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You've Got Mail: No. 4 Is A Popular Subject

Topics include hip-drop tackles, Emmitt in AZ, and what to do on the edge

JG and Monti mailbag 040224

Time for another mailbag -- and it's a long one, so settle in -- as we creep toward the draft. A reminder of a request that we have had: Please provide at least a first name and last initial. I understand if you'd prefer a pysudonym, but that will now be a disqualifier for the question. Thanks for understanding. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. Don't forget to send a question for a future mailbag.

From Artie Bratton:

"Hey Darren, thanks for doing mailbag. I always love reading your insight. At what point do QB-needy teams pass on drafting a QB in the first round because they are confident no other teams will draft 'that guy' and wait until Round 2 to draft him? To me it seems pointless to trade down past that point because QB-needy teams can take a receiver knowing you are not taking a QB, no matter how many picks you have between Rounds One and Two. Even if you trade back up in front of that point you are trading away any added value. Thanks again."

Obviously this question is rooted in the idea one of those top three wideouts are or are not there if you were to trade down far enough (at least, that's how I read it.) And the answer is: Every case is different. All it takes is two teams who have that thinking are you are back to a team potentially trading up ahead of you to take "that guy." The Cardinals thought Patrick Mahomes was going to be there at 13, so ...

Anyway, if we happen to be talking about the Cardinals and taking a wideout, we don't know what the grades and thought process is for this regime with that position. The Steelers have done a nice job over the years taking receivers outside the upper echelon. Maybe that's how Monti would approach it. Or maybe not. Maybe if he thinks about trading down it would only be so far. Or maybe he sticks at 4. Here's the problem. You don't know exactly what every "QB-needy team" thinks of all the QBs. There is a chance, mock drafts be damned, that no team believes there are four QBs worth going up to get and that the top three -- let's assume Williams, Maye, Daniels -- are off in the top three picks. And what people think of McCarthy, or Penix, or Nix. I'm sure whatever Monti considers on draft night, all that has been discussed and parsed by he and his team. The draft is going to be and always is calculated risk, regardless of where you pick and regardless of what trade is considered.

From Bob Haines:

"Darren, put on your GM Hat for a moment if you will. If the Cardinals had finished with the worst record like many analysts had predicted, would you pick one of the three top QB's in this draft, Williams, Daniels or Maye and trade Kyler for a second-round pick? Second option, keep Kyler and trade the No. 1 pick for three first-round picks? Third option, draft Marvin Harrison Jr. because he is a generational player to give Kyler the No. 1 receiver he needs to excel in this offense?"

First of all, that felt like a way to back into the "we have to draft Harrison" argument that many of you are trying to emphasize. You didn't give me a Nabers option? Anyway, I'm only willing to go hypothetical so far. This is a moot point, and a big reason they didn't finish with a worse record is because Kyler returned and played well. I'm not sure what I would do because it's the kind of thing with a huge butterfly effect -- if that happened, a whole lot is different.

From Dru Lancaster:

"NFL just banned the hip-drop tackle in arguably the most destructive and game-changing ruling since roughing the QB. For the life of me I can't understand how defenders are now suppose to tackle ballcarriers. I'm particularly concerned with the prospect of cornerbacks and safeties having to tackle tight ends or Derrick Henry-size running backs without the use of the only technique that physics dictates is possible for a 5-foor-10, 190-pound man. That's my question Darren, how on earth are defenders suppose to play defense now?"

Hey Dru. Feels like a little bit of hyperbole here. I mean, the roughing the quarterback penalty was destructive? Let's talk to Terry Bradshaw about that. As for the hip-drop, it's a certain kind of hip-drop. I'd like to see it in action before we panic too much. I am not a physics expert, although I am willing to guess you are not either. The league talked to rugby leagues, in which smaller men have to tackle larger men all the time and they wanted to get the hip-drop out too for the same reason. This idea that all of a sudden big running backs and tight ends are going to gain 20 extra yards per touch because they "can't be tackled" is silly. Defenders will adjust just like they did with the body-weight rule. Nobody is saying they can't tackle the legs. They can't grab the waist and sling themselves *and* land on the legs. We'll see what that actually means in real time.

From Jake Robins:

"When it comes to your point that people will call for Monti's head if the team fails to improve regardless, so Monti will make decisions as he sees fit; I agree. However, won't that leash be exponentially shorter if he's the guy who passed on the 'THE GUY?' I know you don't like Peterson or Suggs references, but fans clearly haven't gotten over them. This is somewhat similar. If we had passed on Fitz all those years ago, I promise you'd still be hearing about it today. Marvin has clearly reached Peterson, Suggs, Fitz status. So it is a gamble for Monti, and not the normal kind that GMs face. Marvin has become an Andrew Luck-type figure in AZ and it has put unfair pressure on Monti. But it is what it is."

Wait, so your argument is that Monti should do what the fans want because they'll turn on him regardless? That's a bold strategy, Cotton. So if the Cardinals had drafted Ben Roethlisberger in 2003 instead of Fitz, we'd be hearing about it? (Yes, I am assuming Big Ben was successful, just like you're assuming Fitz would've had the same success elsewhere.) Yes, fans are gonna fan, and I suppose there is pressure on Monti, but no different than the Washington or New England GMs with their picks or, really, anyone else. Your argument, to be honest, is exactly why I have always said it makes it more important for Monti to do what he thinks is right. One of the things that cracks me up especially around the draft is when fans (of any team, not this one per se) find out the owner pushes for a certain player because he wants to sell the jerseys or he'll be a fan favorite over another guy the football people like. Fans hear that and go crazy in hindsight. Final point: Fans don't get over anything. I still have people that want to complain about Santonio Holmes. Such is life.

From J Vidaurri:

"Greetings Darren. With Patrick Peterson still available as a free agent, have you heard any talk about him maybe finishing his career where he started it? Granted, he is 33 and not quite the cover guy he used to be, but it seems he can hold his own compared to the corners on the team right now. The wisdom and experience he would bring to the young corners would be immeasurable."

I have not talked to anyone, but I feel I can safely say that isn't going to happen. Pat P morphed into a safety late last season with the Steelers, and the Cardinals have veterans there. Monti wants to be young. That kind of signing would be a pre-Monti thought-process (and given how P2 felt about things at the end, that wouldn't have happened anyway.)

From Benny Blanco:

"Listen I got here FAST! Tell the GM Minnesota is trying to get the 5th pick for Justin Jefferson. WHAT? Monti needs to know Justin is on the market. Don't be cheap. We can get Justin and their 11th pick for our fourth and a second-rounder or third-rounder. Why would you let him go to the Chargers? It's a win-win. We get our GUY and still have the 11th pick and 27th. Thanks. Hope everything goes well. THIS IS ONLY IF YOU GUYS WANNA GET OUT OF THE FOURTH SPOT #23YearFAN #IBEENHERE."

Well, gosh. A lot just happened there. I mean, everyone is telling me how Marvin Harrison is generational. So why wouldn't you just take him and his rookie contract instead of paying Jefferson $30M a season? (I'm not buying the Vikings want to deal Jefferson. Could be wrong, but I don't see it.)

From Robert Van Meter:

"I would love to have MHJ as a Cardinal, but I think Monti (Haul) is going to be offered too much trade capital to keep the No. 4 overall pick. This looks a very deep draft at a lot of positions including quarterback, offensive linemen, cornerback, defensive linemen and especially at wide receiver so adding more early draft picks seems like a good idea. What are your rankings of the most important team needs after free agency signings?"

I still think they need, in my personal order: an edge, a big wideout, a cornerback, a defensive lineman, a guard. Now, does that mean that's the order I would take them in? No. It's still about the best talent when you are picking (within reason and hopefully within the framework of those needs.) If they decide, for instance, those top three wideouts are special, then taking one with their first pick makes all the sense in the world. 

From P. Walker:

"Does State Farm Stadium revenue go to the Cardinals Football Team or is it Michael Bidwill's revenue? I see tickets for Final Four $339-$15,000, Copa America $270-$1,300, Rolling Stones $120-$2,000. Those are just three of many events held there this summer that will sell out. Can you get me in for the Copa America? I would gladly be an usher as long as I could see the three matches."

Can't say I have much to do at SFS aside from training camp and games. As for the revenue in those games, I know Insignia -- one of the Bidwill businesses -- works all the events. But those events are still run by the particular governing bodies that are essentially renting the building so I am guessing they get the bulk of the revenue. Not sure the specifics of the money breakdown or where it goes. 

From Tom Cowley:

"Hi Darren. Looks like we are done on the FA front. It appears to me when looking at the potential receivers we have coming in for a look that most of them are very smallish, fragile though speedy -- not durable or dominating after catch. This is scary to me, what is your take?"

I'm not sure to whom you refer as receivers "coming in for a look." So I can't really answer that. In the end, every team would love a fast wideout who is 6-3, 200, but those guys are rare. If we are talking wideouts that could be had later in the draft, that's exactly the deal. All those guys are going to have "flaws" of some kind. Doesn't mean they can't find guys who can contribute. 

From Matt W:

"Hi Darren. Firstly, love your mailbags and articles, you're always an enjoyable read. Thank you. I'm sure you'll have hundreds of questions about hip-drop, I so far haven't seen any commentary on my curiosity about the rule. I understand the danger of the hip-drop, my question is about how this pertains to offensive players. Many times (not all) these injuries occur because the offensive player is attempting to break a tackle and keep moving, forcing the defensive player to try harder to bring them to the ground (hence a swivel or leg lift). Do you know if there is any language for this new rule that takes into consideration that due to the offensive player football moves (i.e. them refusing to go down/stop) that they exacerbated the situation?"

I appreciate the question, but I've gotta say -- offensive players giving themselves up after contact? That's essentially what you are saying. So no, there isn't any language like that because they will never tell the offensive player (except the QB with the slide) they have to give themselves up. Yes, offensive players are going to try and break tackles. For all the complaining people are doing about the hip-drop rule, I can only imagine the outrage if the NFL instituted a rule where offensive players *had *to give themselves up. As I said earlier, I think defenders will adjust. The league is worried about the bad injuries that can occur, and for the same reason got rid of the horsecollar tackle. Does it happen a ton? Maybe not. But tell that to the guy who ends up with a torn ACL or broken ankle when it does. 

From Carson:

"You wrote 'Judging by reports of players that went elsewhere, it looks like the Cardinals wouldn't mind adding another defensive lineman or veteran cornerback.' Cornerback, yes. My fingers are crossed for Stephon Gilmore. But ANOTHER DL? As far as a starting rotation we have: Tonga, Collier, Stills, Nichols, Justin, Lopez. Assuming healthy, those six guys are locks. How many DL do we traditionally carry? I don't see room for another vet DL, especially if we are planning to add a DL rookie via the draft; which I hope we do."

To begin with, I wouldn't be surprised if they carried seven or eight, given all the injuries last season. There is also another possibility: They morph into a 4-3 and if that's the case they will need more defensive linemen on the roster. (Also, Tonga, Collier and Lopez have one-year deals. They are not necessarily locks.)

From Robert Malicki:

"Hello, Darren, Thank you for the opportunity with the mailbag to explore questions not normally answered for the fans. Special teams is an area of play interesting to me ever since it encompassed almost my entire high school playing days. The Cardinals have Jeff Rodgers who I consider a top-notch ST coach. What do you know of his reaction to the one-year approval of the new rules in the kicking game?"

I have not yet had a chance to talk to Jeff about the changes. I would only be guessing how he will react, but the new rules will create more kickoff returns and bring back an emphasis to the part of the game Rodgers coaches. That seems like a good thing. When it comes to Rodgers, he's so good at his job he will have the Cardinals where they need to be to take advantage, whatever his personal feelings might be. 

From Gimmy Pellino:

"With the new rule changes, I was a little surprised they didn't propose a change to the fumble-through-the-end zone rule that results in a change of possession. It seems harsh for the offense, who could be inches away from scoring like in this year's Chiefs/Bills playoff game. What if the offense gets to retain possession, but the ball is placed on the 35-yard line - it'd be unlikely they'd score a TD from there, maybe two out of three times they'd make a field goal, but the opposing team would get good field position off a miss. Do you think it's an appropriate penalty or should it be changed?"

Unfortunately, Gimmy, you won't find an ally in me with this subject. I'm fine with the rule. Don't reach out at the goalline, for heaven's sake. Or, if the ball is punched out like in the playoff game, then hey, the defense actually gets a little bit of a break for a great play in a sport where most things are slanted to the offense. I'd rather they didn't change it. And yes, I realize I'm in the minority. 

From Aaron G:

"Hi Darren. Not to be pessimistic, nor antagonize the fan base, but the tea leaves strongly suggest a trade is coming. There's too much smoke. Too many teams need a QB and J.J. McCarthy is en fuego with interest; notably with a 'bad' QB draft next year. If you need a QB, it's now or never. Monti is the belle of the ball. I'm very sad to lose Marvin but we'll certainly be receiving a lot. Do you think 'the big trade' would come day of the draft, or long before the draft?"

Yeah, I know these questions, which aren't really questions. You went from tea leaves strongly suggesting something (by assuming the smoke coming from all the McCarthy stuff isn't smokescreens, of course) to having it be a foregone conclusion. I don't think it is, because you don't know what teams are going to offer nor what the Cardinals think about who they might choose at four. (There is an old journalism example of what you did at the end there, but it isn't appropriate for a family website.) IF there is a trade, it won't happen until draft night. Again, I don't see this as a sure thing at all. Possible, yes. 

From Hall O.:

"Hi Darren. Maybe this is a silly question, but looking at the photo of you and Gannon in Florida, doing the table-top presser, struck me as funny. You are the in-house reporter. Can you not just send Gannon a Teams message and be like 'Hey can I swing by your office for a quick interview?' Why must you fly across the country to interview the guy who you work 200 feet from?"

To be fair, I no longer work 200 feet from him since we moved into a new building down the street from the training facility. But point taken. Yes I can and have done that (although it's more complicated with his schedule and I have to go through people to make sure when he has time.) But why not both? If the team is willing to pay for me to travel, and JG is doing a press setting for people, who knows what else might get asked and answered? I want to be there for that when I can. 

From Semaj Stewart:

"Why did the Cardinals cut a lot of key players like D.J. Humphries and Hollywood Brown?"

Brown was not released. His contract expired and the Cardinals were willing to let him leave as a free agent. As for Humphries, the cold reality is that a player with a $20 million cap hit who is coming off an ACL injury that will keep him out a good chunk of the season would be difficult for any team to keep on the roster. 

From Ed King:

"Hi Darren. What was it like in the building when the team signed Emmitt Smith? Was it surreal similar to the Hopkins trade (or maybe even Watt), or was it just a novelty; given he was well past his prime?"

All three of those things were very different from my perspective. I'll work backwards. Watt's signing was a crazy surprise; the office was still mostly closed to employees because of the pandemic in March of 2021 but I happened to be in there. I heard that it might happen and then he put out that photo of himself working out in a Cardinals shirt. Given the way the Cardinals made a step forward in 2020, it felt like a push-the-chips-in move. But the building was quiet. When the Hopkins trade happened, we were in the early days of the pandemic and I was working from home, never seeing my co-workers. I followed the reaction on Twitter like everyone. The fact they got Hop and were able to trade David Johnson's contract was amazing to me. 

As we dial all the way back to Emmitt, that was before I worked for the team and I was a beat writer for the Tribune. That reaction was two parts. In those days the Cardinals would have press conferences for players on free-agent visits, so Emmitt's visit before he decided to sign was an event in itself. However many days later, the NFL owners meetings were being held at the Biltmore. I had to leave one day early because ASU's pro day with Terrell Suggs was taking place. I had finished up and was driving back to the Biltmore when I got a call that the Cardinals would be holding a press conference -- at the owners meetings, where the nation's NFL media was -- for an announcement. Yes, to sign Emmitt. That presser was at the Biltmore and not the facility. It was an interesting sign, and he was hurt most of his first year. But that second season, with Denny Green, Emmitt wasn't bad. Almost got 1,000 yards on a bad team with the QB rotation of McCown-King-Navarre. 

From Cathy Chupco:

"Hi Darren. First timer here. I know everybody is talking draft and scenarios. But I really want to know if you have heard anything on renewal, extending or trading my favorite player Budda Baker. My whole family just adores his energy and good heart."

No, I haven't heard anything about Budda. I do expect him around this offseason even with his contract, since part of what they did to upgrade it last year was include $400,000 in offseason workout bonuses. 

From Slade B:

"In the scenario of a trade-down, do you get the feeling that Monti wants something done before the draft? We saw him work his magic on draft day last year, but that delay came due to uncertainty surrounding CJ Stroud and Houston at 2. With the top 3 picks seemingly set in stone to take QB, is there a benefit to waiting until the clock starts?"

 I'll ask the other way: What's the upside of doing it early? Not just for the Cardinals, either. If you are a team trading up to 4, don't you need to know what is on the board at four before you make a decision? If you're Monti, that pick completely changes if, for instance, a QB isn't one of the top three. I mean, what's the rush?

From Brett C in Australia:

"Daz, first up - great for so many years, ring of honour accolades coming for you and your laptop. My question: The GM often gets the tick or the cross depending on who we sign or don't sign but I wonder when seeing interactions between Monti and JG I sense a more cohesive and collaborative approach rather than all on Monti for deals and JG for field. I know that may seem straightforward as a query but I feel really positive, at least observing from a distance that the front office team is all on the same page and at the table as opposed to you do your jobs and I'll do mine. Cheers mate. Keep up the great work."

I think it's safe to say the two are on the same page -- Gannon will say it any time he has the chance -- and while most coach/GM combos say that publicly no matter what, you definitely get the genuine vibe from the two. 

From Matthew Stroh:

"Hey Darren. Hope the (off)season is going well for you. I know you don't really have a offseason when you have to keep an eye on Dani Sureck and Paul Calvisi, lol. I understand people believe in Marvin Harrison Jr. How many times have teams traded down and had it work out? I agree with Dani Sureck on what she said on Cardinals Underground. I wouldn't be mad if we drafted Harrison Jr, but Monti Ossenfort and his team think it's better to draft down. No one will know if that was the better choice or not for at least three to four years. Darren last question, I hear a lot of complaints about the new hip drop tackle rule. Can you and Paul Calvisi show us the correct and incorrect way to tackle in the NFL? I think us fans and Dani would like to see that."

Yeah, I'll pass on the hip-drop. But let's make clear -- Dani didn't say Monti thinks it's better to trade down, she said he could decide to trade if it was, in his opinion, the right option. I don't have the research about trading down and having it "work out," I can think of a few instances where trading up didn't but I haven't see what trading down has meant. 

From Art Pozza:

"The top two areas of concern are wide receiver and edge. Thankfully the draft is loaded with receivers. If we don't trade down, where do we get our edge?"

It's a good question. The way the top prospects play out it does seem like 4 is too early and 27 could be a little late (or early for second round talents). I will hope the Cardinals don't reach; in 2009 they needed an edge and they reached for Cody Brown in the second round and that did not work. 

From Dirk in Germany:

"Hi Darren, hope you're doing well. I want to know your opinion on the Cards current OLB/Edge core. What do you expect what will happen with these players on the roster (Collins, Gardeck, Ojulari, Dimukeje, Thomas, Luketa)? I mean it's a huge OLB core and they were (almost) all just drafted in the last three drafts but had no big impact. And what's your opinion on the '24 Edge draft class?"

I don't really know how deep it is but there are no Wall Andersons in this class, it doesn't look like. I know Verse and Latu have provided some sacks but Terrell Suggs isn't walking through that door. That could impact where the Cardinals might seek one of those guys (unless they trade out of 4.) As far as the current group, I'm sure JG and Monti would be the first to say, they are all fighting for spots and just because they are here (or drafted) doesn't guarantee anything. Some of it will depend on who they draft, if anyone.

From Will K:

"Happy Draft Speculation Season, Darren! A recurring theme in the last mailbag was about Monti drafting/not drafting who the fans want (this year, it's MHJ). It got me thinking about past first-round picks many fans wanted at the time, and we picked them, but they didn't work out. The first one I can think of? Isaiah Simmons in 2020 (I REALLY wanted him, although part of me wondered if we'd regret not drafting CeeDee Lamb). What are some of your other go-to examples of Cardinal fan favorite first-rounders that ended up busting? I agree 100 percent that Monti can't make decisions based on a popularity contest. Thanks, as always, for my favorite Cardinal read of the week."

I'd have to go back and look for a detailed list, but one that pops into my head is Matt Leinart. Other than that, I'm not sure there have been a lot. Not that were the heavy favorite from the fans, at least. 

From Jeff Wallace:

"HI Darren, as so many tell you i love what you do in this mailbag. I have a quick non-football question. I'm 77 and been a Cardinals fan for my entire life. I battle my weight like a lot of people. I noticed in a recent answer you indicated you were 50 pounds lighter now from many years ago. Can you share how you lost that much weight and kept it off over so many years?"

Sure. In 2005 I had my first-ever physical. My cholesterol was ridiculously high, to the point my doctor wanted to put me on medication. I try not to ingest what I don't need to, so I asked him if I could try and get it down on my own, and we scheduled a three-month follow. I weighed 246. I went draconian on my eating habits. No cheese, no egg yolks, a lot of fish little red meat and when I did it was turkey. Many dinners were tomato soap and broccoli. I went to training camp and ate oatmeal every breakfast (I was a breakfast-skipper) and turkey sandwiches every lunch. And soon I started going to the gym every morning.

After three months, my cholesterol dropped so much my doctor thought either my sample was accidently switched or I had taken something. I was doing this for the health but obviously the weight came off. (I was also 35 at the time, which helped. I eventually got down to 186 (I'm around 194 now). But I love going to the gym and while my eating habits never were going to keep up, I did eat better and cut my portions way down. It's not the way for everyone -- I know that -- but it also allowed me to be active with my kids, who were 3 and 6 when I started all this. I do believe this: if you keep up long enough, it does become your life and easier to do. (It doesn't hurt that I freak out when I miss a workout day.)

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