The Super Bowl is over, meaning the offseason is officially here. Only two weeks until the Scouting combine, and one month before the free agency gets its soft open with the legal "tampering" period. On to the mailbag, where questions have been edited for length and clarity. As always, you can send in a question for a future mailbag here.
From Tyler Boatman:
"Hey Darren, everybody seems to be freaking out about who we should or shouldn't re-sign, but who do you think we should sign on from FA? Is there a single position in which we should invest more?"
I don't know about specific players because we still have a lot of time before we know who actually is on the market. And frankly, we aren't sure yet which of the Cardinals' own free agents they will try to (or actually) bring back. But if Chandler Jones ends up leaving, you have to look at an edge rusher. I think they need to look at guard. And they probably need to look at wide receiver. Those are the positions that immediately come to mind.
From Brandon Butterfield:
"Short, sweet, and to the point: Thoughts on the slew of Kyler news?"
I haven't had a chance to talk to anyone involved. The Cardinals did put out the following statement over the weekend: "Nothing has changed regarding our opinion and high regard for Kyler Murray. We as a team and Kyler individually have improved each year he's been in the league. We are excited to continue that improvement in 2022 and are excited that Kyler Murray is the quarterback leading us." Kyler also made clear his thoughts on social media on Monday. I've never thought anyone other than Murray would be the QB going forward.
From Derek Cooper:
"Hello from the Black Hills of Dakota again. I'll get right to my free agency thoughts now that the season is over. Chandler Jones is still fantastic, but in my opinion will take too much money to re-sign. When he was injured, Haason Reddick stepped up and became the man. Couldn't keep him last season, but he's a free agent once again. What are the chances to bring him back?"
As I mentioned, if Jones isn't retained, they will need a replacement. Could Reddick be a candidate? First the Panthers have another month to re-sign him. If he does hit the market, there is familiarity for both sides certainly. Reddick said many times Vance Joseph was an important coach for him. But again, what will Reddick's market be, and will his cost be something the Cardinals are willing to spend? When people ask me about "chances" with any potential free agent, it always comes down to that.
From Han Ludeck:
"This is a really good draft for offensive tackles. Some top-15 talents will make it to us. I know tackle isn't a major need, but it is a blue chip position. Do you think they'd pull the trigger on a really good OT? Right tackle can always be upgraded. And maybe you even consider the growing expense which is D.J. Humphries?"
I would never rule out a tackle, especially if they felt a really good one dropped to them. Humphries is going into the last year of his deal in 2022 and so is Beachum. I think they are still trying to see where Josh Jones fits and if he fits.
From Luc Dale:
"What value is that 'Top 75 Free Agents' list if James Conner isn't even on it? Nuffin. He's arguably a top five RB in the NFL. To answer the question nobody asked, Conner is our No. 1 FA priority. Everyone can walk. We must keep Conner. Our offense goes through him. I think going forward he can be utilized better as a receiver too. Remember how deadly David Johnson was in the pass game? Conner is capable of that."
I agree with you that Conner was an important part of the roster and I agree they want him back. I'm not sure he is the No. 1 priority -- their tight end situation with Zach Ertz and Maxx Williams might be more pressing -- and in the end, it's going to be about what it would cost to keep him. The Cardinals have a number in mind. As for the list, the reality is that the NFL/teams look at running backs differently than they once did, and it does not surprise me that running backs are left off such a list.
From Noah S.:
"So Chandler Jones is going to be expensive, whether it's us paying for him or another team. What do you think the chances are of a tag and trade? I definitely think there's a team out there who would trade for him if we did tag him. He's a great player and still has good years left, why not try and get something for letting him go? Would a tag and trade put any dead money on our cap? Thanks!"
In theory, you can tag-and-trade a player. But you can get a comp pick for losing free agents, and it's possible that would be the same as the pick you might be willing to get in trade. While the tag doesn't give you dead money, you do have to carry the tag's contract figure on your cap until a move is made (and if a move isn't made and he signs the tag, you better be prepared to keep him because the money is guaranteed.) '
From Kenyon Carlson:
"Good day Darren. I recall reading that Steve Keim proposed promoting defensive coordinator James Bettcher to head coach but his recommendation was ultimately trumped by Michael Bidwill in favor for hiring Steve Wilks. Can you provide the source that cited that news so that I can refresh my memory instead of having a vague recollection. I think the lesson learned from that year was there were just too many changes made at one time. Wilks was a rookie HC who changed the entire defensive scheme from 3-4 to 4-3 and Rosen was a rookie QB. I just recall that while Michael and Steve might have shared the same vision, they had different paths in getting there."
I know Bettcher interviewed for the job but I don't recall anyone reporting Keim pushing for Bettcher. Not sure where you got that from. Clearly, there was a big shift happening at the time. Obviously, 2018 turned out very poorly for a number of reasons and was a frustrating season for ownership, the front office, coaches and players alike.
From CardsFan Red 1:
"Just saw that AZ Super Bowl advertisement with Fitz, very well done! Good job to your team there. Awesome collection of representatives. Although I feel really bad because as a native of our state and big local sports fan, I don't recognize the gentleman in the ASU jacket. Who is that?"
I want to make clear that video was made by the hard-working group at the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee, not by the team (although I am guessing we helped with a couple of the shoutouts.) As for the ASU gentleman, that is former ASU wrestler and UFC champion Cain Velasquez.
From G Banks:
"Hi Darren, I have a philosophy, let me know what you think. Defensive line talent is more priority than edge rushers. It's too easy to point at Aaron Donald, who is one in a million, but just look at other top tier defensive linemen. Not only can they provide pressure, they stop the run. If a looping edge rusher gets stonewalled, he's ineffectual. So rather than pay someone like Chandler $20M, I'd rather pay two really good defensive line guys $10M each."
The thing is, the majority of those sacks and pressures are still going to come from edge rushers. It's easier for a top athlete to get to the QB from the edge instead of the middle. If you have an interior lineman that is "really good" they are going to cost more than $10M a year. In Chandler Jones' case, I think it is age that is more a factor of whether they re-sign him or not, not that edge rushers are not worth it/as important. I'm not saying improving the defensive line won't be a focus, but DL over edge rusher I just can't buy into.
From Justin S:
"Darren, hope this finds you well. Weekly reader here, and I had a question. A lot of people have brought up Kliff and hiring an offensive coordinator. I know he wants to keep calling plays so why not do what the Rams have done. Sean McVay calls the plays but he has and OC that helps with the game plan each week and they collaborate together. Would Kliff be open to something like this?"
I mean, they already do that in the meetings all week with QB coach Cam Turner and run-game coordinator Sean Kugler. I'm not ruling anything out, but he does take input from others. Kingsbury came into this job with playcalling/offensive coordinating the top of what he does. It's what got him the job. People are often wary about getting away from the very thing that got them a job in the first place.
From Juan Padilla-Chee:
"Going into his third season, what are your thoughts on Isaiah Simmons' role with the team? Should we consider him a bust for now or maybe he doesn't fit the team's scheme?"
OK, not sure how you get anywhere near "bust" with Simmons. Is he a Pro Bowler yet? No. And there are times he looks like he's still learning. But I've covered busts and he's not anywhere close to that. I think Simmons is an incredible athlete and this will be an interesting offseason to see if he again moves up a level in play or even if they move him around. I'm still bullish on Simmons going forward.
From Jeremy Schokney:
"Hey Darren, we need to unpack this Brentson Buckner thing. I speak for all Cardinals fans when I say we weren't even aware he was fired. Why? Because the DL underperformed? We don't have a coaching issue on the DL, we have a talent void."
I am wondering why you assume he was fired. It's my understanding they wanted him back, his contract ended, and Buck chose a different opportunity. (There were reports in-season a couple of colleges had wanted to hire him too.) You can discuss getting an upgrade on the defensive line, but you need to get the facts straight too.
From Chris Minton:
"As a regular listener to most of the various team podcasts, I notice that several of them are sponsored. I don't know if any of the sponsor contract terms are up for renewal anytime soon, but it would be a great fit to bring a local chiropractor on board. With all the knee-jerking going on in the fanbase lately, business would surely boom."
I see what you did there.
From Jason Wright:
"How are you such an almanac for Arizona high school boys basketball? You know everyone who's ever played anywhere."
I am guessing you are speaking about this tweet. In this case, my oldest son was in the Corona program at the same time as Marvin Bagley, Alex Barcello and Saben Lee, and in the latter two's graduating class as well, so I know them a little but and the Aztecs well. I appreciate that, but I don't know if I know that much. I just am old and like basketball, and I've lived here a long time and paid attention to the high school hoops scene.
From Shad Cris:
"Ya kid is right. I'm stressed thinkin about keeping the Suns together. I love them so much. Our starting five is arguably the best group of any Arizona team that I can think of. Maybe the Schilling/Randy/Gonzo D-Backs and they did win a ring. I've never experienced an AZ team where im confident we win every night. I wish that for the Cardinals. You've got be happy for Fitz too. It's a different kind of winning but the man has to be thrilled with his team."
I think it's safe to say Fitz is thrilled with life in general. He's set himself up for "retirement" pretty well, considering he hasn't even turned 40 yet.
From Max Lloyd:
"OK, Darren, this would be the best thing ever what if we got Tom Brady out of retirement as our backup for K1. It is the best idea in NFL history."
Brady did the backup thing way back in 1999. I'm guessing he's over it by now.