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You've Got Mail: February Is Still Football

Topics include Reed/Alford signings, defensive focus and free agency


The coaches are all in place. The pre-combine meetings by the front office and scouts have been completed. When the Scouting combine comes up at the end of the month, another big piece of the pre-draft process will be underway. Oh, and Kyler Murray is picking football, so there's that. Anyway, on to this week's questions. As always, you can submit a question for next week's mailbag by clicking here.

Not necessarily. They will need backups, and even if the Cardinals were to now re-sign Golden and take a pass rusher early in the draft, that would be feasible -- especially since Reed only costs $2 million or so. But there is little question this helps cover the Cardinals if it turns out Golden does not return. And let's not forget that the Cardinals may not take a pass rusher at No. 1, meaning it would behoove them to have at least three guys anyway, so getting Golden back as well as adding Reed would be important. Reed's strength is against the run, setting the edge, perhaps help in a base defense.

I can tell you the powers-that-be expect an immediate return. But at this point, I want to see what pieces come to be in place. We haven't gone through free agency (despite the two recent signings) or the draft, but the Cardinals need to figure out their defensive line (and its depth) and they need to figure out their inside linebacking corps. Besides Corey Peters, who will the Cards lean on on the line?

From Jaime Lopez via

"Will there be an article about Adrian Wilson and his role with the hiring process on the new head coach, as well as his overall experience and contributions since he was hired as a scout?"

I would love to do a story on Adrian and perhaps there will be something Dub-centric at some point, but he prefers to keep a lower profile. I do know he will be making an appearance on the next Flight Plan episode.

If a player has less than four years of accrued service in the NFL -- essentially, less than four seasons where he has been mostly active on game days -- he is subject to waivers. Four years or more, and the player becomes an unrestricted free agent. This changes about halfway through the regular season, when every player released from then until the end of the regular season is subject to waivers (which is how D.J. Swearinger was on waivers and how the Cardinals were able to claim him. If Swearinger had been released after the season, he would have been unrestricted.)

First, something would have to happen to make Matthews available. But whether it be him or another vet pass rusher like him, I'm not sure once they signed Reed getting another makes sense. Leadership is good, but you still have to have a place to play a guy.

From Jaedon Ruiz via

"I'm excited that the Cardinals are moving back to a 3-4, but that also means we are going to have roster issues because we have Reddick, Bynes, and Bucannon who play their best on the outside and now on top of that, we have Golden and Jones who are also planning to play OLB. For the defensive line, it is certain that we are drafting a D-Lineman, but we also have Robert Nkemdiche; who proved people wrong in 2018, veteran Corey Peters, Rodney Gunter; who also did great 2018, and Olsen Pierre. How about the secondary? We also had to have Budda B play opposite of Pat Pete with Antoine Bethea (If he doesn't retire), Swearinger returning, and Tre Boston playing safety. How do you see this depth chart turning out for the 2019 season?"

Well, there might be some roster issues, but not for the reasons you mention. Bynes and Bucannon are not outside linebackers in the 3-4 scheme. Reddick probably is better served as an inside LB in the 3-4 as well. Nkemdiche tore his ACL and the chances of him returning until the regular season is upon us (or later) remain strong and, save for his big game against the Chargers, still didn't show nearly what the Cardinals had hoped. Gunter is a free agent-to-be, as is Boston and Bucannon, so all could leave. Baker is a safety, not a cornerback. That'll be Alford's job. This defense, as I noted higher, still needs to build depth if not gain multiple starters.

From John M via

"What do you think the chances of Mason Cole retaining the starting center position? It would be great to see him, Josh Rosen and Christian Kirk kind of grow up together."

He has an edge because he did it all last season and he is younger than A.Q. Shipley. But Shipley was ahead of Cole before Shipley's injury for a reason. I would guess Cole's chances are still strong, but I don't think it's a sure thing as this team tries to finally figure out its offensive line problems.

From Michael Tuckman via

"Any thoughts on the Cards kicking the tires on Demaryius Thomas? Achilles injuries are scary for sure, but would they consider a one-year deal given that they really don't have an outside receiver on the roster?"

As of now, I think I'd be surprised. If a guy is injured and this early in the rehab process, there is no reason to sign him now. Given his injury, I'm not sure exactly how effective he will be this season. If Thomas signs anywhere, I would guess we would be a lot closer to training camp if not during training camp.

In my opinion, they would be:

  1. offensive line
  2. wide receiver
  3. defensive line

Although linebacker needs to be addressed as well.

From Rick Bailey via

"With our new coach and his modern offense we might expect him to present with the Cardinals I wonder if it is the best option. I witnessed the Patriots beat the Chiefs and Rams with what you could call old fashioned football. Defense, possession control , running game / fullback and dink and dunk just to name a few . What do you think?"

I think if the Chiefs had won the coin toss to start overtime in the AFC Championship game -- a game in which the Chiefs scored 31 points -- the Patriots wouldn't even had made the Super Bowl. I think the Rams and Chiefs had the two of the top three records in the NFL this season. I think Bill Belichick is the greatest coach in NFL history. And I think it's a little funny that no one talks about how the Patriots couldn't stop the Eagles a year ago. It looked bad for the Rams in the Super Bowl, yes.

I'm not saying the Cardinals will be great, or that what Kingsbury will do will work. I don't know. But to have one game wipe out an entire season (plus) of evidence is ... interesting to me.

From Art Smith via

"When can the Cards start trading personnel? Can the Cards extend the option on D J Humphries and trade him before March?"

Trades cannot be executed until the new league year on March 13, which is also when free agency starts.

From Kevin Eslwick via

"How aggressive are the Cards going to be on improving the offensive line? Also do you see them re-signing J.J. Nelson or shop more in free agency?"

I expect them to be very aggressive to fix the line because, even with all the different issues offensively, it probably ranks at the top of the list. As for Nelson, I thought he was playing out his final season and I don't know if that has changed, but with a new coaching staff, you never know how Kingsbury might look at his talent. That said, I think Nelson might benefit from a fresh start.

Right now, I don't expect Humphries to be moved to guard. If that happened you having to replace both starting tackles. Don't know how easy that would be in one offseason. I still think Humphries is probably better suited at tackle anyway.

From Robert Malicki via

"Player personnel moves so far have leaned toward the defense. Does it seem to you that the front office is doing what it can for Vance Joseph to fortify that side of the ball and give the offense its best chance to stay the course in its development? Kingsbury will be challenged well into the schedule to set his footing as a rookie head coach, and having a stout defense will certainly help."

Well, if the player personnel moves to which you refer are the Alford and Reed signings, those were done because they were cut and they just happen to be defenders. Had a serviceable offensive lineman been released in which they had interest, I'm sure they would have signed him. I would read zero into the timing of these signings compared to anything offensively. That said, I agree that this season, if the Cardinals can provide a defense that keeps the team in games while Rosen and this offense find their footing, it would be ideal.

So this is a little confusing, but I am assuming what you are asking is whether I think talent/experience or scheme wins out, I'd go with talent and experience. You still need a good scheme. Coaching matters. But scheme can't overcome a dearth of talent. As the saying goes -- and one Steve Keim brought up again recently -- it's ultimately about the jimmys and joes over the x's and o's. Got to have the players.