NFC West: Arizona Cardinals

PHOENIX -- Let's say the radar shows a late summer storm is expected to pass by University of Phoenix Stadium in time for the sky to be clear and starry by the start of the second half of an August or September Cardinals' game.

Under the old rules, if the roof at the stadium was closed before the game, it couldn't be opened.

On Wednesday, however, the NFL's retractable roof policy was amended at the NFL owners meetings at the Arizona Biltmore so the above scenario -- during any game until the conference championship -- can be changed. Under the new rule, in place for just one season, the Cardinals -- or any home team with a retractable roof -- can decide 90 minutes before kickoff to open the roof at halftime. However, specific weather parameters set by the home team must be met with 5 minutes left in the second quarter.

Those parameters, which are set 48 hours before a game, will include maximum and minimum temperatures and wind speeds and the likelihood of any precipitation.

If the weather matches the Cardinals' requirements to open the roof, it will be opened as soon as the first half ends.

If the Cardinals don't open the roof at halftime after saying they will during a meeting 90 minutes before the game, and the weather meets the criteria and Arizona received clearance, the amended rule says the team will be “subject to discipline by the Commissioner for conduct detrimental.”

The initial rule states that the roof could be closed at any time during the game “due to the development or anticipation of a hazardous condition that threatens the welfare of participants and/or spectators.” In that case, the roof would have to be closed for the rest of the game and can be closed while play is going on.

Arizona did not open the roof for a game last season. Since University of Phoenix Stadium opened in 2006, the Cardinals are 12-10 when playing under an open roof. The roof was open for Super Bowl XLIX in February.

The rule was submitted by the Indianapolis Colts.

PHOENIX -- Even though the Arizona Cardinals have stayed true to their "best player available" philosophy throughout the first two NFL drafts under coach Bruce Arians and general manager Steve Keim, they still have a list of needs that needs to be filled.

On Wednesday, during the NFC coaches breakfast at the NFL owners meeting at the Arizona Biltmore, Arians shed a little light on what Arizona will address in the draft, held April 30-May 2 in Chicago.

"In the draft, it's still speed," Arians said. "Speed at running back, speed at receiver, speed at linebacker, another interior player. I think we're probably [set at] tight end, but I'd like to find another tight end who is potentially a fullback/H-back type guy."

Besides tight end, running back, offensive linemen and cornerback could also be on Arizona's draft wish list.

Arians called the crop of running backs in this year's draft the best he's seen in the past decade, adding there are about 15 "really quality" running backs available.

"I think we'll have a chance to get one we really like," Arians said.

If Arizona drafts a running back, Arians has a specific style he wants: big and fast.

The Cardinals had that last season in Jonathan Dwyer, but he was placed on the non-football injury list after two games following an arrest in September.

"We obviously missed Jonathan," Arians said. "That was a big hit to us. Jonathan's not just a big back, he's a fast back. His run in New York [against the Giants in Week 2], when we bounced it outside and went 50 yards, is typical Jon. We're looking to hopefully find that: not just a big back but a fast back."

Arians thinks the Cardinals could find that type of back in the fourth or fifth round.

"This is one of the best drafts for running backs that I've seen in a while," he said.

Another position the Cardinals may address in the draft is cornerback.

After losing Antonio Cromartie in free agency, Arians said he doesn't want to sign a veteran corner to compete for his job with incumbent veterans Jerraud Powers and Justin Bethel.

"I'd really like to add a young one," Arians said. "A young, long, fast one because I think we have enough depth with the guys we have."

PHOENIX -- Since Antonio Cromartie signed with the New York Jets earlier this month, leaving Arizona with a void at right cornerback, speculation has spread about who his replacement will be.

The list of candidates, in reality, is fairly short: Jerraud Powers or Justin Bethel. Another name or two may be added before training camp either through free agency or the draft, but either Powers or Bethel will likely be the starter.

While Bethel has been a hot name because of Bruce Arians’ comments last offseason that Bethel could be the best corner on the team at some point, former Cardinals defensive coordinator and current Jets coach Todd Bowles said don’t sleep on Powers.

“It’s going to be tough beating Powers out,” Bowles said Tuesday from the NFL annual meeting at the Arizona Biltmore. “Powers is tough. You keep forgetting about Powers. Powers is one of the best guys back there. He doesn’t get the credit. It’s going to be tough beating Powers out.”

Powers was one of Arizona’s starting corners opposite Patrick Peterson in 2013, Bowles’ first season in Arizona. Last year, with the addition of Cromartie, Powers played 590 out of 708 snaps in the slot, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Bethel, in his third season, played 93 snaps last season. Despite his support for Powers, Bowles believes Bethel is close to being an impact player.

“Justin’s very talented,” Bowles said. “He has unbelievable talent. He just has to learn the game mentally a little bit. When he gets the mental part of the game down he’s going to be a very tough guy to beat. He’s just got to get the mental part down. Physically he’s very gifted. Very gifted.”

But Powers’ versatility could help earn him the starting job next season.

“Powers can play wherever you need him: corner, safety, nickel,” Bowles said. “Don’t underestimate him, please. He’s a tough guy.”

PHOENIX -- In Mike Iupati, the Arizona Cardinals saw a better fit at left guard.

But that didn’t mean the end of Jonathan Cooper (pictured), the guard Arizona drafted seventh overall in 2013.

Cooper will move to right guard, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said at the NFL annual meeting at the Arizona Biltmore, ending his short tenure on the left side of Arizona’s offensive line.

"It’s no reflection on Coop in terms of disappointment," Keim said. "I’m still as high on Coop as I ever have [been] knowing that he’s got the chip on his shoulder, that he’s ready to prove people wrong.

"To me it’s more about strengthening an area that’s been a weakness for years."

In two seasons, Cooper has played in just 10 games with two starts because of injuries. He broke his leg during the third preseason game of his rookie year, which caused him to miss the rest of the season. He struggled to overcome the mental hurdles of returning from a devastating injury and lost his starting job.

In 2014, while trying to crack the starting lineup, Cooper suffered from turf toe and a wrist injury.

Keim believes that by adding Iupati and moving Cooper, Arizona has started addressing its offensive-line struggles in the running game, which were magnified last season.

"Now, all of a sudden, you have two of the better guards in the NFL who fit into this zone scheme that cannot only power, but they can also pull and play on the perimeter and they can do different things," Keim said. "I know [head coach] Bruce [Arians] is going to end up pulling the guards a little bit more and, obviously, [tackle] Jared Veldheer had a tremendous year for us last year and we may not be done."

PHOENIX -- Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim is starting to catch up to Bruce Arians.

Keim added another award to his trophy case Monday when he was named the Sporting News 2014 NFL Executive of the Year at the NFL annual meeting at the Arizona Biltmore.

Coaches and team executives voted for the award.

Keim has been named the Pro Football Talk executive of the year the past two seasons. Under his direction, the Cardinals have won 21 games in two years. In 2014, 40 of the 53 players on Arizona’s final roster were acquired by Keim.

Arians was named coach of the year by The Associated Press in January, his second time winning it in three seasons.

PHOENIX -- Since they signed six free agents in a matter of days in early March, the Arizona Cardinals have been quietly basking in their haul and waiting patiently for the next wave of potential signings.

Moments after he was named the Sporting News 2014 executive of the year Monday afternoon during the NFL's annual meeting at the Arizona Biltmore, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said the team didn't expect to get all six of their new free agents.

"I never anticipated that we would come away with the haul that we did," Keim said. "I thought that maybe out of the number of players that we signed, that we may have gotten three or four of those guys.

[+] EnlargeMike Lupati
AP Photo/Tom GannamMike Iupati is one of six free agents signed by the Arizona Cardinals in the first few days of the new league year.

"But to get the entire group was a little better than I anticipated. And the biggest thing is is it fills specific needs, which has always been our philosophy."

But Arizona isn't done.

Keim said the next two waves of free agents tend to be players who accept their worth: They won't be getting a high-dollar or long-term contract. When those players come to that realization, Keim said the Cardinals will be ready to "pounce" if the financials make sense.

However, the next additions to the Cardinals' roster may not be free agents.

"I think right now if we went into the draft and didn't address another position, I feel pretty good with where we're at," Keim said.

The Cardinals had two priorities in free agency, Keim said: They wanted to improve their physicality on their offensive line and become more versatile and more athletic on their defensive front. Arizona accomplished both by signing guard Mike Iupati and guard/center A.Q. Shipley, and then defensive linemen Cory Redding and Corey Peters.

Iupati was one of the Cardinals' top targets when free agency began, Keim said, a result of Arizona's inefficient running game in 2014. The Cardinals gained the second-fewest rushing yards and had the worst per-carry average in the NFL.

In the Cardinals' eyes, the solution began with Iupati.

"When I reflect and I look back on what he brings to the table, it just made so much sense to continue to add size and strength to your offensive line," Keim said. "I felt like we needed to change the mindset a little bit particularly when you get into third-and-short, or second-and-short."

Signing Iupati, who was rated the second-best run blocking guard in the league last year by Pro Football Focus, was the beginning of an internal cultural shift in Arizona's approach to its running game. Keim then said if Arizona can add a running back through free agency or the draft -- notice, he didn't mention through a trade -- then the Cardinals will "become even more balanced on offense with our current receivers and the offensive line that we've put in place."

On defense, Keim said both Redding and Peters are interchangeable up front. Both can play anywhere from one technique to five technique as well as nose tackle.

Keim also feels a healthy Sean Weatherspoon, who he has been high on since the 2010 draft, can fill a need Arizona has been seeking since Daryl Washington was first suspended two years ago.

"By all indications he is healthy and has that chip on his shoulder, ready to prove people wrong," Keim said. "So, he's a guy that not only can play the Mike or Mo for us in our defense, again, schematically he matches up with backs and tight ends and can add some coverability, and laterally has the range to cover sideline-to-sideline."

Trading for a running back, such as Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, doesn't appear to be in the Cardinals' plans, contrary to what some salary cap moves led many to believe.

When Arizona restructured Carson Palmer's contract, freeing up an addition $7.1 million, speculation ran rampant that the Cardinals were positioning themselves for a run at a big-ticket free agent. On Monday, Keim clarified Palmer's restructure, saying Arizona needed the cap space for its upcoming draft class and to make up for any injuries that take place during the season.

"Really, we're not in the green as much as people think we are when you take into account some of those different things," Keim said. "So, we're very diligent with our salary cap."

While a move may not be made the rest of free agency, Keim said the Cardinals could add another guard or tackle in the draft if the team has them ranked high enough.

"To me, when you look at positions, you can never be strong enough at one spot," Keim said. "So, a position or a group that could have been a weakness for years and years could end being a strength over the next four or five years for us."

TEMPE, Ariz. – In his first public comments since he was suspended for at least a year by the NFL for violating its substance-abuse policy, Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington was optimistic about his future in football.

“I’m looking forward to a fresh start, and excited about playing football again. ... I’ve even thought about changing my number,” Washington said, according to Mike Jurecki of Fox Sports 910.

Jurecki relayed the conversation with the former Pro Bowl linebacker through his Twitter account.

Washington was suspended on May 30 and missed the entire 2014 season. But he claimed he hasn’t missed or failed any drug tests, per Jurecki. In order to have faced a suspension of at least one year, Washington would have had to either failed a drug test or failed to “cooperate with testing, treatment, evaluation or other requirements imposed on him by this Policy or (failed) to comply with his Treatment Plan,” according to the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.

As part of his suspension, according to the policy, Washington could have been tested at most 10 times per month.

Washington also said he recently completed a 38 weeks of anger management and domestic violence classes. He was arrested on May 3, 2013 on charges of aggravated assault on his ex-girlfriend. He pleaded guilty in March 2014 and was sentenced to a year a supervised probation a month later.

Throughout his suspension, Washington told Jurecki his teammates have been supportive and “a lot” of them have reached out.

TEMPE, Ariz. – These aren’t your Arizona Cardinals of old.

They’re not viewed around the NFL anymore through losing-colored glasses. Those lenses have a tint of winning these days.

When three of Arizona’s free-agent signings played against the Cardinals last season, they saw a team and a franchise they wanted to join. Last week, guard Mike Iupati, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and defensive lineman Corey Peters made it happen.

[+] EnlargeMike Lupati
AP Photo/Tom GannamMike Iupati was attracted to the Cardinals because he sees a team on the rise.

When they were introduced to the media last week, all three had a consistent message: They liked what they saw on the field.

“We’ve had the opportunity in Atlanta to play against the Cardinals,” Peters said. “A few times we came here and kind of got smacked around a little bit.

“We know. I think players in this league know who the good players, who the good teams are, regardless of what’s said on the outside. The fans here are great. We know. We know what Arizona has to offer.”

Each player had their own moment when they realized these Cardinals aren’t the Cardinals they’d heard about for years.

For Iupati, the evolution of the franchise, especially under head coach Bruce Arians and general manager Steve Keim, was apparent in Week 3 last season when Arizona beat San Francisco 23-14 at University of Phoenix Stadium.

“It was a tough game,” Iupati said. “Arizona won, but it was really tough and that’s when I knew. Then you guys had the long winning streak. It was really fun. I think this team is going to go over the hump.”

The proverbial hump was discussed often on March 11.

What would consider getting “over the hump” isn’t a tangible definition. But a victory – at least one – in the playoffs would get Arizona closer to the peak.

Weatherspoon's former team, the Atlanta Falcons, has faced Arizona four times since he was drafted in 2010, and won three of them. But, watching from afar, he saw a franchise on the upswing the last couple seasons, and that helped him decide to sign with Arizona.

“Because I saw what they were doing,” he said. “They were winning games here. Was it two consecutive winning seasons? We’re trying to keep that thing going. So, looking at it from that standpoint, it helped my decision, but I don’t think it helped me too much moving on preparing for these guys because I’m pretty sure [quarterback] Carson [Palmer] comes out there every day a with the goal to kick the defense’s ass.”

Even though the Falcons beat Arizona 29-18 in Week 13 this year with Weatherspoon and Palmer on the sidelines, Weatherspoon could sense the pieces were in place.

That belief was affirmed when he watched Arizona’s dismal performance in the NFC wild-card round against Carolina, in which Arizona started third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley and lost 27-16.

“I watched that game and I know what’s going,” he said. “I know football.

“I’m sitting there watching the game and I’m like, ‘Yeah, they’re right there.’ So, I felt like what I bring and what Corey brings and what Mike brings from San Fran, I feel like we’re putting the pieces together to do something special.”

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The two were as close teammates can be and lived a mile apart from one another in the Atlanta area.

Their wives were as "thick as thieves."

But Sean Weatherspoon and Corey Peters didn't plan on signing with the Arizona Cardinals together. It just happened to work out like that.

"We didn't talk too much about it," Weatherspoon said. "Basically, he asked me how I felt about Arizona. I asked him how he felt. And he said he was looking. I said I was looking. And all of a sudden we ended up on a jet [Tuesday] night coming here and I'll leave it at that."

The two met in Atlanta soon after the Falcons drafted them two rounds apart in 2010. They were young and alone in a new city. Weatherspoon was from Texas and went to the University of Missouri. Peters grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and went to the University of Kentucky.

All Weatherspoon and Peters had was football and each other.

"He's definitely been kind of my support system in Atlanta when we first got there because we didn't really have family down there or anything like that," Peters said. "So we had the opportunity to experience all of the new things that came our way together."

Part of growing older as friends means eventually including significant others into a friendship.

For Peters and Weatherspoon, their significant others quickly hit it off.

[+] EnlargePeters
AP Photo/Marc SerotaIn five seasons with the Falcons, DT Corey Peters played in 71 games and had 11 sacks.

"Our spouses are pretty tight -- thick as thieves," Peters said.

They're not far behind.

When Weatherspoon went through rehab for an Achilles injury last year, Peters was one person he leaned on throughout the process.

"He's a good friend of mine," Weatherspoon said. "He's an awesome player. He's the voice of reason when I need someone to talk to so it's kind of great to have him here because he's helped me throughout my process last year when I tore my Achilles, and he did it the year before.

"He's a testament that if you stay strong in your faith and you continue to work at what you need to work at, you'll be fine."

The pair wasn't a package deal for Arizona, but the Cardinals are getting a set of friends who haven't played away from each other in five years. And with both Weatherspoon and Peters likely to find starting jobs on the Cardinals' defense, that familiarity and relationship can spill onto the field.

"When we found out that was even a possibility, of course it just adds a little something to the pot and it makes it even more special," Peters said. "I'm excited to kind of continue our careers in the same place and hopefully we can finish it up here."

Free-agency review: Cardinals

March, 17, 2015
Mar 17
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Most significant signing: Even though he has played just seven games the past two seasons and there's no other way to define his career than "injury-prone," Sean Weatherspoon can prove to be the Arizona Cardinals' most significant free-agency signing because of his upside. With Arizona's inside linebacker position in flux, Weatherspoon has a chance to be the most stable player at that position next year, and can prove to be a life jacket for a defense that could be without Daryl Washington again for four to six games. Weatherspoon's addition also gives Arizona some flexibility when it comes to third-year linebacker Kevin Minter and second-year safety Deone Bucannon, who played a hybrid nickel linebacker position last season.

[+] EnlargeLaMarr Woodley
Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY SportsLaMarr Woodley joins the Cardinals after the first sack-less season of his NFL career.

Most significant loss: It was coming and, very likely, there was little the Cardinals could have done to stop Antonio Cromartie from signing with the New York Jets. But Cromartie's loss leaves Arizona without a second "island" cornerback who can play single-man press coverage without help. He didn't have his greatest season in 2014, but having Cromartie on one side and Patrick Peterson on the other allowed Arizona's defense to blitz more up front. Without Cromartie, the Cardinals will either have to find another "island" corner or revise their defense slightly if either Jerraud Powers or Justin Bethel takes over at the position.

Biggest surprise: Considering general manager Steve Keim's past, none of Arizona's signings thus far can be considered a surprise. He tends to like and find quality free agents who are coming off an injury-plagued or low-productivity season and sign them to a one-year deal -- giving the player a chance to show he's worth a big contract while the Cardinals benefit from his improved play. This was the case in signing Weatherspoon and LaMarr Woodley. A couple of slight surprises, only in shock value, came in the release of center Lyle Sendlein and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. Both were cap causalities but Sendlein was a locker room favorite, used as an offensive resource. Dockett said after he signed with San Francisco that the difference between the 49ers' and Cardinals' offers was $500,000, which reinforced Arizona's desire to bring him back.

What's next?: The Cardinals are still on the hunt for an edge rusher who can make an impact on all three downs. Brian Orakpo was high on Arizona's list of targets but he signed with the Tennessee Titans without visiting the Cardinals. Arizona also needs a running back, but may wait until the draft to find one. Another position the team could continue looking at is center, although the Cardinals signed A.Q. Shipley and have Ted Larsen on the roster.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Bruce Arians proved during the first week of free agency that a coach's appearance can make as much of an impression as his personality.

Fortunately for the Arizona Cardinals' head coach, both worked in his favor last week.

[+] EnlargeEric Berry
AP Photo/Matt YorkCardinals coach Bruce Arians won over some free agents during their visits to Arizona.

"Well, he had a nice hat on when I saw him on TV," new linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said. "And he told me that the hat is something that was charitable, too. He's doing some good things in that aspect of it, but that's the same hat that my dad wears.

"So, I was like, you know what, he seems pretty cool."

Defensive lineman Corey Peters had never spoken to Arians before signing with the Cardinals on Wednesday.

"But just looking from the outside in, he seems cooler than a fan. You know what I mean?" Peters said. "Just watching the interviews and he has his hat. He just seems like a cool guy."

Once the trio of Arizona's free agents who had never played for Arians got a chance to meet him, their perceptions of the 62-year-old quickly became a reality. They saw first-hand what those around Arians have known for a while.

"He's awesome," new guard Mike Iupati said. "I think I'll have a lot of fun playing for him. He's a players' coach and I just think the players have a lot of respect [for him] as a person, so I'm excited."

Weatherspoon could tell immediately Arians doesn't sugarcoat anything.

"He seems like a guy who shoots you straight, looks at you in the eye when he talks to you," Weatherspoon said. "That's something that I always look for when I'm meeting people. He seems like a guy you would like to play for and work with."

And it didn't take Peters long to realize Arians was who he thought he was. He knew as soon as he began talking to him in Arizona. But Peters had the benefit of a little inside information.

Two of his college teammates, defensive lineman Ricky Lumpkin and running back Alfonso Smith, both played for Arians and filled Peters in on who Arians was away from the cameras.

"I'm right there," Peters said. "I'm still of the same beliefs."

TEMPE, Ariz. -- While the rumors continue to swirl connecting Adrian Peterson and the Arizona Cardinals, the Cardinals reportedly hosted a running back who could be in the mix if Peterson doesn’t land in Arizona.

The Cardinals met with former University of Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon on Monday, according to Yahoo Sports reporter Rand Getlin.

Gordon also has a meeting set with the Dallas Cowboys, Getlin reported.

Last season at Wisconsin, Gordon led the NCAA in rushing but finished 42 yards short of setting the all-time single-season rushing record. At 6-foot and 215 pounds, Gordon has developed a reputation as a tough runner, who, obviously, can gain a lot of yards. With Cardinals coach Bruce Arians saying at the NFL combine that Andre Ellington will be the “focal point of the offense,” Gordon could be the ideal complement in the backfield.

ESPN NFL draft Insider Mel Kiper Jr. had the Cardinals picking Gordon in two of his three mock drafts thus far.

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TEMPE, Ariz. – It was a move that was expected.

If anyone paid any attention to Antonio Cromartie the month after the Arizona Cardinals’ season ended in the wild-card round, it was clear he wanted to go back to the New York Jets. He got his wish Thursday, agreeing to a four-year deal with New York and reuniting him with Todd Bowles, the former Cardinals defensive coordinator who’s now the Jets head coach, and fellow corner Darrelle Revis.

The loss of Cromartie leaves a void on the Cardinals’ depth chart at right cornerback. And the Cardinals have a few options to replace him.

One is promoting Justin Bethel to a starter. He’s spent the last three years learning how to play cornerback. After the Pro Bowl, Bethel said he didn’t play corner in college, so the last few years have been spent learning the fundamentals of the position.

“I’m getting the hang of it,” he said. “I feel like I’m getting to the point where I can be a great asset to the defense.”

But there’s risk with sending Bethel out wide, mainly because he’s inexperienced, having played 103 defensive snaps in three seasons, with 93 of them coming last year. He was targeted just six times and allowed three catches for 24 yards. Being thrown into the fire will be the only way Bethel can get experience, but using him as a press-man corner could be a defensive liability.

Last offseason, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Bethel could be Arizona’s “best” corner on a team that included Patrick Peterson, but yet Arians and Bowles kept Bethel mostly on the bench, using him only as a substitute for injured players.

Another option for Arizona would be to move Jerraud Powers back outside to corner, where he played in 2013, and use Tyrann Mathieu as the slot corner, which also was his role in 2013. In this scenario, Bethel could be used as a fourth cornerback.

Powers had a solid 2013, allowing just three touchdowns in 122 targets (2.5 percent). But the key here is Mathieu, who’s coming off a season spent getting over a knee injury. In 2013 he was a versatile defensive back, spending most of his time at free safety, strong safety and slot corner. He played 229 snaps at left slot corner and 258 at the right slot corner. Last season, Powers spent 590 of his 708 snaps at slot corner. With Powers out wide and Mathieu in the slot, either Deone Bucannon can move back to his natural safety position or he could continue at the hybrid nickel linebacker-safety spot while Tony Jefferson becomes the other safety next to Rashad Johnson.

There are other options as well, such as drafting an outside corner, keeping Powers in the slot, using Mathieu as the fourth corner and Bethel as the fifth. Or, perhaps, using Bethel as the fourth corner and keeping Mathieu as a safety and Bucannon as the linebacker-safety.

After the news of Cromartie leaving broke, Bethel expressed his desire to take over Cromartie’s spot.

Johnson took to Twitter to put his support behind Powers.

The identity of Arizona’s next outside cornerback might not be decided for a couple months, but the Cardinals have options while figuring it out.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- When Sean Weatherspoon sat in front of the cameras Wednesday and said he thought signing with the Arizona Cardinals was "the best deal for both parties" he was right.

Sort of.

If the inside linebacker can stay healthy and play a full season for the first time since 2011, then yes, his one-year contract was a good move by the Cardinals. It was a low-risk, high-reward decision by general manager Steve Keim, who's become adept at finding players in situations similar to Weatherspoon, who has played in just seven games in the last two seasons. He missed all of 2014 with an Achilles injury and 10 weeks in 2013 with foot and knee injuries.

But Weatherspoon said Wednesday he's fully healed and healthy. This season he'll have to prove it, however. Weatherspoon said he had a check-up with renowned foot and ankle doctor, Robert Anderson, who did Weatherspoon's surgery, last Monday in Charlotte, North Carolina, and was given the all clear.

[+] EnlargeWeatherspoon
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports"I knew I'd have to do a one-year deal," Sean Weatherspoon said, "but I didn't care about that. I just wanted a chance to play."
"He had me do a few tests in there and he said, ‘You're A-1, good to go,'" Weatherspoon said. "We're just working on gaining some girth in the calf. It's been about seven-and-a-half, eight months since the surgery, so we've still got a little bit of work to do. But ultimately I can run, I can do everything that the trainers in Atlanta asked me to do and I'm ready to come here and do that here."

One reason Weatherspoon, who said he can play inside and outside linebacker but hasn't discussed his role with the coaches, chose Arizona was its playing surfaces. Playing on grass at both a practice facility and a stadium isn't something that's often available in the NFL, he said.

The last two years have been "rough" Weatherspoon said, but he's found solace in a former mentor. Former Falcons linebacker Mike Peterson began counseling Weatherspoon during his rookie year when Weatherspoon saw Peterson making plays as a 12-year veteran at the time.

"I'd be like, ‘Man, how you still do that after so much time off and not even being the starter anymore, but you're still able to just go out there and make it happen?'" Weatherspoon said. "He said, ‘It's just like riding a bike.'

"So, I just have to get back to practicing a little bit more and being on that steady routine."

For as rusty as Weatherspoon will be come organized team activities this spring, having played just 380 snaps since 2013 does have its advantages: It's kept him fresh.

"I definitely think it saved my legs being off of them for the past two years," Weatherspoon said. "So, I'm just looking forward to going out there and trying to re-establish myself as being the player that I am."

However, if Weatherspoon proves yet again he's as injury prone as his past says, then Wednesday's deal won't be the "best deal for both parties." In fact, it may end up spoiling any future plans Weatherspoon had of signing a lucrative, multi-year deal.

His contract is worth about $4 million, according to multiple reports, a high amount based on his injury history. But Weatherspoon was expecting a one-year deal after the last two seasons.

"Oh, I knew it, I knew it," he said. "And I was ready for that. Once it happened I figured I'd come back from this. That's what I told myself when I was sitting there down and out, looking at everything that was happening.

"I knew I'd have to do a one-year deal, but I didn't care about that. I just wanted a chance to play. A lot of people are saying, ‘He came to Arizona for a few hundred thousand bucks,' but that's not what it is. It's about knowing what you have to do in your heart and knowing what your personal legend will be. And that's what I'm looking to do, is establish something here that can be talked about for a while."

But to do that, Weatherspoon must -- must -- stay healthy.

If he can, 2015 will be a win-win situation. Arizona got a talented linebacker at a discounted price and Weatherspoon will be able to revitalize a career that's been nearly stalled the last two years.

"I think it's a great deal for both parties," he said. "I'm looking to establish myself -- re-establish myself -- and show what I can do."
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Awaiting Corey Peters over the next five months will be an opportunity few players get.

The Arizona Cardinals have two openings on their defensive line he can potentially fill.

[+] EnlargePeters
AP Photo/Marc SerotaCorey Peters thinks the Cardinals are "building something special."
With the departures of defensive tackle Darnell Dockett and nose tackle Dan Williams, the Cardinals will be without two-thirds of their starting defensive line from the past two years. In five years in Atlanta, Peters showed his versatility, playing nose tackle, 3-4 end and 4-3 tackle.

"I feel like I have a good variety and I can do some different things," he said. "I'm looking to play some nose and maybe some three-technique in some situations, as well as kick out to some five-technique."

Peters was a starter Atlanta until last season. He injured his Achilles in Week 16 of 2013 and spent the ensuing offseason rehabbing and preparing for 2014. He was able to play in 15 games last year, notching 26 tackles and two sacks, but struggled to return to his pre-injury level.

"The actual Achilles is fine after they repair it but for me, my lower body was just completely gone from no use," Peters said during his introductory press conference Wednesday. "But I was able to play 15 games last year and as the season progress, I started to feel better and feel more explosive.

"Immediately after the season, I joined a facility's workout program and I've been working hard. I'm stronger now than I was at the end of the season."

Peters said his strength and explosiveness will continue to improve as he moves farther away from the injury.

While Peters said more lucrative offers were on the table, he felt the "entire package" in Arizona was better. He was pleased with how the Cardinals' front office handled his recruitment and with the plan for him that Arizona presented, calling the Cardinals the "best fit."

And he was impressed by Arizona's defense in the last couple years when playing the Cardinals.

"We know," he said. "I think the players in this league know who the good players are, who the good teams are, regardless of what's said on the outside."

He added: "I think they're building something special. Of course, they had a very good year last year until injuries kicked in. Honestly, I just feel like they're right there. They're going to make some things happen and I look forward to being a part of that process."

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