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Business Of Re-Signing Jerraud Powers, Rashad Johnson

Posted Feb 24, 2016

Notes: Ellington must prove he can stay healthy; Palmer's "rejuvenated," Long snapper search

Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim addresses the media Wednesday at the NFL Scouting combine in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS – The Cardinals can still re-sign their own free agents before those players hit the open market March 9.

But General Manager Steve Keim knows at this point, the likelihood is that those players will want to see what free agency might bring – and the reality is roster change.

“In some instances we’ll make (contract) offers yet those offers won’t linger,” Keim said Wednesday at the NFL Scouting combine. “It’s a situation where, ‘You know what, if you leave it on the table and test free agency, the offer may not stand.’ To me, that’s where you have to be disciplined, so you don’t get caught flat-footed. You have to draw your line in the sand, this is where we are at and if you don’t want it, we’re willing to move on as well. But you can’t say you’re willing to move on unless you are truly willing to move on.”

The Cards have a long list of unrestricted veterans – 16, all told -- but two key components are half the starting secondary: cornerback Jerraud Powers and safety Rashad Johnson. Both have said they want to return, but a combination of factors may prevent that from happening.

“There is a concern from the standpoint where you get to a point with your roster where you get comfortable, but I don’t know if it’s bad to get out of your comfort zone a little bit and try and get better in certain areas,” Keim said. “The things we like about those two players, they are smart, they are instinctive, they are good teammates. But at the same time I have a lot of faith and trust in our scouting department that if we had to replace them we could find guys that are talented players with whom we can improve.”

ELLINGTON FUTURE DEPENDS ON HEALTH

Running back Andre Ellington was so impressive as a rookie in 2013 that the Cardinals were ready to make him their feature back. But injuries wrecked the last two seasons, and with David Johnson now set to be the starter in 2016, the Cards just need Ellington to play a supporting role.

Whether that could last beyond the end of Ellington’s rookie contract after this season remains in question.

“Andre’s a dynamic player, there’s no doubt about that,” Keim said. “At the same time, it’s no secret, he’s got to stay healthy. I’ve told Andre that personally. We love his skill set, but it’s no secret the guy has had durability problems. As an organization, you have expectations and if a guy doesn’t fulfill those expectations, you may have to move on.”

“We’ve talked over and over about him being a 20-to-25-touch guy a game. I don’t know if he can do that; he’s got to prove that he can do that. Certainly, David Johnson is a guy who came in and shown that he can do that.”

Johnson, in fact, has coach Bruce Arians’ backing as well. Arians was asked if Johnson was already one of the best backs in the NFL, and Arians said no.

“But,” Arians added, “he’s got a chance to be one of the all-time best.”

PALMER READY, BUT GOLF GAME SUFFERS

Arians said Carson Palmer learned from the end of the season, which was rough for the veteran quarterback. He said he has talked to Palmer – who along with his wife just had their fourth child – a couple of times.

“Mom’s doing good, baby’s doing good, and his golf game sucks,” Arians said. “That’s because he hadn’t played in a year. He was bound and determined not to play golf until after the season, and he’s paying for it now. He’s losing every bet.”

Keim reiterated the trust he has in Palmer, who was in MVP talk all season.

“I’m excited about the guy,” Keim said. “I had dinner with him the other night, he’s rejuvenated and he’s ready to roll.”

FINDING A LONG SNAPPER

It’s rare the Cardinals have had to find a long snapper. The team has had just three since 1996 – Trey Junkin, Nate Hodel and Mike Leach. But Leach retired after seven years with the Cards and Keim must get a replacement. The job will fall mostly to special teams coordinator Amos Jones, since Keim said most scouts acknowledge they don’t have a great feel for specialists.

“We’ll find a guy we think will be a good player,” Keim said. “At the same time, Mike Leach was extremely dependable for years and had a great career. Probable even a better person. We will miss Mike not only on the field but in the locker room.”

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