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You've Got Mail: Pro Bowl Week

Topics include scouting from the Combine, supplemental draft and WR decisions


The Super Bowl matchup is set, the Pro Bowl is coming up and there are more questions to answer in this week's mailbag. As always, if I didn't get to your question, it may appear next week. You can leave a question for next week's version by going here.

From Chad Johnson via

"I know there is tons of scouting reports from everyone in college that are processed during the combine, FA, draft, etc. How long do they hold on to those reports? When they look at guys in free agency, do they pull up their reports from when the player was in college or rely more heavily on scouting his time in the pros? When the GM receives those reports, are they pages and pages long or are they a 'highlight' reel of the players strengths and weaknesses that can be easily read and digested?"

Yes, the teams -- including the Cardinals -- hang on to those reports as players move into the NFL, and yes, they are often referred to when free agency comes up. Obviously, with higher-profile free agents, those reports are already four or five years old. But it gives a team a sense of what they thought of the player coming out, and it's just another piece of the puzzle when it comes to deciding whether they should pursue a guy. Most reports are already distilled down, so it's not hard to look over a guy if a GM is interested. Steve Keim also watches video in his office all the time, so he's taking a first-person look at potential targets as well.

I don't know if Kingsbury will be at the Super Bowl -- he seems like a bit more of a grinder than someone who will hang out there. But there is little doubt he is close to Mahomes and it's probably safe to say that's the team he will be rooting for to win.

From William Thompson via

"My question deals with players who fall into disfavor with coaches/front office. What can a player do who gets into this situation and doesn't get playing time? I have asked about David Johnson without getting any real answers. Now let's talk about our wide receivers. Andy Isabella is one, but what about Trent Sherfield? Sherfield looked great in preseason, but when the season came, what happened to his playing time. He was great on special teams and even that disappeared as the season went on. Obviously, I don't know what happens in practice (no fans do), but nobody is going to improve if they are not given chances in the game. I know that Kenyan Drake had some really good games, but the offensive line improved greatly as the season went along. I think that DJ could have shown great runs had he had the same opportunities late in the season. That's when he was getting NO TOUCHES! Darren, I would really appreciate a response to this. Thank you!"

Quick question, William. Are you asking what the player can do about it, or you? Because it feels like you might have an issue with how this has played out. I'm not sure what "real answers" you are seeking for David Johnson. The coaching staff and Kliff Kingsbury clearly decided that Kenyan Drake was the better player, based on how Drake was doing, what Johnson showed, and that wasn't changing in practice. Maybe Johnson might've done a few nice things later in the season, but if Drake already was, to me, that falls in the "If it's not broke, don't fix it category." And there definitely seemed to be a difference, even later in the season, when you watched Drake run the ball and when you watched Johnson.

As for Isabella and/or Sherfield, the former never was really getting any playing time. Sherfield was playing special teams through the end of the season so I am not sure what you are talking about there, but once the Cards used much more three-WR sets, the lower guys on the depth chart were not going to play on offense.

From Michael Schmorr via

"Can you shed some light onto how the supplemental draft works and if there is any benefit from a financial standpoint for teams or players to use it? The Cards have used it several times in the past most notably with Jalen Thompson and Timm Rosenbach years ago. Rosenbach cost us a first-round pick the following year, a huge cost. Unfortunately injuries derailed his career leaving his biggest achievement of him being the Cardinals QB in Tecmo Super Bowl, arguably the greatest football video game ever. This current year Thompson was the only player selected in the fifth round, I envision a room of NFL representatives declaring no pick multiple times in a row until we finally take the one player in round 5 and none after. Kind of seems like sitting around and playing guts with your friends, until finally someone makes a pick. Are the salary restrictions on the supplemental draftees like they have in the real NFL draft?"

The supplemental draft essentially works as a blind situation, where teams know what players are available. Teams submit what players they want to draft and what round via email. The draft order is more or less based on the April draft order, although teams are broken into three groups and each group is ordered by a weighted lottery. Whoever puts in for a player in the earliest round gets the player; if there is a tie, it goes to the draft order in that round. There is no financial benefit -- it all works the same as the usual draft. But players have to put in to be eligible for the supplemental draft; they can't just skip the regular draft to do it.

I know you guys will keep asking and I'll keep answering the same thing -- there are no plans for new uniforms at the moment.

From Sidney Sexson via

"Darren I like the fact that you pointed out how different PFF and ESPN ranked certain players in their top 50 free agent lists. Even among the so-called experts it is hard to find a consensus. You mentioned Cory Littleton as an example and I would like your opinion on him. He certainly would solve the issue we had of covering tight ends and running backs but is not very good on run defense. He seems like someone we should target — agree/disagree? Also the top free agent I would love to see in a Cardinal uniform would be Chris Jones even though I expect he is going to command a big contract."

Obviously a player like Chris Jones would make any defensive line immediately better. If he reaches free agency, he will make a lot of money. Jones or someone else, I do think the Cardinals have to make a push at a defensive lineman or two before the draft. As for Littleton, he has shown he can do decently in coverage. Clearly the Cardinals a) need to find someone to play next to Jordan Hicks and b) find someone who can help cover tight ends.

The return of Fitz is on an island to itself. I don't think it impacts any decisions going forward -- the pick in the first round will be what it would be regardless of No. 11. I would be surprised if a WR and an OT aren't selected, although we will see what round.

From Babo Frick via

"Hey Darren, what is the behind-the-scenes true story of Cody Brown? Guy hurt his wrist in camp and was essentially cut thereafter. Dude was a second-round pick. For a second-round pick to get cut like that, they usually have to be caught red-handed committing strong-armed robbery. Even DWash was allowed three suspensions before getting released. So what on earth did Cody do? Do you know what happened?"

There really isn't anything next level with Brown. He was drafted -- overdrafted -- in 2009 because the Cardinals needed a pass rusher and they reached. They knew pretty early he probably wasn't the answer, but his broken wrist in preseason put him on the shelf. He was back for the offseason and training camp/preseason of 2010, but by the time final cuts came, it was clear they needed to move on -- and yes, if you know that quickly a second-round pick can't play, it is painfully obvious, because picks that high do get multiple chances. (Washington was a hell of a football player and proved it. It was the off-field stuff that got him.) With Brown, he barely played after that with Jets and Lions, so he just wasn't good enough.

From Terry Graunke via

"I'd like to take a crack at the 'vindication' question previously posed by another fan. I have been a fan of the team since 1960. I grew up in Chicago, and I chose the Cardinals over the Bears. I took it hard when the Cardinals left for St. Louis, harder still when they went to Arizona. Vindication is not the word I would use to describe what I'd like to see. I want the team to be competitive: 1974-76, 2008, compared to 2018.
Kliff Kingsbury gives me some optimism in that regard. However, we need to get off to a better start in 2020. I'm hoping a full offseason to prepare will translate to better results, especially early. What do you think?"

Not sure what you are asking my opinion about. Will an entire offseason -- after a full season for Kliff Kingsbury to evaluate his offense and Kyler Murray to understand what he must improve -- help? Yes. No question in my mind there, although they do need to upgrade both sides of the ball on the roster. As for vindicated vs. competitive, it's all just details arguing about the same basic premise -- Cardinals fans, no matter how long someone has followed them, want to win a Super Bowl at some point. And they want to have the hope that they have a chance to win the Super Bowl most years. Hope is crucial. That's been missing the last couple of years. It feels like the Kliff/Kyler kombo is moving them in that direction.

From Keith K via

"Darren, first of all, thank you for being so approachable! Second, I think if we can, I would love to see us draft Derrick Brown or Isaiah Simmons. That with a long-term contract for P2, could transform us to a top 10 defense again. And if gone I think a WR like Jeudy or Lamb would be great. But a WR is not a must, still have Hakeem Butler from last year. We could trade back and still get a WR like Shenault. Love a OT, but Arizona's track record isn't very good with early O-line picks. What are your thoughts? Thanks for your time!"

Right now, here in January, I'd love for Simmons or Brown to be the first pick. That's without any testing or interviews or knowing what will happen in free agency. You can't blow off a pick of a tackle -- if you think he's the right guy at 8 -- just because past picks have failed. That'd be a bad way to do business. I do think there will be a receiver coming in the offseason. Will it be in free agency? Will it be in the draft, and if so, when? That'll be fun to watch.

I don't really understand these questions -- it's only been a couple of years and it feels like too many people simply ignore how all that went down. The Cardinals didn't feel they could keep Mathieu at the money he was making -- he still had a couple years left on the deal, with guarantees coming up -- at the level he was playing at in 2016 and 2017. They asked him to take a pay cut for 2018. It wasn't an out-of-the-ordinary decision the Cards made. He declined, wanting to see what he was going to get on the open market. He signed with the Texans for less in 2018 than he would've gotten from the Cardinals. He bet on himself. He won big -- the Chiefs paid him more before this offseason than many expected him to get. I'm happy for him that's he's playing in the Super Bowl.

From Kristopher S via

"Why is team media neglecting to acknowledge Slater's HOF selection? Is it because he played for the team when they were located in Chicago? I cannot think of any other reason. Give the man his due. He was an all-time great."

From Blaine Pierce via

"I have always believed OLBs in a 3-4 defense should be at a minimum 6'3 to to 6'4 and 250 lbs. Nothing against Haason Reddick, but at 6'1 and 235 lbs I feel he is better suited to a 4-3 defense. The Raiders would probably love to have Reddick. Would you trade for their first pick in the 3rd round?"

Why would the Raiders give up a third-round pick for him? (That's somewhat rhetorical. They wouldn't.) Reddick will have another year to show what he can do in Arizona. We'll see. But no one is giving up a high pick -- in your example, that's basically a late second-rounder -- for him.

From Chad Johnson via

"What happens when a player retires with remaining salary and signing bonus? Is that money owed, forfeited, repaid? Hypothetically, let's say a player has two years left on his deal and signing bonus money has been paid (but counts against the cap for 2 more years) and decides to retire. After sitting out one year, he gets a hankering to come back how does that play out? What happens if he wants to come back after two years? Can he switch teams? Does original team own his rights?"

If a player retires, his gives up whatever salary he might have remaining on that deal. Technically, the team can ask for the remaining pro-rated portion of the signing bonus, but depending on the player, they may or may not do that. The cap hit is no different as if he was cut that season. As for his rights, as long as the team places the player on the reserved-retired list, he can't play anywhere else and his contract -- years-wise -- tolls. So if he had two years left, he'd still have two years left whenever he returned.

From K2 Year 2 via

"Riddle me this: Year 2 Kyler Murray is a better passer than Lamar Jackson and a more dangerous running threat than Patrick Mahomes, so would you endorse resigning D.J. Humphries and taking a potential franchise tackle (Andrew Thomas of Georgia if he's there) at No. 8. Then finding help on the defensive line in free agency (there will be many DTs available) then going best ILB, WR, OLB available in round two?"

That feels a little bit like a false foundation, to take the lesser of the abilities of the NFL MVP-to-be and arguably the best quarterback in the NFL and prop Kyler up that way. You maybe can make the argument Murray will be a better passer than Jackson (although that seems to discount any progress Jackson makes in his own game), and while Murray is a better runner, I just watched Mahomes run pretty well in the AFC Championship game. Let's just say Murray should be pretty good, and you're going to build your offense around him -- which is a given. Does your plan make sense? Sure. I don't know what they are going to do. The issue is getting the player(s) you want in free agency, but if you do, I could see that scenario playing out.

From Barbara Tower via

"Darren, so happy to have Larry re-signed for 2020 as I am sure every Cardinal fan is! Of our remaining free agents my top five to re-sign are, in no particular order, D.J. Humphries, Zane Gonzalez, Kenyon Drake, Brett Hundley, and Pharoh Cooper. What would your list be?"

That's a pretty fair list. I don't see Gonzalez going anywhere as a restricted free agent. So we wait to see what happens with Humphries and Drake, to start with.

I don't know if I'd say everyone. I personally have said I would love to see Simmons there as the pick. We'll see if he's even there at 8. Free agency must come first, but as of now, defense first makes sense to me.

From Joe Cardea via

"Darren, what are your thoughts on the dead money Steve Keim inherited and the three-year plan he talked about at that time. My take is that whole three-year plan went out the door when he (they) saw how good the team could be with Palmer. How much of his abandoning his plan to win now we're we paying the past three years and do you think we're about to break out of that handicap?"

The way the league works, it's tough to have a true three-year plan, especially if you get a good QB on a rookie contract. These days, few decision-makers can last long enough if there isn't progress in those three years. The reality is that Keim's first three years were the best years of his tenure, so obviously, there wasn't any wait-and-see. As for the clearing of cap space for this coming year, the opportunity is there. We will see what the Cardinals will do with it. According to, the Cardinals should have about $53 million in cap space.

From B.A.'s Kangol via

"Happy New Year Darren - Steve Keim draws most of the fire for drafting and other personnel decisions the Cardinals make (yes, he's the GM, so he should), but it is a collective and collaborative effort, not all just him. Since it appears Keim is staying put as GM, what do you think the chances are that others in the personnel department may pay the price for the Cardinals' dreadful drafting track record over the last few years? Or would those calls have been made by now if they were coming?"

At this point, I don't anticipate any changes. Most of the time, if a team is going to make scouting and/or front office moves, it usually comes after the draft.

From William Barry via

"Darren, can you give us a status update on Zach Allen, Robert Alford, and Hakeem Butler. How are they progressing in the offseason? I keep reading that the Cards will be even better when Butler returns. He is a big receiver that the Cards could have used in 2019, and he can make all the catches."

All three continue to rehab. Alford said at the end of the season, he was getting closer to running. I am expecting all of them to be ready for offseason work when they get on the field in May.

He suffered a hand fracture that was going to likely sideline him for a few months. Not sure how that is "writing him off." That said, you do understand that highlights are just that -- highlights, hand-picked best plays to string together. Most players can have a highlight tape. The coaches watched him all through the offseason, all through training camp and through most of the preseason. Butler's skills were easy to see at times. The improvement he needed was also easy to see. Make no mistake, they didn't want him on IR, because that stopped him from practicing. But if he was going to miss basically the season with the hand issue, it didn't make sense to try and bring him back.

From Bob Haines via

"Watching playoff football, the thing I have noticed about these teams always have a quality sure-handed tight end to help move the sticks on third down. For instance, Kelce in KC, Kittle in SF, Andrews in Baltimore, Rudolph in Minn,Graham in Green Bay. In prior years, Brady always had Gronk in NE and the Eagles had Ertz in Philly. I feel the Cardinals need to find a security blanket for Kyler to throw to in key downs to keep the offense moving. The Cardinals have not had a Pro Bowl-caliber TE since Jackie Smith. Although not a tight end, Anquan Boldin was that type of player. Any thoughts?"

Wait -- you go through all that, allow that Anquan was that type of player, and you never once mention Larry Fitzgerald -- who has absolutely morphed into that short-field type of receiver?

From Simon from China via

"Hi Darren, I always wondered how backup players manage their calorie intake and if they burn excess energy by working out after a game that they have spent at the sidelines watching. Is there a special routine for them? Cheers!"

There isn't any particular process for "backups." To begin with, even if you aren't starting, you are playing special teams. If you are talking about the inactive players, they still go through all the practices during the week so it's only game days that are in question. There isn't any special routine per se. They do plan out their workouts through the strength and conditioning coaches.

From Brian Council via

"Hi Darren, off-beat question here to kill time in the offseason. I've often wondered about the players' meals before a game, and the routine involving this. Does the team always provide a big meal, say, four hours prior to kickoff regardless of game time in the team hotel prior to departing on the bus for the stadium? Certainly there is some well-thought-out nutritional science behind it all? I can't imagine they just let the players handle it on their own. I mean, what if a star player decided to just eat a bag of Cheetos as his game fuel? You get the drift. I actually don't think I've ever seen a player caught on camera during a game scarfing something down."

There is a meal with various choices put out in the team hotel -- home and road games -- a few hours before the game, yes. There is a team nutritionist who helps guide players but these are grown men. You can't make them do anything, although the vast majority understand what they want to do food-wise. There are usually options for both breakfast and lunch, including steak and pasta, usual fuel-type foods.

From SW via

"Darren, love your reporting. But with the Cardinals offseason having started and nothing really happening yet, I can't stand another question about David Johnson vs. Drake, or the draft, or Humphries. So let's get to the important questions:

1. What's the best TV show you are watching right now?
2. What's your all-time favorite TV show?
3. Which film is going to win the best picture Oscar?
4. What Valley restaurant would you recommend?
5. Which Jeopardy player were you rooting for in the Jeopardy GOAT tournament?
6. What is your favorite sport to watch (other than the NFL)?
7. Popeye's Chicken Sandwich or Chick-Fil-A?
8. Now that Fitz has decided to play another year, have you decided whether you are coming back next year or are you going to hang it up?

The Red Sea desperately wants to know the answers to these critical questions."

Desperately? Probably not. Wants? I'm not even sure about that. But here goes anyway:

  1. This Is Us, although I did think The Boys was really good (and yes, totally different shows).
  2. Probably Seinfeld I guess? Although that answer probably would be different at different points in my life.
  3. You got me. I literally haven't seen any of them, although I will likely see most of them somewhere down the road.
  4. I'm an Oregano's guy, although full disclosure, I have some personal ties there.
  5. Can't say I was paying attention.
  6. Basketball is the sport for me. NBA and college.
  7. Popeye's. Easy.
  8. Believe it or not, I do not make $11 million a year, or even over multiple years. To use Fitz's phrase, I'm guessing I will probably be retired before I retire.