Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim can start talking to agents of potential free agents starting this weekend.
It is free agency before free agency, negotiations that only go so far.
But that's what Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim and the front office will be doing Saturday morning at 10 a.m., making calls from their Tempe facility office about the same time wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is getting started playing in Kurt Warner's charity flag football tournament on the practice fields outside.
Keim is hoping it's the first step in finding a few new pieces to add to Fitzgerald on the roster – even if nothing can be finalized until Tuesday. That's not just because of the rules in place that say no contract can be agreed upon until next week.
"You can fall in love with a player and have an idea of where you want to go in terms of salary," Keim said. "But the problem
is, you haven't given the player a physical yet, so you don't know where he is medically, and you haven't had a chance to talk to the guy face-to-face, which is a huge part of the process because you want to get to know these guys and what makes them tick. We don't know about their football passion, their character."
That said, the Cardinals, who are expected to have around $18 million of salary cap space, will be aggressive early on, just as they were last season. There is a lot of posturing Saturday, Keim said, with the actual numbers growing more accurate as Tuesday approaches.
Teams can only talk to agents during the pre-Tuesday time period. Not the players. If a player does not have an agent, he cannot participate in the process until Tuesday afternoon. Visits cannot be arranged early either.
"You can have some productive conversations (starting Saturday), but it also can be a benefit for the players because they are out there shopping deals," Keim said. "There are so many things that play into it."
With more than 20 players ranked on the free agent board the Cardinals compile – set up similar to the team's top 120 draft board – Keim also goes into the weekend armed with multiple options if a player prices himself out of the Cardinals' range or signs elsewhere.
There will also be a certain amount of wait-and-see. Because teams can't sign players from other teams until Tuesday, this weekend could push certain players to re-sign with their current teams before then, which could alter the free-agent market before it even really begins.
The Cardinals are in that boat with a few of their own players who still could re-sign, like linebackers Karlos Dansby and Matt Shaughnessy. If those players don't get the kind of information they want this weekend, they might be more likely to take a deal from the Cards before Tuesday.
On the other side, players like Dansby and Shaughnessy will also find out if other teams are legitimately interesting in taking them from Arizona (if they don't already.) The key for teams and these players is not only coming up with the right deal, but also the right spot.
Dansby flourished in Todd Bowles' system with the Cardinals. It might be harder to find that elsewhere.
"One size does not fit all," former NFL GM and current ESPN analyst Bill Polian said. "System fit will determine the market, and people are getting better at realizing that. System fit is a key thing."
The Cardinals re-signed nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu to a one-year contract Thursday. Ta'amu had been scheduled to be an exclusive rights free agent. Picked up off waivers at the beginning of the season, Ta'amu played well in tandem with fellow nose tackle Dan Williams. The move to keep him was a no-brainer, even though Ta'amu is undergoing a lengthy rehab after tearing knee ligaments in the season finale. …
Free agent tight end John Carlson, released by Minnesota, reportedly visited the Cardinals Thursday. Carlson, a 2008 second-round pick of Seattle, had 40 catches playing in 27 games for the Vikings the past two seasons after signing a giant free-agent contract. But Carlson has also suffered multiple concussions, making Carlson's time with the Cards' medical staff an important part of the consideration to sign him. Carlson reportedly is also drawing interest from the Jets and Packers.