I have returned to the mailbag, and tried to get to the backlog of questions -- and I apologize for those seeking Kyle's insight if you missed him. (I did drop in a special Kyle question-and-his-answer this week.) The league and players, as this posts, are working on all the rules needed for this season to go forward in the pandemic. As always, you can leave a question for a future mailbag here.
From Lee Stranders via azcardinals.com:
"Two, if I may Darren. I'm optimistic for K1's next step but not sure if his mental analytical agility will ever get to the level of a Russell Wilson. That would leave him over-reliant on his physical elusiveness, which will wane over time -- especially as defensive coordinators identify and counter his preferred runs. Thoughts? Also, it's clear that the national talking heads hardly looked at the Cards during the season with all the abuse thrown at the O-line. Competition for places is always good. Is there a scenario where Josh Jones replaces a fit Humphries to spice up the left side? Thanks. Lee from London."
I'll take the second one first -- no, I don't see Jones having any roads to supplanting Humphries. Not this year. Jones had no offseason and Humphries finally is trending in the right direction both with experience and health. The Cardinals didn't give him a big contract extension for no reason. If Jones can push to start on the right side, I think that would be a big accomplishment for 2020. As for Kyler's future, I don't think it's fair to question, after one season, if his mental upside is limited. I don't know if it gets to a Wilson level, but I think few quarterbacks do. You are right Murray's elusiveness will wane down the road. But it'll be way down the road. And I'll also say this: As good as Wilson is, a lot of his game is based on elusiveness, no? Different than Kyler's probably, but still. And Wilson's hasn't waned yet.
From Michael Travers via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren, hope you enjoyed your time away. The defense's front seven seems to be the biggest mystery along with the addition of D-Hop. Coach Kingsbury has probably been working late designing plays to make this offense on par with Chiefs. The Kyler-led offense should get three to four touchdowns per game and put the pressure on the defense to hold the lead in the fourth quarter. Do you believe the Cardinals defense will be able to stop teams with this current cast of players?"
I think they have that possibility. I'm not going to pretend I know for sure what this defense will look like since it hasn't yet been on the field. But I have said for a while now, I don't think this defense has to be next-level good for the Cardinals to be successful. They need to be solid, as you noted, and just hold up assuming the offense makes the kind if strides most people are expecting.
From Hebe Miller via azcardinals.com:
"Can you explain the DeAndre Hopkins situation please? It seemed he wanted a new contract but evidently it was rumored that was just a ploy to get traded? So does Hop not want a new deal? Or does he? If he does, are we giving him the new deal this offseason?"
I do think Hopkins would like his contract adjusted. But there are a lot of moving pieces with that. He still has three years left on his current deal. That obviously takes away some leverage. The other big part of this -- the economic impact of the coronavirus on the league going forward (the salary cap will be impacted greatly with limited fans or no fans) and how the league and players decide how that impact will be mitigated (in terms of how long they might spread out the anticipated pain.) I have no idea the timeline Hopkins might be under, but given that Patrick Peterson and Kenyan Drake and Budda Baker and Chandler Jones -- among others -- have contract situations coming sooner, Steve Keim will have to prioritize one way or the other.
From Shoney Mal via azcardinals.com:
"You obviously aren't a GM or cap manager, but I don't understand how the Chiefs can have the highest paid QB (by a long shot), the highest paid S (Tyrann Mathieu), a top 5 highest-paid edge rusher (Frank Clark), the 2nd highest paid DL (Chris Jones), along with highly paid guys like RT Mitchell Schwartz, TE Travis Kelce, WR Tyreek Hill, etc. Is this baseball where there's no cap and they are the Yankees and we are the Oakland A's? I don't understand how one team can have 10 guys making $15M-$50M per year, and here we are, our biggest contracts being Chandler and Patrick, and yet somehow we are tight on the cap."
Well, Shoney, first you need to get all the numbers right. Mahomes, for instance, will be the highest-paid QB -- but he isn't yet. His salary is less than $1 million this season, and while he got a $10 million signing bonus, that can be spread over five years. His salary cap hit for 2020 is just over $5 million. All those other guys fit at the numbers they are at because the QB is so relatively cheap. The Chiefs will have to make some things work once Mahomes starts collecting the big dollars. There's no question the Chiefs have done a wonderful job collecting talent and making it fit with the cap -- but there is also no question that the way the league is structured, they will only have a window with all those guys. This is their window.
From James Lane via azcardinals.com:
"What are your thoughts on Patrick Peterson and his long-term future with the Cardinals? It's always been my belief that you must have a replacement for a player before you move on from them. In PP's case, a bonafide #1 CB on the roster. We currently don't have that guy, and hence I don't believe we should depart from PP. Hes still a top 20 CB. That's still makes him one of the most elite players on earth. It's not like 30-year old P2 is going to be asking for Tre'davious White money. Give PP whatever Richard Sherman gets. That's fair."
Well, when Sherman signed his last contract, he was coming off a serious injury and didn't have a ton of leverage. It ended up being pretty team-friendly, especially since Sherman has played well. If Peterson plays well this season and doesn't get hurt, his bargaining position is going to be a heck of a lot stronger. I don't get the sense Patrick is just gonna say, "Hey, I'm 30, give me less money." I don't know why he would. Steve Keim has said he wants to keep Peterson. Peterson said it makes sense for him to stick around and added he's not going to let the contract situation derail his focus. But as always with potential free agent, money is the ultimate factor.
From @BoyGreen25 via Twitter:
"Where does Chandler Jones rank among the greatest players in Cardinals history?"
That's an interesting question at this point in Jones' career. The Cardinals' history goes back a long, long time, across eras that are really apples and oranges to compare. It'd be tough to say he wasn't the best pass rusher already -- he'll be the career leader in sacks at some point this season, at a rate that's ridiculously higher than the man he'll supplant, Freddie Joe Nunn. But if you are talking the best players, first he'd have to make the Hall of Fame (which he could very well do performing at this level for a few more years). The Cardinals have a few of those guys already, obviously, in addition to one shoo-in to come. That's something on the resumé that tends to influence the "greatest players" argument in any situation.
From Jen Nichols via azcardinals.com:
(Here's a special Kyle Odegard leftover question from last week):
"KYYYYLE! Wassup man. You need to jump on the bag more often. There's a million questions I could ask you, but I'l limit it to a couple rapid fire. No need to go into too much depth. 1. Who's the more chill coach: Kliff or Bruce. 2. Are you a gamer? What's your game of choice? 3. If offered a promotion, would you go to another team? 4. Who's the most unheralded person who works for the Cardinals? I have a feeling there is one person on this team (could be a player or staff member or office worker) who is more important than any fan realizes. 5. Who was 'your guy' you wished the Cards drafted? Couple years ago there was a DT named Mo Hurst, went to the Raiders and I was so mad. Also Poona Ford out of Texas, went to Seattle. Both guys have been studs."
(Kyle): Looks like the mailbag isn't in my rear-view mirror quite yet.
- Kliff. B.A. is chill most of the time but he can also go from zero to 100 real quick.
- I played Halo in college but haven't jumped on the sticks in years. This will reveal how much of a nerd I am, but I like to play chess online. But, hey, so does Kyler Murray, so if you make fun of me, you are making fun of him.
- My wife and I are from Arizona so it would be tough to leave.
- Charlie Adkins and the analytics team. I think Kingsbury naturally gravitates to philosophies that mirror analytical recommendations, but backing it up with proof is key, and they give him that evidence.
- I really liked Mahomes. Then again, I thought bypassing Kyler and trading down from No. 1 was the prudent move…
From @larryfitzburner via Twitter:
"Will Larry be used in the slot like he was a couple years ago or as a No. 2?"
(Back to Darren)
That's a great question. Ultimately this comes down to how DeAndre Hopkins might influence the wide receiver use. It would have been great to see how Fitz was used during the offseason work, but (*insert sad trombone here*) My guess is that Fitz will see action in both spots, because I would expect to see Christian Kirk get work in both spots as well. And if Andy Isabella is going to be part of this equation, he's probably best served in the slot too.
From Tom Cowley via azcardinals.com:
"Thanks Darren. One last addition, much needed apparently, is our Arizona guy from the Vikings. What are your odds that it will happen? Is there an insurmountable hurdle holding up this move? Everson Griffen knows us and we know him, and need him!"
Well, I don't know how much Griffen knows the Cardinals. I don't know if it is "much needed," although it probably wouldn't hurt. You are making an assumption there is something there that needs to be hurdled. I haven't heard anything about potential signings right now. Money is always a factor -- as in, if the Cards are an option, is he willing to take situational pass rusher money, which is what he would be on the depth chart. Maybe that ship has sailed, although at this point there are still a lot of veteran pass rushers still looking for teams.
From @Balliwood784 via Twitter:
"Can Isaiah Simmons change his number, and what numbers could he change it too?"
So no, I don't believe he could change his number, not this season. It's why it's so important when the No. 1 pick chooses his number initially -- because the jerseys are going to be made and sold. Somewhere down the line, perhaps he could, but he'd have to go through a process of applying and at some point, he'd have to probably buy out the remaining No. 48 jerseys made for sale. (This is something any player who changes his number and has a popular jersey for fans must do.) As for what number, he could still pick any number in the 40s, 50s or 90s, which are all allowed for linebackers.
From David Beiber via azcardinals.com:
"If the league goes forward with no preseason games, wouldn't make sense to increase the player roster size beyond the expanded 55 for the first few regular season games? This would allow teams to better evaluate rookies on the bubble. Thanks."
All that is still being evaluated. Expanded rosters probably make sense in the current environment, but how big? And how much extra are owners willing to pay -- every guy on the roster is another paycheck, and also, how would that work with the salary cap, especially with some teams already butting up against it? These are all the issues that have to be discussed and finalized. My guess is that there will be an extended practice squad with easier-to-make up-and-down moves so that while the roster itself may not be larger it'll be more fluid.
From Alan N. via azcardinals.com:
"Good mid-July, Mr. Urban! There is lots of confidence with where this offensive line is going in 2020 and that may very well be the situation. However with someone like the three time Pro bowl Larry Warford still being available for the interior, being this late and close to training camps to start, would it be at all probable to pick Warford up lower than what his asking price is with a little Keim magic? I haven't watched a lot of tape with Warford at all but there has been some speculation that the Saints cut the better guy than the one they drafted in Ruiz. I guess I just like the reassurance of having the cards stacked in our favor if the price is too right to pass up. After this season I guess we could look to the likes of Brandon Scherff hitting free agency and not sure if Washington will be able to contain him there. What do you think?"
I am a little surprised Warford hasn't signed somewhere, but at this point, I would be a little surprised if they made such a move. If they truly felt like an upgrade was needed, I would think they could have done it already. As for the idea of getting Warford -- who, if he signed, would probably only be for one year, meaning 2021 would be back up in the air -- and Scherff, who will get a huge deal, I don't see that happening. Not when you have to potentially pay, as noted before, Peterson and Jones and Baker (and Hopkins?) and with a flat salary cap or even a lower one.
From @trs2871 via Twitter:
"What do you see Andy Isabella's role being this year?"
Right now, it'll be whatever he might be able to earn as we go. I don't think the Cardinals can make the assumption he will be ready/able to jump right into a significant role, and besides, if they lean more toward 11 personnel, they have three receivers ahead of him in Hopkins, Fitz and Kirk. I know that isn't a solid answer, but I don't know -- especially with a lost offseason -- if Isabella has a solid role. He'll be on the roster. Beyond that, it'll be wait-and-see.
From Young D HMO via azcardinals.com:
"I don't understand how will we build our team if they eliminate preseason. Just happened that 'Hard Knocks' was on (when writing this), and re-watching that, it's clear how important preseason is for figuring out depth. How do you think that'll all sort out? As a quick additional question -- do you think there's a chance we lose the football season altogether?"
As I prepare this mailbag, the discussion of whether to have a preseason game or two is still underway. I do think coaches get a window into formulating their depth charts with those games, and I do think there are many instances of players earning their way into the NFL through those games. But if they eliminated preseason totally, is it crippling? I don't think so. It's what we are all faced with because of the coronavirus. Certainly, there will be some unknown players who will miss an opportunity. As for a lost season, I will be surprised if it is lost altogether. I don't know what'll look like once it is finished, but I'll be surprised if it didn't happen period.
From Michael Cantor via azcardinals.com:
"Why don't the Cardinals and other NFL owners create a fund to advertise fighting the COVID virus with masks and distancing. It will make them money, as I fear otherwise many, if not all, NFL games and college football will be cancelled. Many states that fans reside in are not wearing masks or even believe the virus threat is real. I think many of them are football fanatics."
The Cardinals have done some public service in that area with both masks and social distancing. I'm not always sure advertising necessarily will change some of the minds to which you refer. The President finally is on board with mask-wearing, so hopefully that will have a trickle-down effect going forward. But you are right, wearing masks and being smart about the seriousness of the virus will help make sure football could happen, and without it, it becomes much more difficult.
From Shaak Ti via azcardinals.com:
"What are your thoughts on the coaching arrangement in the Cardinals? And what I mean is, Kliff is the HC, but moreso than any HC in the NFL, he's mostly just the OC and QB coach. Every position on the team seems to answer to their position coaches, moreso than Kliff, as a result of Kliff being a rookie NFL HC. The OL answers to Sean Kugler, as if he's HC. And so on. Personally I like it. It creates ownership and specialization among the position coaches and players. In years to come, when Kliff gets more time in the head coach chair, maybe that changes and he becomes a team dictator, but I like the current setup."
Well, I'd disagree with you basically. Kliff may lean on assistants, especially defensively, and he may be a little more laid-back than some coaches, but make no mistake, he's the head coach. Maybe that doesn't come across publicly, but it is so. My thought is you better have strong confidence in your assistant coaches -- otherwise, why hire them? Kugler is a powerful voice, and he does have input, but it's Kliff's team. Just because Kingsbury was a rookie NFL head coach doesn't mean he was a rookie head coach. He's done this before.
From Jack Douglas via azcardinals.com:
"Greetings from across the pond in the UK. I'm seeing more and more videos and articles about the Cards trading for Yannick Ngakoue. Now before half of the Red Sea rolls its eyes, I know there would have to be either some restructuring of current deals or players and /or picks heading the other way. Do you think this is at all likely?"
I haven't seen any videos and/or articles about that, frankly. I have a guess the kinds of places you may be seeing this, but no, I do not think that is likely at all. The only real scenario I could see that happening with would be to 1) know he could transition to linebacker and 2) basically trade away Chandler Jones to get him. Because the money he wants and the money coming Jones' way are not compatible, not with other needs across the roster.
From Josey Nanos via azcardinals.com:
"Busts happen. But my question is, does Steve Keim or the team take steps to understand why they miss on a guy? I think there's two big busts that annoy people the most. First, the personality bust. Why could the team not see this guy would be a problem? Robert Nkemdiche is the easy example. You spend months and months scouting a guy, at no point do you not realize he has issues? Second, the ability bust -- or actually 'the no-plan' bust. Haason Reddick. Let's use a first-round pick on a guy but not really have any plan on how to use him. These busts are egregious. That's the one I'm terrified for in regards to Isaiah Simmons. I'm just looking for some reassurance that this leadership can learn from past mistakes. Personality busts are unforgivable because you should see those coming, and no-plan busts might be even worse."
So you say busts happen -- like sometimes they are understandable -- but then you basically say they are not? I mean, the only other kind, I suppose, is that the guy busts because he just isn't talented. Which to me would be more egregious than anything. I can't argue with Nkemdiche, but the thought process was that he was so talented it was worth the risk that late in the round. (Wonder, had Paxton Lynch been the call had he lasted, if there would be an issue with the pick. Cards needed a QB.) I will say I disagree with you on Reddick. There was a plan. They wanted to make him another Daryl Washington, and they thought he had the attributes to do that. You can argue there was far too much projection for that (or even that they should've traded up for Mahomes or Watson), but they had a plan. It just didn't work out. As for Simmons, I think they will also have a plan. Will it work, or will it be the one you want? I don't know. But you don't take a guy like that without knowing what you expect to do with him.
From Larry FitzLegendo via azcardinals.com:
"Do you think the personnel upgrades on defense puts the pressure on Vance Joseph to produce? It's sort of a double-edged sword. Hes got some horses now, but they better play well. I hope he does put together a dominant defense. If not, and we start looking for a new DC, there's a fella I feel like everybody has forgotten about. Ray Horton. Am I alone? Or do I remember his amazing defenses, prior to getting replaced by Todd Bowles, whom all Cards fans were maaaaaad until we realized Bowles was also amazing."
I think Vance wants to produce regardless, and he knows the spotlight will be bright. It's kind of funny when you say, "they better play well." Is there a time when you're like, "they better play terribly"? Obviously I was around for the Horton era, and his defenses were regarded well, especially given that the offense gave them little help. But I don't understand the idea of worrying about changing coaches. The Cardinals are about to go into a new season, and there is little question Joseph was left short-handed with personnel last year. How about we see how this goes first.
From Will Randle via azcardinals.com:
"Are there any camp gems you foresee? Last year I was Miles Brown's biggest fan. I went to a bunch of Cards' practices and Brown looked like an off-brand Aaron Donald. Obviously we didn't see that production in-games, but I think he has crazy talent."
Brown caught their eye last year, although he, like most of the inexperienced young players, could've used offseason work. It's that lack of offseason work that's going to make it harder for any "camp gems" this year. Usually we are talking about undrafted rookies. One name pops to mind, and it's only because of his draft status (because he has name recognition) is Eno Benjamin. With his position, he has a chance to grab some attention.
From Scott McDonald via azcardinals.com:
"Do you feel like you missed an opportunity to be 'a little philosophical on a Wednesday' when Paul Calvisi was endlessly referencing Denny Green quotes on Cardinals Underground last week?"
First of all, God bless you for remembering Denny's initial reaction to a Matt Leinart question of mine a lifetime ago. There are so many Denny Green stories that could be told. So many things that went on those three years. It's funny though -- on the podcast, I referenced the infamous Green Monday Night Meltdown rant, Paul noted he had to do the coach radio interview after that happened, and Denny basically repeated himself on radio, just calmer. I never knew that (and you can hear the clip near the end of the podcast.)
From Steven Stardevant via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren. Since you are the man who knows; with the much anticipated Kurt Warner biopic hopefully coming out around Christmas time, I was wondering if Kurt or the producers have slipped to you which one of the Muppets was chosen to play Paul Calvisi in his cameo performance in the movie?"
To clarify, Warner is now saying because of the pandemic, the hope is for the movie to come out for Christmas 2021.
Otherwise, I mean, Steven ... shots fired.