As you may have surmised from the byline, I'm filling in for Darren this week. Thanks to those who submitted questions. Darren's regularly scheduled mailbag returns next Tuesday. Send questions here.
From Ari Elliott via azcardinals.com:
"This falls squarely in the realm of 'way too soon to worry about it' but in light of Mahomes' market-destroying contract, we must now think about Kyler's future contract. I'm happy guys get paid. I've always been pro-player in terms of financials. But gosh dang it, man. These QB numbers are ridiculous. The QB cap hits are now hurting teams. Something needs to happen. Put a 10-year cap on, with a max pay at $50M for the position. Let other positions get paid. In five years when it's Kyler's turn, he grabs that $50M? Or do you think by then, it'll be beyond $50M? Just wondering how rapidly this thing spins out of control. It's a blessing and curse having a young franchise QB."
I feel for running backs and players at other non-premium positions, but I don't like the idea of a quarterback cap. Market value should dictate what these guys are getting paid, and quarterback is easily the most valuable player on every team, so the salary should be commensurate. As for where the market is headed, I don't think we are going to see $50 million a year any time soon. Mahomes is clearly the best quarterback in the NFL, signed for 10 years, and still didn't come close to that average annual value. If Murray becomes a superstar, he's going to get a huge contract, but not 50-a-year huge. As for having a franchise quarterback, I wouldn't consider it a curse at all. Yes, the ability to stack the roster around Murray will be tougher if he gets a lucrative extension, but having a game-changer at that position is worth its weight in gold.
From Jaille Dano via azcardinals.com:
"Given that Larry is such a record hound, and with his apparent love of the laid-back Kingsbury style, do you think he sticks on long enough to get the receptions record? The fact he's within striking distance has to make it difficult to pass up. It's similar to Barry Sanders retiring one season prior to setting the rush record. It would just be such a shame."
I don't think he will stick around purely for the catch record, but it could be one of numerous factors that are considered. Fitzgerald needs 172 catches to pass Rice, which would be an average of 86 over the next two seasons. He would probably need 80-plus in 2020 in order for the push to be realistic in 2021. It's certainly something to keep an eye on.
From Jesse Arrieta via azcardinals.com:
"Hello Darren and Kyle. Just wanted to say that this series, the 'Mailbag,' is my favorite on the Cardinals website. Why? Because it allows fans to interact with insider information. Something to perhaps consider, why not start another series where once each week, you select a different player who will answer questions for the fans? I understand that might be tough for players to do because of their busy schedules. I just think that would be an awesome series for fans and players to be able to interact throughout the season. Maybe call it the 'Locker Room?' "
We've had video pieces like that in the past, and it is a good idea that can be revisited. This year could be tricky due to the access limitations posed by COVID-19, but we'll keep it in mind for the future.
From Sebastian Quiros via azcardinals.com:
"After the news of David Njoku requesting for a trade I thought a great fit would be the Cards. Given the fact they are trying to upgrade the passing offense, and have done so with Hopkins, I think Njoku could be a nice red zone target, plus he would give the Cards a nice pass-catching tight end. Do you think the Cards would trade for him and what do you think would take for the trade to go through?"
Had a few Njoku questions in the 'bag. He's an intriguing player, but I'd worry about the law of diminishing returns. Hopkins, Christian Kirk and Fitzgerald all need a healthy number of targets, and it would be nice to give young tight end Dan Arnold consistent playing time after an intriguing finish to 2019. In a vacuum, sure, adding Njoku would be nice, but the skill group seems to be in good shape, and giving up a draft pick for him could be a future hindrance. As always, the compensation would be the ultimate decider, but it doesn't seem like a no-brainer move.
From Ottawa CardsFan via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Kyle, Darren's spoken about this, but I want to get your perspective in regards to the three second-year wide receivers. Hakeem Butler was hurt, so I'm more focused on KeeSean Johnson and very particularly Andy Isabella. What happened? Were these guys struggling in practice? Or was it just a Chase Edmonds situation where they just weren't really part of the game plan? Fans are too quick to say guys are busts. But who knows what is really going on. You and Darren are closer to the situation than any of us. What did you see, what did you hear? Did coaches lose confidence based on practice performances, or was it they simply didn't get called on game day? Thanks."
I think there was enough opportunity available for them, and it was a mild disappointment that none of the rookie wideouts became consistent performers. While Kirk and Fitzgerald were atop the depth chart, the third wideout spot was available for the taking, and neither Isabella nor Johnson locked it down. That being said, it's much too early to consider them busts. The jump from college to the NFL is big, and some players take longer to adapt than others. This is a critical year for Isabella, Johnson and Butler to prove that they can be a part of the Cardinals' future at wide receiver.
From Vincent Petroniero via azcardinals.com:
"How will Cardinals give Murray an extra second or two since a lot of teams will blitz more?"
If teams blitz more this year, it shouldn't be a problem. Coach Kliff Kingsbury incorporates plenty of quick routes into the passing game, and if Murray correctly identifies the blitz, he will have options. Additionally, teams are still going to be reticent to blitz too much because of his mobility. The opposite approach actually proved more effective last season -- the Cardinals' offense sometimes struggled when opponents dropped into zone and covered up the receivers. The Cardinals will certainly see wrinkles now that opponents have a year of tape on Kingsbury and Murray, but I'd expect the sack total to decrease in 2020.
From Dave Randle via azcardinals.com:
"This isn't really a question. More of a discussion that you can contribute your thoughts too. Suddenly there seems to be a fight between the NFL and NFLPA over preseason games. The NFLPA is now pushing for no preseason games. This is the first time, in my view, where one side has made an overt push for something not out of safety or worry for COVID, but to simply take advantage of the situation. I listen to a lot of podcasts with retired NFL players. They absolutely despise the preseason. So it would seem they saw an opportunity to eliminate the preseason altogether and are now pushing hard for it. For guys like Larry, I get it. But isn't the preseason critical for the majority of the roster? Those who are already wealthy and secure don't want preseason, and the detriment of those who desperately need the preseason to earn a job."
I don't get the impression the players are taking advantage of the COVID-19 situation. The concern over safety certainly seems legitimate to me. It's no secret that many veterans don't enjoy the preseason, but in a normal year, I think they understand its worth to younger players who are trying to impress. Any sort of truncated preseason in 2020 would stem from the coronavirus.
From Will CardsFan88 via azcardinals.com:
"If the football season will be played without fans in attendance, do you think that has any significant impact on the game itself? Just by a means of curiosity, I'm kind of interested in seeing a fan-less season. Especially if they mic up the field. You'll be able to hear every word. The network will need a dump button handy, but I think it'll be great TV."
I'm actually quite curious about that, if it does happen. I mean, all these guys played in high school, where they could hear each other on the field, so it's not foreign territory. But now that the quarterback can listen to the opposing defensive backs, and vice versa, will that have any tangible effect? The coaches may decide to disguise more of their calls to guard against it. I'm interested to hear from Kingsbury and Vance Joseph on the subject.
From Sharky Smalls via azcardinals.com:
"Whatup Kyle! Been saying forever they should get you on a couple mailbags. Get some fresh perspective every once in awhile. My Q for you, and be honest ... .what are your thoughts on the Cardinals uniforms? I hate 'em, to be honest. I find them bland and outdated. Kyler doesn't like them, he said so on his twitch. Does (Michael Bidwill) hate money? The fans are begging him for new unis. Please take our money. Release some new unis and merch and you'll make a bazillion dollars to pay Hop and Budda and someday Kyler. We absolutely love the old school white tops (some call 'The Tillmans'). Gorgeous uniforms. What do you think about our current uniform lineup?"
Thanks for the enthusiastic greeting, Sharky. Now it's time to let you down with my answer. I don't have much of an opinion about the uniforms. I like analyzing the play on the field, but I don't really care which uniform is worn each week.
From @waapathy via Twitter:
"Is it surprising at all that we haven't signed any of our rookies yet? Had entire class signed by May last year."
The process has been severely impacted by the coronavirus. The rookie contracts are slotted, though, so it's not a big deal. They should all be under contract in due time.
From @KaiNeter0 via Twitter:
"Can Vance Joseph get the best results out of this defense? From what I seen last year, he really didn't bring anything to the dinner table at the defensive coordinator position. Curious if, with some new pieces to use, he can help utilize and bring out the best this defense has to offer."
I think it is clear that the Cardinals had a severe personnel deficiency on defense in 2019. Joseph took plenty of heat, but 2020 should be a much better gauge of his ability. The cornerback shortage last season held Joseph back, and if the trio of Patrick Peterson, Robert Alford and Byron Murphy can meet expectations, it will allow him to be much more creative. Isaiah Simmons and Budda Baker are two versatile pieces, and it will be interesting to see how Joseph utilizes them this year.
From @Dcintegra99 via Twitter:
"Who wins an arm wrestling match between you and Darren?"
Not sure, and I'm not going to find out. Last time I arm-wrestled was like 20 years ago, and my forearm is still sore.
From @izraelrangel via Twitter:
"How confident are the Cardinals with each Thompson playing safety?"
The coaching staff seems high on Jalen Thompson. He became a full-time starter down the stretch as a rookie and impressed. GM Steve Keim could have signed a starting safety in free agency, but stood pat, and Thompson is expected to retain his role in 2020. Deionte Thompson is in the same boat as the second-year receivers -- he has something to prove this year. Training camp will be important for him after the loss of offseason work.
From @JoeG463 via Twitter:
"Fans at the games? Your view and any rumors?"
It seems pretty clear that the stadiums won't be at full capacity. Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine. I'm sure every team wants to have as many fans as possible at the games, but safety is the utmost priority.
From Nick Pepe via azcardinals.com:
"Kyle, a couple items if I may: what are your thoughts on how the right side of the line will play out with limited on-field work? Does it all but kill the rookies chances of winning the job? And I have to ask, how much pressure do you feel stepping in for the legendary Darren Urban? How do you prepare to fill those shoes? Is it possible Darren is in danger of becoming the scribe's version of Wally Pipp? Stay safe, everyone and let's hope there is football in our future!"
After the draft, Kingsbury spoke about bringing Josh Jones along slowly. Add in the loss of the offseason, and, yeah, it seems like a steep climb for the third-rounder to start. Marcus Gilbert is a talented player, but his injury history is concerning. He seems like the favorite to begin the year as the starting right tackle, but an injury setback could change that in a hurry. The good news for the Cardinals is that Justin Murray filled in capably last season and is an optimal insurance plan.
As for the second question: Wally Pipp? I'm more like Pete Myers, the shooting guard who started for the Bulls during Michael Jordan's 17-month retirement. Once MJ came back, it was back to anonymity for Myers. Such will be life for me next week, but I'll never forget the thrill of guest-hosting this mailbag.