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You've Got Mail: Free Agency Is Upon Us

Topics include reports of FA agreements, that No. 4 spot, and how additions impact draft


Free agency has arrived, when teams can add "names" to the roster and the NFL offseason grabs plenty of headlines. A mailbag headline? Perhaps. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. Don't forget to send a question for a future mailbag.

From Sarah Miller:

"Darren, I'm confused by the legal tampering period. The deals aren't finalized. Why do teams and players and agents announce terms? It seems if the Cards were to say 'Agreed to Terms - Mack Wilson. 3 year $12M' another team could say 'Hey, we can beat that!' Swoop in and steal your player. Shouldn't secrecy protect these 'handshake' deals?"

You raise excellent points, Sarah. Some things to note here. Teams do *not* put this early info out. It is agents, because they want the props that they got these deals done. I would guess teams would much rather keep everything under wraps but that's not the world we live in. (I am guessing the NFL as a whole has no problem because this is dominating the sports news cycle right now over NBA and spring training, etc.) There have actually been a couple of examples over the years of an agreement falling apart. But it's rare for a couple reasons. An agent is going to trash his reputation if he and a client back out of an agreed-upon deal. Second, and most importantly, while the deal is getting leaked, trust me, before the agreement, the agent is already telling all the other teams about it to try and get someone to best it *before* the agreement is finalized. The final deal, even though it's just an agreement, is already the best the player is going to do.

From Steve Drumm:

"Hey Darren, My question is that if the Cardinals stay at 4 (QB's go 1-2-3) and go WR, could one make the case that Malik Nabers might be the best fit in Drew Petzing's offense because he is more explosive than either Harrison Jr. or Odunze? Which of these three WR's do you think is the best fit for what the Cardinals like to do on offense if you got to play GM? Thanks."

I don't know if "explosive" is the determining factor here. To me there is benefit from having a guy like Harrison, who is three inches taller than Nabers. But in the end, I am of the belief that if you are ultra-talented you should fit regardless of skillset. That's what coaching is all about.

From John Turilli:

"Wow! What a nice Monday to get home from work and see the Cardinals aggressive in Free Agency. DL is our most important and of course Monti signs two that are still in their prime. With the additions does this affect the draft of MO or is this just filling holes and creating depth?"

They do not have to be mutually exclusive. This is filling holes, although I would not be surprised to see both Nichols and Jones in the starting lineup. That said, if the right defensive lineman is there at the right time in the draft, I have no doubt this would not preclude Ossenfort from grabbing him. The way the Cardinals want to rotate linemen in games they need five that will work.

From Brad Hardwick:

"Watching the Jason Kelce retirement presser makes me sad Fitz didn't give us one. Why Darren? Even Andre Johnson, notoriously quiet and reserved, gave the Texans a retirement presser. It's what you do when you're an 18-year beloved son of a single franchise. There are not that many in NFL history who can say such a thing."

Short answer? Fitz didn't/doesn't want to. Never did. He would drop comments to some of us, mostly after he was as done with his normal routine press meetings, that he was gonna disappear without a word when he was done. Heck, for the longest time I thought he'd do some Players Tribune farewell but he didn't even do that. I get that fans are disappointed. Trust me, here at we had a ton of content prepared for that moment that still hasn't seen the light of day. Alas, we — and everyone else — will have to wait for Canton, or ROH (although Fitz may delay to have the latter until the former, so he could make his HoF ring ceremony and his ROH at the same time. Only one speech to give. That would be on brand.)

From Michael Travers:

"Hello Darren. Enjoyed your work at this year's combine but we now turn our attention to free agency. As some have suggested the increase in the salary cap creates a smaller player pool with more teams signing their own. My question is do you think the Cards will focus on defense in free agency and if they do what will the emphasis be, CB or DL?"

Well, we saw from Monday that it was both, right? They needed a veteran corner and they got one, and they needed numbers/talent on the defensive line and grabbed a couple guys there.

From Kyl Post:

"Hey Darren. Reading your positional breakdown articles, I saw you listed Safety as 'low need.' Full disclaimer: I love Budda. But I think we've come to the Adrian Wilson moment of his career, where an expensive safety is a luxury. I understand that the cap is rising, but with Kyler's contract leaping to 45M, tough decisions must be made. I would argue safety is 'medium.' It's best to draft Budda's replacement this year, let him sit, and the give him the reins next year. So it's a planning-ahead aspect. I think Jalen is set to be here 3-4 more years and he will assume the veteran leader of the D role in that time. Budda will do best to land with a competitor to get himself a well-deserved ring."

It's OK but we will agree to disagree. I am thinking Budda is here now (and who knows, maybe gets an extension) but as we have seen in the past week safety is a position that will have veterans on the market if you need one. The "need" we reference is about free agency; I am not saying they won't draft a guy. But speaking of needs, I can think of four or five positions I'd rather spend early draft capital than safety. (And I will disagree Budda is in the same place as Dub at the end.)

From Lynn H.

"Thanks for the mailbag and all you and the media personnel do. Why wouldn't Josh Jones, former Cardinal and free agent, be worth pursuing to fill our left tackle or guard position? I seem to recall PFF grading him higher one year than Humphries. Looking forward to the draft anxious to watch Monti spin his magic."

Mostly because they already had him and decided he wasn't worth keeping. (And Jones struggled a lot at guard; tackle he was much better.) If you thought you'd rather have Beachum in front of Jones then, not sure why it would change now. I fully expect a tackle at some point in time in the draft.

From Nigel Green:

"Greetings Darren, given the inability of the Cardinals to deal with the run this past season do you think a player like T'Vondre Sweat will be on their radar in the second round? He would seem to be the type of player that would help in that department."

I am going to guess there are going to be a ton of players on their radar. I would also guess they would love to have about 20 of them. And given that Sweat has impressed, yes I'd think they'd look closely at him. But who's on the board, when their spot comes up, etc., etc.

From Jimmy Burton:

"Longtime fan, 45-plus years. It seems you, Darren, and a lot of KM supporters get really annoyed at the suggestion that Kyler might not be the guy. I realize the coach and ownership have given him the stamp of approval, so it's probably not worth commenting on, but I personally have not seen anything from him since the 7-0 start in 2021. I'm no expert, just a fan that wants this team to win as much as anyone. I know that he was hurt for an entire season, not his fault. I hope that KM is and will be a star. What do you see that would indicate that he might be?"

Let me clarify -- I don't get annoyed if people don't believe Kyler is the guy, I get annoyed when people are upset that the GM/coach disagree with them and mad the team isn't moving on. The reality is the Cardinals believe in Murray. He is going to get his big opportunity this year to show why they have that belief. The NFL is year to year with everyone. But there are still a ton of teams out there that would grab Kyler if he was suddenly on the open market.

From Rocky Miner:

"I'm inclined to think the Birds are in the catbird seat (no pun intended) at 4. Scenario: Harrison is gone at 4 and this means some team will want one of the remaining QBs we obtain more early selections and Malik Nabers. What say you?"

Possible for the trade down in that scenario for sure. But how far down? Because Nabers — or Odunze — isn't lasting too long.

From Art Pozza:

"Is the injury Michael Wilson sustained during the year similar to the injuries he battled through in college? Is the injury CB Garrett Williams had at the end of the year similar to the ones he suffered in college?"

I don't know for certain about Williams but the Wilson one was not.

From Rob S.:

"Hey Darren, when trading back or up in a draft are there any communications between GMs on who they are taking or even just what position they are taking? Seems like it would be foolish to give that away but also seems like it could be pertinent information. For example the Cardinals could be more comfortable moving back if they knew what the team was trading up for. Also seems like the pick would be worth more to a team wanting a QB vs another position."

Yes, usually when you get close to a deal the team trading back finds out who the team is trading up to get, for exactly the reason you say. Usually if a team is coming up to get a quarterback, it's pretty obvious. But that information is part of the conversation.

From Bob Kitsos:

"What does Clayton Tune's future with the Cardinals look like?"

I think they will give Tune every chance to be Kyler's backup. He would have to win the job, and I don't think that as long as Kyler is healthy he has any opportunity to actually be a starter here. But he still has to show he can make a jump from his rookie season and that his start in Cleveland isn't what he'll be.

From Chadd Second:

"Why does every casual fan believe that MHJ is head and shoulders above Malik Nabers? Or even Rome Odunze? Most experts see them all as stud WR1s. I feel like one's father should not be a primary factor in draft decisions, especially in the one of the deepest WR draft classes of all time. I think there will be excellent players available if we trade down, or if we take a tackle at 4 and just wait for 27 (or even trade up a little if Monti likes a specific guy)."

To start with, casual fans are gonna be casual. It's unfair to expect those who aren't into the nitty gritty of a sport to have real nuanced opinions. I will also say that if MHJ was named Jimmy James he'd still be considered the top guy because I think he has earned it. That said many see the other two as very close — if you want any of them, you better spend a top 10 (top 7 or 8?) pick. But a tackle at 4 or a trade down? Certainly still in play.

From Joey Cammiso:

"What are the chances of bringing back Calais Campbell? Cards have done it, for instance Karlos Dansby. Campbell went for 7.5 mil and 6.5 mil the last two seasons respectively. He is 38, and I know we aren't the 'hometown discount' destination for him but we left it all on good terms and he has said no bad things about the team. I wish Monti would just say 5 million fully guaranteed no fine print and see if he would be willing. He is still a decent player and we need depth and a rotational guy. He could help Stills and Zaven a ton. Also, any word on Daryl Washington?"

There is no one who would enjoy Calais coming back more than me, but I think we need to remember the current regime has zero ties to Campbell (which wasn't true with Dansby.) I'm not sure the Cards want to go down the road with such an old player either. But we can dare to dream. 

I can say with certainly there is no chance with D-Wash.

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