April is here, and the draft is almost here. The Cardinals have moved through free agency, and while that part might not be totally over, the draft is priority one. What the Cards do at No. 16 will be interesting and, given that it is the middle of the first round, almost unpredictable. What is predictable is that we'll have a weekly mailbag, for which you can send a question here.
From Max Klellen via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren, small comment from Malcolm Butler's presser that has sent me into a rabbit hole. This man has been in the NFL for eight years and has never played at Seattle? I understand how it's possible. Maybe they just don't hit the schedule rotation often for New England, and he goes to a new team exactly when Seattle is coming up for his old team. I get it. However I now MUST KNOW more of these 'long time player who have never played X.' That's astounding to me. It makes sense that long time players who have never moved teams have played everyone everywhere. On the Cardinals, the 'second-oldest' guy on our roster is D.J. Humphries. Can you ask him if there's any venue he's never played before? This is so fascinating to me."
Max, the mailbag was designed to get people out of just such rabbit holes. And I don't have to ask Hump -- I can do a little research. Hump is probably not the best example because of his injuries. There are quite a few cities in which he has yet to play a game in. Chandler Jones is a good example, having been in both conferences. He has never played yet a game in Cleveland, Chicago, Oakland/Vegas, or Pittsburgh.
From Cardiac Cardinale via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren. What are your thoughts on bringing back De'Vondre Campbell? He would provide excellent depth and insurance. He is still available and hopefully affordable at this point. Is the issue that his presence could stunt the growth of Simmons? I think the competition would be good for the youngster."
Simmons is going to start. So the question is whether De'Vondre would be willing to play a backup role, or -- if he is going to take less money anyway -- if he would rather just play somewhere that could get him on the field more often. I wouldn't totally rule it out but I think it's unlikely.
From Chris Minton via azcardinals.com:
"As always, thanks for the opportunity for fans to inquire and/or complain. I dig what you do, and I'm especially fond of your use of dry sarcasm. Two questions, one of which could also be considered a complaint. One, in 2018, the top QB salary was $26.5 million, or 14% of the cap that year. In 2021, the top QB salary (as of now) will be $37.2 million, or 20% of the cap. Obviously part of the percentage increase is due to the lower cap, but how do you foresee this playing out in the future? It's worth noting that in just five years, the top QB salary went from $26.5 million (2018) to $46.7 million (2023, for now), so maybe this question answers itself. Also, with the 17th game, it feels like the simplest way to handle it would've been to make the 17th game an international game, giving the league 16 total international games while allowing teams to still have all eight home games. An argument could be made about logistics, but an argument could also be made that current logistics for the 17th game are completely arbitrary anyway. Would this be a feasible arrangement?"
1) In terms of QB salaries, I think the percentage of the cap might go down a tad, but the actual dollars are going to continue to go up for the main guys (or players will go Dak and use the franchise tag if their teams don't pay up.) It's the cost of doing business. For instance, Kyler's next deal is going to be ... pricey. And it'll be more expensive the longer the Cards wait, because there will inevitably be more deals in-between now and whenever it happens.
2) As for the 17th game, you need to have a place for all those international games -- and it's possible that, down the road, that's exactly what will happen with No. 17.
From Max Lloyd via azcardinals.com:
"What's the update on Larry Fitzgerald and is he staying in Arizona or going to Tampa Bay?"
There is no update. We are waiting to see what happens. The choice is playing in Arizona or retiring. Regardless of what is out there, I do not see Tampa -- or any other team -- as an option.
From Daniel Whitson via azvcardinals.com:
"Have you all considered using Larry Fitzgerald as a tight end? He already blocks. Look at the film (I'm sure you have). A hybrid tight end could open up the offense in ways others aren't ready for. While his perceived loss of a step happens to all of us I believe this move could extend his career and help the team at the same time. If it is his time to go God bless him. If he wants to stay, this could work as a tool to mess with other defenses. He is a tall person already. Add 20 or 25 pounds and he is as big as the tight ends. Just a thought. Thanks for listening."
Have I considered it? I have, and promptly dismissed. Obviously this has come up before, but I don't think Fitz has any desire to be a full-time tight end and I'm quite sure he has no desire to gain 20 or 25 pounds at this point in his career.
From Jonathan Keen via azcardinals.com:
"Quick salary cap question. In the case of incentives, do all contracts (including their incentives) have to sum up to less than the cap, and any missed incentives roll over as cap space the next year? Or is it only the guaranteed money that goes into the calculation?"
Without getting too deep in the weeds, incentives are categorized as likely or not likely to be earned. Likely to be earned (LTBE) are counted on the cap. NLTBE are not counted. The cap the following year is adjusted up or down if the LTBE are not met, or NLTBE are met.
From Pete Earls via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren. Any chance D.J. Foster returns this season as a special teamer and third running back? Thanks."
If Foster comes back I'd think it'd be later in the offseason and only if they don't add another guy either in the draft or free agency.
From Tom Cowley via azcardinals.com:
"Thanks Darren. Have you heard about any surprises forthcoming prior to the draft for us signing a serious/real full-time top drawer cornerback who would start opposite Butler? I would not want to leave that role up to a rookie draftee no matter what the pundits say. I assume a TRADE would the best approach now to make this happen -- we do have several attractive players to offer."
No, I don't believe that free agent or trade would happen for a high-profile cornerback. Doesn't mean they won't sign a cornerback, but I expect Butler to be the big name.
From Jerry Matthews via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren. I'm missing the combine this year. I know it's a ridiculous event, but I enjoy it. To comment on these pro days we are seeing, and the freakish 40 times that are coming out on the daily. Kinda weird how the 2021 draft class is collectively the fastest group of prospects we've ever seen huh? Convenient. Improbable, me says. I think we're seeing a lil bit of homecooking at these pro days. I hope evaluators don't lose their heads."
I think it's clear after the avalanche of incredible 40 times that something is significantly different. The NFL is still working on the timing, but it's not the same as the controlled environment of Indy. I do not believe this year's class of athletes just happens to be this fast.
From Curtis F via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren. Sorry, no draft, jersey or Fitz question here for you. I'm wondering on your opinion as an insider on the 17th game being added. I assume most fans like the idea, and owners will enjoy the extra revenue. But do you get any feelings on what the players feel about it? And I've read lots of different theories, but what is the reason for the extra game? Thanks Darren. I love the real and candid responses!"
Players around the league sounded like they didn't like it much, but both Malcolm Butler and Shawn Williams, the two newest Cardinals, basically said it's the rules now and you just go out and play it like other games. The reality was it was all but assured once the players agreed to the latest CBA, so they knew it was coming. There is no mystery about why. It's worth a boatload of money. Take away a preseason game and add regular-season games that can go on TV networks? You look at the giant new TV contracts, and that's a big factor why.
From Kevin K via azcardinals.com:
"Have we signed Dennis Gardeck? Is he still getting offers from other teams?"
Gardeck has not yet signed his tender. I don't know if he's gotten any offers, but I expect him to remain with the Cardinals.
From Brad O'Neill via azcardinals.com:
"All these one- and two-year signings going on have me really worried about when Kyler's rookie deal is up. Not only are we going to have to pay him but suddenly we will have a ton of openings for starter positions as well. Also, seeing Mason Cole (starting center experience in a backup) get traded for a sixth-round pick concerns me also. As you can tell, I worry a lot lol. Thanks for being a great rep for the team, I love your takes -- especially the occasional smart aleck ones."
As my son (Alec) likes to say, it's better than being a dumb aleck. As for the short contracts, those kinds of deals were inevitable this year in free agency because teams can't afford a ton and players want to get back into the open market. Yes, the Cards are going to need to do some work in the long-term to build the roster, but in a lot of ways, you kind of do that every couple of years anyway. There will be juggling to do when Kyler gets his extension, but such is the price to improve things now. As for Cole, you needed some draft capital, and with Lamont Gaillard already here, flipping an extra offensive lineman for a pick makes sense. You weren't going to re-sign him when he became a free agent after the season anyway.
From BDUB Wooten via azcardinals.com:
"Darren, several weeks ago I asked you about the Cards trying to sign an experienced backup QB like Alex Smith or Teddy Bridgewater. I brought up Bridgewater because it seems like the Panthers are not sold on him. Anyway, you answered with something along the lines that neither one of those quarterback were mobile types so you weren't sure if they fit with the Cards. So I'm curious your thoughts on Colt McCoy signing? He's not really a mobile guy either."
When you asked the first time, I have to wonder if the Cardinals were looking at some candidates not named McCoy. But at this point in free agency, getting a guy with experience that can aid the learning curve and get the Cardinals through a game (or two) if Kyler gets banged up makes sense. (Also, Bridgewater was never available, except in trade, not sure why people keep bringing him up.)
From Rudy B via azcardinals.com:
"Do you think we could see three 1,000-yard receivers again like we did back in the day with Larry, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston? Hopkins, Green and Kirk seem like candidates if Kirk can finally have a breakout year. What do you think?"
I don't see that happening. The Cardinals need to run the ball more effectively for starters (the year the Cards had a trio of 1,000-yard receivers, they didn't run the ball well or often.) If they have two, I think that'll be a step forward.
From Bill Thompson via azcardinals.com:
"Thanks, Darren for doing the mailbag! I really don't have any question; just a couple of wishes. I sure hope that we have a full camp this year; not having a camp last year sure hurt, especially the rookies. Also, I hope that Evan Weaver gets a chance. He has true grit! You can't lead the NCAA in tackles and not be a real player. I know that there is a lot of competition at his position, but I sure like to see him on special teams. Speed might be a holdback, but he plays like his hair is on fire! Thanks, again; GO CARDINALS!"
I am sure every team is hoping training camp will be as close to normal as possible, but we will see -- unfortunately, cases in many areas are rising again. As for Weaver, he'll get his chance. If Campbell isn't coming back, there are holes there on the depth chart so opportunity will present itself. But, like with most sixth-round picks, it's not a given.
From Jason Allen via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren, free agency has made me so excited for this upcoming season and I see it as a big opportunity to hopefully make the post season and maybe even a deep run. While we have signed Malcom Butler, we still need another cornerback pretty badly. Out of all the free agents we have signed, which one do you think will have the biggest impact on this team, both in the locker room, and on the field? Another question, now that we have signed older free agents, I have heard that people like A.J Green and J.J. Watt aren't 16-game players. They are more of the type of players that can get you big catches/big sacks in key moments. Do you agree or disagree and would this impact anything? Thank you for your time."
Ultimately, if you are asking about both the field and the locker room, I'm going to go with Watt. Field only, I'd say Rodney Hudson. As for the other question, I am assuming you mean that Watt and Green will play 16 games just not impact some of them very much? I don't think there is any question both are past their prime, and past the point they will dominate every week. But I see no reason, if they are healthy, that they can't play an important role every game. The Cards, in fact, will need them to do just that.
From Chris Fernandez via azcardinals.com:
"When is player considered a 'veteran?' In your recent article detailing the Shawn Williams signing, you called Deionte Thompson as a veteran but he was only drafted two years ago. I know players have to be in the league a certain number of years before receiving veteran benefits, but is this more of an ambiguous term used by the media to describe the number of snaps a player has played or impact on the field rather than a more concrete definition? Thanks!"
I don't think there is any true definition. I suppose you could use it only for guys that would qualify for unrestricted free agent status -- four accrued seasons -- but then again, you can have a guy bouncing around the league for five years that doesn't have that qualifier. For me, a rookie is a rookie, but, in a league where the average career is less than four years, once you are two years in, you're a vet -- especially if you've been with the same team those first two years.
From Ivan Sorenson via azcardinals.com:
"WHY did you get rid of Dan Arnold he was really good how could you let this happen?"
I, actually did not get rid of Arnold. (Actually no one did; he was a free agent). And if you think I have the power to not let it happen, well, God bless you, Ivan. But I do not.
From Jacob Lagang via azcardinals.com:
"Hello sir! I hope that you are doing wonderful.
- I am happy about Shawn Williams, but does that mean anything for Deionte Thompson? I was thinking of a trade scenario and it would be Deionte Thompson, Marcus Gilbert, our seventh round pick from the raiders, and a fifth for 2022 for Zach Ertz. Would that work out?
- Also sir, do you think we are going to extend Chandler Jones and/or Rodney Hudson to get some money back?
- I have noticed that each of the starter signees that we have got made the pro bowl before. Do you think we are still going to do that if or when we sign other people? Would Le'Veon Bell be a guy because James Saxon and same with A.J. Bouye because Vance Joseph?
- Do you think we are going to sign anyone to help in the return game?
- NFL.com says DeQuan Jones would be a good fit for our team but I am not sure why but I have heard great things about him, can you talk about that please? Thank you Mr. Darren Urban and I hope you have a wonderful day!"
Many questions. Here are my answers.
- I don't know why that trade would interest the Eagles for Ertz.
- I don't expect a Hudson extension now. Jones is more interesting, but at this point, it doesn't seem immediately likely. I wouldn't be shocked if they want to see where he is health-wise.
- I wouldn't expect Bell. Bouye is possible just because I think they'll sign another veteran at some point.
- I don't think they will make a signing specifically for the return game.
- I don't know much about Jones but if he were to come here, it'd be as a depth piece only.
From Matthew Stroh via azcardinals.com:
"Why are fans so upset about Patrick Peterson leaving. My personal opinion, it was time I think his play has gone down and I think a new start is best for him. I hope he has the success like some past person who have left like Calais Campbell and Tyrann Mathieu. I personally think some players need the change. But Malcolm Butler brings something I think Patrick Peterson has been lacking and that is tackling. Do you believe change is good sometimes? Thank you again for the mailbag. P.S. I change Google voice to a guy so it's sound more like you just reading the Mailbag because I listen to it when I drive."
Uh, thanks? I think some fans are upset about Peterson for the same reason fans get upset about any long-time star leaving -- he's been a part of the fabric for so long, and sometimes it's hard to see those guys leave. Just like Campbell and Mathieu. Certainly, change is good sometimes. Peterson is set up for an interesting year. Is it a change of scenery he needed? Or is he just at that part of his career where it's tough to measure up to the bar he once set?
From John Lyons via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren, I was at the stadium today getting my Covid vaccine and noticed some major construction along side the great lawn. It's in close proximity to where the port-a-johns usually are. Are they building a multi-story restroom? Thank you for your time and consideration."
I'll be honest, I haven't been out there so I haven't seen what you are referencing, although a multi-story restroom sounds ... unlikely. Hopefully we hear something about it soon. And also, props for getting your vaccine. The more people that do it, the better.
From Joe Cardea via azcardinals.com:
"Darren, how come Steve Keim doesn't draft four all-pro caliber players in the first three rounds every year? It seems ridiculous that we don't have at least three Pro Bowl starters on the O-line. Why couldn't we put a Hall of Fame-caliber CB opposite Patrick Peterson on a veteran's minimum salary? Thanks, but seriously, can D-Wash model some new uniform options? At least."
Every week I go through the mailbag questions just hoping one emerges as the perfect walkoff. Was almost through all my options this week when Joe teed up the perfect one. Props to you.