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You've Got Mail: New League Year - And Free Agency - Is Here

Topics include Reddick's odds to return, free-agent choices and maneuvering the cap

Cardinals Mailbag Drake 031621

It's a big week. NFL free agency officially begins Wednesday. And while we have already seen some player movement thanks to the coronavirus cap (hey there, J.J. Watt) big moves will definitely reveal themselves in the next week or so. First, it's this week's mailbag to leave a question for a future mailbag, go here.

From Julian K via

"Hey Darren, i just saw the overview about compensatory picks and I'm really surprised about the Cardinals not getting any of them. Do you know why 12.5-sack Haason Reddick or potential Hall of Famer Patrick Peterson are regarded that worthless'? Or even Kelvin Beachum, who seemed to have a chance to get to the Pro Bowl. Greetings from Germany."

No one is calling Reddick or Peterson worthless. When comp picks come out, they are based on the previous year's free agent signings. So this year is based on 2020 free agency. Peterson and Reddick will be factored into the equation in 2022. It also doesn't matter about the name -- it's all about the contract those guys get. And if a team signs more free agents than it loses, it won't get comp picks either.

From JR Tetas via

"Hey Darren, say Reddick gets a big, big deal elsewhere. Does that mean we get a third-round comp? Or does Watt wipe that out because it's like a fair exchange of value?"

Watt will not factor into next year's comp picks because he won't qualify in the formula -- if you are cut to become a free agent, as opposed to your contract simply expiring, you aren't in the mix. In theory, yes, a giant deal for Reddick would potentially provide a third-round comp pick. But it'll matter who the Cardinals sign of the qualifying free agents too.

From Blip Noot via

"You're mighty pepped up on this QB rookie deal discussion. Not to get too deep and overanalyze anything but Kyle Ohmygod said that Kyler doesn't feel pressure. Which I think is clearly true almost to a fault. People think he doesn't care. What do you think? Even if he doesn't show it it would be nice if Kyler vocally acknowledged his selection as the No. 1 draft pick, QB of the team, and soon a mammoth contract does come with the highest responsibility and pressure imaginable. Just so we know. Because going hand in hand with your Humphries article, Humphries really took a big step when he started accepting responsibility and seeing that he needed to live up to the pressures and expectations. It's a part of maturation. Children pretend there is no pressure or responsibilities. Thank you!"

Well, Blip -- if that is your real name -- that feels like a shot at Kyle. What did he do to you? And it's been a minute since I was a kid, but there are plenty of times kids feel pressure and responsibility. Let's be careful on the sweeping generalizations. As for Kyler, I definitely think he cares. He might not show it the way you want, or that other QBs might, but I absolutely think he cares. I'll also say this -- if he gets the message to his coaches and teammates (and I'm not saying he has or has not), I don't think it matters what the fans think he has done. I get why people want him to act a certain way, but ultimately, it's about what he does on the field. Just because a guy "acts" a certain way doesn't mean it'll translate into good football.

From ZenCardsFan via

"I wrote last week about elite QB passing stats, and how Kyler doesn't have any four-TD passing games under his belt. You said Kyler had games of three passing TDs and one rushing and isn't that the same. No, they are not the same. For the reason being that Kyler and his supporters have always maintained that Kyler is a "passing QB". His true talent and value is in his arm. I know you've heard it before, but it's relevant at this point, the cardinals are something like 0-11 when Kyler rushes for less than six attempts. He's a running QB. He's never won a game with just his arm, and the lacking four-TD games is just an additional stat supporting that fact."

We can agree to disagree. Debate running versus passing, fine. To pick an arbitrary stat like four TD passes in a game means nothing.

From Chad Johnson via

"How many 'cap specialists' does that team employ? Is GM Steve Keim involved in the actually math of contracts or does he basically work on overall contract amount and others figure out the possibility of fitting that number under the cap? Is there a 'quickbooks' for the cap or some kind of accounting-type software that helps team make sure they don't go over the cap?"

The Cardinals have basically one "cap guy," and that is director of football administration Matt Harriss. They discuss all the time what a contract would do to the cap and how it fits. No, I don't think there is a computer program, but it's actually relatively understandable if you know what you are doing. Teams also can reach out to the league to double-check about a contract or a cap number. As far as going over the cap, it's actually impossible -- if a team agrees to a contract that pushes them over the cap, the league will reject the contract when it is submitted.

From Robert Malicki via

"In bringing to light Watt's desired uniform number and its connection to Marshall Goldberg the PR department has a golden opportunity to highlight the teams of the late 1940s, which were led by triple-threat back Marshall Goldberg. My father, who was a season-ticket holder after the war saw him play before the war and was happy to see him return. What these two players share besides a uniform number is a special impact on their teammates. Goldberg was a captain and prized in leadership, talent and inspiration, a coach-on-the-field type. The same qualities seem to be there in J.J. Watt. Hopefully, J.J. Watt can do for the Cardinals what Goldberg did in leading us to a championship? Maybe he can have the same effect that Reggie White had when signed and led his new team to a championship?"

We will see what impact J.J. Watt has on and off the field. The fact his desire for No. 99 has brought up the impact Marshall Goldberg had and why his number was retired in the first place was a good result. I know Watt himself has noted that White was 32 when he signed with the Packers and obviously still had a giant influence on what Green Bay did over the next few years. It'd be nice if Watt could echo that as he turns 32.

From Patrick Schussler via

"Do the Cardinals really need more wide receivers? They have DeAndre Hopkins. This past season Christian Kirk and Andy Isabella had their massive games. If Kyler would actually spread the ball around, would those two receivers be better?"

Do the Cardinals need more receivers, plural? No. Do I think they could use another target that would draw defenses away from Hopkins? Right now, yes. Kirk and Isabella don't do that right now -- not to the level the Cards need. I think they could use another dynamic playmaker. Maybe that's a pass-catching tight end. Maybe it's a receiver. But I do think they could use another weapon.

From Michael Jones via

"Is it more likely we re-sign Golden or Reddick? I hope we don't tag him and target more depth even if we do sign both. I believe we will at least re-sign one of them. Do you like the idea of adding Aldon Smith to the team? I'm only high on the idea because it's the offseason, and taking a chance with Smith seems intriguing since he had Watt/Jones like stats at one point, and has only been troubled not injured. The possibility opposing QBs having a clean pocket against us seems slim. Peterson will have a career year, if he stays. I'm hopeful they resign him and Fitz returns. Draft a CB regardless (or somehow nab Kyle Pitts lol.) Thanks for listening to the ramble."

This question obviously came in before Golden got a new deal. The Cardinals did not tag Reddick, which was not a surprise. I've always thought re-signing Golden was more possible, simply because Reddick figures to get more on the open market, more than what the Cards are likely going to be able to afford. I don't see Aldon Smith as an option; it's tough to count on a guy who might not work out, and especially now with Golden back.

From Jacob Lagang via

"Hello sir. I have heard about Robert Alford but I know everything Steve Keim is trying to do is for a reason. Do you think we can get J.C. Jackson and Jason Verrett for a cheap deal and draft Asante Samuel Jr. all in the same year? Also are we able to get John Brown and Andre Roberts for a good deal and help us out a lot? I was thinking we can do that and restructure lots of contracts."

The reality is this is all going to be fluid. To throw out a handful of free agent possibilities is ... just that. Could they do all those things? Yes. Will they? Probably not. Roberts didn't make much sense to me, and besides, he is signing with the Texans. If Smoke still has the speed and they are comfortable with his health, maybe he makes sense. (I had a lot of people saying Brown said the warmer weather hurt his health but I have never seen that quote or have a link, if someone wants to pass it along.)

From Peter from Atlanta via

"How much cap space is needed to sign our potential draft picks? Re-signing Peterson makes more sense than keeping Alford, then drafting at No. 16 for CB. If we made some splash signings and fill depth at CB, OL, WR, and cut it close with the cap before draft, would it make sense to trade up? I ask because the only player I'd truly like to see the Cardinals somehow draft is Kyle Pitts, which no one projecting a slide to 16."

I'm not ruling out a trade up but frankly, if there was one, I think it's more likely to grab a particular cornerback. They brought back Alford no doubt on a very cheap deal -- perhaps even a minimum salary, given his injuries -- because they need experience right now. They could still keep Patrick Peterson, although it's going to be interesting to see what his market turns out to be. Their rookie cap pool is $6.2 million, although that doesn't necessarily mean all $6.2M is needed of cap space with only the top 51 counted until the end of the preseason. They aren't going to cut it too close with the cap -- they need to have some breathing room for future moves.

From James Chapman via

"Do you have any insider information why Tanner Vallejo got a two-year $4 million deal? Gardeck and Turner are the actual special teams aces that we need to keep. What does 'role in Vance's defense' even mean? He's going to be a starter?"

Couple things here. One, Vallejo has not yet officially signed, so we don't know what the deal is for. The high likelihood, because of how it was leaked, is that his agent put the news out there and usually, that dollar figure includes the maximum amount of money it can be for including incentives. Or it's backloaded and this year is $1M and next year $3M, something like that. (It's probably also the agent saying he'll have a role in the defense.) I agree they'd want to keep Gardeck and Turner (who have been tendered) but I understand why they'd want to keep Vallejo. He's been a solid contributor. Give him his props.

From Albert Fontain via

"That was distressing to hear Kyler is up for extension after this season already. Where does time go, man. So speaking on that window, would you assume we drag it out as long as possible? Pick up his fifth year and tag a couple times? Or do you see an immediate extension ASAP?"

Oh Albert, I wish I knew where the time went. You'd think this last year would've felt like it lasted forever, and it does in some respects, but in other respects, time has flown by. Not in a good way. A monotonous way. But enough about me. I am guessing his extension talks might be predicated on this season, but no, right now I do not think they will end up using the tag. Makes little sense to me. When you start playing tag with QBs, you eventually either mess up the relationship or get yourself in a bad spot. If he's your QB, you work out a deal. It's going to be expensive. Price of playing the game. But obviously, there is time.

From Roger from New York via

"Hi Darren, Always enjoy the insight in the mailbag. Reading one of your answers last week about the initial success of Deone Bucannon in Bowles' defense then not fitting well into Wilks/Holcomb defensive scheme, got me thinking about Reddick and why the GM and other decision makers upon hiring a new head coach, don't delve deeply into how they see existing key players or players with huge upside (ie first-round picks) would fit into the candidate's proposed new scheme. Can't fit everyone, I get that. For Reddick though, what's your thoughts on why it took so long to get him back to his natural position?"

A lot went into that. I suppose they could have tried something sooner, but the feeling was he was undersized. He also didn't flash as much from the edge as a rookie in 2017 when he basically took over for an injured Markus Golden. Clearly, if they had to do it over again, they would.

From Gary Wilson via

"Darren, I'm going to need you to use all of your conspiratorial journalistic skillsets laid upon you by the Dan Rather school of news you went to to find out the hows/whys/and huhs of JJ Watt's selection of AZ. Outside of maybe someone like Tom Brady choosing Arizona when he was a free agent, this feels like the single biggest blindside win in Arizona sports possible. I think we can be forgiven for being very happy, while being incredibly confused. It wasn't a money deal because he would've got that deal anywhere. And it's not a ring chaser because we are certainly further away than say Green Bay or Buffalo. Happy, but perplexed in every way."

First of all, with due respect to Dan Rather, do not blaspheme Walter Cronkite. In terms of Watt, yes, it was a blindside. I would be careful about saying it's not a money deal because I am not convinced he would've gotten that deal anywhere -- there is still a real chance it was the biggest monetary offer. Watt still had to pick Arizona, though, and I do think there were other reasons why he picked the Cards. We'll see what other details might be revealed as the months pass.

From New Jerseys Please via

"Hey Darren, thanks so much for mailbag! Not really a question, but more of a shout out to D.J. Humphries. I watched the interview he did and I've got to say that has to be one of my all-time favorite player interviews I've ever watched. Barely any football discussed but it was so heartwarming and exciting to watch. The amount of growth and maturity this man has achieved (especially off the field) is absolutely remarkable but also feels right given the type of person he is. Still hilarious like he was in his first presser with the team, but now that's matched with a level of self awareness and intent that is so admirable to see. I am so proud of this him like he were my brother, even though I'll likely never meet him lol. Shout out to Corey Peters as well. Also new jerseys please!"

I'm sure Hump appreciates the kind words. He has definitely grown a ton since 2015, on and off the field.

From Reggie M via

"Steve Keim mentions how he looks back on past mistakes and tries to improve. His drafting has left a lot to be desired. Why do you think that is? Every GM has a type of player they like. From my estimation Keim likes projects. Tyrann (character), Nkemdiche (maturity), Bucannon (position), Humphries (maturity), Reddick (teach top athlete a new spot), Simmons (no NFL comp) to name a few. If you take this propensity for boom-or-bust draft picks, you start to understand his mindset. He's a gambler. Not to get dramatic, but the house always wins. Keim goes bust way more often than he wins. And I think that's a big problem. There is a benefit to playing it safe you know. Take the big names from the big schools."

Keim has said before he wants to have better draft results. But you have six draft examples out of all the picks he's made since 2013. And I'd argue that the only poor pick of the ones you mentioned is Nkemdiche. (We still have to see on Simmons.) Buc was a solid starter on two playoff teams. Hump is good. Reddick is about to make FA money. Tyrann is Tyrann. As for "playing it safe," sometimes that would work. I can find hundreds of examples where those guys washed out too.

From Glenny McMuffin via

"You see John Brown got released? Oof, massacre week continues. Although the Cardinals don't seem to have been affected yet (as of writing this at least). It seems their dramatic releases are coming naturally, allowing the vets to walk. There is a flooded WR market, so what can that possibly mean for Larry? It's getting uncomfortable. It shouldn't be because he's the wealthiest non-QB in the league, but boyo, if he wants anything over $5M, he'd get laughed out the building. Almost zero bargaining leverage at this point. Can we just ring him up? No more waiting, make a choice or we'll make it for you. Love ya, but the future is here."

Glenny, why does it bother you so? Fitz is going to get to it, and realistically, the only one who should have an issue with the timeline is Steve Keim, because it does impact the team building. The rest of us, not so much. I will admit I thought we would have an answer by now but we do not.

From Nicole Bennett via

"I understand you work for the Cardinals so not sure how transparent you can be but people from other states keep asking me why Kyler Murray doesn't like Larry Fitzgerald. There does seem to be an issue. Not sure if it's a personality clash or jealousy or what but it has affected the offense negatively. It also seems like Fitzgerald is being phased out which breaks my heart. If they would throw to him he would be productive so his numbers don't reflect his current talent level."

I'd have to ask what the people in this state are actually saying to you. I am curious to know -- is this based on body language someone has seen? Because it shouldn't be based on statistics -- the reality is was when DeAndre Hopkins arrived, he was going to get the bulk of the targets. Fitz also isn't the same player he once was either. I agree that he could've and perhaps should've been targeted more often last season, but I don't think his numbers would've been crazy better.

From ASU Crew via

"N'Keal Harry is on the trade block! Thoughts! Even if we just send a fifth, we aren't finding a fifth-rounder with more potential than Harry. I don't know if 'coming home' means are darn thing, but man, we need to get that guy back in the desert."

My thought is that this draft is deep at receiver. My thought is that Harry isn't the kind of receiver the Cardinals need right now -- they could use someone with speed on the other side of Hopkins. My thought is that Harry -- and as a ASU guy, I loved him in maroon and gold -- still has a ton to prove on the NFL level. They can get a receiver in free agency without giving up a pick. I just think for what they need, they have to get more of a sure thing than Harry right now.

From Joe Lewis via

"Not sure if you've noticed, but Kyler tweets a lot about offensive linemen. Sometimes stats or retweets of other people making comments, but it's not terribly subtle what he's trying to communicate to the Cards' brass. It makes me worry a little bit. If a guy like Russel Wilson can get so frustrated with Seattle not fixing his OL, it seems Kyler is similarly minded and has less patience. While I think the OL is arguably in one of the best places its been in a long time, with a steady hand with Kugler in charge, I think it's clearly still a big problem. I don't want this post to turn into an attack on Keim, but his record with drafting OL is bad. Something drastic needs to happen. Look at the Green Bay OL. They've been able to draft and develop multiple pro bowl OL out of the 4th and 5th rounds. Its astounding. We need that now. I worry very much how patient Kyler is going to be when you consider he's already chirping about it in year three."

I have noticed a couple of tweets. I think the Cards are very much aware of the shortcomings they might have in the offensive line and I do think they will address it. As for Kyler's desires, we are clearly moving into a time in the NFL where the quarterbacks are going to get more and more vocal about what they think they need around them. I think that's just life, whether it is Murray or someone else on another team.

From Jack Douglas via

"Greetings from the UK Darren. Hope you're well in these crazy times! This may come across as disrespectful but I assure you I don't intend it to be. I as well as everyone else would love to have Fitz back but the contract he requires might price us out of some great acquisitions in free agency. Do you think it's likely he would take a super-team friendly deal to stick around?"

I'll be honest Jack, trying to figure out Fitz's mindset right now is a no-win situation. I can say in the past, I think Fitz felt like he was earning those salaries he was getting. This season is different, not the least of reasoning because of the cap drop. I don't know how that could impact his ideals. I mean, maybe down deep he is thinking about retirement anyway and this is a moot point. I know this -- Fitz has said he's going to take his time, Michael Bidwill said the team is going to let Fitz take his time, Steve Keim has said the team is going to let him take his time. I guess we just have to wait, excruciating as it might be.

From Joel Engram via

"Just saw a blurb about how Brian Hoyer is slated to be the backup QB in Miami this year. Brian Hoyer. I remember that name. He was a Cardinal during that abysmal period between Kurt and Carson. This isn't meant to disrespect him, on the contrary, but how does a guy that mediocre (if not flat out bad) have a 12-plus year NFL career? Is that the reality of the NFL? That guys stick around because you're friends? Josh McCown is another one. I still cannot fathom that the dude I watched play when I was like 10 years old is still in the NFL when I'm damn near 30."

Gotta admit, Joel, if that isn't meant as disrespectful, I shudder to think what you say when you are disrespectful. Backup QB is a tough position in a lot of ways. Is Hoyer a guy getting you to a Super Bowl? No. But when you are talking about someone intelligent, who understands his role (kinda like another ex-Michigan Stater, Drew Stanton) and can pick up the offense, I understand why coaches go with someone who has experience. McCown was the same. He did fine in fill-in roles. As we have seen, it's tough to find a starting QB in this league. Once you start delving into spots 33-64, the pickings become more slim.

From Drew Day via

"Hi Darren, I wanted to ask why we haven't heard news about the Cardinals extending Chandler Jones yet. Because as you know Chandler carries the biggest cap hit and he's a FA next season. Wouldn't the obvious move be to extend him? I worry because they haven't done the most obvious thing, extend him, save lots of cap, implies they don't want to extend him."

Slow down there. Lots of things at play here. Maybe they want to extend him and what Chandler wants long-term and what they want to pay long-term don't match up. Maybe, after a serious injury, they want to see how he bounces back this season, which would be fair. And yes, there is a chance they might let him go next year. Or tag him. You are right that would help with the cap, but right now, they don't necessarily need cap space. An extension still helps in two months, if it's needed.

From Vera Owens via

"Hey Darren, where do you think the team and players stand in regards to paycuts? Where's the balance between not wanting to take a paycut but understanding free agency might be brutal with all these other top talents also in free agency? Personally speaking, if I were a guard, for example, I wouldn't want to be a FA right now. There's a bunch of really good FA vet guards out there. Sincerely, the decision may come down to paycut with a job vs unemployment in 2021."

You have broken it down pretty well. Taking a cut all comes down to what you think you might be able to do on the market if indeed you choose to be released instead. It's possible that's what happened with Robert Alford, he decided he wanted to see the market, and then quickly decided the market wasn't for him. The balance, though, is nuanced, and comes down to each player individually, what position he is, where he is in his career.

From Joseph Robinett via

"Would an online petition help to inspire the Cardinals conservative owner, Michael Bidwill and company to have designers create a new line of uniforms and change the current underwhelming, un-spartan-like, helmet aesthetic? Obviously, the starting quarterback, Kyler Murray, didn't have any success when addressing his dislike for the team's current attire, so what success could supporters of the team have, I wonder?"

I still chuckle at this. Kyler makes one passing comment on a Twitch feed one time and it has become this beacon of hate for the uniforms. I don't think he is thinking about this as much as people are hoping he is. I'm confused about the "un-spartan-like" helmet thing. So you want the helmets to be more plain? They feel like they have a spartan quality to me. People can do what they want about petitions. That's a personal choice.

From Craig Atwell via

"Hey Darren, strange question following the release of Zane Gonzalez. As a follower of the youtuber MMG, I think he's moving to Arizona soon from Cali. Could he possibly be considered to come in for a camp tryout? I've seen him imitate some kicks and I think it would be interesting."

Uhhhh, no.

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