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You've Got Mail: Of Draft Hopes And Second-Line Free Agents

Topics include voluntary offseason work, Calais Campbell, and Fitz's silence

McDuffie Mailbag 040522

The draft meetings have begun for the Cardinals as April has arrived. Where does the time go? OK, some of it goes into creating this mailbag. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. As always, you can send in a question for a future mailbag here.

From Del Tron 55:

"Hey Darren, wanted to throw out a 'Would you rather?' draft edition. Looking at the draft field, there's a very good chance cornerback will be the pick. That's just a natural result of BPA/the expected options at our time of picking/need, etc. The CBs at 23 will be nice. One might be Trent McDuffie of Washington. We already know Keim loves his Washington DBs. And they are very good, no doubt. He's 5'11 but plays bigger. The other cat is Kaiir Elam. Florida. 6'2. Actual big dude CB. Played opposite of Marco Wilson. For your money who'd you lean towards?"

I'm not going to pretend I've watched either enough to know for sure. I can say that McDuffie is the only one I've seen rated in the first round/around No. 23. So I'd lean that way. I think you make a cogent point on who might be there at 23. Not sure there is an edge rusher or wideout that might make sense. I think there is a good chance it comes down to cornerback or offensive line.

From Dean Meyer:

"Hiya Darren, I want to talk about the 'voluntary' minicamp that occurs every summer. Now, due to Covid, many of us have been working remotely for the last two years. Only recently offices have begun 'voluntary' return. When I say 'voluntary' I mean mandatory. My question for you is, is are the camps truly voluntary? Or would it be a grave error for a young players to opt out, if you know what I mean? I can probably surmise that its highly dependent on the coach at the time."

It's interesting that you see businesses making return to offices a voluntary thing. I'm sure some do/did, but I'd think most places (including mine) figured that once the office was back open, it was back open as before. But I digress. I understand what you are saying. There was definitely a please-be-here vibe to voluntary work before Covid. The players pushed back last year. Yes, Covid was still a thing, but the NFLPA also made it clear that players shouldn't have to show to the OTAs (and making it clear, the minicamp is mandatory, it is the organized team activities and the strength and conditioning that is voluntary) if they don't want to. Now that the NFL has pulled back all restrictions to pre-Covid, it will be fascinating how players approach voluntary stuff this offseason.

From Jonsey NoCap:

"Hiya Darren. I know you're not too keen on that 'how about we sign so and so' questions, but how about we sign Calais Campbell and Akiem Hicks? At this point both are run stop specialists in their careers, but I think that's exactly what we need. Furthermore Hicks in particular is mean. He would be our Rodney Hudson on the DL. Old angry dude who leads the troops from the middle. As a football fan, I desperately want Hicks on this team. As a Cardinals fan, I also very much want CC back. What are the chances Darren?"

I have no idea. They could use a veteran defensive lineman. Do I see them signing two? No. This would feel like an either-or situation, if they went after either. Hicks has had his injury issues. Personally I'd love Calais back; I've said that before. I think either one might make a difference. But what kind of money do they want? I'll be curious to see if either sign before the draft. We are in a very interesting time for free agents still on the market; you wait until after the draft, you're probably waiting until close to training camp (or into camp) to sign.

From Franklin Schubert:

"Two Questions for you. Any truth to the rumor in Baltimore that Calais Campbell might be interested in returning to the Cardinals for a short term deal to end his career? Also, given that Friz is a well respected player (now ex-player) throughout the NFL, is it allowed for him to talk up the Cardinals as a potential trading spot for any disgruntled receiver he might know? Seems to me his voice and opinion would carry a lot of weight with someone looking for a place for a fresh start."

I see speculation that Campbell might return but I see no rumor. To me a rumor has at least a "I heard" aspect to it. All that's out there are that I have seen are people saying, "Maybe he could" or "I hope." In other words, nothing that really has to do with Campbell. As I said before, I would doubt it. As for "Friz" (and I assume you are talking about Larry), he doesn't play and he doesn't work for a team. He can talk to whoever he wants and say whatever he wants.

From Big Red:

"Hi Darren. Not to pile on since I know you're probably getting lots of comments about the Rams after Bobby Wagner but why are the Cardinals not going all in? Kyler wants a new deal but is not signed yet. We are in the golden rookie QB Super Bowl window and the team is doing nothing to take advantage of it. Yes we should be overspending for stars right now. This is it. After you pay Kyler our ability to build out the team suffers greatly. The time is now and we are not taking advantage of it. Why? I truly fear we will look back on this as a wasted opportunity."

I appreciate the comment (and yes, there were a few that reached out post-Wagner to make similar points.) The next time Steve Keim and/or Kliff Kingsbury talk, I'm sure it will be a topic that is broached. I can't speak for them because I have not had a chance to ask. I can only surmise that a) they weren't going to chase high dollar guys with a tight cap, knowing that the moves they might need might not work (I keep seeing people talking about Humphries' high almost-$20M cap figure, but since he's in the last year of his deal the only relief would be to extend his contract), and b) they have spent money. The Cardinals actually have 11 guys with a cap number of at least $4M, the Rams only have nine. The Rams have six fewer players than the Cards that have a $2M cap number. The Cardinals are paying players. They just were already on the roster.

From Carson Dover:

"Been a minute since the last Larry Fitz retirement question, so let me fix that. Why doesn't he just announce his retirement? He's obviously retired. You see him lately? I'm not one to speak, but he's certainly not in football and likely never will be again. Why? Because he's retired. He's retired in the same way Randy Moss is retired. Could they come back? Sure. But no. So why this silence? He's making it weird, You know Larry better than we do. Why is he doing this? Is he TRULY keeping the door open?"

No, he's not keeping the door open. I'm actually confused -- you seem certain he is done (which he is) so why exactly do you need a formal announcement? I have not seen him lately but we have communicated, not that I ask him why he hasn't announced his retirement. I can assure you this isn't weird for him, so if this is "weird," I'm gonna have to say that's a personal decision.

From Ceddy Milner:

"Hey Darren, great choice of George Karlaftis. You should drop by reddit sometimes. There's a big push for Karlaftis over there. I think if that's the pick on draft day you'll have a very happy fan base. Good job."

It was a little disquieting to have a handful of similar Karlaftis-love messages for me after the mock was posted. We'll see if he's even on the board at 23; I don't get the sense that's likely, or even if the Cardinals like him. But it made sense at the time in the mock as it was presented to me 22 picks in.

From Sandro Neagra:

"Thoughts on N'Keal Harry? He's available. Sometimes guys just need a change of scenery. Low risk, reward TBD. I think hometown support is exactly what Harry needs right now. He will have more patience and support here than any city in the NFL. Would love to have him. Also, GREAT job on that mock draft picking Karlaftis. I didn't know you were part of the Karlaftis Club. I'm telling you he is going to be the steal of the draft. No question. Don't tell anybody. (Except for Keim. tell Keim)."

Yeah, I don't see myself in the "Karlaftis Club." He was a pass rusher available in that particular mock, and I didn't like the other options as much as him. We will see if a) he's on the board when the Cardinals pick and b) whether they like him enough. Interestingly enough, that leads perfectly into Harry, because back in 2019, even if he had still been on the board when the Cardinals had their second-round pick, it wouldn't have been him. Now, does it make sense to me, if they see something in him, to flip one of the seventh-rounders for him? Maybe. You have to believe the change would really work. But how much is it change of scenery and how much is that he just isn't going to work for him on this level? It's the same issue facing Andy Isabella at this point.

From Rob S:

"Hey Darren, I would be interested hear your thoughts on the hypothetical scenario of trading Kyler Murray for whatever max trade some team would give up for him and then acquiring Baker Mayfield. Essentially, this is a question of the talent of Kyler vs. Baker + whatever players and draft picks you could get for Murray. Unfortunately, seems like the QB carousel has wound down a bit, so maybe not such a hot market for Kyler now, and you would have to give something up for Baker, but the thought experiment intrigues me."

This league starts at quarterback. I've felt Kyler is better than Baker since 2019. So that's a downgrade, and makes no sense to me.

From Steve Drumm:

"Hey Darren, we all know Kyler Murray is a tremendously gifted QB, arguably the best QB the team has ever had. So far we have seen the same thing happen in Kyler's career -- he starts strong, gains MVP consideration in the first half of a season only to get beat up and injured the second half of the season and his play erodes. I believe this is where his small stature works against him. Do you think he will ever be able to get through a season healthy given his small stature?"

Well, let's make a stipulations here: Football players don't get through a season "healthy." None of them. Some are able to play every game despite this, but no, he won't be technically healthy because no one is. Secondly, Kyler has missed three games in three seasons, all last year. Let's not like act he's missed half his potential starts. His play -- and the team's play -- has fallen off in the second half of the season, this is fact. Is it because he is banged up? I don't know. I don't think there is a direct line there. I do think his ability to run has to be part of the equation for him to be the QB he and everyone else wants him to be.

From Drew Ring:

"Hi Darren. A free agent I've not heard talked about yet, Jadaveon Clowney. Notably a former teammate of Watt, so there is a connection here. Clowney ultimately didn't live up to his hype, however he is a very good run stopper. I think that gets lost because he doesn't put up the crazy sack stats you'd like. But if we add him, we will absolutely get somebody capable of sacks, but at the very least an elite run stop guy. Win win I say. What do you think?"

I think it should (and I'm sure was) considered. Given that he remains unsigned, that tells me he's asking for more money than the market will bear. I'm not 100 percent sure if he fits this defense -- that'd be a Vance Joseph question -- but assuming he does, I'm not ruling anything out. Knowing what Clowney ultimately signs for each year on a one-year deal, though, that would make it more difficult.

From June K:

"Hello Darren, thank you for the mailbag. I always enjoy reading your insight on things. I have a bit of a left-field question. I was thinking about Percy Harvin, who sadly missed many games across his career due to migraines. My heart absolutely goes out to that man. In your position close to the team have you ever seen anything like that? It's one thing to have a physical injury but it's another where you have a medical condition. I remember the safety for Pittsburgh with sickle cell and he couldn't play in Denver (I might have the entire story wrong). How does a team manage situations like that and does there need to be a strong culture of support and understanding in place in order for a player to fit into plans?"

It was Ryan Clark who couldn't/didn't play in Denver. Yes, the culture has to be strong, but so does the player, and ultimately, it comes down to the medical condition, the player's talent, and how it all meshes. In Clark's case, missing one game once in a while isn't a big deal. With Harvin, it derailed his career. There is a reason the cliche stands in the NFL that "availability is as important as ability." If you can't get on the field, for whatever reason, eventually, they are going to replace you.

From Joshua Freitag:

"Dear Darren. I´m an open-minded, every-week listener of the Cardinals Underground and to some extent, your work has inspired me to set up a podcast myself. As part of the German Birdgang, Germany's biggest Arizona Cardinals fan association, I´ve set up a podcast called Birdwatch in February 2021. So far we´ve welcomed several guests including Bernhard Seikovitz. Simply put, I wanted to ask whether you and Paul as well would be up to join us on an edition of the Birdwatch in the near future? Feel free to contact me anytime in case you´re interested. Most importantly though, keep up the good work and stay healthy. Best regards from Germany."

We can do that. Send me an email to Maybe some day the Cardinals will play a game in Germany. I've never been.

From Pope Chris Paul The 3rd:

"You've been a Suns fan for a long time. Which is the best team we've ever had? I'm biased because I never saw the Barkley years, but I think this team right here. Not even because of the record. I have complete faith we will win every night, and we then we do. It's astounding to watch. I don't think it's reckless to say this might be the best Arizona sports team we've ever seen, ever. All due respect to the Rattlers, who had some great years."

Yeah, I covered most of those great Rattlers teams -- not the same. In terms of the Suns, there are only three teams in the discussion: this year, the 92-93 Barkley-KJ version, and the 04-05 Nash's first year back version (with Amare/Marion at their peak and Joe Johnson). All were great teams. Would've loved to see the 04-05 team if Johnson hadn't gotten hurt. I firmly believe 92-93 wins Game 7 of Paxson's shot doesn't go in. The 92-93 depth was impressive. Because D'Antoni didn't go deep in PT, I'll not pick 04-05. But it's hard to choose between the other two. If this team wins 65 and a title, they will have earned the all-time tag, though.

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