Big week for the Cardinals -- at least the back half of it. Yes, voluntary Phase Two work is still going on, but rookies report and the schedule will be released on Thursday. Friday, the rookie minicamp starts. So let's mailbag, shall we? Questions have been edited for length and clarity. As always, you can send in a question for a future mailbag here.
From Garret Tanner:
"Hi Darren. A question about Hopkins' suspension (which is very, very frustrating). If it was a November test that was positive for PEDs, why is he only just now getting suspended? Why didn't he get suspended for part of last season since the test was from November? Does the investigation/appeal process just take that long to complete? Thanks!"
In a nutshell, yes, the whole process takes that long. I'm not sure why, but it was the same timeframe in which the Patrick Peterson suspension was announced (into May).
From jpr Cards:
"So Hopkins gets suspended for violating the league's PED policy. That is a VERY bad development for the team. I don't know the full story but I have a very difficult time believing that any player could 'accidently' violate the league's policy. How exactly are the players made aware about what is and is not off-limits and how up-to-date and accurate is that information? Is there a single team source that a player may go to for specific information about specific 'drugs' and how they might impact the NFL's policies?"
The NFL and NFLPA have a list of approved supplements that players can use. If they have something that is not on the list, they can ask to see if it qualifies as OK. As far as resources, yes, the NFLPA is there for whatever questions a player might have.
From Darrell From Pinetop:
"With news of D-Hop's suspension in the regular season dropping, what are the odds that we start the season 0-6? Granted we have Hollywood Brown now and I'm hoping that mitigates the hit a bit, but it is disappointing to hear that D-Hop would resort to those methods. I'm just hoping he doesn't turn into another P2 post-suspension and wanting out of AZ."
Sheesh. I mean, it's a blow to the plans but to say an 11-6 team is now going to start 0-6 seems a bit pessimistic to me. Especially since, at least as of this posting, we don't even know who the opponents will be in those six games. After everything Kliff Kingsbury has said about how he should've done a better job adjusting without Hopkins last season, if they were that bad this year with all this time to prepare, that would be a highly disappointing.
From Chad Johnson:
"What is the process for contract negotiations? I assume there are cap specialists, attorneys, special injury clauses, guaranteed money debates, agents, owners, etc. all involved. But when we watch signings of FAs on the website it looks like only two pieces of paper, but I imagined contracts being hundreds of pages with escalator clauses, no trade clauses, other clauses I have no idea about. Does an important contract for a key player, maybe a QB, get done quickly or does it take a significant amount of time based on the number of people who need to look at and approve it?"
A lot of layers there, Chad. One, you'd be surprised how many words you can jam on one sheet of paper, so even a lengthy contract would only be a handful of pages. Yes, there are negotiations on all those things. But most contracts have a starting point based on comps of players at your position that are already done, and not every contract is going to have, say, escalator clauses or the very rare no-trade. Most of the time, it's about the guaranteed money, and for many free agents, that's already been determined before the player visits/signs. For players that visit and don't sign, usually that means the team has said what they are willing to pay and it is a take-it-or-leave-it situation. Deals can get complicated but usually, if there is a hold up, it's because they haven't agreed on the money. Once that happens, the rest is just details.
From Michael Riley:
"Regarding D-Hop, was he taking PEDs during rehab after going on IR or during playing time? Timing matters. If he was taking supplements to speed rehab and not associated with on the field play why should he (we) be punished? Can you briefly explain. Thanks as always for all you do."
The test, according to his own representative, came in November, so it might've been during hamstring rehab but it was before his knee injury and he did come back to play. As for the rehab/playing argument, the CBA is very clear and the NFLPA has agreed to it -- there are lists of things you can't take, period, and there is punishment if you do. Pretty black and white. The whole point is to not get caught up in shades of gray.
From Glen Wilkes:
"Do we get to use the money towards the salary cap that Hopkins forfeits?"
It is my understanding that, yes, there will be a little bit of cap relief, but I don't have details of how much or when it kicks in.
From Art Pozza:
"Can someone explain the offensive schemes used by the NFL. Basically, what is 10 personnel, 11 personnel, 12 personnel?"
When someone says 10 or 11, etc., it refers to the number of running backs and tight ends on the field (and by math's sake, wide receivers too). If you have a QB and five offensive linemen, that's six players. You add the one running back, that's seven. So with 10 personnel, that's no tight ends and four receivers. With 11, it's one tight end and three receivers, 12 is two tight ends and two receivers, and 13 is three tight ends and one receiver.
From Steve Garrik:
"Why do you poo poo the Dez Bryant option so much? Yes he's not the star he use to be. But if you read his comments, he seems to have great perspective in the sense he will be a backup/situational WR. I for one think he would fill a much needed role as the big, physical, short yardage WR. Happy to have Hollywood but we have a pretty frail WR corps right now. AJ and Wesley are tall, but thin. Dez can at least bully his way to a first-down or TD in the red zone."
What is Zach Ertz/Trey McBride for then? More importantly, I think, if you really need a player like that, you can find someone who has had more than six catches the last four seasons. Terrell Owens wants to get back in the NFL too. I don't disagree Bryant has good perspective, but he would have to because no one would sign him for anything but that. I also feel like they tried this with Michael Crabtree and it did not work out at all. I once had a wise person tell me, "always be interested in being interested." I guess I wouldn't rule out anything, especially if he could show something in a workout and play for cheap. But it seems very much unlikely.
From Gary Drew:
"Hi Darren, I'm a Phoenix transplant out of Annapolis; longtime Ravens fan but I follow the Cardinals passively as a local now. I'm writing you because I read your Hollywood Brown column and I just can't hold my tongue regarding Hollywood's comments about targets. I understand his sentiment about his role in the offense and the quality of targets. However, when a football hits you in the hands, you need to catch it; regardless of the offensive scheme. Probably unintentional but that sounded very much like passive aggression towards the Ravens 'misusing him.' Hollywood is a very good WR and I think will in fact be used better in the Cardinals offense, however that really rubbed me the wrong way."
I understand the frustration if you are a Ravens' fan but I am missing how his drops (he was listed with six last season) would be connected with the routes he ran and when he was targeted. It feels like, in this case, you just wanted to vent about his drops no matter what he said. A receiver has to catch it when thrown to him, yes, of course. But -- and I haven't watched a ton of Ravens games, but I've seen my fair share -- it seems disingenuous to say the Ravens are a team that leaned on Brown/wide receivers the way most teams do. Nothing wrong with that, because they are very successful. But also understandable why Brown would want to see what he could do elsewhere, drops or no drops.
From Jeremy Heathcote:
"Hey Daz. Three quick questions
- Six weeks for performance enhancing drugs? Seriously is that all they get? Compared to sports here where you cop years, it seems very light. Do players have too much power on things like this?
- Why do you think there was so much hate on Hollywood? I saw so much negative stuff on socials - yeah he's no real superstar but he's proven, which is something might not have had with the pick.
- When does the draw come out? Looking forward to getting back to the States to watch a game or two."
Three quick answers:
- This is the punishment collectively bargained between the league and the players. That's how it's supposed to work. It's how it should work.
- Everybody has an opinion. Until he plays for the Cardinals, everyone on both sides of the debate will claim they are right.
- The schedule comes out this Thursday, May 12.
From Leslie P:
"Given the high investment pick into Trey McBride as well as the big extension for Zach Ertz, do you think we morph into an offense a little closer to KC? I've been doing some reading on McBride and he's essentially just a big wide receiver, which is what we need with our diminutive WR corps."
Not sure what you mean by an offense closer to Kansas City. I don't think they see McBride as just a big receiver, because in a lot of ways, that's Ertz's role. They need a guy who can be in-line more often. I think for the games Hopkins is out, yes, we could see them leaning on tight ends more, but it feels like when you mention the Chiefs it's the idea they are Kelce-first when it comes to the passing game. Maybe. But I think the Cardinals hope they will spread it around quite a bit.
From Simon from China:
"Hi Darren, greetings from the Shanghai lockdown hell. Your draft coverage has really helped me get through some dark hours, thank you for that. I just read that Trey McBride is actually the first player drafted who has same-sex parents, perhaps that would be an interesting story for you to cover? In that context, I also thought it was pretty cool to see that the Cardinals selected a member of the National Gay Flag Football League to announce their third-round pick. Do you have more background on that topic?"
I don't know if McBride is the first, but he is the first I've heard about. I would guess that yes, it's a story I'd pursue. As far as the NGFFL, I know the team helped support an event (held in the park next door to the team complex) at the end of September last year, so there are connections.
From Sidney Sexson:
"Reading the mailbag on May 3 I couldn't disagree more with some of the fans' comments on the Hollywood Brown acquisition. He is a very good receiver who has already proved he can play at this level and to get him and pick 100 for our pick 23 is a very good deal. There was no one else available at 23 that in my opinion would have been as good a pick. In addition, his familiarity with Kyler makes it an even better acquisition."
As I noted earlier, both sides of this debate are going to think they are right until one is not -- and even then, we might have battles of what the truth really is. As I have said before, I think it was a good move (better when Hopkins is playing) and will ultimately help this team.
From Rusty Randall:
"Why are the Cardinals the only team in the league without an offensive coordinator?"
They aren't. The 49ers and the Patriots don't have one either. Although the Cardinals do have a run-game coordinator and co-pass game coordinators.
From Max Utley:
"Hey Darren I was wondering with this free agency and losing some players to the market, if the Cardinals will make a large move before free agency is over?"
I'm not ruling anything out with Steve Keim making splashy moves at any point but nothing I've heard in particular. There remain a couple of headline-grabbing names on the market. We will see.
From Larry Phillips:
"Hi Darren. The Cardinals could not stop the run at the end of last year. However, they did not address the defensive line in in free agency or the draft to solve the issue. I listened to the press conferences with Steve Keim and Kliff Kingsbury and the media never brought the issue up. Let me know if I have missed something or if they do have a plan in mind?"
I would argue about the "could not stop the run"; the Cardinals were inconsistent but held teams to under four yards a carry in three of their final five games. They weren't losing because of that. As for adding to the defensive line, I would not rule out a signing, especially someone veteran. But it would be at their price and is not for sure. They invested two fourth-round picks into defensive linemen two years ago; that's supposed to help them.
From Uroš Matović:
"It is known that few years have to pass to really grade a draft pick, so I'm wondering what's your take on Allen, Fotu, and Lawrence? If you ask me (you are not, but still), for Fotu and Lawrence at tackle I have some expectations and certainty, but what role do you think Allen will have in 2022? P.S. About Hollywood Brown noise -- since we know our recent draft history of WRs, plus the Hopkins news, the trade makes a lot of sense, no matter of it was overpriced or not."
I've made my feelings known many times on the Brown trade. I liked it. As for Allen, Fotu and Lawrence, this goes hand-in-hand with the previous question. This is a big year for all three (maybe more for Allen since he is in the last year of his contract). The Cardinals need all three to play well. They need Lawrence to stay healthy. I thought Allen did play better last season, and that was with an ankle problem. But when you take defensive lineman with three mid-round picks, you expect them to pan out. There is still much to prove.
From Robert Malicki:
"Hi, Darren. I am curious how you see the team in relation to the upcoming schedule and what has been learned now that 17 games are played? The team does not have an illustrious record in prime time games but does the NFL TV perception like them? Mexico City is great for a MNF game. They will not play on Thanksgiving, but do you think Kyler, Zach, Connor are exciting enough for a national audience. Or will losing DeAndre bring them down a notch even with adding Marquise for a last-minute schedule change?"
I assume this is about potential national TV primetime games. They will get one on a Thursday night (likely on the road) and they will play the Monday game in Mexico. Beyond that? I could see one other game. Kyler is a draw. And they do have some sexy opponents -- all of the AFC West, the Bucs -- but yeah, I'd think they would take into account Hopkins' absence. We will see, Thursday at 5 p.m. Arizona time.