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You've Got Mail: Browns Week

Topics include "splash" free agents, systems helping QBs, and home-field advantage


The Cardinals head into their final home game of the season this week by hosting the Cleveland Browns, with longtime Cardinals assistant coach Freddie Kitchens in charge and with the much anticipated Kyler Murray-Baker Mayfield matchup. But first, we have some of your questions. As always, you can send in a question for next week's mailbag by clicking here.

I'll take the latter question first and say, yes, I think there will be an extension or two before March. Narrowing down who that might be is a lot more difficult; it's not just about picking out the player but also trying to figure out what they might be looking for on the market. One guy that I could see them wanting to extend is kicker Zane Gonzalez, who has had an excellent season in a year where kickers around the league have struggled. As far as building blocks, that's a good question. I think they like the way safety Jalen Thompson has played at times. I would guess that Keim would also be referring to other draft picks that perhaps have not stood out per se but that they are counting on going forward, like an Andy Isabella or Mason Cole. How they decide to construct this roster this offseason is going to be fascinating to watch.

From Jazzy Jeff via

"Do you expect a 'big splash' free agent this off season? We are sixth in cap space. And the 3 'big' names are all positions of need: DL Chris Jones, G Joe Thuney, G Brandon Scherff. Yes they will be very expensive. But this team has a talent void, and talent is costly. You get what you pay for, right? Going after even one of these guys would be a major splash. I honestly don't remember the last 'big' splash. Believe it or not but Jared Veldheer and Mike Iupati weren't as big as we think. Good players, but not top five at their positions. Could it have been Edge? I think so."

Well, looking up an article for the top 2014 free agents had Veldheer at No. 6 overall, and the second-best tackle, so I will disagree with you on that one. And Iupati was coming off three straight Pro Bowls. Those aren't any less "splashy" than a Thuney or a Scherff. Chris Jones is someone I'd love to see, although Jones is playing in a 4-3 right now and while some guys can do whatever, fit is important for any free agent. While I understand the desire for a "name," I also know the Cardinals need a lot of pieces. You better be able to find them all if you allocate a big chunk of money to one guy. Look back at the Edgerrin signing. Yes, they paid a lot of money for him. It didn't make the offense much better because he needed more pieces around him. (And Kurt Warner, but that's a mailbag for another day.)

From Sage Jones via

"Darren - I'm impressed as anyone of Lamar Jackson's performance this year. MVP to say the least. But I've been getting a little annoyed by this hindsight culture of the NFL. Now that Lamar is amazing, everybody is pretending they called it, and also lamenting that their own team didn't sign him, Cardinals fans included. It's my contention that while Lamar is a great QB, he is highly system dependent, as is Kyler Murray. Why do people think we signed an unproven college coach as head coach? Colin Kaepernick was a system QB, and went to two NFC championship games and a Super Bowl with that system. There's nothing wrong with being a system QB if you succeed in it. Do you think we have the right system here for Kyler? Do you think Lamar would've been as dominant as he is, had he played for us the last two years?"

Sage, first I want to apologize for trimming down your question, but it got a little long. I feel like there are a lot of what-if questions this week (as you will see as you scroll.) Do I think Jackson would've been as dominant here? Probably not. I do believe Greg Roman's scheme has been excellent, perfect for that team (and Roman, not coincidentally, was also Kaepernick's OC in San Francisco.) I don't know if I'd call Jackson a system QB, because bottom line, isn't every QB a system QB? Everyone says Jackson probably wouldn't be dominant in what, say, the Saints do, but Drew Brees would not be very good with what the Ravens do either.

As for this being the right system for Kyler, I believe it is, in no small part because he has a comfort level in it. You still need the talent to win games, and you still need Murray to continue to learn the game. The system isn't what made Jackson great this season. It was his work ethic and talent.

From Halee Kleo via

"Hey Darren, I for one am very excited for the Haason Reddick transition to OLB. He was a talented pass rusher in college. I think this gives him the best chance to succeed. Did he play at all Sunday? I don't think I saw him. Do you expect Reddick to start getting a lot of OLB reps? We need to see what he can do and there's only three games left."

Reddick played five defensive snaps against the Steelers. There was one play in which he got pressure on QB Duck Hodges. So he played a little. Do I expect him to be out there and starting? No. On the depth chart he's behind Chandler Jones, and Jones is going to play (in fact, Jones played all 60 defensive snaps, so Reddick was on the field for someone else in obvious passing situations.) I am curious to see what Reddick can do, but he played outside linebacker most of 2017. Different coaches, yes. But I think the Cardinals, at this point, have a pretty good idea of what he can do.

I definitely think Jalen has separated himself from Deionte -- Deionte was a healthy scratch Sunday, and Jalen played 38 snaps. But it was interesting that they essentially started three cornerbacks and one safety, and Byron Murphy, one of those cornerbacks, sure looked like he was playing safety a few downs. I don't think anything is locked up for 2020. It's tough to do that on this defense after this season. Change is coming, so we'll have to see who is affected.

From Monty Chiba via

"Hey Darren. What's going on with Chase Edmonds? He's clearly healthy enough to play. I understand 'we have three running backs, there are only so many touches to go around.' But the last time the guy played significantly, he rattled off three touchdowns. Edmonds is arguably our best pure runner. Any insight? Whats going on here?"

I mean, you pretty much summed it up. There are only so many touches. Edmonds might be the best pure runner. But there are other things that go into it. He is not the receiver Kenyan Drake or David Johnson is, so that probably impacts things. Kliff Kingsbury likes have a guy who can do both all the time. Drake is the starter, and Johnson is going to be used. Edmonds is kind of on the outside looking in through no fault of his own. The position will be one of the main storylines to watch in the offseason.

From Punchy Juan via

"Sup D! Appreciate the mailbag as always. I wanted to go left field on you. The Jaguars notably have positioned themselves as London's team, getting in on that overseas market. So I wanted to ask you your thought on the Cardinals doing the same in Mexico. The Suns have done it to a small degree. I really think if the Cardinals pushed for it, they could very easily develop and corner that market. I just know that the Cards are obligated to play an international game, like every team is. And I'd much rather we play a 'home' game in Mexico, than have to fly to London for it. Thoughts?"

Don't say that too loud. Rolando Cantu, the first Mexican-born position player in NFL history (for the Cardinals) and current manager of international business ventures, spends a good chunk of time in Mexico already on that very topic and might be disappointed you overlooked his efforts. The Cardinals have 41 radio stations throughout Mexico carrying their games. And of course, the team played in Mexico City in 2005 -- a game I covered. They've got to win to "corner" any market, and not surprisingly, the Raiders and the Cowboys and their deep history have made their own inroads in Mexico.

From Mebet Tzen via

"I say this out of affection for David Johnson because I want the best for him, do you think there's a chance we trade him to Tampa this off season for a fourth rounder? Nothing significant. Mostly just to free up cap space. But David gets a fresh start with B.A. again, and we free up the logjam at RB. Thoughts?"

Oh, I have thoughts. In the NFL world, a fourth-rounder isn't a first-rounder, but I wouldn't call it insignificant, especially given Johnson's current contract. I don't know the Bucs' running back situation. Kenyan Drake is a free-agent-to-be, so he could leave (which would also help the logjam.) As I sit here now, I expect David Johnson to be a part of the Cardinals' offense next season.

I didn't get a chance to ask the question, but I am sure they would prefer otherwise. Larry Fitzgerald knew it was going to be that way and warned his teammates. As far as helping them get a win, that's hard even with a full house. Fans can't help block, tackle or catch. But there is no doubt fan support is important, and yes, it's tougher when there are so many opposing fans.

From Sam Sutter via

"I watched most of the game against the Rams. Murray very rarely had time to set his feet, survey the field and throw. At one point in the third quarter, the TV broadcast put up a graphic about pass rush pressure and it showed the 80 to 90 percent of the time. Murray was under serious pressure. With the exception of Aaron Donald, the Rams pass rush is average or below average. Isn't that an indictment of the O-line?"

Obviously, a question that came in before the Steelers game. But I'm not sure, on a team with Matthews and Fowler, that the Rams have an average pass rush other than Donald. Was the offensive line good against the Rams? No. Neither was Murray. Or anyone, for that matter. It was interesting to see the stat from Pro Football Focus that after their analysis, they have Murray at fault for 21 of the 46 sacks he's suffered. That isn't to excuse how the line played against the Rams. But again, the line becomes an easy scapegoat and the answer is usually more nuanced.

You are assuming Peters and Clowney will actually hit the open market. I don't see that particular trade either. But obviously, yours is a big-picture question. I understand where you are coming from and the frustration. But if Michael Bidwill has that trust -- and Bidwill does want to win -- he's ultimately the one who matters.

From Chad Johnson via

"On Thursday night they showed Mitch Trubisky's draft card. Got me thinking, a handwritten card could easily be faked. What is the process on how a pick gets from the GM to the podium? Has there ever been an instance of fraud (Raiders kicked scouts out so they didn't trust them...if you're going to be fired anyways, maybe somebody fouled up a pick on purpose)?"

Each team puts a representative at the draft wherever it is held, with a direct line to that team's draft room. When the Cardinals, for instance, decide on their pick, Michael Bidwill calls the rep and makes clear the pick with the spelling and his college. The representative writes it down and delivers it to the NFL representative who gives it to Roger Goodell (or whomever is announcing the pick) after it is logged by the league. Unless a team screws up and doesn't get a trustworthy representative at the phone, it can't be sabotaged.

From Brett Lawrence via

"Before the question I would like to say, I have faith in our secondary, I have faith in our offense and coach K. Not totally sold on Joseph yet. I think at least half of the breakdowns in the secondary can be blamed on the LACK of a pass rush, with the exception of #55. I'm no NFL genius or I'd be making more money but I would go pass rushers with at least the first 2 picks if not 3 either in trades for known performers or actual picks. Thoughts?"

You aren't wrong that the Cardinals need more of a pass rush aside from Chandler Jones. But the top two picks? Nah. I could see the first or second round, but not both. Too many other significant holes. Now, I would try to add some depth as a free agent as well as a high pick. That does make sense.

From Tzur P via

"Hi Darren. I don't want to be negative and all but while you can compare traits between Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray and maybe even Murray is better but when it comes to clutch and the two-minute offense it seems like Murray becomes a little stressed out. Is this a rookie thing or a bad sign? That's the most important thing I want to compare to Wilson."

First of all, no one has said Murray is better than Russell Wilson. He is not. And I can't think of anyone currently in the NFL that I would rather have in a two-minute drive than Wilson. So that's a pretty high bar. But yes, Murray has some growing to do in that regard. I think it's a rookie thing. I think everyone has to remember Murray's lack of experience and realize there has to be some patience with him.

From Tom Cowley via

"Do you think Jalen Davis stays or returns to the practice squad, then bring back the new defensive lineman we dropped? Or is Davis a keeper? Pass D is a problem which doesn't go away."

I expect Davis to stick around after Tramaine Brock was let go. I don't know if they bring back Caraun Reid. I do think the last few weeks will give the chance to have the Cardinals look at some players at the bottom of the roster, at least in practice situations. I don't know if Davis is a key answer in the pass defense issues.

From Leslie Chan via

"What were your takeaways after posting that 'Keim's plans for 2020' article? Beneath the many layers of passive-aggression and the sarcastic Gifs, was there any feedback of substance? Or most consistent reason given for the anger?"

I'm not really sure what you are asking. I mean, people want to follow a winning team. They are frustrated. They want action over talk. I get all of that. As far as "feedback of substance," it all feels emotional to me. There are points to be made about the roster makeup and how it needs to be better. Clearly, there is a segment of the fans that wants a change at GM. As far as what Keim said in itself, I'm not sure what fans want him to say. I'm guessing it wouldn't matter -- the reactions would likely be the same.

From B.A's Kangol via

"Darren, gonna try this one last time. HAVE TO after what we saw from him Sunday: You are appearing as a barrister before the Arizona Cardinals Supreme Court in the case of Disgruntled Cardinals Fans v. Patrick Peterson. You represent Mr. Peterson. Please present your case to the Court on behalf of Mr. Peterson as to why, given his conduct on and off the field over the past calendar year, Mr. Peterson should remain on this team beyond this season."

I'll give you props for coming at this from a different angle. It's at least somewhat entertaining. I don't know what is going to happen with Patrick. Better yet, I don't have to make a case for or against him. Obviously, for multiple reasons, this season has turned out poorly for him. He said himself he would like to push the reset button. He made it clear last week he has grown tired of two years of losing. Given all that, and where the Cardinals are, I'd expect Keim to explore all options. Lot of moving parts, including what market there might be for Peterson and also what you're going to do at cornerback if he is here or if he is not. I know many fans are disgruntled at this point. Nothing could happen before the offseason, so I'm going to see what it looks like over the last three games.

From Allie Landsdale via

"Hi Darren. I think youve talked about it before, but can you touch again on the strange disappearance of Larry (Fitzgerald)? I remember the first couple games of the season, Larry was practically the 'deep threat guy.' Rattling off a couple 100+ yard games. What happened? He's gone back to being the invisible boy and I just don't understand."

Since so many want to talk about how old Fitz is, I'm sure he'd appreciate being seen as much younger -- although he definitely isn't a boy anymore. I think some of it had to do with the morphing of the offense, which in those first two games was all about "10" personnel and throwing the ball everywhere. Some of it had to do with defenses not quite sure what the Cardinals -- and Fitz -- were going to do. It's not like Fitz isn't being targeted. He and Christian Kirk are clearly the top two guys. But for Fitz to win downfield, he needs 1-on-1 coverage much of the time that he can outphysical, because he's just not going to create a bunch of separation anymore.

From Calvin Cards via

"I want to play the regret game because it's fun being miserable! Darren - do we win a Super Bowl if we drafted Adrian Peterson and Terrell Suggs? Also - if yes, how many Super Bowls?"

There's that what-if I was talking about. Those are questions we will never be able to answer. Peterson wasn't good enough to carry the Vikings to a Super Bowl. And in the Super Bowl the Cards did reach, they did enough offensively to win that game, and Edgerrin James actually played pretty well in the playoffs. As for Suggs, who knows if he develops here instead of getting tutelage from Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Also, if Suggs makes the Cardinals that much better, then maybe they aren't picking third in 2004 and aren't getting Larry Fitzgerald. The Butterfly Effect is in full force here.

From Kyle Hansen via

"Could you please send one of your interns out to do a 'Where are they now?' story on Daryl Washington. This tale of D-Wash feels unfinished. And I know you're tired of all the D-Wash talk, all these years later. But there is good reason for it. Aside from Karlos Dansby, D-Wash was arguably the best ILB we've ever seen in AZ. Guy was incredible. He was doing superstar things. And then it all ended. So yes, we fans will be interested in D-Wash forever until this thing is wrapped up. Like a D-Wash 30 for 30. Surely he's coaching at some Texas high school these days. Could you please at least take a look and see if it's newsworthy? Get yourself a Peabody award."

Daryl Washington, the gift that keeps on giving. Yes, the D-Wash story is unfinished -- and no 30 for 30 is going to change that one.

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