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You've Got Mail: July Has Arrived

Topics include signing draft picks, contract incentives and hamburgers


Hope everyone had a good Fourth of July, regardless of the circumstances. Next week, Kyle Odegard will be your guest question-answerer on the mailbag. Send him some good queries, which you can do right here.

From Shravaka via

"So Darren, we're hearing about a proposal to eliminate all preseason games? Can you bring up to speed on this discussion, progress, status, etc.? And any thoughts, insights, or hunches you might have as well."

I wish I had concrete answers at this point, but nothing official has been decided. There were multiple reports the NFL was going to cut the preseason schedule from four to two games and that the players' side was pushing to eliminate all preseason games. The league wants to have some game action for which to judge younger players; the players see any games not on the regular season schedule as a medical risk. We'll see what will happen. The case was always that the owners and the players were going to have to come to agreements when it comes to dealing with how to play with the coronavirus. Nothing has been settled as of yet.

From Tom Cowley via

"Hi Darren. Do you think the coaches will have enough time on the field, under the present rules, with our newbies to adequately prepare them to be effective against our first few opponents? Some of these draftees will be expected to take for real snaps I imagine and to look good doing it, or is it likely we will not see them for awhile?"

The rosters are too small to say you won't see some of them at all. Isaiah Simmons is going to play. I am guessing at least one of the defensive tackles is going to play. I expect Eno Benjamin to be there, at least for special teams. But no, there isn't going to be enough time or practice to have rookies to be ready for the regular season, not in any kind of usual sense. But every team is in the same situation. It's a reality that just has to be accepted. It doesn't mean a rookie can't play well -- Patrick Peterson didn't get an offseason in 2011, and he tied an NFL record for punt return touchdowns and did just fine as a cornerback.

From Dave P via

"Hi Darren, just curious, last year we were the first team to sign all drafted players. This year we haven't signed any yet. Obviously COVID is the reason. However I'm wondering, because I see other teams slowly signing players. You'd think we would at least have signed one guy, like Eno, just to show they are trying to get it done and other guys deals are on the way. The radio silence is unsettling."

Most draft picks in the league remain unsigned. When they finally come together for camp -- and the rookies are allowed back a couple of days early, whenever that is -- I would expect the draftees' contracts to all be signed quickly. Out of everything going on right now in order to get the season going, the draft picks' contracts are way down the list of things to worry about.

From Artie Bratton via

"How do incentive-based salaries work as far as against the cap. Do you just assume the player hits all the incentives and the max amount of money he can make is the cap hit? Any incentive money he doesn't make can't be used anywhere else?"

So there is probably more nuance here, but incentives are generally put in contracts as "likely to be earned" or "not likely to be earned." The difference is what the player did the year before -- if there is an incentive for Chandler Jones to get 15 sacks, then it would be LTBE in 2020 because he reached that number (19, in fact) in 2019. If he has an incentive for 20 sacks, then it would be NLTBE. "Likely" incentives count against the current cap, "Not Likely" are not. If a player doesn't reach a LTBE incentive, that cap money is refunded on the following year's cap. If a player hits a NLTBE incentive, that becomes a charge on the cap the following year.

From Joe Long via

"Darren, I know this is random, but I need to vent. Everybody looks forward to the open practices during training camp. It has become a Valley tradition. However, there is one aspect that is atrocious, and I'm quite surprised it hasn't been addressed: The autograph situation. The only people who get autographs are at the rail. Everybody else is screwed, because of course the rail people never move. When I was a kid, I remember going to the Cards' camp at the Tempe headquarters. I don't even think you were working for the Cards yet. But the point is, they had tables set up with players signing for 30 minutes. I got a bunch of autographs, and I still own that signed sheet. I would like all kids to get that experience, if just once."

Back when the Fan Fest was held at the team's Tempe facility, no I wasn't working for the team but I did cover the team. In those days, a lot fewer fans wanted to come see the Cardinals. These days, that doesn't make sense. There was a time when there was an autograph session at camp, but it became a logistical nightmare, and there were plenty of complaints then too -- because most people want the big names, and there is only so much time. The idea of the current setup is that there are guys signing autographs every practice, instead of just one time. I don't know if there is a perfect answer -- although I will say, if people on the rail made sure it was just the kids getting the autographs, then a lot more kids would get in there. I've seen plenty of autograph situations. Not everyone is a kid.

From Richard Wakefield via

"A perk of the virus problem is that we can watch a lot of recorded football games. This allows me to concentrate on different players and see their strengths and weaknesses . One of the many Cardinals that I am excited about for this year is Pharoh Cooper. A great returner and receiver. Yesterday a friend told me we had released him? There must be a reason, probably money. Do you know why he isn't a Cardinal anymore?"

Cooper was a free agent after the season. He wasn't released. He signed with Carolina. Cooper did a nice job when he was brought back last year. But between the addition of DeAndre Hopkins and the hope/need/desire to have some of those 2019 draft picks step up and get some playing time, I'm guessing both sides understood Cooper would get a better opportunity elsewhere.

From Alan N via

"Mr. Urban, if you happen to ever play the highlights of every touchdown the Cardinals had in 2019 beside the highlights of every touchdown that the Ravens had, one thing that stands out is the pocket. I know that Lamar Jackson is known for being a mobile quarterback but a lot, if not most, of his successful touchdown passes were from a nicely packed and well maintained pocket. The Cardinals showed flashes of a stunning pocket in their highlights where it was successful but not quite utilized the same way that Jackson uses his -- where either the offensive line moves back and encases him or he would move up into the pocket himself. Murray still hung back outside of it when the offensive line was able to pull it off so the envelope really served no purpose. Is this due to the inconsistency of our offensive line being reliable enough to hold the pocket or what is it exactly?"

Without going back and looking at the video, I'd think by what you just described part of it had to do with Murray being a rookie. Jackson was not. So Jackson is going to have a better feel of what it means to remain in an NFL pocket. Does that mean the offensive line didn't have inconsistency at times? Sure they did. But there are so many things that go into this that a straight comparison of how Jackson looked with the Ravens to what Murray did with the Cardinals feels like apples and oranges to me.

From Brian Signet via

"I was very impressed last year with the play of Charles Washington on special teams. Do you see him getting an opportunity on defense this year to try to make a case for more playing time?"

First I'd like to see if the Cardinals decide to bring in a veteran safety. If that's the case, no. And even if it is not, I'd think Chris Banjo and Deionte Thompson are both ahead of Washington when it comes to playing defense. Could Washington stick for special teams? Absolutely.

From Michael Travers via

"Darren, thanks for letting us comment and ask questions about our favorite team. We were all fortunate to see the K1 video and the potential is exciting. There are so many questions concerning this year with COVID-19 and the social issues that could affect the league. Many of the national sports media are encouraged by the Cardinals and their offseason moves. As we all know the quarterback is the key person on any NFL team and some have predicted an MVP-like season for Kyler, but that is the great unknown. With training camp only weeks away, who or what will be the standout of training camp?"

At this point? The part of training camp that will stand out to me will be how the team -- and the league -- deals with the coronavirus.

From Kevin Campbell via

"Darren, do you think the NFL is overestimating the threat of this virus with spikes in cases not producing an increase in serious hospitalizations and deaths? With nearly 50% of all deaths occurring in nursing homes, and 99% of people under the age of 30 not showing any symptoms, it seems overblown."

Do I think it's overblown? Well, I am assuming you don't have a loved one in a nursing home, but I'm guessing those that do are pretty horrified at that stat. I have a mother in her 70s, living on her own and with health issues, and I'm scared to death she could get this. I don't know your family situation, but I know I don't really want my sons -- both younger than 30 -- getting this to see whether they would be in the 1 percent or not. Oh, and hospitals again are being taxed, whether they are "serious" hospitalizations or not. Frankly, if I have to go to a hospital, period, that would be serious to me.

tl;dr: No, I don't think it's being overestimated.

From Blaine S. via

"With football in kind of a hold pattern I thought I would turn my attention to another love -- food. As a Canadian who travels to Arizona every chance I get (pandemic excluded), where can I find the best burgers in town? Thanks!"

Blaine, I'll be honest, while I know when I have a bad hamburger, I've never been one to fall in love with one. They are ... hamburgers. So I did some crowdsourcing internally, and got a lot of the usual suspects here: Chuckbox, Zinburger, AZ WIlderness. And In-and-Out, of course.