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You've Got Mail: At The Owners Meetings

Topics include the QB plan, quiet free agency, and drafting at 3

Michael Bidwill mailbag 032623

It's another day-early mailbag, with Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon speaking at the owners' meeting at the Biltmore Tuesday and that story taking precedent. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. As always, you can send in a question for a future mailbag here.

From jpr cards:

"Darren, what do you think is the immediate plan at QB for the beginning of the 2023 season? Colt McCoy is here but is he really looked at as being a starter? David Blough is here but I think that most of us feel that he in reality is not a legitimate NFL starter. I know he did OK when he played last season but it isn't as though he is some unknown player with a world of upside. Do you think that the team intends to perhaps bring in another arm for camp, let them all compete and then ride with one until Murray is ready to return?"

I covered a lot of this on Friday here. But it doesn't make much sense to me to bring back Blough with McCoy and then add yet another veteran. Yes, there will be other quarterbacks. Maybe a draft pick. Maybe undrafted. I do think there will be open competition with a new coaching staff. We still don't know what Kyler's return timeline might be, either.

From Lou Salsbury:

"Hi Darren. My question is about the team claiming the priority this year is to build 'culture'. Big fan of that, much needed. As a quick aside, nothing will help has build culture faster than drafting a pro's pro Budda-Baker-mold like Will Anderson Jr, although I know I'm preaching to the choir on that one. Here's my concern with 2023. It's very difficult to build a positive culture on a football team who goes 2-15. Is it possible to build a good culture on a dreadful team? Thanks."

We will see where this team is later. But I will say that not all records mean the same thing and you can have a lot of losses and still be headed in the right direction -- especially if you are a young team that picked some good players in the draft. Yes, that still has to happen. But what helps the culture is not just wins, it's also hope. If there is hope going forward, it can happen.

From John McGill:

"Darren, I have been reading how the Cardinals are grading out poor for their free agent signings. I feel we have to wait to judge it on knowing what kind of system the new coaches implement I do not know anything about the players they have signed so far. Which free agents that the Cardinals have gotten so far do you like?"

It isn't a surprise that they signed a couple of Eagles, but I like the White and Pascal signings because it gives them players on both sides of the ball that know how Gannon operates and can help disseminate that in the locker room. For what it is, I also like the Woods signing, because he was a captain and he can help in the locker room. One thing about the signings -- guys who sign deals like this, at least many of them, are still going to have to fight for spots. So when we talk about camp battles, there are going to be a lot of them this year.

From Joao Miguel:

"Hi Darren. You've been around for quite a while. Would you agree that this offseason is possibly the lowest point in fan morale that you have ever seen? This is my impression, and it seems to be surpassing the Dave McGinnis final year."

I mean, the end of the Whisenhunt era, with the 58-0 loss in Seattle and the lack of a QB at this time of the offseason was difficult. I think whenever you feel things are down it feels like the worst it's been. You mention that I've been around this a while. True. If I have learned anything in my life -- not just with this team -- it's that it doesn't make much sense to stress about things that have yet to happen. I know that's generally not how sports and sports fandom work, and that's fine. I don't begrudge anyone feeling that way. I am going to be here this year. And next season. And the season after that. I can take a long-term view, and it seems that's what the new regime is trying to do as well.

From Garth Short:

"Darren, if you get the opportunity, please ask Monti Ossenfort this question: 'What was the biggest roadblock that you encountered in trying to land free agents?' Feel free to voice your opinion, as well. Thanks."

I would have no idea. I never got the sense, given the circumstances, the Cardinals were going to be chasing a bunch of big names, not with the Kyler uncertainty and not with the roster in the need of an overhaul, and not with a new coach and GM in place. We can see what Ossenfort says next time he talks with the media.

From Art Pozza:

"In a trade down scenario, it may work out in a year or two. But I don't think it will appease the fans. The Cardinals need edge Will Anderson. He will give the fans something to feel good about this year. It will probably take time to get the team back to playoff contention, but it will the fans something to be excited about this season. Do you agree?"

This is my opinion, and I hope it is taken the correct way, but teams that make moves for the purpose of appeasing fans are making a mistake. That doesn't mean a move a team makes can't also appease the fans, but it can't be the driving reason for a decision. I think Anderson would be a great pick. But if some teams offers to give you the farm and you can still get, say, Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez, you really think that'd be bad?

From Buzzy Brah:

"All I'm saying is if we don't get a good return for Hop, we should just keep him. His value as a good culture guy (not to mention on-field value) is more valuable to us than some fifth-round pick. It's not like we NEED his cap space given we aren't signing anyone."

Let's be clear: Dealing Hopkins isn't about cap space. It'd be mostly about moving on when his talents might not make a huge difference in the current climate. You are also assuming he wants to stay; it's tough to be a "good culture guy" if you are unhappy. We will see how this plays out. He hasn't said he wants out, but to be fair, Hop hasn't said he wants to stay either.

From Joe Casleton:

"Hello Darren. By losing Zach Allen and Byron Murphy as free agents, will the Cardinals receive two third-round compensatory draft picks in the 2024 draft?"

As of this mailbag, estimates that the Cardinals would get a fourth-round pick for losing Zach Allen. Unfortunately, the contract of Byron Murphy was so small it is canceled out by the signing of linebacker Kyzir White in terms of a comp pick. Given where we are in free agency and who is left from the Cardinals that are free agents, I am expecting that the Allen 4th-rounder is the only one they could get. And that too still could change.

From T in 801:

"Why is the team still using the same business model it has the last 6-7 years when it comes to free agency now that there is cap space and new management? Is this an ownership thing? Also, if Arizona accepts a trade on draft day to move from the third pick to the fourth to gain a pick and still have a shot at Anderson do they have to take the risk of getting burned or can they privately negotiate with the trading team that the third pick will not be used on Anderson?"

Not sure what you mean by the same business model. There have been years in that timeframe when they have added "names." The last two years? OK, they haven't gone after much. And while they could be more aggressive this year, they never were going to be able to be ultra-aggressive given the number of players they need on the roster and their existing cap space. As for the trade, I mean, they can try and ask what the Colts would be doing if they swapped picks, but if I am the Colts and I am giving the Cardinals a premium, I'm telling them "I'm taking whoever I want."

From Rich May:

"Is it possible that Dennis Gardeck will start at OLB this season? He seems to be a very quick and smart player, but they leave him on the bench often. I've watched him closely for the past two years and I am amazed at his speed, strength, and nose for the ball. He seems to be as adept against the run and pass equally. He just always seems to play under the radar."

I don't expect Gardeck to be a starter. I think he benefits from having Jeff Rodgers remain as special teams coordinator; Rodgers knows Gardeck's value in that area of the game. But with Myjai Sanders and probably a draft pick and even Cam Thomas, I don't see a path for Gardeck to start on defense.

From Louis Frustaglio:

"I just read that Cooper Rush just re-signed with the Cowboys as backup QB for two years, $6 million I believe. I'm curious why the Cardinals did not look into that. Rush played really well when Dak was hurt."

I'll be honest I don't see Rush being any better than Colt McCoy, whom you already had under contract.

From Matthew Jones:

"Hello from the UK. Thank you for your mailbag and insights into the Cardinals. Could I ask your opinion on what you would like the Cardinals to do with the No. 3 pick. I can see two scenarios playing out, picking a great defensive player or trading back. Thoughts always welcome, which move would benefit the team the most and set up best for future success."

As I have mentioned before, I'd need to see what a team is willing to give up if I am trading back. I'm not ruling anything out. I love the idea of Anderson. But can I get a really good defensive player and another second-round pick and another first-round pick in 2024? You have to at least consider it.

From Nick Major:

"Hi Darren, I know you're hearing it on Twitter, so might as well address it in the mailbag. How many friggin linebackers do we need? It's not funny anymore. Keim drafted nothing but linebackers every year. Well here we have a new GM, new era and still it's nothing but linebackers. It hurts the soul."

How many linebackers do the Cardinals need. Let's consider that. If the Cardinals are moving to a 4-3, that would mean the edge players are likely going to play defensive end. Even if we assume Isaiah Simmons remains at linebacker -- which is not a sure thing -- the Cardinals at the beginning of free agency then had exactly three linebackers on the roster: Simmons, Zaven Collins, and Blake Lynch. They re-signed Turner and signed Woods, but both are here for special teams. White and Barnes will have a chance to play, but just because these guys are signing doesn't mean they will make the final roster.

From Greg Painter:

"Okie Greg again. I think I have all the trade-back rants out of my system for the time being. As I sit here and look at the free agency tracker and I see NO huge splashes and I LOVE IT! My question is don't you think this is exactly what Cards need to do? Not overspend for overpriced free agent just to put butts in seats and save money and flexibility for when a move or moves need to be made. I would rather have a bad season or two while rebuilding for yearly contention for an extended period of time instead of over spending to TRY to make the playoffs. Also, is there any chance the Cards take a QB in the mid-to-late rounds that is closer to Kyler's skill set, like UCLA's Dorian Thompson-Robinson?"

I don't know if it's exactly what they need to do but I do think that's the path they are taking. It makes sense to clear the decks and start over with a new GM and new coach. But we will see how the roster build goes through the end of the offseason. As for drafting a QB, I do think it is possible, although I don't know if they are going to take a guy just to mirror Kyler. I'd think they'd just want to take a guy who they think can succeed on this level regardless of skillset.

From John Turilli:

"Do you know the Cardinals' cap number before free agency? I think -- and will ask you -- that championship teams are built through the draft? And do you think it wise to draft a quarterback in round three to bring in maybe a solid back up to Kyler?"

Going into free agency, the Cardinals had about $34 million or so. It's clear they had a plan that didn't include spending a lot of that. I do think championship teams need a foundation through the draft, because you need stars that are still on rookie deals, although acquiring help through trade and free agency is still crucial (see Stafford, Matthew.) As for drafting a QB, I won't be surprised if they take one, but do I think it's in the first three rounds? When you need as much as the Cardinals do, I'm not sure I'm spending one on a backup QB.

From Cameron Crawfish:

"Hi Darren. It's expected D-Hop is traded this offseason. But as time passes and a trade hasn't been made, the topic of cost has started to swirl. I understand we rebuilding and part of that is cutting away older, expensive contracts but I really think if we don't get what we want for him (say a second-round pick) that we just keep him. We probably won't win much in 2023 but D-Hop will make us a little more competitive. What do you think? Is there a chance we keep him?"

I do think there is a chance the Cardinals keep him. But as I noted earlier, there is a lot that plays into this, including any trade games of chicken between teams that would want him and the Cardinals. The Cardinals would be a better team with Hopkins. That is fact. It is fascinating to see how this ultimately plays out, and if Hopkins stays, how that looks as well.

From Gabe Pritchett:

"Hey buddy. I'm sitting back watching the tourney (heartbroken for ASU) and simultaneously following NFL free agency. So we are through the first wave of FA. And the second. And the third. And possibly the fourth, and we haven't really dove in yet. At this point I don't even think we're in the ocean haha. I understand this is a rebuild, but coaches/GMs never 'want' to go 0-17. But we have been so inactive in FA, it kinda feels like we are preparing the for the 2024 draft. Am I wrong? For the record, I'm cool with it. But this is unusual even by rebuild standards."

The Cardinals have actually been more active in free agency this year than they were last year. And that was when people were waiting for them to compete for something. One thing I haven't heard from anyone is how weak this overall free agent class was in the first place; just because players are out there doesn't mean you want to shower some of them with a big contract. Again, it feels like this is a reset that is going to take some time. Jonathan Gannon talks Tuesday; I am guessing that subject will come up.

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