The draft is nearly upon us, with the Cardinals scheduled to pick No. 23 in the first round. The mailbag, meanwhile, is back on its regularly scheduled day. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. As always, you can send in a question for a future mailbag here.
From Steve Drumm:
"Hey Darren, any chance you and the Arizona crew do a podcast right before the draft with each of you taking your best shots at which player the Cardinals select at No. 23? Would be fun to see who guesses right."
Sounds like a good idea on this week's Cardinals Underground. We did it in 2020 (I said Isaiah Simmons, by the way), but that was when the Cardinals were choosing eighth. Trying to guess 23 is such a shot in the dark. But we will do it, so be sure to listen when it drops this afternoon.
From Benjamin Tranter:
"Hey Darren, I know you put little stock into mock drafts, but I couldn't help but notice something in Peter Schrager's latest mock: he has the Cardinals selecting guard Zion Johnson at 23 and includes in his writing, 'I don't see the Cardinals taking a defensive player in the first round for a third straight year -- regardless of who's on the board.' What are your thoughts on that? Peter seems to be pretty plugged in across the league, including his relationship with Kliff Kingsbury. But I just find that statement hard to believe."
I agree that Schrager is plugged in, particularly with Kliff, but it would be malfeasance picking at 23 and completely ruling out one side of the ball. No one knows who will be on the board. When offensively it feels like it could only be a OL or WR and defensively they could go DT, Edge or CB, that's too much to rule out.
From Steve Zukowski:
"When Russell Wilson signed that massive contract in 2019, it was the beginning of the dismantling of that great Super Bowl team because they were unable to re-sign many of their top free agents over the next few years. Then he found himself as a top-notch quarterback on a very mediocre team, so he jumped ship to the next big contract on another team. If we pay Kyler Murray the $45 million plus/per year that he is reportedly asking for, don't you see the same scenario happening to the Cardinals?"
I mean, the Seahawks didn't have to trade Wilson. The Packers never traded Rodgers. One thing people need to get over is that QBs have always made huge dollars, it's only going to get huger (I know that's not a word -- work with me) and the Broncos are on the flip side of that: They are paying Wilson big dollars, but they have hope. Why? They have a quarterback. Maybe that does happen. I don't know. But it can't happen if you don't pay the guy in the first place. (And not for nothing, the Seahawks broke up because they got old and didn't have young players coming in. The Seahawks don't let Bobby Wagner go if they don't believe he's on the downslope. Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas weren't the same players. It happens.)
From Mark Mason:
"In the mock drafts I've run, for entertainment purposes only, the Cardinals have some choice picks at 23, but if I were looking for a project player which may reap huge benefits and I mean HUGE on the Offensive Line. At 6 ft 9in and at 384 lbs (400 in college at Minnesota), Daniel Faalele would be like the Great Wall of China which even the Mongols would have a hard time getting over, around or through. Looking at his tape and with most PFF Mock Drafts that I run show him available in the low eighties, nabbing him at 55 doesn't score high marks in the draft simulator."
Uh, no, I don't think spending a second-round pick on a shot in the dark makes a lot of sense.
From Lou Rollins:
"Darren, always and forever players have demanded new contracts and various times, however it feels like its getting more and more common for players to starting getting antsy around year two and three. While I am 100% a pay-the-players supporter, it also bugs me when a guy on a five-year contract demands a new contract in year three. But that got me thinking, I think the main issue here is these five-year contracts are just too long. For a football player, five years is a really long time. So could a possible solution be (written into a new CBA) that contracts can only max out at 3 years, and make it impossible for a player to demand a new deal early. I think that's fair for both sides."
I have some thoughts. If players are getting more antsy around year three, it's a direct reflection of a) them outperforming their rookie deal and b) the CBA says they can't get an extension until after their third season. So it naturally has become a leverage-point -- to an extent -- for young players. Here's the issue with the "five years." In the NFL, where most contracts aren't guaranteed, the five years is a one-way thing. Or at best, a dummy situation used to juggle the salary cap. You can write in something that maxes out contracts at three years, but it'll cut down on the money players can get and I don't know if they'd agree to a CBA like that. I am quite sure they would never agree to being unable to demand a new deal early. The players would want guaranteed deals, and I don't see the owners going for that.
From Chuck Mogavero:
"Hi Darren! I'm really getting sick of these 'analysts' writing articles about Kyler Murray being traded, Kyler this, Kyler that. I don't even read them anymore. Can you share anything with us about the temperature over there regarding a new contract for K1? Go Cards!"
This question came in before the "zero chance" moment. But I have said before and I will repeat, I think a new deal is done by the start of the season. I could be wrong, but that's the feeling I have.
From Steven Soloman:
"Why not trade Murray, sign Samuel and draft Ridder with the No. 23 pick?"
Because a) they want Kyler (he's a good QB); b) Samuel isn't a free agent; and c) what makes you think Ridder is a first-rounder when he might not be one of the top QBs in a draft where there are no real top QBs?
From Xavier Knight:
"Hey Darren. I feel like there's a disconnect between the organization and the fans when it comes to the topic of Kyler. Obviously I don't speak for everyone, but as someone who inhabits every major Cardinals forum on the internet, I have insight of the pulse. He's had moments where he's pretty darn good, but he's also been consistently inconsistent. He doesn't have those 'X 'factor qualities that franchise QBs need. Moving on from Rosen was a difficult decision, however the overwhelming correct one. How is this any different? I think the desperation for a franchise QB is clouding the team's judgement."
I am well aware there are fans who wouldn't mind seeing a different QB. Everyone has their opinion. I would disagree with it. The difference between Rosen and Murray is that Murray can play and is good. I've brought this up before, but looking for a franchise QB isn't an luxury in the NFL. It's a necessity. You're not finding a better QB than Kyler at 23. In this draft, I don't think you're finding a better one period. It's interesting to me that some fans would rather see the Cardinals dip back into the depths of the bottom of the league rather than hope Kyler continues to trend upward.
From Chris from Austria:
"Hey Darren! Is there any chatter on a center early in the draft? Hudson did sound like a huge get for us last offseason, but played rather poorly, would you agree? Any reason/chatter on him this offseason? Considering the fact that our offense collapsed two years in a row down the road (and Bidwill not being happy about it), I am pretty sad that they didn't get a OC. Were you surprised?"
I guess, when it comes to center, you'd have to define "early." I won't be surprised if they take a center in the top three picks. They have no reserve and yes, Hudson is on the back part of his career. Getting younger up front seems necessary, especially on the interior. As for the OC, no, I'm not surprised. Kliff Kingsbury came it as that guy. If he's going to be here, he's going to want to stay as that guy.
From Patrick Noselli:
"You can't just not sign free-agent players because it's difficult. I agree re-signing your own players is important but we understand we are now operating at a net loss right? We are currently a worse team than last year. We've lost starters and have not yet replaced them and honestly probably won't. How is anyone supposed to feel optimistic?"
I can't tell anyone how to feel. I understand the frustration. I do think that, if the Cardinals can get an edge rusher, they aren't that much different than 2021. Not everyone will agree with me, I get that. And I don't think the point of what Steve Keim was saying was that it was hard to sign/scout free agents. I think the point was they wanted to spend the money on what they could keep. The Cardinals' outlay in FA guarantees actually isn't that much lower in 2022 than it was in 2021 ($50M to $59M.) The reality was Keim hit with a few very cheap FAs last year that simply earned bigger deals (Conner and McCoy in particular.)
From Hall of Fame guy:
"If you had a HOF vote, what would be the formula you used to determine inductees? There are multiple philosophies. Some guys like Fitz are obvious shoo-ins. But then there are other guys who weren't necessarily elite but played well for a long time. Frank Gore is a great example. There are elite players who had short careers due to injury like Gale Sayers. There is a camp that says the HOF is getting overcrowded and maybe they are right. But I also don't believe in the argument that the only inductees should be critical to the story of the NFL. Time is relative and your NFL is different from my NFL. People say Aaron Donald is the greatest defender of all time and maybe he is, but a lot of those people probably never saw Reggie White play. Both guys are Hall of Famers but the point is that the story of the NFL changes with the times."
Well, Mr. of Fame guy, for me, I don't know if I would have a formula. The way the Hall is set up, there is a ton of discussion, and because of all the different positions involved, it isn't always apples and oranges. And the story changes with the times, but i'm not sure you made the best example -- both Donald and White are needed for that story. They are both in Canton, regardless of if you think one was better than the other.
From Robert Malicki:
"My question has to do with the re-setting of a players' contract to 'acquire more cap room.' Tom Brady has now done this with Tampa Bay, as he did with New England. What a blessing for those teams he has been with to establish and sustain competitiveness. Do teams eventually have to 'pay the piper' no longer able to cook the books or is this merely a scheme of owners to bypass their own competitive rules?"
This isn't "cooking the books" because that's illegal. There is nothing against the rules of what Brady or any other player would do. In fact, in these cases it's usually the player getting his money up front as a bonus instead of waiting on salary, so it is win-win. Yes, there is a paying the piper aspect, because whatever cap money is saved is going to be put on a future cap or caps. You're buying time, not eliminating the hit. Every team does it.
From John Isenegger:
"Mr. Urban, I am a long-time Cardinal fan. My father and I saw them win the 1947 Championship against the Eagles. This is not a question as such but I would like your opinion. Over my years of frustration, I have watched the Cards struggle to be competitive. Pat Peterson mentioned that the Cardinals have a culture issue. What is your opinion regarding the team's culture over the last several years that you have been associated with them? Thank you for the fine work that you do and rest assured that I will be a Cardinal Fan forever!"
Impressive that you were able to see the title in 1947. We might have to do a Folktales mini-episode about that. I have seen the "culture" question. For me, the organization is in a much better place now than when I first started covering the team in 2000. Are there things that could be improved or are being worked on to be improved? Sure. There are no perfect workplaces. We talk about culture, but that didn't stop Antonio Brown from going sideways with the Steelers, it didn't stop Tom Brady from wanting to leave the Patriots and it's not stopping Deebo Samuel from demanding a trade from the 49ers. I will forever be a Pat P guy -- he was great for me the whole time he was here -- but he would've returned to the Cardinals (in the current culture) if they had paid him what he wanted. He noted that a good culture wouldn't have let Chandler Jones walk, but that was a business decision, much like letting P2 walk the year before. It may or may not work out, but that was just the NFL.
From Tom Cowley:
"Hi Darren. What is the difference among a defensive end, edge rusher, defensive lineman and outside linebacker in terms of the much needed sack totals/pass rusher and run defense -- all needed by the Cardinals. Does Vance Joseph and staff know how to best use them? What is your personal belief for which position (as available ) should be drafted No. 1? How do you rank the need for the next five picks -- exclusive of a trade?"
Some quick-hit answers:
- In this defense, an edge rusher and outside linebacker are the same thing. a defense end would be one of the linemen inside the edge rushers but one one side of the center or the other. A nose tackle would be the defensive lineman over the center. Edge guys are going to be where you get your most sacks, but pass rush needs to come from the interior too, and they all better be stout against the run.
- I believe they shouldn't reach at 23, so take the better player. If the players are basically even, I'd go edge, then CB, the OL/DL. But again, if one is better than the rest -- say, a receiver -- go with that guy.
- Not sure what you mean by the next five picks. The Cardinals have eight picks total, so you are asking about the non-seventh round picks? I mean, it's hard to know because who is on the board is everything. In a Darren Urban perfect world, the Cardinals would get one, maybe two edge rushers, a DL, an OL, a WR, a CB, and maybe an RB. That's seven players, with one wild card. Will it happen that way? Probably not.
From Phil Kent:
"I'm pretty sure the thumbnail on your twitter handle is you interviewing Steve Keim. Which begs the question when are you ever going to talk to Keim again? You've done fan questions with him in the past, but it's been an eternity."
That picture is from the days when I would interview Steve yes, but that particular shot I was talking to Bruce Arians. Just as with all our content, we regroup and figure out if it is the best use of time/gets most engagement. We have found other ways we want to talk to the GM in Indy (mainly for Flight Plan), so that's why we pivoted from the Q and A.
From Art Pozza:
"For voluntary offseason work, I'm OK with certain players not attending. But some players need to be there. For example, Antoine Wesley, Leki Fotu, Zach Allen, Zaven Collins and others. They haven't reached 'working out on his own' status. Are any of these players that have not yet proved themselves in this voluntary camp?"
Just as a quick refresher -- voluntary means it's optional for NFL players. Since all those guys qualify as NFL players, it is optional for them. I have not asked any players if they knew it was OK or not with Art Pozza that they attend or not.
(And just as an aside, I've noticed all those players here.)
"What do you think about the Cardinals drafting Tyler Allgeier? Also, which teams are your worst- and best-case scenarios for the Suns to play in the Western Conference Finals or NBA Finals? (Assuming they make it there.)"
Will they take Allgeier, a running back from BYU (which I just had to look up)? If they did, it wouldn't be until Saturday I wouldn't think. As far as the Suns, they better get it together or they won't have to worry about anything past this weekend. That's your real worst-case scenario.
From Oakley P:
"What are your NBA playoff predictions? I genuinely believe the Suns will make it to the Finals again. CP3's ability to flip the switch is almost unmatchable. And playoff Ayton has returned. I have full confidence in this team. In the East, I won't lie, I'm really hoping someone can eliminate the Bucks. I'm confident vs anyone else. Boston, Nets, Heat. Doesn't matter. But the Bucks scare me. I just want to win a championship man. Doesn't that irk you Darren? That we spend so much of our lives following/supporting sports and possibly never win a championship? There are Cardinals fans who were born, lived long full lives and never saw them win a ring."
You sent this before Book's injury, which was no bueno in terms of helping here. Obviously, at this point, it would be a blessing they would get to the Finals, regardless of opponent. I do think the Suns can get there, but they have to play better than they are, and their issues aren't all about an absent Book. As for the titles, I am well aware. I felt the pain of Paxson's shot, of Holmes' catch. Not that this is next level thinking, but now that I have long been inside the building of a team you really get to understand all the moving parts of the human beings that have to make something like a championship happen, and that doesn't even include the luck involved. I hope the Suns win. I hope the Cardinals get a chance to win a Super Bowl again. We will see.