Tagged in: Cardinals

Cardinals beat Diamondbacks 6-4 for seventh straight win

Nolan Arenado quickly fell behind versus a hard-throwing pitcher with a knack for painting corners.

Instead of tensing up, the seven-time All-Star shortened up, found a pitch he could hit and shot the ball through the right side of the infield.

Arenado hit a go-ahead two-run single in the seventh inning and finished with three RBI, helping the St. Louis Cardinals stretch their winning streak to seven matches with a 6-4 triumph over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday.

“He knows when to take the shots and when to just take whatever is given to him,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “That’s a perfect example of taking what he’s given.” Trailing 4-3, the Cardinals loaded the bases in the seventh after pinch-hitter Albert Pujols singled off Joe Mantiply (1-4) and Kevin Ginkel hit Paul Goldschmidt with a pitch.

Arenado, who had a run-scoring single in the first inning, fell behind 1-2 against Ginkel, but lined a single to right-center to put St. Louis up 5-4.

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Jake Woodford (2-0) allowed a hit in 1 1/3 innings and Giovanny Gallegos worked a perfect ninth for his 12th save to complete the NL Central-leading Cardinals’ seventh sweep this season.

Lars Nootbaar hit his first career leadoff homer and Tommy Edman added a run-scoring single in the eighth inning for St. Louis’ 16th win in 19 games.

“The guys are just continuing to compete regardless of situation, regardless of score, and that’s what you want at this time of the year,” Marmol said.

Diamondbacks starter Merrill Kelly had been sharp for nearly two months, allowing two runs or less in eight of nine starts.

The veteran right-hander was in trouble almost from the first pitch against St. Louis, giving up Nootbaar’s leadoff homer and Arenado’s run-scoring single. Another run came in when Nolan Gorman hit into a double play, matching the runs Kelly allowed his previous two starts combined.

“Kelly did a nice job,” Marmol said. “Their starter was good and for us to come out the way we did, put together at-bats with the homer and then the singles. That was that was a really good first inning.”

Kelly got a boost from an inning-ending double play in the second and fell into a rhythm after that. He worked around two baserunners twice, permitting three runs on seven hits with six strikeouts in six innings.

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Arizona Cardinals star Kyler Murray agrees to $230.5 million deal, is now among NFL’s richest QBs

Arizona Cardinals star Kyler Murray has agreed to a five-year extension worth $230.5 million, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter, a deal that makes him one of the NFL’s highest-paid quarterbacks.

The deal, which runs through the 2028 season, contains $160 million guaranteed for injury, the source told Schefter. Murray will make $105 million fully guaranteed upon signing the deal, according to the source.

The average annual value of Murray’s deal is $46.1 million, which is the second highest in the NFL behind only Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers ($50.3 million). Deshaun Watson’s deal with the Browns has an average annual value of $46 million, and Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes’ deal averages $45 million per year.

The only deal in NFL history with more guaranteed money than Murray’s is Watson’s $230 million fully guaranteed with the Browns. The Cardinals officially revealed Murray’s five-year extension Thursday but did not disclose terms.

Some of Murray’s teammates, including newly acquired receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and star safety Budda Baker, congratulated the quarterback on Twitter.

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Murray’s agent, Erik Burkhardt, and Cardinals general manager Steve Keim worked on the deal into Wednesday night and finalized the agreement Thursday morning after months of ongoing negotiations, according to Schefter.

Murray, 24, already had been under contract through the 2023 season after the Cardinals exercised their fifth-year option on his rookie deal in April.

But the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner’s long-term future in Arizona became unclear earlier this year after Murray scrubbed his Instagram page following the Pro Bowl, leaving just two posts: one of him at Oklahoma from 2018 and one from the Pro Bowl.

Keim stated earlier this year that there was “zero chance” Murray would be traded and indicated a long-term deal could be finalized at some point during the summer after the organization had an oportunity to “take a deep breath and sort of refocus” after free agency and this year’s NFL draft, similar to negotiation timelines that culminated in lucrative deals for other third-year quarterbacks such as Mahomes and Buffalo Bills star Josh Allen.

Murray, who was drafted first overall by the Cardinals in 2019, has established himself as one of the NFL’s top young quarterbacks over the past three seasons. He led the Cardinals to year-over-year improvement each season — from five wins in 2019 to eight in 2020 and 11 in 2021, all while setting records.

Murray is the first player in NFL history with at least 70 passing touchdowns, 20 rushing touchdowns, 3,500 passing yards, 400 rushing yards and 17 games with a completion percentage of at least 70% in his first three seasons. His overall completion percentage of 66.86 is the best for a player in his first three seasons.

Murray also was named the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2019 and a Pro Bowler in each of the past two seasons.

Arizona missed the playoffs in 2020 after losing six of its last nine games — including consecutive win-and-they’re-in contests to close out the season. Murray was injured throughout the second half of 2020 and spent the offseason frustrated and lamenting self-inflicted mistakes that cost the Cardinals a postseason berth.

In 2021, however, the Cardinals appeared to have figured out their issues from the end of 2020. They started 7-0, and Murray was part of the MVP conversation. He then missed three matches because of an ankle injury, and Arizona went on to finish the season 4-6 and was blown out by the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC wild-card round.

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Arizona Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins suspended six games for violating PED policy

Arizona Cardinals star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has been suspended six matches for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, the league announced Monday.

The suspension comes four days after the Cardinals traded their first-round pick in the 2022 draft to the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday for wide receiver Marquise Brown.

Hopkins will be permitted to play during the preseason and practice with the team until the beginning of the 2022 regular season.

Hopkins, a three-time first-team All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection, is set to turn 30 on June 6 and is coming off an injury-riddled season that led to the lowest output of his career.

He missed three games in the middle of last season with a hamstring injury and the final four games of the regular season, plus Arizona’s wild-card loss to the Los Angeles Rams, after suffering an MCL injury in Week 14 on Monday Night Football.

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The knee was surgically repaired in December.

In February, while making interview rounds at the Super Bowl in Los Angeles, Hopkins said on SiriusXM NFL Radio that his rehab was going great and he was ahead of schedule.

Hopkins concluded with 572 yards and eight touchdowns on 42 catches a year after having 1,407 yards. Arizona went 3-4 without Hopkins during the regular season and was then blown out in the playoffs, losing 34-11 to the Rams.

Before his injuries, Hopkins was as good in 2021 as he has been in the past, or better. He had a higher catch percentage, yards per target and yards after catch per reception through Week 8. He was down slightly in yards per route, from 2.1 in his first eight seasons to 2.0 last season.

In two seasons with the Cardinals since they got him from the Houston Texans in 2020, Hopkins has 157 receptions for 1,979 yards and 14 touchdown catches.

Hopkins missed just two games in the first eight seasons of his career before missing seven last season.

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Arizona Cardinals release starting inside linebacker Jordan Hicks

The Arizona Cardinals released veteran linebacker Jordan Hicks on Wednesday.

Hicks, 29, played at a high level last season, registering 116 tackles and four sacks, but the Cardinals are making the move to give fellow inside linebacker Zaven Collins, drafted in the first round last year, more playing time.

The Cardinals had told Collins he would be the starter last season after selecting him 16th overall. Hicks said last year he was “pissed off” when initially told he had lost his starting job to Collins.

He requested a trade, which never happened, and the seven-year veteran ended up starting all 17 matches.

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By getting released now, Hicks will be able to sign with another team before free agency officially starts next week.

The move will save the Cardinals $6.5 million on their salary cap but also will leave $3 million in dead money on their books.

Hicks signed with the Cardinals in 2019 and posted more than 100 tackles in all three seasons with Arizona, including a career-best 150 his first year there.

He spent the first four seasons of his career with the Philadelphia Eagles, who selected him in the third round of the 2015 draft. He missed 21 regular-season games due to a variety of injuries during his time with the Eagles but didn’t miss a game (all starts) in three seasons with the Cardinals.

Hicks has career numbers of 638 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 11 interceptions.

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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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