The Cardinals are past rookie minicamp, but we will see how the rest of the offseason goes while the league and players try to figure out the amount of in-person work. I am still here in-person with the mailbag. Leave a question for a future mailbag by going here.
From Jay Painter via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren. I want to ask about Christian Kirk. It has occurred to me that teams don't often re-sign their own guys at reasonable deals. Meaning if you're not a star, you walk after your first contract. Kirk is not a star. Probably will never be. But he's an OK WR. He's friends with Kyler. We all like him. So what is this I hear about 'this is a make-or-break year for Kirk?' Why? Sure maybe he's underperformed his draft position, but otherwise I'm happy with what Kirk is. A pretty reliable No. 3 WR. He's our Steve Breaston. Another guy I don't understand why they let him go. Not everyone needs to be a star. Keep your good role players."
You make some good points. Let's start with Kirk's upcoming season. You may be OK with Kirk not being a star, but I am thinking Kirk wants to be one -- at least to the point where he would get a nice contract somewhere, even if it isn't here. Guys that settle for OK don't last very long. Kirk isn't a guy who settles. As for why teams don't re-sign non-stars/role players, sometimes they do. But if a team knows what they have and sees a guy in a role, it only takes one team to see him in a better role and is willing to offer more money to be in that role. Guys have to take the cash when they can get it. As for Breaston, he had some knee issues at the end of his time in Arizona. They had younger players like Early Doucet and Andre Roberts to go with Fitz.
From Brad Cain via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren. What am I missing with D-Hop, Fitz, and Green on the field at the same time? OK, I get Fitzgerald isn't running a 4.29, but he's definitely catching what's thrown to him, and pushing through for five more yards after contact, I've seen fast guys drop way too many balls. And on my optimism, if I would have told you last year that the Suns would be the second-best team in the NBA and have home court advantage over everyone but Utah, you would have thought I was nuts. But here we are. Now we just need the Cardinals to get it done too. Thanks for your time Darren."
Yes, I probably would've thought you were nuts about the Suns -- but if you told me they went 8-0 in the bubble and then signed Chris Paul, who would stay healthy all season, I wouldn't have. Details matter. On certain plays, you're going to be able to get Hop or Green 1-on-1 deep, but if there is no threat of speed, it's going to be a heck of a lot easier for defenses to key in. Of those three, none are running a 4.29. Doesn't mean they can't play, doesn't mean they can't catch or win games, but there is a reason you want different skillsets.
From Lonnie Rogers via azcardinals.com:
"Someday there will be a 30 for 30: What happened to David Johnson? It's remarkable how he went from arguably the most valuable non-QB in the NFL to ... not. That's not to say he's bad now. He actually had a pretty good season in Houston. But he was a world beater for two years; and now he is more average. I don't know if you have insight or just don't feel comfortable talking about it, but there's lots of theories. One being he got hurt and it rattled him. One was his family was pressuring him to retire due to safety concerns. He started playing scared. Another was that Carson did a lot of hand holding with DJ. He'd essentially tell him exactly where to go and what to do every play. Maybe all of them are true. Maybe none of them. All we know is David went from a modern LaDainian Tomlinson for two years to a shadow of himself. I don't think its rude to ask. It's respect for his other-worldly abilities that makes us notice."
Truth be told, I don't know. I do think David got a little less aggressive after his initial hand injury, which was coming off the serious knee injury in the last game of 2016 (which tends to get lost because it didn't cost him any real time.) It's tough for me to get out of my mind a play in his final Arizona season in Tampa, when he bounced a play outside and everyone looked like they were going full speed except for him. David is a good guy, and everyone wanted him to succeed. Don't know if the contract had an impact. I do think that the situation probably made certain that this team is going to be incredibly hesitant to pay a running back a lot of money.
From Jack Hills via azcardinals.com:
"Darren, I appreciate this forum and look forward to your response. Being a Cardinals fan for 47 years, the line of scrimmage is where games are won and lost. We are going in the direction to fix the line of scrimmage, well overdue. What's your expectation on the offensive line?"
Jack, you sent this question in this week with part of it asking about the draft, and since it's over, not sure exactly what you are speaking on. Clearly they made offensive line moves this offseason, particularly getting center Rodney Hudson. They added veteran Brian Winters. They brought back Kelvin Beachum, who was solid last year. It feels like the line is in good shape.
From Logan Smith via azcardinals.com:
"Greetings from Utah! First off, love the Marco Wilson pick. I'm not sure how many like it but it's good. Second, I saw that the Cardinals gave Jordan Hicks permission to seek a trade. What could we get back?"
I do not know on that. Given the circumstances and the fact teams know the Cardinals have Zaven Collins, they might be willing to see if they could just release him. Spitballing here, maybe a fifth, but who knows? I don't know the depth charts well enough around the league to know how much of a demand Hicks might generate.
From Sanjay Rajan via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren. When I was watching the draft, it came to me that the Cardinals needed a cornerback. But when I was following the free agent tracker, it said that Dre Kirkpatrick, a major player of 2020, was an unrestricted free agent. Why are the Cardinals not taking Dre back? Did he not want to play on the Cardinals? Thanks."
Kirkpatrick was originally signed only because Robert Alford got hurt. He had his role last season, but the Cardinals were looking to get younger at the position and were ready to move on. Kirkpatrick reportedly visited the Patriots last week. I suppose if he remains out there there is always a chance he could come back in camp, but I am going to guess he was a one-and-done.
From Zane Camer via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren, last year, when Isaiah Simmons was barely playing, Steve Keim was all about 'the process' and development. Was that just lip service? Because now he's all about 'rookies must play ASAP.' Even to the point where we are starting Zaven Collins and removing Hicks from the team. That's about as diving into the deep end as it gets. So is it fair to say Keim is acknowledging he was wrong?"
I think it's fair to say every player is different. Other than Collins, who is he saying about rookies having to play "ASAP?" I'll also say that I think Simmons would have had a much better chance to start had there been offseason work last year and preseason games. Once those were lost, they were basically forced to bring him along slowly.
From Simon from China via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren, just saw the very insightful presser with Bernhard Seikovits. I am from Germany and have played and coached there for six years so I wanted to share some insights. Seikovits mentioned that in Europe, the best athletes go play other sports than football, which is true for the most part. However, since football is such a niche sport, everyone playing has a real passion for the game. Further, the Austrian league is one of the best amateur football leagues in the world. As a reference, I'd say the Vienna Vikings would be a decent NCAA Division II college team. Seikovits and Sandro Platzgrummer (who is on the Giants' active roster) are the two best Austrian players, so it was a real surprise to many that Platzgrummer made it to the NFL last year while Seikovits didn't. Therefore, we can all be sure that he will bring both passion and talent to the Cards. Compared to German player Moritz Boehringer (who didn't make it further than an NFL practice squad), Seikovits has much more playing experience, not least as a QB in the Austrian national team. He should therefore also be able to pick up the mental side of the game quickly. What were your impressions of him? Do you think he'll be able to make a push for the Cards active roster?"
It's so early on Seikovits. I'd have to see him against veterans, beyond just this minicamp. But it'll be difficult to make the roster. Might he have an outside chance to make the practice squad aside from his international exemption? Yeah, considering a bigger practice squad. But I appreciate the background info.
From Chris Barr via azcardinals.com:
"This in in response to your, 'Zaven gained weight, no big deal' from last week. Yes, it is a problem. He was 259 at his pro day, April 2. He was 270 April 22. That's an 11-pound weight gain in 20 days. Who is he, Albert Haynesworth? Here's the problem: The pre-draft process is both an intelligence test and a character test. That's why guys who failed the combine drug test were easily pegged as hopeless, given they couldn't lay off for a whole two weeks. Others would go get a DUI the night after the combine. Zaven knew he was going to get prodded and poked and weighed again prior to the draft. So what the heck was he thinking? Eleven pounds in 20 days is gluttonous. It's a red flag. It's a very valid question that you should not be afraid to ask Zaven when he gets in the building."
I am impressed that you care about this so much that you bring it up twice in the mailbag, and thanks for telling me I shouldn't be *afraid.* Look, he did well on his pro day although he weighed in a little lighter than he expected. He celebrated. Yes, he gained some weight. Yes, I asked him about it, and he chuckled and joked about how that weight was supposed to stay confidential and when it got out people "freaked out for about three hours." (Apparently longer for Chris.) He said his optimal weight is between 255-263, depending how much he has sweated in a workout, and he's in that range now. He looked in shape at rookie minicamp.
From Pascal Pierre via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren. Thank you for the mailbag, I definitely love the content and your down-to-earth approach. Why are the Cardinals a team that never seems to be afraid of injury history when signing free agents or rookies? Anything to do with playing on turf or always grading the potential reward higher than the risk? From Robert Alford to Marcus Gilbert in the recent past to James Conner, J.J. Watt, A.J. Green or this year's second-round pick Rondale Moore, the Cardinals never seem to be afraid to recruit or draft players with injury concerns. Just wondering what make them more confident than others about those bets."
"Never" is doing a lot of work here. I'd argue never isn't true -- just ask the fans angry the team didn't draft Caleb Farley. But yes, in most cases, it is a risk-reward. And I'd argue that, at least with your past examples, the injuries of Alford and Gilbert, for instance, had nothing to do with their past injuries so it was impossible to predict. Obviously, they do their due diligence. They decide it's worth it, in whatever equation they are using.
From Michael Tuckman via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren, my question relates to veteran cornerback signings. We created over $13 million in cap space by asking Hicks, Hudson and Pugh to restructure/take paycuts. I believe we only need $5M for the rookies as most deals will fall outside the top 51. We didn't ask them to take paycuts to not use that money. So, when will it be used? Hoping Wilson and Gowan develop into great CBs but nobody expects them to come in on Day 1. Guys like Steven Nelson and Bashaud Breeland are out there now. Or do you think Keim is holding off till veteran cuts to use the money? That's dicey, as those vets won't have had camp to learn the defense. Color me confused."
There is always a chance they needed money for a free agent that never materialized, or that draft picks changed the equation. They aren't going to use it all anyway; they always try to have at least a $5M chunk of space just in case. The cap room will naturally go down even with no moves when the regular season arrives, because at that point all the player count -- 53 on the roster, practice squad, anyone on injured reserve. I think there is a chance they sign a veteran, yes. But it might not be until they get a chance to feel out what Alford brings, or if there isn't a guy out there that they feel is worth it.
From Chris Minton via azcardinals.com:
"This isn't a question, but rather an answer to a question that was asked on the latest Cardinals Underground podcast. Calvisi Consulting wondered what game everyone was looking most forward to, and Kyle mentioned the Tennessee game (which we now know is the first game of the season). I have to concur with Kyle that the Tennessee game is the one I'm looking most forward to, because as a Cards' fan living in southeast Kentucky, I don't exactly have a plethora of opportunities to see the team play locally. In 15 years of fandom, I've been to a whopping five games: CIN in 2007 (Antrel Rolle with 3 interceptions, two of which were pick-six) and 2019 (Kyler's first win on a last-second field goal), TEN in 2009 (the Vince Young two-minute drive to win) and 2013 (the overtime win after blowing a lead in the cold), and IND in 2017 (another overtime win). As you can see, I get my money's worth on Cardinals games."
I remember all of them, since I was at all of them. That 2007 Bengals game was underrated.
From Robert Malicki via azcardinals.com:
"My question/comment concerns the league owners giving the players the opportunity to change uniform numbers. I am ambivalent to be honest because I see its value for the player who is assigned an unacceptable number out of the gate to seeking one of his choice, i.e. his college number. But, I also see the fan frustration of seeing your favorite player whose jersey you've spent a lot of money on and now he's changing and making your jersey obsolete. Yes, the players must spend money to change numbers, so there is a price to pay. Is there any restriction on doing this multiple times, or is the Budda Baker scenario alive? It will be interesting to see whether the newest team players experience a lag in establishing their jersey sales until fans are reasonably assured the player keeps his original number. And could a team face the problem of retiring two different numbers?"
Well, the Lakers retired both 8 and 24 for Kobe, so there's that. Nothing stops a player from changing every year. But I think what you will find after a year or two is that most of the sexy single-digits will be taken, so they will be harder to obtain. But yes, it's always been a crapshoot buying a particular player's jersey. You can always go all-time and get a Fitz 11 or a Tillman 40. Those are never out of style.
From Joe Cardea via azcardinals.com:
"Darren, I see a problem with being able to keep everyone. O-line and WR on offense and CB and Safety on defense. Can we go top heavy in the CB and Safety rooms? Can safeties play CB? I guess it's a good dilemma but what's your take on position groups? Can we afford to add a TE and another CB without cutting a future contributor?"
You can only have 53. Can you go top heavy? Sure. If you decide Gowan or Wilson, for instance, have to be redshirted -- like Humphries back in the day, or Eno last season -- they become the 53rd guy, unable to be plucked by another team but destined to be inactive every week. But the whole idea of roster building is to have so many guys that yes, you end up cutting some guys who can play, because it means you have a deep roster. For instance, yes, perhaps safeties Budda Baker or Jalen Thompson can help at nickel cornerback -- but my guess is there will be safeties whose names we know who get released because there are too many.
From Tom Cowley via azcardinals.com:
"Do you see any chance that we are interested in trading for the third string TE from Cleveland ? He appears to be a future winner. Thanks for the info."
I am not sure to whom you refer, but I am not ruling out a trade for a tight end of some sort. Maybe a signing of a vet. I'd think it likely would come in camp or at the end of the preseason, when more guys come available. We'll see.
From Mackay Breivik via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren, long time first time. Fan since the Cards eliminated the Cowboys in the 1998 wild card. We could pick apart a lot about the Cards but I want to focus on coaching. If I recall you spoke about Kliff not wanting to give up the OC/playcalling duty, and I get that to a point. But in my opinion, he needs someone who can really hold his hand. I am not saying he is not capable, but I am saying he needs to get an established OC to combat his learning curve."
Well, I appreciate the opinion. Not sure what else to say about it. It's not going to happen.
From Stephen Bray via azcardinals.com:
"Why didn't General Manager Steve Keim address the running back situation in the 2021 NFL Draft? He knows that Chase Edmondson is not an every down back due to his durability, and that James Conner has a past history of being injured and not able to complete a full season. This will be the weakest link in their offense in the upcoming season."
It's Edmonds, and as an organization they disagree with you on basically every point. They also still have Jonathan Ward and Eno Benjamin, who they liked enough last season to keep around and who can be in the mix. I think he feels like he has plenty of backs for now, and obviously no backs jumped at them at the time they were making picks.
From Nathan Kurtz via azcardinals.com:
"Have you and the rest of the Cardinals news crew been vaccinated yet? If so, thank you! What are you looking forward to most this season presuming we have some capacity of in-person football this season."
I have been vaccinated, so has pretty much all of our group (or in the process) and we very much enjoyed the news from the NFL last week that fully vaccinated people could go mask-less in the facility. Selfishly, I am hoping in-person football will also lead to in-person interviews, because I very much miss that part of the job, and being able to have a more intimate conversation rather than Zoom calls.
From Curtis Potter via azcardinals.com:
"Hello Darren. First time I've ever asked a question here and I hope it's worthy of a response. Please allow me to start by saying, I love reading your responses and appreciate the work you put into the mailbag. Now, I'm one of those fans that desperately wants the Cardinals to change their uniforms so badly. I'm not lying when I say I'm obsessed with finding any kind of news (or rumors) that the Cardinals are working on new uniforms. My hopes are very high that the 'unveiling' before the season (as mentioned from the 04/20/21 mailbag) is regarding updated uniforms and the thing to finally shut us up. Unfortunately for you, we make it a topic EVERY week for the Mailbag and sorry to add. On a scale of 1-10, how frustrated are you with this uniform talk?"
I don't know where/why this rumored unveiling is out there but you might want to invest your hopes elsewhere. Look, I would not say I'm frustrated. Heck, I control what questions end up in the mailbag; I could avoid this conversation, at least in this forum. I think it's kind of funny that it has become what it has become, and how people find new and interesting "questions" on the subject when everyone already knows the answer. Here's a hint -- the organization will let everyone know when something is coming. I promise. I think it's fine people feel strongly about it. I am not one of those people.