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You've Got Mail: Questions About D-Hop

Topics also include Tune's selection, injury insurance, and the third QB rule 

Hollywood and Dortch mailbag

So, not surprisingly, we come out of Memorial Day weekend with a whole host of queries about the Hopkins decision. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. As always, you can send in a question for a future mailbag here.

From Anthony R:

"With DeAndre Hopkins getting released, how much money is left in the salary cap? Can the Cardinals afford to get a big-time receiver? What veteran receiver will fit the offense? Do you feel the Cardinals are going to let it play out and play with the players they have?"

According to, the Cardinals have about $24 million of cap space now. I don't know (other than Hop) what "big-time receivers" are out there. Ultimately, I think the Cardinals have known for a while Hopkins wasn't going to be on this roster one way or the other and were looking at their receiving corps through that prism. This season at least, I think Hollywood Brown will be at the top of the depth chart.

From David Bieber:

"Can you please explain your comment about Hopkins release having 'made sense'? As a long-time fan, I find on the surface that it was an idiotic move by the new management. Looks like we may have saved about $8 million in cap space this year (while losing a guy with DeAndre's skills), but we still need to eat over $22 million, and got zero in return. Exactly how does that make sense? Thanks for any clarification."

I understand the confusion and anger. Really I do. But taking the emotion out of it, here was the situation: a) the Cardinals would've liked to trade him, probably for just about anything, but no team was taking on his current contract and paying him $19M this season; b) Hopkins, no matter how he tap danced around it in interviews, did not want to play in Arizona anymore; and c) the Cardinals did not want a training camp with a major distraction again, which is what it would've been.

From Sad Cardinals Fan:

"It sucks that D-Hop is leaving but it looks like Monti is all in on rebuilding quickly. Where do you think Hopkins will sign and does he want money or rings more? What's your opinion on drafting Marvin Harrison Jr. and is he worth a top-3 pick?"

I don't know where Hopkins lands. It does not surprise me (and I figured as much) but post-release reporting has noted that Odell Beckham's $15M contract likely undercut potential trade maneuvers because I don't think any team wants to pay that much to Hopkins right now. I think Hop wants both, but he's going to have a more difficult time getting both than maybe he thought. As for Harrison, he's a darn good prospect but I can't judge where he would fall compared to others in the class. Certainly, he's a guy that the Cardinals would look at seriously next year.

From Mike Liddick:

"How does it make sense to release DeAndre Hopkins now when we've already (in essence) paid him for the year?! What do we gain in this scenario?"

Not sure what you mean when you say they have paid him. The reason they release him, in part, is specifically so they don't pay him. He was due $19M, now the Cards pay none of that. The Cardinals gain cap space, and they move on from a player who pretty clearly was ready to move on. They also clear up the cap so that in 2024, Hopkins no longer has any dead money.

From Julian K:

"Hi Darren, I'm sure the mailbox will be full with D-Hop questions. There is one thing which I don't get as a business decision. I've learned there might have not been anyone who gives some trade value in return while taking the whole contract. But why should they need to? Via releasing we're also taking a $22M against cap, why isn't that money shared with a trade partner? If you keep $10M yearly salary, a trade partner gets an elite WR for about $15M cap hit or even less? (Or if you prioritize 2024 then just take the $20M on the Cards in 2023 and the trade partner has to pay Hop only in 2024.) Thanks upfront and greetings from Germany!"

That is possible, but you are taking on additional dead cap money on top of the $22M and you are assuming someone would want to do that deal. I don't know of those logistics. I'm not sure the Cardinals had much interest in paying Hopkins not to play for them. I am also not sure anything beyond a first-round pick is worth $10 million or more, which is essentially what you'd be "paying" for the pick. Finally, why would Hop do that? This way he gets to pick where he wants to go.

From Rob S:

"They released DHop?! I wanted them to move him but wanted them to get SOMETHING back for him. Moving on makes sense, we aren't going to win in the next couple years and that's OK. The GM is making the hard moves to rebuild. But just releasing him?! Even though it frees cap space for 2024 that bums me out. What have you heard about it? Was there just not a market for him based on his contract and recent history?"

Again, I think this is fairly simple, backed up by the post-release reporting. If the Chiefs and Bills were the only teams to even broach a potential trade, and in both cases they didn't want to deal with the contract. I'm also guessing that some discussions were had about what to do with that contract, and between the Cards, another team and Hop, there was no common ground. It's why how much Hop ends up getting with his new team is so fascinating.

From Robert Malicki:

"Hello, Darren, what a blockbuster from the Cardinals. DeAndre Hopkins, we hardly knew ye! With all the permutations already said about him, and more to come, can this release still benefit the team? For instance, if he is signed by another team is draft compensation possible? But, what puzzles me is the disparity between what he could have earned in the desert by being a good soldier and the likelihood of his having to take less from another team? It really seems to me that while much has changed about the NFL since the merger and NFLPA organizing, the biggest adjustment for fans is having to accept what strikes us as 'screwy' behavior by both front offices and the player. All I can say is God bless Larry Fitzgerald and how he presented himself."

The Cardinals wouldn't have done it without some benefit. But no, there will be no compensation of any kind. Although you are dating yourself; the merger was in 1970, more than 50 years ago, and the NFLPA has been battling about the CBA and helping players for years, dating back to the 1981 strike and finally winning free agency in 1993. This is a big-money business. I know fans get irritated, but the team is going to do what they think is best for them and the player is often going to do what they think is best for their career, and when those things don't align, I don't blame either side.

From Sebastian Quiros:

"Well, safe to say I hope either with our pick or the Texans we can get Marvin Harrison Jr because there's a BIG hole at receiver now. With that said, do you think not having Hop will anger Kyler? I assume he'll understand it's part of the business but they did have a nice chemistry. Also, is his cap hit only for this season?"

I would think Kyler was given some kind of heads up this was coming, and even if he didn't, it wasn't hard to see that one way or another Hopkins likely wasn't playing for the Cardinals this season. If you were paying attention this can't be a surprise. As for the cap hit, yes, it is all being taken on the 2023 cap, so in 2024 there is no lingering Hopkins dead money.

From Jerry Brown:

"Hi Darren. When the Cardinals drafted Clayton Tune, the UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson was still on the board (I think he was drafted right after Tune). A lot of 'experts' thought Robinson was a better prospect. Do you have any insight as to why the Cards went with Tune instead?"

DTR was taken the pick after Tune, so you are correct. As for why, I don't have that info. We can ask why they like Tune, and they have talked about that, but they'll never say why they liked him better than DTR or why DTR didn't interest them. I can only assume it was a combination of what they intend to run offensively and, probably more importantly, how they assessed DTR's game. I have never seen Tune play and only a little DTR so I couldn't begin to tell you, but again, every team has a different lens with which they view all these prospects.

From Terence Roche:

"Hi Darren. Let's assume Kyler is out for some portion of the season. What percentage of the offensive playbook that could be run with Kyler in there would still be practiced and run without him? Last year, when Colt took over, it seemed like the playbook was slimmed down quite a bit and focused on a quick-hit passing game because of his lesser mobility. Two, how quickly after Kyler is back do you think it would take to have the entire playbook back in use?"

I wish I could give you percentages, but we've never seen what the Drew Petzing playbook looks like or what it looks like with Kyler in there, so it's impossible to say. I don't know if the playbook was slimmed down for McCoy; the gameplans each week are tailored to that opponent and who the QB is and McCoy has always been more of a quick-hitter QB. (There have been times when Kyler had that play available and he waited to see if he could make a big play too, so it's not necessarily that the plays were different.) As for Kyler's return, I would think the playbook would be totally available. Why wouldn't it be? Whether Kyler is able to use his legs as much or as often right away might be something to consider. But if he is healthy, he should have the background already to know all the plays. He'll be in meetings the whole time.

From Rory Driver:

"How come only Michael Wilson and Clayton Tune got to go to the Rookie thing? How do they determine who gets to go? Seems so arbitrary. Where is Paris Johnson Jr. or BJ Ojulari? I'm sure other guys would've liked to go to."

I'm sure they would've. But they have to be invited to the Rookie Premiere and the bottom line is that the event almost exclusively invites offensive skill players. Linemen and defenders mostly need not apply.

From Michael Sassnet:

"Hi Darren! Two questions: Are the practice squad players on the sidelines during games? I would think they should be as they are part of the team, but it's hard to tell who is who at times. And a random one, where do the Cardinals administrative employees work from? For example, Finance, Human Resources, Sales, etc. Are there offices at the stadium, or is there another office building they work from? Thank you!"

Practice squad players are on the sideline for home games; whether they are there for road games depends on a few factors that would put them in the traveling party. As for the employees, there are some offices at the stadium for ticketing people, but the vast majority of the organization works at the Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center in Tempe, where the players and coaches are also based.

From Dan Graham:

"Hey, Darren. We are described as the worst team in the NFL, and I am looking for positives. I focus on the offensive and defensive lines. We may lack in star power in those units, but it does seem to me that we have signed a lot of veteran linemen on both sides of the ball. We have developed depth. I know that we have lost some key defensive players from last year, but we were not great even with them. I would like to see your comments on the depth of these lines, please."

There is still a giant question mark with how center will turn out but the depth of the offensive line is OK to me. That does not surprise me with Monti Ossenfort taking over. The defensive line is different right now. They have some experience but without some star power -- and knowing where some of these linemen are in their careers -- there are plenty of D-linemen that have to prove themselves this season.

From Joe Cardea:

"Darren, just read an article talking about cap space management. Hopefully I'm not stating the obvious but I think the key to NFL success is cap management and conservative football. Monti seems to be working cap management, which seems to be upsetting some fans. Do you see Kyler Murray as a standard NFL quarterback or is he a running undersized QB? I don't want to give up on him but it seems to be a make-or-break year for him."

No one can deny this is an important season for Murray for a couple of reasons, with a new coach. But I don't know if I am willing to say make-or-break. There are a lot of factors that will go into how he plays and what that means for the future. As for Ossenfort, there is little question he needed to reset the roster and reset the cap to get this team in a better place.

From Dale Hatfield:

"Hi Darren. Thanks for letting fans feel involved with the team through the mailbag. I'm confused by all the grumbling regarding the new kickoff fair catch rule. It seems to me the solution is simple. If you don't like the rule, don't fair catch the football. What do you think?"

The arguments against the fair catch rule are more that special teams coaches and core special teams players feel it takes away a large chunk of the game -- and that eventually, special teams could be phased out entirely. That's a big reason why there is concern of the new rule.

From Enterprise Girl:

"Do NFL teams have insurance on star players to protect the team if a star is given a five-year, fully-guaranteed contract and the player is lost to a career-ending injury or a catastrophic event?"

Let's start with the fact that unless your name is Deshaun Watson, NFL players don't get five-year, fully-guaranteed contracts. But there are teams that have at times bought insurance to cover themselves for a high-dollar player, at least partially. Those policies have to be approved by the league. But it's definitely not for most players.

From Austin Cole:

"Hello Darren. So D-Hop is gone. I not saying it's a good thing, but I have an opinion. The team the last decade we have had a lot of down years and a few good years. GM Monti Ossenfort said when he was hired he want to build a team-first culture and create a team that consistently is good and makes the playoffs. If in a few years we start making playoffs yearly and maybe make a run for the late January and February games then I will be happy. Would you rather keep D-Hop and show players that the GM will pick the player before the team or move on from D-Hop and see what this culture building turns into?"

Feels like a loaded question, but ultimately I do think this was the thought process -- starting fresh, building a new culture, understanding where Hop is mentally right now and how that could (or could not) mesh with the circumstances. Ossenfort was hired because Michael Bidwill believed he was the right man to get the franchise where it needs to be. Now it's only right to see if he can do that.

From Tom Cowley:

"Thanks Darren. Seems to me that with new leadership in place and with OTAs starting, the baloney quoted by the media regarding certain big-shot players could be better controlled/filtered by Arizona management before it is released to the fans here. This is self-serving, non-productive hyperbole put out by malcontents/agents which could be dangerous/contagious to our new guys who are trying to make the squad and not break the bank. Don't you think?"

I'm not sure exactly to which you refer. If you are making mention of Hopkins (who was still on the roster when you sent in this question) and Baker, the Cardinals' management can't really control or filter anything they say publicly. You can say things yourself as a team, but you don't want to hurt the relationship by talking out of bounds, and again, if the player himself is going straight to the media (like Hop's multiple interviews over the last couple of months), that's his choice. Here's the deal with players in the locker room when other players are trying to get business done -- the locker room knows what they are trying to do and they stay out of it because they know someday, it could be them. They don't necessarily need a lot of public support, they just need their teammates to allow them to let them do what they think is right.

From Greg Painter:

"Thank you as always. What do you think the best possible Cardinals finish is next year? I say 7-11 (more than likely 4-13), so why spend free agency money on patches when no playoff berth in sight? Why rush a quarterback coming off a serious injury into action to get a win or two more? When I say this I am not the owner or a season ticket holder, the organization won't say this and I doubt you will but we are in full on tank mode which absolutely is best for the franchise. This franchise could be set for many years if Monti makes the right picks and I believe he is our man."

As I have said before, I'm not a big fan of predicting records and certainly not in May. I don't even know when Murray will be back or the type of offense -- or defense -- the Cardinals will run. I don't think they should rush Murray back either, but I do believe it is important for him to play a number of games if possible so Ossenfort and Jonathan Gannon get an idea of what they have in their top QB.

From Matthew Stroh:

"Hey Darren, hope you and your family are doing well. I was watching a story about Tua Tagovailoa and how normally a coach only coaches for what a quarterback does until the ball is thrown. This off season Tua has started doing martial arts training on how to fall and how to protect himself. I used to watch professional wrestling when I was young and yes is fake but they learn how to fall and how to be thrown around. Also I wonder if it works for Tua, do you think other team might try similar things? Also, with all the new mobile quarterbacks, should teams think about changing training approaches for these newer smaller framed players? Last, remember you are doing a great job no matter what Dani Sureck say about you. LOL just kidding....or am I?"

Dani is building her army, clearly. As for teaching QBs how to fall, I think that was something Kyler had mastered a long time ago. I think it's less about QBs needing that as opposed to Tua, who seems to have needed that help. Falling is an art. I don't know if there is a true training change that needs to be adjusted; whether you are a QB or a running back or a receiver, the more you get hit, the harder it is to extend your career. It's about picking your battles when you get hit, when you have a chance to make that choice.

From John Tharp:

"The NFL passed the third QB rule. The third QB does not take up a game-day roster spot and can only come in an emergency, and must exit if one of the other two QBs is physically available to play in the game. Why does the NFL have a 45-man game roster? Why not just dress all 53 men and avoid all the 'inactive on gameday' and special rules for third QBs?"

The main reason is because they want to try and keep the competitive balance even if one team has many more injuries than another. If you allow all 53 players to be available and one team has seven players unable to dress because of injury and the other team only has one or two, in theory the second team gets an advantage.

From John Turilli:

"Statement: Michael Bidwill is doing everything he can to bring the Lombardi trophy to us. No stupid press statements or actions. If the past employee is complaining after 10 years, what was wrong four, six, eight years into his employment? I am sick and tired of people targeting office personnel when we all go to games and pay for streaming to watch the players play. Steve Keim and his staff are not the reason we were so bad last year. The players played like rookies with no leadership. Now you hear this for the first time. The Cardinals will be a wild card team and Clayton Tune with Kyler will create a dynamic duo. The defense will only improve and 10-7 with Jonathan Gannon receiving coach of the year, Monti receiving GM of the year and Isaiah Simmons as the defensive player of the year and signing a four-year extension."

That's a bold strategy, Cotton. We'll see if it pays off for them.

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