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You've Got Mail: Bears Week

Topics include the third pick target, Kyler's progress, and Hollywood's future

Mailbag Gardeck and crew 121923

It's nearly Christmas, and a Christmas Eve game against the Bears in Chicago. I'm sure it won't be chilly or anything. First, our mailbag. (Also, I am not sure why people would think I'd want to use a question when they insult me. Seems odd.) Questions have been edited for length and clarity. Don't forget to send a question for a future mailbag.

From Miles Mann:

"Hi Darren! The Cardinals currently own the third pick. If quarterbacks go 1-2, do you think it would be better to draft Marvin Harrison Jr, or trade down for a bigger need like offensive line or cornerback? Harrison would be a really good playmaker to pair with Murray, but we do have so many other needs we need to address."

You are making the assumption it wouldn't be OK to take another player at 3 instead of Harrison. (I know, I know, that's just gonna get everyone riled up.) As always, I'd prefer to analyze what I think can happen rather than make it be about me; I don't have all the information to make the call for starters and secondly, my opinion would mean little. I think they will keep their options open. If the Bears keep Justin Fields, Harrison might be their guy anyway. I wouldn't rule out Harrison but I have said many times that Monti seems to want to build from the key positions and frankly, there are others (OL, DL, Edge, CB) that rank ahead of wideout.

From Kenneth Schroeder:

"Good evening. After reading the articles last week, I felt optimistic about Kyler Murray and his performance trending up. Feeling more comfortable in the system. But Sunday he looked off. Not targeting a wide receiver until late in the second half to pair with his two ugly picks. It didn't really look like he had that much pressure in his face overall, just bad decision making or missing throws. What are your thoughts of Murray's performance and are still sticking with your assessment of him being this team's franchise QB?"

Kyler didn't play great Sunday, but he was also going against one of the best defenses in the league and his top wide receiver is hurt. The pick-6 wasn't a good decision; it looked on replay he just should've thrown it sooner. But not throwing to wideouts wasn't what was wrong on Sunday and I'm not a fan of forcing the ball to guys -- unless they are a Larry Fitzgerald-type. I still think they are going to make him their guy for many reasons. We will see what this all looks like at season's end.

From Jeremy Buena:

"I can't fathom why we would want to re-sign Hollywood Brown. He's a non-contributor. You can say its not his fault (as he can't throw the ball to himself) but fact are facts, he's a non-factor. Trey McBride is our No. 1 pass catcher. And say we draft Marvin Harrison Jr (fingers crossed), I expected Trey to simply be our No. 2 'WR'. We've seen with Kelce in KC that a top flight TE is every bit the receiving target a WR is. Brown, at best, will be a No. 3 going forward. You want to pay a No. 3 WR $10M+? I don't."

You want to call McBride a top target fine, but I'll admit, even with quotes it bugs me to call him a wide receiver. That position -- and tight end -- do other different things than each other. You will still need wide receivers. As for Brown, he's hurt, he's been hurt, and that plays a large factor in his current situation. I don't know if he will re-sign. There were reports they were talking, but that happens with a lot of players. You are also assuming Brown's salary number, which may or may not land there after what has been a frustrating season for him and the team.

Fom Robert Malicki:

"Hello, Darren, The news recently of Budda Baker being a sportsmanship finalist is heartwarming and along with the highlighting of players like James Connor in the news it sure seems like there is a committed and virtuous locker room environment. It seems like this atmosphere has always been there though. So, why does the media virtual signal our ownership as being among the worst in the NFL? We had Larry Fitzgerald and kept him engaged and happy. Ownership got Kurt Warner and look at what he did? Michael entrusted the team to Steve Keim and Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer and reminiscing of them still excites me. This morning I listened to Colin Cowherd and our Cardinals were poorly spoken of. I think that's unfair because in was widely accepted that without Kyler and Zack and JJ and players lost to FA we were going to be a bottom feeder. Sadly, this has indeed happened but a Michael-hired new GM and HC are establishing themselves."

This organization is working hard to get to that culture and yes, players like Baker and Conner help. I do think Jonathan Gannon and Monti Ossenfort have a clear view of how they want to get this franchise to where it needs to be. I don't know there is virtue signaling; there are documented issues that were here in the past (and an owner who has made clear he wants to make things better than they were.) This is what a pro sports team is about. There will be supporters. There will be critics. In both cases some will be deserved and some will not. Meanwhile, we wait to see how this new regime moves the franchise forward, with a huge offseason awaiting.

From Nigel Green:

"Greetings Mr Urban, I know it's early for offseason questions but I was wondering, If offensive line rookies take longer to acclimate than defensive rookies do you think the Cardinals upgrade the OL through free agency and the DL/ pass rush through the draft? Thanks as always for the mailbag and everything else you and your colleagues do."

I don't think that plays into whether you take a premium lineman, like they did last year with Paris Johnson. I think they will look at both lines in free agency, but depending on where they pick and who is out there in free agency, defensive line will be important. Again, if you have a good rookie, this staff is going to play him, and that's the best way to get guys acclimated. 

From Matthew Stroh:

"Hey Darren, thank you for the mailbag. I've been a fan of the Cardinals since Kurt Warner times. I'm not saying that three wins is a good thing but with first-year coaches I see a lot of progress. I believe with another year in the system and even without adding pieces that we all know we need to add these young players will learn and get more comfortable with all the coaches and I see big improvements for the future. What IR players are FA this offseason? Who would you bring back? And with more international games coming in the coming years what country that you maybe have not been to or would love to go back to?"

I wouldn't be surprised -- depending on whom else they sign -- that the Cardinals would want to keep some combination of defensive linemen L.J. Collier, Carlos Watkins and Leki Fotu. All of them are hurt, but you will still need depth on the line next season, and combing through those options will be important. As for other countries, I would love to get a game in Germany and maybe Brazil. I'd like to go back to London. Wherever the Cardinals play -- and make no mistake, we are moving toward a time when every team has one international game every season -- I want them to be competitive. They have not been in their last couple of tries. 

From Justin S:

"Darren, thanks again for all you do. Not necessarily a Cardinals question, but my mind was reflecting recently. It definitely feels like players who sign a big contract get hurt and go on IR soon afterwards. Generally the next season. Is there a statistic on that? Thanks!"

There isn't an statistic on that but I would argue that it just seems like guys with big contracts get hurt more often because we pay closer attention to them. There are so many injuries each year, there is no correlation. And I keep noting Chandler Jones, who signed his big contract extension with the Cardinals and went on to have his best NFL seasons. 

From Charles Hunt:

"Hi Darren, what are your thoughts on moving Zaven Collins back to inside linebacker? I thinks it's highly likely his fifth-year option will be declined. I think his size is better to help stuff runs as a MLB, and unfortunately the pass rush moves aren't there."

I find it hard to think this coaching staff -- who had the chance to keep Collins inside and not sign other veterans to play that role in this defense -- chose to put him outside thinking he was better suited insider. I think the contract speculation might be right when it comes to that option, but right now, no, I don't see them moving him back. 

From Calvin Seddewick:

"Please give me some space to rant. Once upon a time, not that long ago, there was a young QB who made the Pro Bowl, won 10+ games and was an MVP candidate. Kyler Murray? No, Carson Wentz. When are we going to end this mythos that Kyler is a franchise QB? It really bothers me when people make excuses like 'He's coming back from injury.' Throwing an uncatchable football that lands 20 feet out of bounds has nothing to do with 'learning a new system.' Why does Kyler get endless chances while Josh Rosen (in arguably a far worse situation) was 1-and-done? Why did Josh get no patience? No support? Kylers had five years of wait-and-see and we are still waiting to see. When, Darren? I know what the answer should be. But I don't make the big decisions."

Wait, wait, wait. You are going to honestly argue Josh Rosen is as good as Kyler? Please tell me you are not. And if you are arguing that Kyler got more runway than Rosen, well, yes. I'll let you in on a hint: Lots of player are treated differently in the NFL (and in pro sports) than the rank and file. You're being disingenuous if you don't acknowledge as such. Murray has shown way, way more than Rosen did, and it can be argued, than Wentz did. The Ringer, for one example, has Murray around a top 10 or 12 QB in the NFL. (Also please let me get those examples of the 20-feet out of bounds throws to which you refer.) 

I get it. You think the Cardinals should move on from Kyler. Curious to know your overall path of the roster-building if they do that -- who they draft (likely unable to get one of the top two QBs), how they go about filling a number of other holes that need addressing, how they manage the cap after moving from Kyler. Gotta have those answers -- changing QBs on that level doesn't happen in a vacuum. 

From CB1:

"Hi Darren, honest question: Do you know why Kei'Trel Clark keeps getting benched, but you're just not allowed to tell us? It's clearly non-football related. Every time he starts he's solid. If Jalen Thompson suddenly was a healthy scratch, that would be big news. Well, same for Clark. He's a starter on this team who keep getting benched and the fandom smells BS. What's going on."

I have my own honest question: Why would you be afraid to put your name on this question? (Or any question, really.) Could you get in trouble at work if you send in a question to a mailbag? I just don't get it. As far as Clark, he talked about the very real football reasons he was benched originally and then he got back in the lineup because Antonio Hamilton got hurt. Hamilton missed two games, Clark started those games, Hamilton came back against the Niners, Clark went back to special teams. 

From Jimmy Anderson:

"Thanks Darren for the mailbag. I spend most of my time watching Cardinal games, but with the bye, I took the time to watch some teams I don't normally watch. It feels like a backhanded compliment, but, I'm amazed at how the Cardinals have performed with the lack of big-named talent. I think it's a testament to the Monti and the coaching staff to find the right players with the right attitude and coach them the right way. Anyway, I feel like with Kyler's talent, building around the OL for protection is key. I know a lot of fans are hoping for a big-name receiver, but I've read that there's a lot of WR talent in this draft so thinking about the center position specifically. I remember when Rodney Hudson first came in, it seemed like it had an amazing effect on Kyler, which I believe helped the team that year start off as strong as it did. It seems like this year, Froholdt has been fine (at least I don't hear him being talked about in a negative sense), but it doesn't seem like he's been as impactful as Hudson was when he first got here. Do we think an upgrade at that position would have as much of an impact that I'm making it out to be?"

I do think Froholdt has been an excellent signing, considering his cost and his level of play. Do I think there could be a center drafted? Maybe. They do have Jon Gaines, who has missed all this season with a knee injury but was drafted for the position last year. Hudson did help Kyler, but I also agree big-picture that the OL is key. Do they make a move at left guard? Center? Do they draft another tackle?

From Juan de la Peña:

"Hi Darren, do you have a list in your mind of potential free agent that you would like the Cardinals to try to sign? I know you don't like to talk about that yet, but we are no longer in a playoff chase so ...."

That's a fair point, but there is so much time between now and mid-March when free agency begins. Mostly I don't know who will be out there. It'll matter what players sign extensions before they reach free agency, it'll matter who the Cardinals re-sign before then. I don't know names. But the positions you'd think they'd look at feel obvious -- OL and DL, cornerback, maybe a receiver. 

From Mike Neagle:

"Hi Darren, some months ago I asked you about Matt Araiza and if the Cardinals would hire him after he was found NOT GUILTY? Well, he has been found NOT GUILTY. This is a NO BRAINER on getting this kid. This time I hope you get the point."

1) The charges were dropped. He was not found NOT GUILTY.
2) Blake Gillikin is averaging more than 50 yards a punt, which would be a team record. Of all the things that need addressing on the roster, I don't think punter is one of them. 

From John Staszkiewicz:

"Darren I am a Cardinal fan from St. Louis and am happy that were treated better in Arizona. I will never forget growing up and going to games with my dad. I am still behind them all the way."

The comment about St. Louis is a nod to the newest Folktales episode and the story about the Cardinals coming back from a 23-0 deficit against the future Super Bowl champ 49ers when the Cards first moved to Arizona in 1988. It was a good story. Everyone should check it out.

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