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You've Got Mail: How Is Free Agency Going For You?

Topics include Fitz's decision, free agent choices and massive QB contracts

AJ Green talks to media mailbag 032321

We've arrived at wave 2 -- or maybe even wave 3 -- of free agency. Yes, the Cardinals still need to address cornerback, for instance. There are still a lot of options out there. While we wait, remember that if you want to send in a question for a future mailbag, go here.

From Jason Beckum via azcardinals.com:

"I want to know who are we going to have at the starting cornerback spots? We do not start rookies 90 percent of the time. Byron Murphy and Robert Alford are not No. 1 corners and we do not have depth. Offense gets people in the stadium, but defense win championships. We need cornerback who can physically and athletically keep up with DK Metcalf, Devante Adams, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen. So far I am completely happy with the upgrades this offseason."

Right now, I don't know and I'm not sure both starters are even on the roster. You are right, I think the Cards would rather not start a rookie, but if they get a cornerback in the first round, given the circumstances, I'd expect that he'd be in the lineup (had Greg Toler not gotten hurt in 2011, Patrick Peterson wouldn't have even started that season.) Let's see where it goes. Are they going to have a P2 or Sherman-in-his-prime as a No. 1? Doesn't look like it. But let's see what the depth chart looks like in May.

From Kat Dabal via azcardinals.com:

"You've spoken quite a bit about P2, Drake and Reddick in FA, however surprisingly little about Dan Arnold. In my opinion, Dan was our No. 1 FA. He's not going to get Kelce money or anything but the guy did take a big step up for us last year. If he has a similar step up this year, he'd arguably be a top 10 TE. Shouldn't he be a priority?"

Obviously Kat sent this in prior to Arnold agreeing to go to Carolina, joining Reddick. Yes, Arnold would have been the top priority -- once those other guys left. I liked Arnold's game. What the Cards do at tight end -- since all they have is Maxx Williams right now -- will be interesting to see play out. But Arnold did have some flaws in his game as well. I'll be curious to see how he develops, and we'll see him, since Carolina will visit this season.

From John McGill via azcardinals.com:

"Hey Darren. What are the chances of Eno Benjamin being more active on the team? Has he impressed enough to push for more playing time?"

First, Benjamin has to make the team before we wonder about his playing time. I think there is still a good chance there is another back added, whether it's a draft pick or a veteran on the market. I don't know if it's a great sign Jonathan Ward got some time last year instead of Benjamin. For this team, I think whatever happens this offseason and definitely training camp will be important.

From Blake Bradbury via azcardinals.com:

"Sup Urbz. You watching what's going on around the league? Bloodbath out there. I think the Cardinals have done an admirable job with their own cap situation, but there's a couple notables I'm waiting for. Extend Chandler's deal. This is a layup, right? What's going on? And while I'm a pro-player guy all the way (I don't believe in loyalty or hometown discounts) I hate to say it but do you think we will approach Pugh or Hicks about taking a haircut? Both great team guys. We need the cap relief. I don't want to strongarm them, but I don't think you want to be a FA right now. It's nasty out there."

The Chandler situation is a layup from the standpoint that, yes, you'd like to lower the biggest cap number. But there is a lot that goes into it -- not the least of which, what is Jones' future look like? I think it would have been much easier if he had stayed healthy and had 12 sacks in 2020. As for other players either restructuring or taking paycuts, I'm not sure what will be asked. Let's say those guys decline. I mean, you're right, it's a difficult free agent market at this point. But let's say Hicks declines a contract adjustment -- you're not going to let him go. Who is your linebacker next to Simmons? The Cards will need that veteran influence.

From Axt Daniel via azcardinals.com:

"Hey Darren, first off thank you for taking the time to write the mailbag. It's really something I look forward to every week! I'm a Kyler fan. But there is something about him that really bothers me and even Steve Keim addressed it in some way in the past season. I think as the starting QB you have to lead by example, new to the league or not. Whenever the Cards lost, got flagged a lot or anything else negative happened to the team during a game he looked very unhappy. Understandable, of course, but his entire body language changed. He shows his frustration in a very unproductive way I think, instead of keeping his poise. Is that something that needs to be directly pointed out again in the offseason?"

I am sure there have been discussions with Murray about that part of his game. As a quarterback, you are maturing not only as a player but also as a leader and a person. I know people have pointed this out, but again, I don't know if it is as big a deal as people make it. Tom Brady has terrible body language caught on camera all the time. It doesn't stop him from being successful.

From Howard Dahl via azcardinals.com:

"Beyond bad drafting, is it possible we let too many adequate players get away? I ask because I look around the league and see many former Cardinal afterthoughts who are doing pretty good form themselves. First and foremost was Bobby Massie. He developed into one of the better right tackles in the whole NFL for Chicago. I see Rudy Ford just got a nice deal as a special teamer. It knocks me for a loop every time I hear Logan Thomas is still in the NFL, as a TE, and a darn good one. Can you believe Andre Roberts is still out there? Making pro bowls too. Could've been with us. Remember that 5th rounder Marqui Christian who didn't even make the team several months after being drafted? Still in the NFL. As of last year, Senio Kelemente, still in the big league. We draft poorly. But maybe we make it worse by letting some actually OK players go."

Yes, it'd be lovely to keep every single player that is decent. But that's not how it works. Your cap cannot handle that. Let's just hit on your examples, while acknowledging it'd be nice to have some of them:

  • Massie had the suspension for the DUI and I'm sure there was concern about giving him a big deal. (And while he's been fine, I don't think anyone is calling him one of the best right tackles.)
  • Ford wasn't going to play safety, so you turn over those special teamers. They've been fine with Zeke Turner, for example.
  • Thomas has become a good tight end. But when he was with the Cardinals, he didn't want to play anything but QB. He had to be cut a couple times before he realized a position change was the only thing that was going to keep him in the league.
  • I love Roberts. He was replaced here by John Brown, and that was pretty successful.
  • Christian did make the team, he was just released before his rookie season was over.
  • Kelemente did carve out a nice career. I'll be honest, I didn't think much of it when he was let go.

From Lyn Kedin via azcardinals.com:

"If I was to speculate, Larry Fitzgerald is happy when he is an integral part of the offence. Standing on the sideline and not being targeted is a sure fire way to get a Hall-of-Famer to drop the the mic and walk. He also knew we're in the market for a WR too. He doesn't need to sign or retire but wait into the season and see what turns up. Eight games for £5M with a run in the postseason. I'm sure there's an offer that would get Larry back in the game."

You always want to be a part of the game plan. So yeah, I'd think that discussion is part of what Fitz wants to have before making a choice. But I do not think he's going to not sign and not retire. He'll make a decision. I know the Cards aren't going to give him $6.9 million for half a season (you thought I wouldn't effort the exchange rate).

From SonnyAZ via azcardinals.com:

"Hi Darren. In your opinion, between Watt and Jones, whom you will put on blind side? My personal preference is put Jones on blindside. Watt's appearance is kinda scarier that makes QB nervous, so put him on where he can be seen. And by the way, once players get drafted and in the roster, do they ever measure on their strength again like in the combine, like 40 yards speed, vertical jump, etc? It will be a good measure for contract extension if they do that."

I think it'll depend on the situation and who is on the other side of Jones on a particular play, but I think there will be times when they are on either side and times when Watt is the three-technique and Jones is next to him. As for the measurements, no, they don't measure them further. They see what they do on the field in actual football games and how they look on the practice field and that's the best way to determine if you want to keep someone around.

From Sebastian Quiros via azcardinals.com:

"Hey Darren, why do you think the Cards didn't re-sign Reddick? Maybe you can shine a little bit of light on me, perhaps in terms of cap or etc, but I feel like we would've been able to match or offer even better than the Panthers for him, yet we went for Golden. Now don't get me wrong, I love Golden, his play, his effort, the juice he brings and how much of a dog he is, but Haas is better in my opinion. Also, what is your take on the signing of AJ Green? I'm not really sure what to make of it. I was kind of hoping we would sign a smaller receiver with top speed to be able to stretch the field. Thanks for the mailbag!"

When it comes to Reddick, I just think ultimately his fate was probably sealed by two things -- the signing of J.J. Watt, which added to the pass rush but obviously wasn't cheap, and Golden's strong desire to stay and willingness to do it at a reduced rate. You can't keep everyone. Once you have Golden and Chandler Jones, you have to wonder how all the playing time would work. I'd also guess that at the time Golden re-signed, Reddick was thinking he was going to get a much better deal than what he ended up with -- similar to the Suggs/Golden situation in 2019, when Golden left as a free agent.

As for Green, they never wanted a smaller receiver. They wanted someone with size on the outside. He's not the field-stretcher that I too thought they might pursue, but he is someone they believe can capitalize on one-on-one coverage when teams are focused on DeAndre Hopkins.

From Mark Allen via azcardinals.com:

"Hey Darren. If COVID ends sometime this year with the vaccines, and we get some normalcy back, what do you expect the cap to do next year? Because it was on a $10M per year leap (unofficially, but that was the trend.) It went from $188M in 2019, $198M in 2020 and now back down to $182.5M due to COVID. Would you expect the cap to go to $198M and resume the $10M jump OR make up for the lost ground and go all the way to $210M (where it should have been)?"

One of the reasons the "floor" for this year's cap was at $175M (and later raised to $180) was because it would have dipped lower had the full impact of the COVID season been applied to the 2020 cap. The owners and players agreed to spread the "pain" over three years. Assuming everything is normal -- and that remains very much a question if that will happen, especially with the rise in COVID variants -- I would expect that there will still be some hits to the cap over the next season or two. Frankly, I think anticipating where the cap will be in 2022, at this point, is guesswork.

From Patty Wigley via azcardinals.com:

"Kelvin Beachum is so eloquent. I enjoy listening to his pressers. On paper, is the best Cardinals OL ever?"

No, no, no. I think the Cards feel better they are making improvements. But there is a lot to prove before they reach the level of, for instance, the mid-1970s offensive line that had Hall of Famer Dan Dierdorf at left tackle and stars like Bob Young, Tom Banks and Conrad Dobler.

From Dan Dare via azcardinals.com:

"What are your thoughts on the P2 move to Minnesota? Because the one-year, $10M deal was in the ballpark of what I thought Arizona might offer. You might even think he took it out of spite. Anywhere but Arizona because they 'disrespected him.' As a fan, I wanted him back. But P2 apparently has a grudge. What's the relationship going to be going forward?"

I think Patrick did what he needed to do. When I talked to him Monday, he did not sound like he felt disrespected. I'm not even 100 percent sure the Cardinals didn't want to just move on. Look, Patrick got the money he was seeking. I think the relationship is fine, and assuming he is brought back one day for the Ring of Honor, I foresee no issues there.

From David Towery via azcardinals.com:

"Hello. When are Jim Hart and Jackie Smith going to be inducted into the Cardinals Ring Of Honor? They are both deserving of this."

Jim Hart already is in the Ring of Honor. He was inducted a few years ago. I'm not sure what will happen with Jackie Smith; his departure from the franchise was not a pretty one.

From John White via azcardinals.com:

"With the acquisition of Rodney Hudson and staring down the barrel of having no 3rd, 4th or 6th round picks, does the possibility of trading down from 16th overall pick become more of an option?"

I don't know if I would say more -- I think they will have their targets at No. 16, and if it makes sense to move, Steve Keim would do it, regardless of their mid-round draft capital. I do think it precludes any thoughts about moving up, however.

From Shawn Erich via azcardinals.com:

"A couple of months back I asked you why Mr. Bidwill was 'hesitant to fire Steve Keim.' You gave me insight and a different perspective. Thank you for that. I'm now seeing a lot of emotional tweets and comments about 'injury-prone' this or 'old' FA signing that. I see how ridiculous it is now. Last year, we had plenty of injuries and performed fairly well( great at times). Now we have more firepower in key areas. Why is everyone so pessimistic (like I was previously) and what advice do you have for all of us impatient and emotional fans who think we know the system better than the professionals?"

I don't know if I have any advice. We are all going to see things differently, and I understand why fans get emotional, even if I don't necessarily always agree. I just know this -- one team wins the Super Bowl every year, and everyone else has "failed." That's the reality of pro sports. There is a lot of information out there where fans know some things, but I know for a fact they don't know everything (and neither do I, for that matter.) I do know this -- the idea the Cards (or any team, for that matter) isn't trying to make themselves better is crazy. This time of year is a good example. Everyone gets so riled up about players signed in free agency, when usually, it doesn't make a giant difference in how a team performs (Tom Brady excluded.)

From Shay P via azcardinals.com:

"Isaiah Simmons is slated to start this season, but is he ready? He didn't play THAT much last year. It may be the case that Vance was a little too hesitant with him. Guy needed more reps."

I think Isaiah was definitely hurt by the lack of offseason work, and perhaps more importantly, the lack of being around the team and seeing what the NFL was all about. But there was a reason he started playing more down the stretch and yes, I think he will be ready to step into that role. The reality is, he and the Cardinals don't have much choice. Last year, the Cards were trying to make the playoffs. If they were better on defense with veterans Hicks and Campbell on the field rather than a raw Simmons, I don't know how that could be considered being hesitant.

From Jeff Smith via azcardinals.com:

"First I want to say how much I enjoy your mailbag. Not sure if other teams do the same but is great to hear your take on questions from fans. My concern is with how poorly we draft. Not sure if the coaches influence picks but during the Steve Keim era who has been a hit? I'm talking first-year impact. Tyrann is the only one I can think of and he was a third-rounder. Seems we need a change in our process."

David Johnson was fantastic as a rookie, for one. But I have to ask, now we are measuring not by success in the league, but now picks have to make an impact immediately? I don't understand that line of thinking. For example, Derrick Brown started for the Panthers all last year. He was fine. Was he a game-changer? No. That doesn't make him a bad pick though.

From William Smith via azcardinals.com:

"Hey Darren. It's cool we landed Rodney Hudson. What's the deal with his contract? It's a two-year deal right? I see he has two voidable years, so I'm not sure what that's about. Are those optional? I ask because a third-round pick is a steep price for a two-year rental."

I understand where you are coming from but I don't see it as a two-year rental. I see a team trying to fortify its offensive line and you got a good guy to do it for two seasons. Who knows where this team will be in two seasons. If he had hit the open market, you might not have gotten him, or paid a much steeper price to do it. (As far as voidable years on any deal, no, they can't be picked up. Then they would be optional years. They only exist for manipulating the salary cap. He'll be a free agent after the 2022 season.)

From Ariana C via azcardinals.com:

"I know, another Larry question, but with the news that we are finalizing a deal with A.J. Green, do you think it's less likely we will see Fitz on the field next year? I'm still holding out hope that my favorite Cardinal will suit up one more year!"

Ariana, I wish I knew. I do not. I'll be honest, the longer this goes, and with the addition of Green, it sure seems to point to Fitz hanging it up. But I have been wrong before about a great many things, and I could be wrong now. I'll say this: Either he legit hasn't made up his mind, he's made up his mind and hasn't told anyone, or he's told people high up in the organization and they are some of the greatest secret-keepers of all-time.

From French Toast via azcardinals.com:

"Hello Darren! The dominos are falling in KC. Did you see they released both their starting OTs? I'm going to say something flabbergasting, but I firmly believe this, and also can justify it with actual NFL results. It is better to release your in-his-contract-year-franchise QB and draft a new one than it is to pay the franchise one. On its face it sounds insane, but the fact is it's completely upheld by real world NFL results. Top paid QBs get you to the playoffs. But cheap QBs win you Super Bowls. I put too much time into this for free, I really should pursue beat writing of some sort. Here are the last 10 Super Bowl winning QBs, and where they ranked in terms of QB pay:

  1. Brady. 6th (and he was only making $25M. Comp that to the $40M per we're seeing emerging)
  2. Mahomes 31st (rookie deal!)
  3. Brady. 11th
  4. Foles (lol. Literal peanuts). However Wentz was only 28th.
  5. Brady. 18th
  6. Manning. 6th
  7. Brady. 12th
  8. Russ (what do punters make? That much.)
  9. Flacco. 16th
  10. Manning. 5th
  11. Rodgers. 21st

It's statistically better to just draft a new first-round QB every five years and cross your fingers. Thanks for coming to my TED talk."

I've learned a long time ago not to be flabbergasted by any thoughts by someone named French Toast, and by the way, you didn't tell me if we're going by French or the most formal Mr. Toast. That said, I'm sure Kyle would enjoy the analytical deep dive and there is little question you have a point to make here. Here is the issue -- the chances of you being in a position to draft another excellent QB and start the cycle over is slim to none. Under that formula, the Chiefs should have let a guy who is tracking to be one of the greatest QBs ever walk away. I'd guess the fan base would pretty much revolt. But OK, let's say you take it down a notch -- the Eagles and Rams cut bait too late after huge extensions but still did so. Well, the Rams now have an even older QB, and the Eagles don't quite know what they have. Again, I get it -- but I know if Kyler keeps trending up, I'm in no hurry to end up back in QB purgatory with this team.

From Don P via azcardinals.com:

"Hi Darren. How does the original round tender work for a player that was undrafted? Can a team still get a draft pick or does it automatically revert to the lower cost right of first refusal with the original tender not an option?"

I believe the rules have changed so that there is no more "original round" for RFAs, but only first-round, second-round and right of first refusal. But yes, once you could tender a player at his original round, and when that was available, an undrafted player didn't get you anything if you declined to match an offer.

From Tom Cowley via azcardinals.com:

"Hi Darren. I am intrigued by the annual controversy with draft for need vs. draft for the best available. I believe you must draft in a combo fashion: BPA to fill your biggest need. What say you this year? CB/Horn, next WR pick 'em. Seems to be a no-brainer."

I say the biggest need right now is cornerback. But what if there isn't a cornerback there in the first round you like? You can't force it. That's why signing a guy or two in free agency at some point seems so important to me. There will be a good player at 16 available. If he ends up at a position where he might not play as much as a rookie, oh well. I still take him.

From Michael Schmorr via azcardinals.com:

"So we have Watt's contract to include three years of payouts after his two active years on the roster, a Bobby Bonilla lite contract, if you will. How would that effect our chances of retaining him past those initial two years if they are great years could we tear up the contract then and make a new one? Or let's go to the greatest best scenario: would Watt be eligible to play for us on this same contract while he has that income coming into him in 2023 and beyond?"

To begin with, your initial statement is incorrect. He will not collect any money beyond 2022 as things stand. He will have "dead money" on the salary cap in 2023, but that's it. No actual cash going out -- he will have already gotten his actual money. If he is going to play for the Cardinals beyond 2022, he would have to sign a new contract, the previous dead money would stick, and then the Cards would absorb whatever cap hits the new deal would create. I think we've come to the time where I need to do a cap primer on the blog this week -- I also had a lot of confused people I was talking with on Twitter this past weekend.

From Christoph Garner via azcardinals.com:

"Hey Darren, watching the coaches/front office interviews prior to FA reminded me, how Kingsbury often evades answering concrete questions by putting his answers in very general terms. Do you share this impression? If so, is it a conscious attempt to hide what they are exactly trying to do? Is it an attitude that he doesn't want to get into the details with the media/public? Is he completely different with this players/coaches - rather going into the X and Os with them? Or is it partly on the media not asking concrete questions?"

I'll be the first to admit we in the media don't always ask the most straight-forward questions. That said, yes, Kingsbury -- like many coaches or GMs -- can sidestep. Sure, it's conscious. But it isn't atypical -- coaches all have their own ways, but usually, they're not super forthcoming with the info. I mean, we've all seen Bill Belichick.

From Chad Johnson via azcardinals.com:

"It is often talked about how QBs need to have a short memory. Do you think that applies to GMs as well? Robert Alford's time here was less than expected due to injury, but do you think GMs 'regret' signings? Like woulda-coulda-shoulda or do they just move on mentally? It seems like an emotional GM would create a lot of haphazard moves and knee-jerk reactions that would ultimately cost the team in the long term, but at the same time, any human being has to imagine "what could have been if...."

I guarantee you GMs have regrets. Too many bad moves can get you fired. But yes, they also have to move on and the most successful ones realize their mistakes ASAP and try to find their team's way back to the right path. Just because you work in football doesn't mean you aren't human, and I think all of us suffer regrets

From Dan A via azcardinals.com:

"Dazzler ... I'm an Aussie that can't get off the bandwagon since '08. Larry is all around one of the all-time greatest sports people, on and off the field. All reports say Larry's retirement decision is on Larry's timeline, and Larry wants success. I have a theory. That there is a potential deal already in place between Bidwill and Fitz. Let's see what the team looks like closer to the league year, and if it's a team that on paper looks like it has a shot at the Big Dance, then Larry is the last piece, on whatever money they can lock in respectfully. His value on this team is more in the locker room than on field. I feel like he is the type of guy in a pandemic who would take the pay cut to be on a Cardinals team that was the real deal. Maybe I'm an optimist, what are your thoughts? Be gentle :)"

First of all, is that my new nickname? Dazzler? I'll take it. I'll say Dan, you definitely sound like an optimist and someone who has put some thought into this. It makes some sense to a certain extent, although I'm on the fence about the big pay cut. Fitz admittedly likes his checks. But until we know, we won't know. And right now, we don't know.

From Jonesy Boggs via azcardinals.com:

"T Brizzle just signed an extension to play for the Bucs in 2022. Notably, a team-friendly deal. There's a reason the man is working on rings for his toes at this point. Is it possible to un-ring this bell in regards to QB pay? Mahomes signs his megadeal and everyone goes crazy. Dak signs his megadeal everyone goes crazy. I'm watching from afar thinking you just killed your franchise. I don't know how you do it, short of ownership collusion. I fear the day we pay Kyler. It shall be a day of mourning, not celebration. The death of our ability to field a complete team."

Just because Briz, er, Brady signed a deal that is more team-friendly is just an outlier. I don't know why quarterbacks -- especially good ones -- shouldn't get the money they have coming to them. As my good friend French-Trizzle said earlier in this mailbag, one option would be to not sign the QB to an extension. As I noted, that doesn't work.

From Chris Minton via azcardinals.com:

"What do you make of the rumors that Nike's lead uniform designer is looking at a house in Chandler?"

Well played, Chris. Work D-Wash into that and you'd have mailbag bingo.

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