Michael Bidwill is not the most visible person in the Arizona Cardinals’ front office, nor is he necessarily the most important when it comes to constructing a football team.
Then again, as the team’s president and owner, his voice is an important one. A guest of Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday as part of Newsmakers Week, Bidwill touched on a variety of topics, including his offseason plans, the disappointing 2016 season, the rebuilding of the roster and the use of the franchise tag.
Chandler Jones, the franchise
The Cardinals have every intention of keeping linebacker Chandler Jones, though the manner in which they do so is in doubt.
Acquired via a trade before last season with the knowledge that he would reach free agency in 2017, the team has expressed a desire to sign him to a multi-year contract but understands it may need to use the franchise tag on him this year.
Bidwill said the team is prepared for either option.
“We’re not going to mess around with that,” he said. “He’s a great pass rusher, but if we can’t agree to terms that work for us, we’re just going to franchise him, and his people know that.”
Jones, 26, tallied 11 sacks in his first season with the Cardinals and helped Arizona lead the league in that category.
2016 was not much fun
The Cardinals entered the season with Super Bowl expectations, but stumbled out of the gate and were never able to recover on the way to a 7-8-1 finish. There were fleeting moments where it looked like the team had figured things out and was about to go on a run, but injuries and inconsistency ruined any chance of a late run.
“I don’t know that anybody was more disappointed,” Bidwill said. “I think everybody had their hopes up; we certainly felt like we were picking up where we left off. We had a great start, training camp we had some injuries here and there. But we felt like we were coming out pretty strong out of training camp.”
Bidwill explained that losing the Week 1 opener to the New England Patriots kind of set the tone of a season that would come down to missed opportunities.
“Pretty proud of where we came out and feel very good about the future,” he said. “There were three teams that were both a top-10 offense and top-10 defense: it was the Patriots, the Seahawks and the Cardinals.”
Noting that they were also 32nd in special teams, Bidwill said that will be a big area of focus this offseason as the organization looks to build for the future.
Part of that process may include retaining a number of the team’s own free agents, and keeping many of them is something Bidwill said would “be a huge win for us.”
“If we get most of them, that’s going to be very good for us,” he added.
Some extra travel next season
Last season, as a Guns and Roses concert invaded University of Phoenix Stadium, the Cardinals moved their training camp to San Diego.
It made sense, since they were in some ways evicted from their home and were playing the Chargers in California that Friday.
This upcoming training camp, Metallica will be hosting a concert at the stadium, and the Aug. 4 date may lead the Cardinals to moving their operations for a bit once again.
“It looks like it’s going to impact us for three or four days, and we’ll need to find a place where we’re going to spend some time training in that first week of training camp,” Bidwill said, before adding people are looking into different options.
“It’s probably a few more weeks before we’ll have some information on that,” he added, before confirming he thinks it will result in a road trip.
Wherever the Cardinals go for training camp, it will likely not be nearly as much of a trek as they will make during the season when they head across the pond for a game against the Rams in London.
The other side of the road game is something Bidwill said he has been lobbying for.
“They’ve really wanted us to give up a home game — which we’ll have to do as part of the next bid for the Super Bowl — but we really wanted to be a visiting team,” he said. “And so this year we finally got the call, so I’m excited about it.”
Bidwill said this will be the road game to attend, though as of now they are not sure if it will take place in Week 7 or Week 8. That announcement should be coming soon, though, and it would be helpful to have it come down soon given the effort that goes into preparing for it.
“When you look at it, it’s a road game for us,” Bidwill said. “We’re going to bring, probably, a few more people. The logistics is going to be a little bit of a challenge; it’s just a longer flight, a lot longer flight than a typical road game.”
Along with that, there is finding the right hotel and making sure they have the ability to hold meetings and maybe even broadcast stuff back to the states.
It’s a process, Bidwill said.
“We’re going to look through all that, we’re going to make sure that we’ve got a good gameplan so that we don’t have any hiccups and can execute this well and get the win and come back and work on Week 8 or Week 9, whatever it’s going to be.”
Where there’s Smoke…
While the early-offseason stress revolved around the possible retirements of Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer, and conversation about players returning from injury point to guys like Jared Veldheer, Tyrann Mathieu and Deone Bucannon
Somewhat lost in the discussion is receiver John Brown, who was limited to 15 games last season and was not himself in most of them due to a sickle-cell trait.
After catching 65 passes for 1,003 yards and seven touchdowns in 2015, Brown notched just 39 receptions, 517 yards and two scores in 2016.
“He is very healthy, looks like they found the issue,” Bidwill said. “We’ll get Smoke back the way we had him.”