, ending his 10-year run with the franchise.

Four days later, Watt’s former Texans teammate and current Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins posted a photo of himself and Watt photoshopped in a Cardinals uniform on Instagram with the caption: “Let’s finish what we started…” Hopkins reacted to Monday’s news by tweeting: “Life is good in Arizona!”

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Watt will reunite with Vance Joseph, the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator, who was the Texans’ defensive backs coach during Watt’s first three campaigns in Houston.

In Arizona, Watt will be paired with fellow pass-rusher Chandler Jones, who leads the NFL in sacks since he was drafted in the first round in 2012 with 97. Second during that span is Watt with 95.5.

Watt’s addition meant minimal variations to the Cardinals’ odds for the 2021 season from Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. Their odds to win the Super Bowl stays 40-1 and to win the NFC remain 20-1. Arizona’s odds to win the NFC West moved from 7-1 to 6-1, still the longest odds of the four teams in the division.

“The one thing I can promise you is I’m going to work my ass off every single day to make you proud,” Watt said. “Very proud to be a part of the ‘Bird Gang’ and the ‘Red Sea.'”

In 2020, Watt ranked 15th out of 119 qualified pass-rushers in pass rush win rate, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He concluded the season with five sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception he returned for a touchdown. He has been plagued with injuries recently, having played 16 games in a season only twice since 2015.

After the Texans drafted Watt with the No. 11 pick in 2011, he became the face of the franchise, winning three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards from 2012 to ’15. Watt is one of three players to collect that award three times. A five-time Pro Bowl selection and five-time first-team All-Pro, Watt was by far the most productive pass-rusher in Texans history with 101 career sacks.

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St. Louis Cardinals officially acquire Nolan Arenado from Colorado Rockies

The St. Louis Cardinals completed their blockbuster trade to obtain All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado from the Colorado Rockies on Monday night.

St. Louis dealt left-hander Austin Gomber and four minor leaguers to the Rockies: infielders Elehuris Montero and Mateo Gil along with right-handers Tony Locey and Jake Sommers.

As part of the trade, Colorado will send cash to St. Louis to offset part of the money Arenado is due in his contract.

Arenado had been set to be paid $199 million over the remaining six seasons of a $260 million, eight-year contract. As part of his agreement to waive a no-trade provision, Arenado agreed to add a season to his deal, which now extends for seven seasons through 2027.

His deal had given him the right to opt out and become a free agent after the 2021 season. His new contract gives him the right to opt out and become a free agent after either the 2022 or 2023 season.

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“Many have heard me say that one of the great things about baseball is that you always have a chance to get better,” Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said in a statement. “Today we got better! A deal of this nature, acquiring a player of Nolan’s considerable talents, are the ones that can set you apart in many ways.”

The 29-year-old Arenado has hit .293 with an .890 OPS over eight seasons, averaging 35 home runs and 114 RBIs per 162 games. Aided in part by hitter-friendly Coors Field, he has led the National League in home runs three times and topped the majors in RBIs twice.

The Cardinals concluded second in the NL Central last season and lost a first-round playoff matchup versus the San Diego Padres.

Arenado will bump Matt Carpenter out of his role as the starting third baseman and play in an infield with All-Stars Paul DeJong at shortstop and Paul Goldschmidt at first base.

Arenado slumped during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, hitting .253 with eight home runs and a .738 OPS over 48 games before going on the injured list Sept. 21 with a bruised left shoulder. He earned $12,962,963 in prorated pay and won his eighth consecutive Gold Glove. Arenado led the majors with 15 defensive runs saved.

St. Louis brings back much of the same team that made last year’s postseason, including veteran pitcher Adam Wainwright, who finalized an $8 million, one-year deal Friday.

Wainwright is returning for his 17th season with St. Louis, matching Bob Gibson (1959-75) for the second-most seasons with the Cardinals among pitchers, one behind Jesse Haines (1920-37).

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San Francisco 49ers signing Josh Rosen to back up C.J. Beathard

Whether or not he wanted to make a modification at quarterback, San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has no choice but to turn to third-stringer C.J. Beathard for Saturday’s game versus the Arizona Cardinals.

That’s because Beathard is the only healthy quarterback on the active roster. Desperate for a quarterback to back him up, the 49ers are signing Josh Rosen off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice squad, sources tell ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Field Yates.

Beathard’s return to the starting lineup comes almost a year to the day after his brother Clayton was stabbed to death outside a bar in Nashville, Tennessee.

“To go through what he did last year and then to go right into quarantine and to come right to us with the season, I know it’s been a huge challenge for him,” Shanahan said. “And I’m excited he’s going to get an opportunity this week. I have got as much respect for C.J. as anyone I’ve ever been with as a person and as a player, and it’s going to be fun working with him this week.”

Shanahan stated Tuesday that quarterback Nick Mullens is dealing with a right elbow injury that could require Tommy John surgery and will cost him the final two games of the campaign. Team doctors are waiting for the swelling to go down in Mullens’ elbow before determining the severity of the injury and what surgery will be required.

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Complicating matters was Tuesday’s news that practice squad quarterback Josh Johnson has been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, with a source telling ESPN’s Adam Schefter that he tested positive for the virus.

That means he can’t be activated in time for Saturday’s game.

And while the Niners opened the 21-day practice window for starter Jimmy Garoppolo to return from the high ankle sprain that landed him on injured reserve, it’s unlikely that Garoppolo will play in either of the final two matches.

“Right now, he’s safe to go out to practice, which we’re only having a walk-through today, but it will be fun for him to throw the ball around a little bit,” Shanahan said. “But we’re going to be very safe with him this week. We’ll see next week, but I’d be very surprised if that changes.”

Because of the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols that require players to go through a six-day testing period before they can be activated, the Niners can’t sign a quarterback off the street, leaving them with just the option of signing a quarterback off another team’s practice squad.

Rosen was taken by the Cardinals with the 10th overall pick in the 2018 draft and traded to the Miami Dolphins in 2019 as Arizona selected Kyler Murray No. 1 overall.

The Dolphins released Rosen in September and he was later signed by the Bucs for their practice squad. Rosen has made 16 career starts and appeared in 20 regular-season games overall, throwing for 2,845 yards with 12 touchdowns and 19 interceptions while completing 54.8% of his pass attempts.

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DeAndre Hopkins, Cardinals Agree to Reported 2-Year

The Arizona Cardinals have signed receiver DeAndre Hopkins to a two-year extension, the team announced Tuesday.

The deal is worth $54.5 million, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. The $27.25 million per year is the highest annual salary in league history for a non-quarterback. The deal includes $42.75 million in guarantees.

Hopkins also told reporters his contract contains a no-trade clause and a clause that won’t let him to take the franchise tag.

Added to the three years left on his present contract, the extension gives him $94 million over the next five seasons for an average of $18.8 million per year, via ESPN’s Adam Schefter. He is now signed through 2024.

Arizona acquired Hopkins this offseason in a trade with the Houston Texans, also receiving a fourth-round pick, in exchange for David Johnson, a second-round pick in 2020 and a fourth-round pick in 2021.

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Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said the receiver’s interest in a new deal caused the trade.

“It was in the best interest of our team,” the coach said in April. “DeAndre Hopkins was a great football player. We loved DeAndre Hopkins. He had three years left on his deal, and he wanted a raise.”

The 28-year-old only has a $12.5 million cap hit for 2020, which ranks 14th among receivers, per Spotrac.

Ed Werder of ESPN reported he was seeking $18-20 million per year, which is what he got when added to his current deal.

Hopkins has been one of the top players at his position since entering the league in 2013, earning four Pro Bowl selections and making the All-Pro First Team in each of the last three years. He had over 100 catches in 2018 and 2019 and has remained durable with only two missed regular-season games in seven years.

He will play a crucial role in the Cardinals passing attack alongside Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk, trying to provide some stability for second-year quarterback Kyler Murray.

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Arizona Cardinals making Budda Baker highest-paid safety in NFL history

The Arizona Cardinals are making two-time Pro Bowl selection Budda Baker the highest-paid safety in NFL history by giving him a four-year extension worth $59 million, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Baker was Arizona’s second-round pick in 2017, and his rookie contract was set to expire after this campaign.

The deal will average $14.75 million per year, but no other financial aspects were disclosed. The Cardinals announced the four-year extension Tuesday.

Baker’s extension comes four years after the Cardinals gave another star safety, Tyrann Mathieu, a long-term extension. Mathieu’s deal was for five years and worth $62.5 million, but he was released after the 2017 season. Baker is the first second-round pick to receive either an extension or second deal under general manager Steve Keim, who was hired in 2013.

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The 24-year-old Baker is coming off his second Pro Bowl year and his first as a safety.

He recorded 147 tackles last season and led the NFL with 104 solo tackles, the only player with at least 100 solo tackles in 2019.

Baker does not have an interception since entering the NFL in 2017 from the University of Washington, however, and has played the most coverage snaps (1,261) of any player during that span not to have intercepted a pass.

He also has recorded 33 quarterback pressures since entering the NFL, the most by any defensive back during that span. Baker has been a steady presence for the Cardinals in both their pass and run defense. Arizona permitted just two completions of 30 yards or more last season.

Baker has also been a factor in Arizona’s run defense. His 33 run stuffs, defined by NFL Next Gen Stats as tackles on run plays for no gain or a loss, are tied with Jamal Adams for second most among defensive backs since 2017.

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Ex-Cardinal Mark Hamilton finishes medical school, set to fight virus

On Friday, under an accelerated schedule prompted by dire circumstances, the former big leaguer is set to graduate a month early from medical school on Long Island.

Next stop for the rookie doc, the firsthand fight against the coronavirus pandemic in one of the world’s hardest-hit areas.

“I could get the call tomorrow, that it’s time to go in,” Hamilton stated this week. “I have had an incredible journey to becoming a doctor over the last four years, and not once did I think that I would find myself entering the field in a time like this.”

“Over both my careers, it’s the same thing. You’ve got a job to do, you’re needed, do them to the best of your ability,” he said.

The 35-year-old Hamilton spent the first half of the 2011 campaign with the Cardinals. He subbed for slugger Albert Pujols a few times and even got a winning hit that ultimately helped St. Louis squeeze into the playoffs by one game.

The left-handed hitter who played 47 games in the majors will join another lineup once he leaves the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell.

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“That’s a great story, what Mark’s done. That’ll be a high point at this period,” said Hall of Famer Tony La Russa, Hamilton’s manager with the Cards.

Hamilton comes from a family that has accomplished success on and off the field.

His brother played soccer in college, his sister is a top equestrian. His grandfather was a basketball star in the forerunner of the NBA.

Hamilton’s father, Stanley, was the longtime head of pathology and laboratory medicine at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He presently holds the same position at the City of Hope center in Southern California.

“My dad jokes that the athletic ability skipped a generation,” Hamilton said.

A 6-foot-4 power hitter, Hamilton helped Tulane reach the 2005 College World Series. The next year, he was a second-round draft pick by the Cardinals.

“Good size, live bat, good pop,” La Russa remembered. “Good intelligence. He knew what was going on.”

In September 2010, Hamilton got the call to the majors and posted his first two hits. In 2011, he stayed with St. Louis almost all the way to the All-Star break, mostly as a pinch hitter.

Hamilton’s highlight came on July 4 before a big crowd at Busch Stadium. Batting for ace Chris Carpenter with two outs and a runner on third in the eighth inning of a scoreless match, his infield single off Johnny Cueto gave the Cardinals a 1-0 victory over Cincinnati.

After nine productive pro seasons that included over 100 home runs in the minors, he was released in July 2014, three days before his 30th birthday.

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Arizona Cardinals’ trade for DeAndre Hopkins will be official by draft

No, the DeAndre Hopkins trade to the Cardinals isn’t yet finalized, with physicals for the players involved remaining a holdup for now in this world turned sideways by the coronavirus.

But Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury, during a Zoom press conference Tuesday morning, said he is not concerned that the trade wouldn’t be completed before the April 23 draft.

With 2020 draft picks being swapped as part of the agreement, reaching a conclusion to the trade is important.

“Those (moves) aren’t official as far as I know at this point, but we’ll get it done,” Kingsbury said. “There is obviously the medical (part) and medical personnel have much bigger fish to fry at this point, so it’s been slower than it would be, but I have no doubts it will be done before the draft.”

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The trade, which has been approved by both the Cardinals and Texans pending those physicals, will send Hopkins and a 2020 fourth-round pick to the Cardinals for running back David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick.

Both Hopkins and Johnson need to pass physicals for the trade to be officially finalized. That remains an expectation of when and not if.

“I don’t want to get too far into it because it’s not official yet,” Kingsbury stated in a session after he gave blood at State Farm Stadium. “But obviously, (Hopkins) is a tremendous player, been healthy, played at a high level for a long time. We’re all excited about it.”

The Cardinals and Texans agreed to the trade on March 16, two days before free agency started. The deal came together quickly, Kingsbury said.

“Steve [Keim, the team’s general manager] called me down to his office and said we had something in the works,” Kingsbury added, “and they worked through it and got it done.”

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MLB cancels Cubs-Cardinals London series in June

Major League Baseball has canceled its London Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The teams were set to play two matches at West Ham’s Olympic Stadium, on June 13 and 14.

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred made the statement in a memorandum sent to MLB employees last Wednesday.

“We made the decision because it was unlikely the events would go forward, and timely cancellation allowed us to preserve important financial resources,” Manfred wrote. “We also have canceled agreements with service providers and delayed projects that involve large capital expenditures.”

MLB played in Europe for the first time last June 29-30, when the New York Yankees swept a pair of matches from the Boston Red Sox in London.

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The Cardinals won the National League Central last season. The Cubs made a push late but then faded to conclude third.

Opening Day was to have been March 26, but MLB has delayed the start of its campaign until mid-May at the earliest. The NBA, NHL and all other major sports leagues are presently on hold. Like the United States, Great Britain has been hard hit by the virus.

MLB had already canceled two series programmed for this season, in Mexico City and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The San Diego Padres had been scheduled to play the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 18-19 in Mexico City, and the New York Mets were supposed to play the Miami Marlins on April 28-30 in San Juan. The games will be reprogrammed for the home teams’ sites in Arizona and Miami, MLB said.

Manfred also referenced last week’s agreement with the players’ association in which teams agreed to provide $170 million in advance pay and the union agreed not to make claims for additional pay. As part of the deal, if the season is scrapped, players would receive service time for 2020 matching what they received in 2019.

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