D.J. Humphries can be a polarizing topic, especially for a fan base that has been often unhappy with offensive line play during the past few years. But the fact the Cardinals extended the left tackle Tuesday is, in my opinion, the correct risk to take when it comes to Humphries, his three-year extension and alternatives.
Yes, there is risk. Humphries started all 16 games and played all but two of 1,046 offensive snaps this season, but he had only played 14 games combined the previous two seasons because of injuries. He was flagged for more penalties than one would want this season, with four holding calls and five false starts, according to nflpenalties.com. He has shown he's not a finished product.
But there are good reasons to keep Humphries. The Cardinals, Steve Keim and Kliff Kingsbury believe he is becoming a very good player, and while that can be lip service in certain situations, it isn't when it's backed up with nearly $30 million in guaranteed money. There is belief that offensive line coach Sean Kugler is exactly what Humphries needed. And say what you want about Humphries, he is passionate about playing the game and works to get better.
(Humphries also looks like he's in great shape right now, an excellent sign and one that underscores the maturity he has shown.)
-- This is also about the knowledge that, most of the time, there is patience needed when you bring in a rookie offensive lineman. With Kyler Murray under his rookie deal, the Cardinals don't have that patience. They want to ramp up the rebuild quickly and take advantage of Murray's current contract. Humphries and the offensive line did improve as the season went on. There are also a bunch of holes on the roster, and creating one by letting Humphries walk didn't make sense.
-- Yes, the Cards could have used the franchise tag, but it would have been about $16 million anyway, and then you are right back to where you started at this time next year.
-- Along those lines, yes, this takes a chunk out of available cap space, but the tag would've done that anyway. (The guess is that the Cards will have around $37M-$40M in cap space remaining, depending on how Humphries' deal is structured.)
-- Humphries was getting this kind of money all along. I know there are those who think it's too much, but as I have written before, solid 26-year-old tackles don't hit the market much. He was going to get paid, if not by the Cardinals, then by someone else.
-- It works for both sides. The Cardinals are not locked into Humphries for so long that it can be a contractual albatross if he doesn't continue to trend up. Humphries, meanwhile, gets to be a free agent again before he turns 30.
-- This would seemingly take OL out of the equation in the first round of the draft. It makes little sense to draft someone in the top 10 on the line who isn't your left tackle, not when you can potentially get a difference-maker on defense or wide receiver. I'd be surprised if a pick somewhere isn't an offensive lineman. Just not in the first round, rendering a lot of the early mock drafts moot.
-- Right tackle remains interesting. I could see it as a potential free agent target, but the Cardinals liked what they saw of Justin Murray down the stretch too. I don't see them paying two tackles big money -- limiting who might be a free-agent possibility.