Team Notes: Arizona Cardinals

The fate of defensive end Terrell Suggs from nearby Arizona State will influence who the Cardinals select with the sixth pick in the April 26 NFL draft -- and it is not out of the realm of possibility that their pick will be Suggs, who had been a top-five projection.

A poor workout on March 26, followed three days later by his involvement in a fight in which Suggs could face charges, has called his lofty status into question.

"I really don't think it will hurt me in the draft, but if I drop (to No. 6)) what better than playing in the state that you played your college career?" Suggs said. "I also played high school ball here. I love Arizona. I don't really want to leave. I think I can fit perfectly in the Cardinals' scheme."

While Houston and Chicago have cooled on the 260-pound pass rusher, who set an NCAA record with 24 sacks last season, it is believed that the Cardinals would take him if he falls.

And Suggs could drop like a rock. First, there was his horrific performance on March 26 for 31 of the 32 NFL teams -- only Washington was missing. His 40-yard dash times were around 4.8 seconds and he bench pressed 225 pounds only 19 times. He seemed slow and confused in some drills.

Suggs' agent, Gary Wichard, had set up the workout to coincide with the NFL annual meetings in Phoenix to assure a huge audience in which to showcase his client.

Then three days later, Suggs was involved in an incident in which he suffered a cut when hit on the back of the head with a metal rod and another man suffered a broken nose. Suggs claims he was trying to be a peacemaker in a dispute involving a cousin and the man whose nose was broken. Then man with the broken nose claims Suggs initiated the fight.

Suggs met with the media at the Cardinals facility on Monday following his previously scheduled visit with the team. He claimed he would cooperate with Phoenix police. But his meeting time with Phoenix detectives passed on Wednesday. No Suggs. He sent two attorneys in his place.

The Houston Texans, who have the third pick overall, were the highest team likely to draft Suggs. They all but took themselves out of the market on Wednesday when they signed veteran outside linebacker Charlie Clemons, 30, to a four-year contract worth just under $7 million.

Suggs would have had to convert to outside linebacker in the Texans' 3-4 scheme. It would have been a reach to invest so heavily in a player who suddenly has question marks regarding his athleticism and character.

It appears the Texans instead will draft Miami receiver Andre Johnson, who should be a fine target for second-year quarterback David Carr.

Chicago, which picks fourth, initially had interest in Suggs, as well, but general manager Jerry Angelo came away from the workouts disappointed, stopping just short of labeling Suggs a laggard.

The Bears likely will draft quarterback Kyle Boller of California instead.

The mystery pick is Dallas at No. 5, just ahead of the Cardinals. The Cowboys seem infatuated with Kansas State cornerback Terrence Newman, a player the Cardinals would like to have, as well. Dallas also has the need for a pass rusher like Suggs.

So the stage is set for Suggs to fall to his hometown pro team.

Rod Graves, the Cardinals vice president of operations, said following Suggs' visit Monday that he would have no qualms regarding Suggs if that happens.

"I think it starts with what a player is able to accomplish on the field," Graves said. "We know that Terrell Suggs is a great football player, a good person, and we will be largely looking at that. We'll wait and continue to monitor the situation to see if there's reason for red flags. In our opinion, he had a great visit."

Suggs plans to have another workout for pro scouts in mid April in hopes of redeeming himself.

"There is a difference between track speed and football speed -- I'm not a track guy but I am a football player," Suggs said. "I can do a lot better. A lot of (scouts and coaches) told me they really didn't care what I ran. They know I can play football. They can look at film and see I'm quick off the ball. I just had a bad day on one of my important days.

"I know I can run a 4.6 even being 260 pounds. I guess people want to see it on paper. All they want to know is, 'What's your 40 time?' That's the big thing, just to prove I can run a 4.6 at 260."

Suggs said he is confident any character questions will be answered in his favor during the legal process.

"Anybody who knows me knows it's not like I've got a history of stuff like that," Suggs said. "They know that I can play football and know I'm not a troublemaker."

Team Notes: 

--Although FS Dexter Jackson was Super Bowl Most Valuable Player for two interceptions in a win over Oakland, in any discussion of Tampa Bay's defense the names of Derrick Brooks, Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp come up before Jackson's.

In fact, punch Jackson's name into an Internet search engine and he still isn't the first name to come up. Body builder Dexter Jackson, a former Mr. Olympia, is.

"I've never met him, but I'm supposed to when I get back," said Jackson, who signed with the Cardinals. "He's in Jacksonville (Fla.), like an hour away from my home town."

--By July, the tackling and pass intercepting Dexter Jackson will be a long way from his hometown of Quincy, Fla., and memories will be faded of trying futilely to receive a contract commensurate with contribution to the Buccaneers.

"The last two years I was near the top, third and fourth in tackles and second in interceptions both years," Jackson said. "Stats don't lie. Some people go by names, I go by productivity."

Jackson (6-1, 203), 25, who had more tackles than Sapp or Rice, will team with strong safety Adrian Wilson (6-3, 217), 23, to give the Cardinals a rangy, young and athletic safety tandem.

"That's one of the main reasons I'm coming here," Jackson said. "Arizona's safeties get involved."

--The Cardinals appear to be in a two-way race with Kansas City for free-agent DE Vonnie Holliday. Seattle and Philadelphia have cooled. The Cardinals offered $25 million over six years.

--RB Emmitt Smith's two-year contract officially is worth $7.5 million, including a $2.5 million signing bonus and annual salaries of $2.5 million. That makes the NFL career rushing leader the ninth-highest paid running back in the league for 2003.

--It didn't take long for the Cardinals to capitalize on Smith. His smiling face appeared in newspaper ads over the weekend pumping season tickets. The Cardinals would not divulge numbers but characterized business as "brisk" since Smith signed.

--C Mike Gruttadauria, the starter for three years when he wasn't injured, was released. Neck, knee and back injuries caused Gruttadauria to miss 17 games over three seasons. He missed the final eight games in 2002. Gruttadauria signed a four-year, $8.6 million contract with the Cardinals in 2000, just weeks after starting for St. Louis in Super Bowl XXXIV.

--C Frank Garcia, recently signed from St. Louis, will compete with Jason Starkey and Steven Grace for Gruttadauria's job. Starkey has been a fill-in starter. Grace made the team as an undrafted rookie last season.

--Five role players have re-signed: S Justin Lucas, LB Trev Faulk, WR Nathan Poole, G Teag Whiting and G Tony Wragge. Each signed for one year.

Lucas is the most significant. He has been a key contributor in nickel packages and on special teams. He started four games last season and scored the Cardinals' only two defensive touchdowns, a 38-yard interception return and a 35-yard return of a lateral.

--OG/T Cameron Spikes became the seventh unrestricted free agent to join the Cardinals this offseason, signing for three years. He likely would have been a starter if he had re-signed with Houston. He is likely to be a backup for the Cardinals.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "That's people's opinions. I never said that. People make assumptions. My thing was if the right opportunity came at the right time, that's the thing I was taking. Arizona was the right opportunity, at the right time, and I'm a Cardinal." -- FS Dexter Jackson, the Super Bowl MVP with Tampa Bay, on coming to the Cardinals after he appeared to be on the verge of signing with the Steelers.

Team Skinny: 
NEEDS/DRAFT PRIORITIES: The Cardinals will draft sixth in the first round and will be looking for a pass rusher, receiver and perhaps a quarterback.

They had the fewest sacks in the NFL the past two years, and likely will begin to address that in free agency. DEs Kyle Vanden Bosch and Fred Wakefield are steady against the run but aren't threats to make sacks.

The team's top three WRs are unrestricted free agents. While there are a number of competent young players on the roster ready to move up, a speedy, game-turner would draw interest.

The team may sign a veteran quarterback but really needs to add two who can play. They had no experienced veteran behind Jake Plummer, who could be gone in free agency.



UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: DE Thomas Burke (injuries prevented him from being the pass rusher he was in college, won't be offered new contract); OT John Fina (valuable veteran backup who can be plugged in anywhere but center); OLB Rob Fredrickson (aging and injured, but still valuable); FS Kwamie Lassiter (on the downward arc of his career, was often a step behind the play); FB Joel Makovicka (hard to imagine he hung on this long, average blocker, average receiver, seldom given the ball); MLB Johnny Rutledge (marginal athlete for a former second-round pick, better suited to play inside than out, where the Cards tried to force him to play); WR Frank Sanders (could be back if he will work cheap, aging but still good possession receiver over the middle).

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers): WR/PR Arnold Jackson (not tendered as ERFA); RB Anthony White (not tendered as ERFA).

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: CB David Barrett (tendered at $1.318 million with 1st-round pick as compensation; returning starter who is physical at the line and has decent enough speed to run with wideouts).

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: LS Nathan Hodel (tendered at $300,000; starter, high priority).

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: RB Damien Anderson (potential ERFA; $300,000/1yr); DT Russell Davis (UFA; $3.2M/3 yrs, $800,000 SB; 2003 cap: $1.067M); PK Tim Duncan (potential ERFA; $225,000/1yr); DT Nate Dwyer (ERFA; $225,000/1 yr); S Nijrell Eason (ERFA; $225,000/1 yr); LB Trev Faulk (ERFA; $300,000/1 yr); WR Bryan Gilmore (potential ERFA; $375,000/1yr); C Steven Grace (potential ERFA; $300,000/1 yr); S Quentin Harris (potential ERFA; $300,000/1yr); LB Greg Jones (UFA; terms unknown); S Justin Lucas (RFA; $605,0001/ yr); FB Dennis McKinley (UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown); WR Nathan Poole (ERFA; $300,000/1 yr); RB Travis Prentice (ERFA; $450,000/1 yr); CB Coby Rhinehart (UFA; terms unknown); OT Kendrick Rogers (potential ERFA; $225,000/1yr); OL Raleigh Roundtree (UFA; terms unknown); WR Jake Soliday (potential ERFA; $300,000/1yr); C Jason Starkey (RFA; $605,000/1 yr); DT Barron Tanner (UFA; $2.775M/3 yrs, $750,000 SB; 2003 cap: $925,000); OG Teag Whiting (ERFA; $225,000/1 yr); LB LeVar Woods (ERFA; $375,000/1 yr); OG Tony Wragge (ERFA; $300,000/1 yr); MLB Michael Young (potential ERFA; $300,000/1 yr).

PLAYERS ACQUIRED: QB Jeff Blake (UFA Ravens; $7.5M/3 yrs, $1.5M SB; 2003 cap: $2.5M); LB James Darling (UFA Jets; $4.1M/4 yrs, SB unknown); FB James Hodgins (FA Rams; $5M/4 yrs, $1M SB; 2003 cap: $1.150M); S Dexter Jackson (UFA Buccaneers; $14M/5 yrs, $2.75M SB); RB Emmitt Smith (FA Cowboys; $7.5M/2 yrs, $2.5M SB; 2003 carp: $3.75M); OG Cameron Spikes (UFA Texans; 2 yrs, terms unknown).

PLAYERS LOST: WR David Boston (UFA Chargers; $47.4M/7 yrs, $4M SB/$3M option SB '04/$3.9M base guarantee '04); C Mike Gruttadauria (cut); WR MarTay Jenkins (UFA Falcons; 1 yr, terms unknown); QB Jake Plummer (UFA Broncos; $40.7M/7 yrs, $7M SB/$6M option SB '05)

MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.

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