With the two-day negotiating period beginning today prior to Wednesday's opening of free agency and the new league year, it made sense to move the mailbag up a little earlier. So it's a Monday morning mailbag, the most wonderful way to start a week. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. As always, you can send in a question for a future mailbag here.
From Brad O'Neill:
"If the cap number on Hopkins is $22.5 million this year if we trade him, wouldn't it make more sense to extend him, make him an offer with a little less per year but some guaranteed money in there along with some heavy incentive not to get suspended again? Something along the lines of four years for 20 a year with 30 million guaranteed over next two years. That makes him tradable if necessary while giving him some security while keeping his cap hit similar."
Could you extend him? Yes. Is he taking less per year? No. He already has an incentive not to be suspended -- he loses the salary of all the games he misses. But we don't know what exactly was said when Monti Ossenfort and Hop got together for their talk, so we don't know either side's feelings on the subject. Maybe Hop prefers to move on. Maybe the Cardinals want to reset without an expensive wideout on the other side of 30. Until he is dealt, you proceed like he'll be here, but the way he talked the other day, it felt like he thought he'd be elsewhere this season.
From Dudley Humphries:
"Hey Darren. I know with regime changes there is usually lots of roster turnover, not to mention there would be lots of turnover when you have a four-win team. But I feel like one possible star on this team is Myjai Sanders. Seeing what Gannon did with Reddick I'm really hoping Myjai could be polished into a gem. I know you guys have been busy this offseason but I just haven't heard his name once, and feel he deserves to be identified as (hopefully) a major piece of our plans. Ideally we land Will Anderson Jr in the draft, but I would really like to see Myjai as the No. 2 pass rusher. What do you think about Myjai? Thanks Darren."
The coaching staff isn't saying much specifically about any players, so I don't think that is anything to read into. Sanders is unquestionably physically talented. I am interested to see how they deploy him, and of course, it'd be great if he could develop into something like Reddick. But Reddick was a first-round pick. Let's see Sanders be solid first.
From Stacy Wright:
"Darren, with the draft looming and a player like Jalen Carter carrying potential off-field baggage, does the team employ private investigation services for situations such as this? I realize the scouting staff vets out football issues, but with circumstances surrounding a potential pick such as Carter, it would seem a close look into non-football matters would be in order. Any insight you can share?"
It's safe to say, with millions of dollars at stake, NFL teams vet these players pretty carefully. Yes, there can be some investigation. But also understand the scouts also talk to people about non-football stuff. Often some of the best people to talk to about players and what they are like are people who work around the program and have spent a lot of time around the players. With Carter, for instance, I would guess there is a lot known about the kind of kid he has been at Georgia. Teams will know if the drag racing incident was a one-off or if it was part of a pattern.
From Kellan Tinsley:
"I know you talked about the NFLPA survey last week, but you didn't say much. What's the deal there? The Cardinals did not come out looking great."
Like I said last week, yes I saw the survey, and had a chance to read through some of the specifics. A lot to chew on. I would need more details on some things. I know it a lack of a family lounge was brought up and I thought -- and I had it confirmed -- there has always been a family lounge on game days. There was also a line about moving to a smaller plane but they fly a 777. Beyond that, both coach Jonathan Gannon and GM Monti Ossenfort have addressed the subject "New ideas have come about and it's been a great process working with (Michael Bidwill) and Jonathan and laying out a vision as we move forward," Ossenfort said. "We have made some changes already, we have other ones coming down the chute and we have things we have to look at."
From Jason B:
"The Cardinals have a new GM , new HC and coaching staff. The organization just raised the prices of the tickets. Fans are feeling uncomfortable. What do the Cards need to do in FA and the draft to win the overall mindset back of the fans? I still bought my season tickets; however, with all the changes going on with the Cardinals organization, should the fans be optimistic or reserved for the upcoming season?"
To start, Jason, if you've been following my answers, questions like how should I feel or what needs to be done to win the fans back, I mean, I can't answer that. Everybody is different; there are optimistic fans and pessimistic fans. It'd be nice in free agency if the Cardinals could keep Zach Allen but I don't know if that will happen, and with so many players with expiring contracts just filling the roster is important. The draft is going to be high profile no matter what, whether the Cardinals stay at 3 and take a guy like Anderson or make a blockbuster trade down. I don't know right now what the season should feel like. We don't know the players. I'd say this: having a new coach and new GM creates a new era. I don't know what that means in terms of wins and losses for 2023 but that rebirth should create an interesting journey in the least.
From Joseph Gabrial:
"Will GM Monti Ossenfort choose a free agent QB to cover for Kyler Murray's return?'
That's TBD. Colt McCoy is still here and still is a prime candidate for filling in for Murray. Does that mean he will be the guy? Not necessarily. The reality is the Cardinals will need to sign a couple QBs regardless; only Murray and McCoy are under contract and you at least need guys to get you through the offseason and preseason. The question becomes whether there is another vet who a) would want to compete with McCoy and b) understand his role would be short-term until Murray gets back. Some of those vet possibilities with have better options.
From Lynn Henry:
"Hi Darren, thanks for the mailbag. Fan from the Chicago Cardinal days. Any chance Pugh stays as our center, like Dan Dierdorf did (when the team was in St. Louis), or as an extra lineman to fill in if necessary?"
Judging by Justin's tweets he is still open to playing and playing here. But as center? I'm not sure that makes the most sense right now. I think at center the Cardinals need to try hard to find a young, long-term answer. And I am not sure at this point Pugh has much desire to sign with the knowledge he would be just "extra."
From Greg Painter:
"TRADE BACK! THANK YOU Anthony Richardson! At 3 there will still be two very coveted QBs and the two elite defensive players. The Cards can trade back once if not twice and continue to acquire picks throughout the draft. BUILD THE FOUNDATION! Both lines, CB and edge. If we pick at 3 it is almost a wasted pick in my mind. Are we winning the Super Bowl next year? NO! The year after PROBABLY NOT!"
Greg, my man, where's the question? This is just a rant. Look, trading is still an option. You mention "the two elite" defensive players but at this point, we don't really know how they will assess Jalen Carter and his issues. If the Cardinals take Will Anderson at 3 and he goes on to a multi-Pro Bowl career, not sure how that can be seen as wasted. (The Cardinals did it once upon a time with QBs on the board with a guy named Larry Fitzgerald -- perhaps you've heard of him.) I agree Richardson helps the situation.
From Jayson Wing:
"Hi Darren. First, thanks again for this outlet to ask questions on many subjects that us fans have questions. I just read the Cards lowered Humphries' cap number by converting $5.3 million into bonus money. Why don't they just do that at signing and for every player? Continue the great work."
Mostly to allow flexibility. If you set the contract up the way it was and you can afford to keep the cap number where it is in the current season, it allows you to get that cap hit out of the way. It's easy to change it later, but doing it this way again pushes cap hits down the road and if you can avoid that, it's still the best way to go.
From John Staszkiewicz:
"Darren what do you think the Cardinals are going to do with their third pick in the draft? I am also a longtime fan from St Louis and I did play football in college."
If I had to make a decision now, I'm saying they take Anderson. In a perfect world (OK, my perfect world) the Colts decide to swap to make sure they get a QB and the Cardinals get Anderson at 4 plus an extra pick. That's probably asking too much. But my guess is by the time we get to April 27 every mock will have the Cardinals taking Anderson. It makes too much sense.