The draft is over, and the big move was not a draft pick, but a trade for Hollywood Brown. More on that in a moment. Then there was the Monday's harsh news that DeAndre Hopkins is suspended. A true roller coaster of events. The Cardinals are now into Phase 2 of the offseason program, and the mailbag is into Phase 729, or thereabouts. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. As always, you can send in a question for a future mailbag here.
From Roby Fortua:
"Fair to say the Cardinals were well aware of the Hop suspension for weeks? Which begs the question, why not address it when making the Hollywood trade? Everyone was head-scratching (rightly so) given we just gave up a first-round pick for a third-year non-star because it felt overpriced and desperate. Well, now we know why. I for one am OK with the Hollywood trade. But still, all the post draft media feels disingenuous now."
I am not assuming they knew"for weeks" unless Hop wanted to loop them in, but yeah, you figure they have had some time and yeah, it makes sense that pushed through the Brown trade, although they still could've used him anyway. I think it still very much stands on its own; the Cardinals went into the draft needing a receiver even if Hopkins was playing. But talking about it? It had not been announced, it's probable he had not yet dropped the appeal process, so no, it wasn't going to be brought up by the team.
From AZ Cards House:
"Will D-Hop's 6-game suspension count for preseason games and we will have him back in Week 4? Or is it regular-season games only and we get him back Week 7?"
Suspensions are for the games that count only. Hopkins can practice with the team from now through the beginning of the first week of the regular season, and then he must avoid the facility until after the sixth regular-season game. (And as an aside, there are three preseason games, not two.)
From Garrett Knox:
"Hey Darren, my only question about the Marquise Brown deal is why did they wait until Thursday? You reported the deal was already negotiated and they kept it quiet. Mike Bidwill flew out during the day. Why the secrecy? That was weird. Both teams already agreed to the trade so it's not like anyone was waiting to see how the draft fell. Why sit on the info? Do you see any sort of competitive advantage? On a personal note I'm fairly miffed I spent so much time learning about all the draft options only for us to take none of them, lol."
Well Garrett, I'll mention your time lost to draft prep. I can't promise any satisfaction. I don't know exactly why. It very well might have been because the Ravens were going to take a receiver at 14 if the right one was there and you don't want people jumping in front of you knowing you have to have one. (It became a moot point apparently, either because the guy was gone anyway or maybe because they didn't expect Kyle Hamilton to still be on the board.) It's a fair question, although it's moot at this point.
From Brent J:
"Hey Darren, did we get a little bit fleeced in the Hollywood deal? 1. We could've just waited until free agency to sign him. 2. Baltimore had two third-round picks at 76 and 100 and we got the worse one. A first-round pick for a third-year non-superstar player just doesn't feel good. The contract thing in two years is worrisome even if Steve Keim pretends it is not. Math is math. We have a lot of players who need to be paid. How do we also afford Brown? I'm not trying to be pessimistic when I say it may be impossible to re-sign Brown, or we have to let other critical players walk in order to pay Brown."
I'll give you this Brent, if you aren't trying to be pessimistic, I shudder to think what it's like when you are trying to be pessimistic. In the hours after the trade, I got a version of this question a lot, particularly when it comes to the contract situation. (Editor's note: While I appreciate the emotion of the moment, if someone's question is less question and more angry ranting, it's probably not making the mailbag.) Let's start with the trade itself. I don't know what the reasoning of why 100 and not 76, but it's possible the Ravens were offering one of their six fourth-round picks and so that turned into a compromise. That's a guess. But they had been talking about this for a couple of days, so this was obviously well thought out by both sides.
As for the contract, I understand all the concerns. Yes, he's going to want to make money. But the reality has played out that the Cardinals were likely not going to get a receiver as good as him at 23. I know a lot of fans have different takes, but I hear all the time a) the Cardinals needed a "real" No. 2 receiver and b) why won't they "go" for it and get good players in here. Then Keim does it and now the concern is for 2025? I don't understand that either. The salary cap will jump over the next couple of years. There will be some big contracts off the books by then. It's always going to be a morphing puzzle. I'm not saying there is an easy answer. If the Cardinals would've kept Chandler Jones, which many people wanted, they'd be in a bigger jam. Someone is always going to walk. From every team, every year.
From Jason Myers:
"Hey Urbz. Who do you think we may go after in the next wave of free agency? I said it several weeks ago but Akiem Hicks I think would be great on our DL. There are no Aaron Donald interior pass rushers out there, so I think the best we can do is grab some of those run D specialists. Danny Shelton might be another good option. At cornerback, I think Robert Alford is a necessity. With pass rushers, I don't know if the team views Thomas/Sanders as pass rush answers or not. Could we still go after a Clowney?"
I expect Clowney to ultimately get a bigger deal than what the Cardinals would be willing to pay. Hicks is a name that has been mentioned before, but he is far from the player he once was. I do think there is a decent chance the Cardinals will sign a veteran defensive lineman and/or cornerback. I also wonder about a veteran who could be the backup center.
From Bill Shnack:
"I keep hearing how the team only has one player on the offensive line under contract for next year. Am I wrong or is that not a big deal? Yes we hear about Kyler everyday. Inevitably you are going to hear about Hollywood's impending WR megadeal for the next two years. Why have I not heard D.J. Humphries' name spoken once? Arguably that is a way bigger deal than replacing Chandler or finding that No. 2 WR or another CB. Paying Humphries is the clear and obvious No. 1 priority right now. I'll be honest, if breaking news comes down that we paid Kyler before DJ, I'll be pissed."
It is a big deal that the Cardinals could use some long-term answers on the offensive line. Yes, Hump will need an extension, which I would guess might already be in the conversation. But I'll say this -- quarterback is a different deal. This is not a running back over a left tackle, or anyone else. Quarterbacks are always on a different timeline, and take priority. But doing one does not preclude the other.
From Robert Malicki:
"As a Cardinal fan I was surprised at the media attention trading pick No. 23 for Marquise Brown made. Listening to East Coast commentary and Baltimore media concerning the trade intrigued me. Do you see this move by SK as a statement to the Rams that you better look out for us? On paper our offense may be more dangerous than theirs. A second question concerns our picking up the fifth-year options for both Kyler and the aforementioned Brown. The Cardinals must be projecting a big increase in NFL cap dollars for 2023. Can a team pay two players like them in one year? And what of other key player extensions like Humphries and Murphy, for instance?"
Well, by the time this is posting, I see the Brown move is necessary given Hopkins being sidelined and I never thought it was a message to the Rams. If anything, it was a move to keep up with the Rams. As far as the fifth-year options, a team would be foolish not to pick up the option if they want to keep those players -- which the Cardinals do -- and yes, the cap is going up a lot. Of course a team can pay two players. They can pay whomever they want. Every team just has to make decisions. I've talked about Hump and Steve Keim has already mentioned the need to get a Murphy extension done.
From Jeremy Brentson:
"What's your overall impression of the draft haul? I got to say it's a little underwhelming. A first for Hollywood seemed overvalued. Then a tight end with the all-important 2nd round pick was a surprise. We got two bites at the pass rush apple, which is good. Two developmental OGs, which is good but neither will probably start. I for one like the Penn State LB as Penn State LBs tend to be very good. The RB we knew was coming. And then the CB who the draft broadcast spend zero time on because I guarantee nobody knows who he is and there's no film on him. All in all, on paper, a bit of a confusing draft that continues the trend of the rest of this 2022 Cardinals offseason."
I'm impressed you can be whelmed one way or the other. Who knows? I liked the Brown trade. I'll let you know in a couple years what the class means. I know that the last five picks were in the sixth- and seventh-rounds, which usually are crapshoots. Heck, the whole draft is.
From Collin M:
"Hi Darren, thanks for everything you do. As someone who is far closer to the NFL than I, I was hoping you could shed a little light on the Deshaun Watson situation in Cleveland, and what you're hearing through osmosis across the league. I'm someone who believes the world is neither black nor white, and multiple things can be true simultaneously, I can't help but feel like it was bad form what the Browns did: To give that kind of money to a guy with that much of a question mark re: his personal life. Just the optics alone."
I can't speak for the Browns. The reality of sports, however, has long been the better the player, the easier it is to ignore any warts. This is no different. Every team has to make these decisions.
From Richard Wakefield:
"I just read a question from your last column about players working out on their own. I'm sure players that do that are really working out but don't they lose the people part of not being here? Leaders, or anyone for that matter, should show up for any team activities. It will only help the team."
There are many people that feel that way. But the agreement between the players and teams says they don't have to come if they don't want. I don't know if chemistry was jacked up too much back in the 1980s and earlier when the only time players came together between the end of the season and training camp was the one mandatory minicamp. These guys spend plenty of time together in camp. I expect many to show for at least some of the OTAs. I don't think it's something that will really upend a season, for any team.
"Since there is the sentiment around fans that 'Keim can't draft,' I'm wondering which GM/team in the NFL is considered the most successful in drafting the last 5-10 years and how their success rate differs from the Cards? What does a player need to achieve as a first-, second- or third- rounder to be considered a success by an organization?"
The latter is subjective, isn't it? I don't have the time to do the exact research -- it's easy to find "power rankings" of GMs in the draft, but that's not exactly mathematical. Is it if a guy starts? Starts and plays well? Is on a roster? You'd need parameters. Look, everyone knows about Keim's hits and misses, especially at the top. But when you talk about success in the first three rounds, it feels a little like you know it when you see it. To me, for instance, Deone Bucannon was a success because the staff for whom he was drafted for turned him into a solid player.
From Walker Walker:
"Darren are you going to cover the Cards/Titans practices? It would be nice to know who stood out."
Yes, the plan is for me to be in Nashville.
From Jerry Brown:
"Hi Darren. I know that drafting a kicker or punter, even in the seventh round, is rare. If you like a kicker or punter, do you have any way of knowing whether you will be able to sign him as a free agent? If he is an exceptional talent, and you only have a 1/32 shot at him after the draft, why not spend a seventh rounder on him?"
If you like that kicker or punter that well, especially if you end up with multiple seventh-round picks, I agree -- use one. (As an aside, there were a handful of kickers/punters picked this past weekend.) You just have to ask yourself is that specialist that much better than what you have, and is it worth passing on another lottery ticket of a guy who could be good?
From Chris Minton:
"Boy, do I love/hate the offensive/defensive guy we got at 23! He's sure to help/hurt us a ton! Can't wait! (Obviously, I'm sending this in before the draft). Anyway, does it seem that a lot of fans want us to have a quarterback who isn't actually great? Anyone who is a stud is going to want/deserve to be paid, and we would have to do this tap-dance in a pile of horse manure all over again. Anyone who sucks would be flogged and jettisoned accordingly. But those slightly-above-mediocre guys? We'd love to have one! Can we extend him immediately after we draft him? Can we build him in a lab and call him Jefferson Fisherton? Kyler and his unique ability can whiz right off! I'm rambling, but I'm sure you get the point. Also, thanks for being such a great part of such a great media team."
That's some serious sarcasm, Chris. As someone who can dabble in the sarcastic arts, I appreciate it. (You didn't account for that trade the Cardinals got for 23, but that's understandable.) Again, as I noted earlier in the 'bag, you need a quarterback. When you have a good one, don't let it go. That's how I see it.
From Dawson Schliz:
"Hey Darren, what are your thought on the Cardinals possibly signing Dez Bryant?"
He's made it known, huh. It wasn't going to happen anyway, and even with Hop's suspension, it still isn't going to happen.
From Jim Birl:
"How soon before we will see/hear about the free agent signings after the draft is complete? Also, it's fun to see that on the HBO series. Any chance Michael Bidwill will ever agree to doing that show some year soon?"
The UDFAs have been announced. As for "that show" -- are you talking about Hard Knocks? If the Cardinals can avoid it, I think Kliff Kingsbury and Steve Keim would rather not. I don't expect it.
From Walker Walker:
"Not a mailbag question but some kudos. I watched the Dani Sureck and Craig Grialou show and they were excellent. The guests were great. The set was better than the locker room set, seemed to have better lighting and the people were closer. You could see their personalities and that helps with Calvisi and Grialou. Calvisi was excellent as well. If you can get a coach and a couple of players (even ex-players) once a month it may be something to look forward to. Kudos to all involved. Was it exactly what I would like to see at the time of the pick> Maybe not, but it was great follow-up. I will pull it up on one of my computers live next year."
I appreciate you giving it a chance. The whole crew did a great job.