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D.J. Humphries Staring At Promising Future

Cardinals left tackle believes he has positioned himself well before free agency

T D.J. Humphries spikes the ball after RB Kenyan Drake's third touchdown on Sunday.
T D.J. Humphries spikes the ball after RB Kenyan Drake's third touchdown on Sunday.

When D.J. Humphries gets passionate about something, he will lock eyes with his counterpart so fiercely and explain things so convincingly it feels nearly impossible to disagree.

On Thursday afternoon, the gaze was on full display as the 25-year-old left tackle rattled off a list of positives from the first 14 games of his 2019 season: he stayed healthy, performed admirably and became a rising leader in the Cardinals' locker room.

If Humphries is right, he will become a very rich man this offseason – the rare unrestricted free agent with youth, upside, positional scarcity and talent. And even though the open market has humbled confident players before, there is not a hint of trepidation in Humphries' voice.

"This (expletive) didn't happen by accident," Humphries said. "I put this work in all (expletive) summer, to make sure I would do what I've done on the field. I meant to do this. To finally be happy and be that guy, it makes a world of difference.

"It's very easy to not think about (free agency) when you're playing good football. One thing is for sure: If I keep playing like I'm playing, it's going to take care of itself. I won't have anything to really worry about."

There is no doubt Humphries has shed the injury-prone label, playing in every game this year after missing 21 over the past three.

The lingering question: Is he a cornerstone left tackle? According to Pro Football Focus, Humphries has graded out as the 23rd-best player at his position this season with a minimum of 500 snaps. Humphries has been given a solid pass-blocking grade but subpar marks in run-blocking.

Ask Humphries about his year, and there are no qualifiers. He believes he has been one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL.

"You can't argue with two sacks (allowed) in 15 weeks," Humphries said. "I don't know who can. If we had 10 wins right now, I feel like there'd be a lot different talk about the season that I'm having, and the season our offensive line is having.

"Most of (the opposing edge rushers) are in the Pro Bowl or the playoffs. I like that footage. The numbers don't lie. The film don't lie. All the other (expletive) can go with the wind. Everybody in these locker rooms, the cats that wear them helmets, everybody I go against, they know what the truth is, and that's all that matters."

If the Cardinals agree with Humphries' self-valuation, a long-term deal could be on the horizon. Coach Kliff Kingsbury has been happy with Humphries' performance this year.

"Steady improvement," Kingsbury said. "I really think coach (Sean) Kugler and him are on the same page. They've really worked hard on his technique, to keep his technique and fundamentals solid throughout the season. He's been healthy, which has been huge. That's something that's kind of nagged him throughout his career thus far. He's had great energy and great preparation. I've really been pleased with what I've seen so far."

Humphries understands the business side to contracts, and said the "chips will fall wherever they may," but it's clear his heart lies in Arizona and with this group of offensive linemen.

"It's a big difference when you've got a room full of big-ass, athletic men that are trying to (expletive) people up, versus guys that are just trying to get checks and get out of the building," Humphries said. "It's a huge difference. I've been a part of both, so I've had a chance to see it."

Even though his contract expires in March, autonomy could be taken from Humphries. The Cardinals could choose to franchise tag him if the sides are too far apart on a long-term deal but still want to retain his rights.

Humphries isn't against that, saying "I would have to cross that bridge when I got to it, but I'm all for anything that keeps me here."

When he first arrived, Humphries sat an entire season on the bench and never found his footing under Bruce Arians. Now he feels a big part of the organization, envisioning one day becoming a team captain.

"If I'm going to build something, I want to build it here," Humphries said. "I want to make sure Larry (Fitzgerald) goes out the right way. I want to make sure Pat (Peterson) gets what he's supposed to have after putting so much time in here. I want to make sure my boys on the O-line get to be the focal point for once, other than the reason why it's not working.

"I told Kliff at the beginning of the season, I've never been at the forefront of anything. I want to insert myself into this, because I feel like it's important, and I feel like it's something I should be a part of. That's what I want."

The Cardinals delivered stuffed animals to patients at Phoenix Children's Hospital on Tuesday.