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You've Got Mail: Cardinals Don't Need To Go Mad About Playoffs

Topics include defense in free agency, the edge trade market, and long-distance fandom

Celebrate Eagles Mailbag 0213

The season is finally over, and the Chiefs won a title once again (and denied the 49ers once again.) Yet we're going to hit the ground running; Jonathan Gannon and Monti Ossenfort are expected to speak at the Scouting combine two weeks from today as draft season will hit full gear. And as you know, the mailbag continues on. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. Don't forget to send a question for a future mailbag. (And just so people know -- I am receiving questions, even if when you submit you might not be getting the confirmation message on the screen.)

From Michael Travers:

"Hello Darren. Thanks again for this opportunity to ask about our Cardinals. Well it's Super Bowl time again and all Cards fans hope our turn will be soon. Watching all the Super Bowl discussions brought up a couple questions. Who in your opinion, are our Triplets that will lead us to that first Super Bowl victory? And, since you're around the team who do you feel is MAD enough to WANT it enough that puts in the extra work to get us there?"

Not sure what anger would have to do with anything, to be honest. Who works well when they are mad? Players already have to be internally driven to be their best; emotions shouldn't be part of that equation. Those tend to blind you at inopportune moments. The whole point of improving a team's culture is that the whole vibe around the team pushes the collective to go through the right process. As for the "triplets," I assume you mean the three stars, like Aikman-Emmitt-Irvin once upon a time. But I don't know if the Cardinals are constructed in such a way, and I don't know if you need to have such a trio to win a title. (Or, put another way, I don't think having a trio guarantees anything.)

From Sebas Quiros:

"Hey Darren. Given that our first pick seems almost sure to be an offensive player given that this draft is more offense heavy IMO than defense, do you see Monti concentrating free agency a little more on defensive players or do you think that won't have as much sway in the matter?"

I think it's fair to say if the Cardinals stay at 4 the first pick would seem to end up on offense but if they trade at all, I'm not sure that's what happens. Big picture, I think free agency will come down more to the players the Cardinals want and in the price range that makes sense -- and yes, given that there are more defensive needs, that probably means a defensive bent -- but I wouldn't be ruling out any position if there happens to be a particular player the Cardinals might want to chase.

From Tom Cowley:

"Hi Darren. Who of our free agents are the ones we want back, especially on defense and what are the chances for your choices? Same question on offense. There were several early signings last year who were injured almost immediately and did not show much."

An excellent question. I don't know if there are any that scream "they have to have them back." Those types of players usually don't get this far toward free agency. I still could see a scenario with Hollywood Brown returning, but I would guess it would be on a shorter, cheaper deal if it happened. I could see them looking potentially at DL Carlos Watkins and L.J. Collier too, but again, probably on another one-year deal like they signed previous, with both coming off serious injuries. Maybe a guy like Zeke Turner, who has long been a key part of Jeff Rodgers' special teams unit. I just think most that could return will end up being wait-and-see.

From Pierce Bithers:

"With Haason Reddick granted permission to seek a trade, what do you think the chances are he comes back to play for the Cardinals?"

From Nigel Green:

"Hi Darren, thanks for answering my previous questions, I see Haason Reddick has been given permission to seek a trade, given the obvious need do you think it's possible the Cardinals would be interested? Has enough water passed under the bridge that he'd consider coming back?"

Not a surprise that Reddick's name pops up in the mailbag after the news about him getting a chance to seek a trade. As he heads into the last year of his current contract -- and reportedly feeling underpaid for his sack production -- that's part of the ultimate goal. This past season, he had 11 sacks, 23 QB hits, and 13 tackles for loss, although he was shut out of any sacks the last month plus the Eagles' playoff game. I would guess, given that he played for Gannon one season, he'd be fine with coming to the Cardinals if they were willing to give him the contract he wanted. That's the end goal here. I don't know if that's a move Ossenfort would want to make at this point.

From Dan Graham:

"Hey, Darren. We have been asking about re-signing Hollywood Brown. It seems to me that he is a very similar receiver to Moore and Dortch. Dortch has been a very consistent performer when he plays. Do we need three small quick receivers? I think, based on that we let Hollywood go. What do you think? Also, I do not think that Paris Johnson was drafted in the first round last year to be a permanent right tackle. You usually don't draft a tackle that high unless you intend for them to play on the left side eventually, do you?"

Lane Johnson was a top 10 pick for the Eagles and he has remained a right tackle, so I don't think it is that cut-and-dried. This isn't old-school roster building -- right tackle often is just as important (just look at the murderer's row of pass rushers Johnson saw this past season.) Does that mean he won't be moved? Of course not. That very well could happen. But the Cardinals will go through free agency and the draft before they even get out on the field. As for receiver, I see where those guys might be similar in stature, but I still don't see Dortch being the deep threat like a healthy Brown might be. I don't see Brown as a small, quick guy. He's a shorter long speed guy. If you let Brown go, I would still need to make sure I have some speed at that position I am comfortable with, whether that is Moore or someone else. 

From Robert Malicki:

"Hello, Darren. The way the NFL wants to play the game emphasizing the horizontal passing and requiring a mobile QB you only need to watch any game in the last two minutes. If this last Super Bowl taught us anything it's that you better score TDs when you have an opponent on the ropes and not settle for FGs and you need a WR to, as they say, take the top off the defense. Sign a top FA at any position of need and re-sign Marquise Brown. Those two offenses were pitiful in their less-than-inspiring approach. A team needs a threatening WR and a menacing D-lineman. Look at the most recently elected HOF enshrinees. If you have a Calvin Johnson and a Steve McMichael you can really impose your gameplan."

Ah, so just add a Hall of Fame wide receiver and a Hall of Fame defensive lineman, you're good. Got it. I'm sure Monti would love for that to happen. I'll be honest, I don't think the Super Bowl taught anyone anything new. Score TDs and don't settle for field goals? Yes, we knew that. And I suppose you can just watch the last two minutes but that's only if you want to know the final score and not how the game played out to get there. 

From Kevin Mahon:

"While Dani is in Las Vegas covering the Super Bowl, can she ask Andy Reid how instrumental coaching at NAU was for him. And what's his favorite memory coaching and Flagstaff?"

Dani was there on personal time. She was not working. But it would have been a fascinating question. Kent Somers did a good piece about it before last year's Super Bowl that was played at State Farm Stadium. 

From Mike Jadens:

"This is my reply to last week's 'why doesn't the NFL have a Development League' discussion. I hear you on the cost argument. Yes it would be expensive. It would nearly be the cost of running a second season. However, do you disagree that it would also pull in nearly as much revenue as the regular season? You televise D-league NFL games, that's going to be billions in television money. Point being, yes it would be expensive, but the dollars coming back would be greater. You're right that not many would get a spot in the NFL. Backup QBs hardly get any reps in the NFL. Most of the good ones used to be starters back in the day. But guys like Clayton Tune are almost doomed to get drummed out of the league due to lack of development opportunities. You're 100 percent right that the NFL has a supply-and-demand issue with QBs, and I think a D-league could help develop more QB talent."

Let me clarify this will be the last installment on this subject; the mailbag is about QnA and not a forum for an ongoing debate. But I totally disagree a development league would create billions of TV money. From who? Most of the networks already feel the pinch of the gigantic money they are paying for the "real" product. No one is paying that for a minor league, especially since it's been proven the fans absolutely do not watch minor league/D-league football. It's not the NFL, it's not college and the ties fans have to their schools. So no, the money coming back would not be greater. You may develop a QB or two. Or an offensive lineman or two. Those are the lone positions that benefit from such a setup. All the other positions usually make inroads in the NFL itself right away -- or they weren't going to be good enough in the first place. The juice isn't worth the squeeze.

From Bo Harshbarger:

"Do you have any information on Budda Baker's contract situation? I mean I know he's under contract with no guarantees. But Budda is the heart and soul of this defense. I want my Cardinals to offer him a new contract of three to four years with top safety money. He deserves everything that we can afford to give him. The guy is the ultimate player on and off the field, and there's no way we are a better team without him."

There has been nothing new around Baker's contract. I am sure he'd love an extension but how that plays out this offseason is TBD. 

From John Turilli:

"Who are the top defensive free agents who will be on the market? With so many WR, OL and RBs in the draft it would be wonderful to sign a nose tackle and edge rusher on the market. We all know our sack totals and games with no sacks? Do you think it wise to strengthen the DL through free agency?"

As I previously mentioned, I do think free agency will lean into the defense because it needs more upgrades. The top players on the market are going to be impacted over the next month with franchise tags and re-signings; finding a edge rusher is always more difficult than getting a defensive lineman that can make an impact. 

From Brian Flaim:

"Lifelong fan from NJ here in Eagles territory. I get questioned all the time how I could be a Cardinals fan. My answer is 'I was raised a Cardinals fan, I don't know anything else.' The reason my dad raised us as Cardinals fans is because he chose to like the St. Louis Cardinals (both) when he was a kid and never turned back. Their move to Arizona had no impact on our thought process; we weren't fans of the local team so it didn't matter. So, am I doing my kids a disservice by raising them to root for teams that 95 percent of their friends will root for in the Eagles? For me, it has been limiting from a social perspective as I don't get asked to games, buy season tickets, etc. because my friends want to share those moments with fans, not someone who is openly rooting for the Eagles to crash and burn. Should I let my kids be Eagles fans?"

Man, Brian, you have quite a conundrum here. Kids want to be like Dad a lot of the time, so unless you are gonna switch your own thought process, I'm not sure you have much control there. My guess is that if they have it in them, they'll rebel soon enough. I will say, from afar, it feels like Eagles fans have been pretty miserable going on a year now, so grass, greener, etc., etc. Curious though -- did you have any of these thoughts on Dec. 31? Just wondering.

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