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You've Got Mail: Schedule Is Coming And Rookies Join The Fun

Topics include who plays center, trading up for Paris, and drafting a QB

Marco Wilson Phase 2 mailbag 0509

Just when it felt a little quiet, we get to a week that includes the schedule release on Thursday and the Cardinals hosting rookie minicamp. You know what else the week has? A mailbag. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. As always, you can send in a question for a future mailbag here.

From Dan Graham:

"You have had a number of questions about the center position. Some questions were about what free-agent centers might we look at. You have not mentioned any. Could you give us an idea of who you think might be our best option to sign as a free-agent center?"

Not knowing exactly what the Cardinals are looking for, it makes it hard to know the "best" option. But there are veterans out there with starting experience, like Ben Jones (late with the Titans), Sam Mustipher (Bears) and Pat Elflein (Panthers). Jones and Elflein have had injury issues; Mustipher was part of a Bears' line that struggled. Then again, you aren't picking up Jason Kelce at this point.

From Cali Emers:

"Hi Darren. Not complaining, I'm just confused about the Paris Johnson pick. You trade up to 6 to grab an offensive tackle, you plan on him being an OT, just based on value. But Humphries is signed to be our LT through 2025. That's a long time. So PJ is going to be a LG until then? It's not a good value, you know what I mean? We could've taken Skoronski at 12 and he'd be a full-time left guard forever. Whereas we are pretty much waiting to kick Humphries out in three years. I don't know man, doesn't sit right."

I might've missed something but there are two tackles on the field. It's nice to have two good ones. Not sure there is anything set in stone -- Hump missed half a season with a back injury. You also do not know what they thought of Skoronski. And we'll see where Johnson plays. Maybe it is guard at first. Maybe it is tackle. Maybe Hump eventually goes to the right side, a la Jared Veldheer. Where the Cardinals came out of the draft (both with this year and next) compared to where they were, I'm good with the choices.

From Vinnie Cheddar:

"What's up Darren. I have some insider information/question for you. Paris Johnson is extremely attached to No. 77. He was on the Taylor Lewan/Tom Compton podcast and discussed how he'd pay any amount for it, how he flipped his commitment to Ohio State partially because No. 77 was available. But No. 77 is retired for the Cardinals. Stan Mauldin in 1948 died after a game. So no No. 77 for PJJ? Or do you think, similar to No. 99 and JJ Watt, there could be a path forward?"

Johnson is going to wear 70 and I am sure he is fine with that. There is a reason the number is retired for Mauldin. Watt reached out to the family to ask permission, but Watt was already an established star in the NFL. That made some sense, since 99 was J.J. Watt by that point. I appreciate Johnson's love for 77, but it isn't the same level. Isaiah Simmons wanted to take 11, but that wasn't going to work out either.

From Matthew Stroh:

"Hey Darren, thank you for everything you do for Cardinals fans. I agree with the people who said you can't truly grade a draft until years down the road. So, the 2018 and 2019 draft class for the Cardinals, what grade would you give today? I like how the new GM is doing things right now. How long do you think you will need to be able to grade Monti's job as a general manager? Thank you for your time."

I am not a huge fan of giving grades at any point just because, really, what does it mean? But I would say 2018 was a C-plus, given how Christian Kirk and Chase Edmonds have performed, and even though it didn't work here, Mason Cole has emerged as a starting center in the league. Obviously the Josh Rosen pick was poor, but it was the right pick at the time and I think the Cardinals had to take that swing at QB. I guess I'd say 2019 is a strong B. You got Kyler, Jalen Thompson, Zach Allen and Byron Murphy in that class. Four hits isn't usual. It would have been nice to keep Allen and/or Murphy. That class could've been much better had any of the three wideouts hit, and that will always be a sticking point with fans, and I get that.

As for Monti, he's been on the job for three months. I'd like to see where this team is in 2025.

From Jorge Contreras:

"Hey Darren, thanks for putting up with us. Call me optimistic, but I don't quite understand why so many are predicting an awful season from the team. Granted, there's a whole new scheme for the players to learn and there are some positions of need (C, DL and CB come to mind), but we also have our share of star players and some great solid contributors on several positions. How far could you see the team going this season? Do you really think the team making the playoffs is so far-fetched?"

I'm not ready to make any concrete predictions right now (not that I love predictions most of the time; I wouldn't have guessed 4-13 last season) because we don't know so much. I will say this -- when you are without your top quarterback, that makes things much much more difficult. And this team will have growing pains during this reboot. If Hopkins stays, though, and Kyler finds his way on the field by Week 5 or 6, who knows? I understand those who are pessimistic, though.

From John McGill:

"At first, like many others, I was confused as to why the Cardinals drafted a quarterback. Then I thought could it be possible they drafted him to groom him to be a replacement for Colt McCoy. He'll have a chance to learn the system, and it is a safety net if Colt decides not to re-sign after his contract? My other question is, one ASU player was drafted and we signed Kyle Soelle as a free agent. Did other ASU or U of A players get picked up? Thanks for the great job that you do for us fans."

I don't think the pick of Tune was that specific; like any other position, you'd like to have some young depth. If they believe the guy can be solid, who knows? Maybe he can eventually beat out McCoy. Also, this is a new staff, we don't know how they feel about any of the holdovers on the roster, including Colt. As for ASU and U of A, the Raiders took ASU defensive lineman Jade Nesta Silvera in the seventh round. The undrafted rookies signing with teams were:

  • ASU RB Xazavian Valladay - Texans
  • ASU DL Travez Moore - Panthers
  • ASU CB Timarcus Davis - Rams
  • UA DL Jalen Harris - Bears

From Buddy Meola:

"I'm pleased with most of what the Cards did in the draft but the move back to 6 from 12 cost them a second-round pick. I like Paris Johnson but there were two good lineman selected at 10 and 11, one of whom may have landed at 12. If not, two highly-rated corners went 13 and 14. Also the second round pick that was 33, you could have found another lineman. Two highly-rated lineman went at 36 and 38. What are your thoughts about this scenario?"

Again, I don't have a problem with the move. I am confused with the logic that two linemen went 10 and 11 but might've been there at 12 if the Cardinals hadn't moved? (In subsequent reporting, the Lions were trying to move off 6 because they were always looking at Gibbs the running back and said they would've taken a back at 6 had they stayed, so ...) You aren't wrong that there were other options, but if they had Johnson much higher than other guys, there is a give-and-take here. You don't know what the Cardinals thought of those corners, or the gap from those linemen. Overall, I think Monti Ossenfort did a nice job maneuvering around the draft and I'm not seeing much to criticize here.

From Jim Davenport:

"It would be cool if on your web site you had a tab for the Cardinals Calendar. Really would like to follow the steps the new organization is taking and what's coming up and when. Can you provide a timeline of activities that are taking place for the next two months?"

There isn't much to say other than the dates that have already been put out there. Rookie minicamp begins this weekend, with the Phase Three OTAs -- helmets, offense v defense allowed -- starting May 22. There are 10 of those scheduled, with the final mandatory minicamp coming on June 13-15. Once rookies show up for their minicamp, they join the vets for all the other work (Meetings, strength training and conditioning are four days a week.) Once the minicamp is over, the players (and coaches) are done until training camp in late July. Those dates have not yet been announced.

From Tom Cowley:

"Any interest/possibilities in signing Hakeem Butler from the XFL?"

I think the Cardinals have seen all they need to from Hakeem Butler. Even Jonathan Gannon saw him in training camp of 2021. (Butler is going to Steelers rookie minicamp on a tryout basis after a solid XFL season.)

From Cameron Espinoza:

"Hiya Darren. So while D-Hop put out his damage-control statement 'Who said I wanted to leave' (seemingly ensuring he's our No. 1 WR in 2023, great news!), it's still radio silence from Budda. You could argue that Budda being younger and cheaper, that the asking price in a trade would be higher than that of D-Hop. I just think no teams are interested in paying the price. At which point we just keep him (again, yay!). But how are things over there at HQ? What's the resolution here?"

Couple things here. I don't know if teams would be interested in paying the price for Baker, but I don't think the Cardinals have any interest in moving him. I am not sure what the resolution would be; it's a precedent I'm not sure the team would want to set if you are adjusting contracts with two years left. As for Hopkins, I don't know that what Hopkins said ensures anything. I don't get that guarantee from his words.

From Cole Lavallee:

"Hello sir. I was curious. Do you see Isaiah Simmons having an excellent year this year of course as Gannon stated he wants Simmons to focus on excelling in one area? And how likely are the Cardinals to pursue a running back or safety considering the durability of both positions?"

Simmons knows he's going into a contract year; as a professional, it's hard to find bigger motivation than that. But I don't know how this will turn out, or how the Cardinals are going to use Simmons. As for running back and safety, I think you see the roster as it is right now. I think the Cardinals are going to look carefully at all players who are released going forward -- they will be high on the waiver claim -- and that could include running back or safety. But I don't see them signing a free agent out there right now.

From Mason Nuzman:

Hi Darren, I've got a question regarding the projected compensatory pick the Cards are scheduled to have in the next draft. I saw in an article that the 49ers will be receiving comp picks because Demeco Ryans and Ran Carthon were hired by other teams as minority candidates, and I'm wondering why the Cardinals won't be receiving an additional pick despite Adrian Wilson being hired to Carolina's front office? Thanks!"

The comp picks for losing a minority staffer only are given if that person is hired to be a head coach or a general manager. Wilson is the Panthers' VP of player personnel, so he does not count in that equation.

From Joseph Fischer:

"I understand about (trading for) the extra draft picks. But unless this guy turns out to be an Orlando Pace, the Cardinals failed to fill one of their greatest needs: pass rush. It is like the 49ers picking someone else besides Nick Bosa. What are your thoughts? Also, why haven't the Cardinals gone out to get an experienced QB to cover until Kyler returns. The team has very talented wide receivers and running backs so why waste them for 3-to-6 months if not a whole year."

The Cardinals took a pass rusher in the second round. If you are arguing that they should've gone after any pass rusher -- or if you are arguing they should've gotten Will Anderson and not made the trade from 3 -- I'll argue the other side of what you are saying. How do you know Anderson is going to be Nick Bosa? Or that Paris Johnson won't be Pace-like? You don't. No one does. So they did what they felt was the best move for their team right now. As for QB, they have three experienced QBs on the roster already, all with some starts. If you are asking why they aren't getting someone better, I guess I'd have to know who you are talking about. The QBs available are all going to be in the same ballpark, talent-wise.

From John Staszkiewicz:

"I was really excited about the Cardinals draft. What do you think about their season ahead? I am also a fan from St Louis and always thought that they were never treated right here."

Way too early for me, John. I want to see who is going to be the quarterback, what the offensive line is going to look like, how many rookies might be playing and how much. This reset has a lot of moving parts, and it seems likely to reach into 2024.

From Robert Malicki:

"Is the glass half-full or half-empty? The schedule release for me will be the first post-draft indicator of our chances of a near .500 season. They have a last-place schedule and if three of the first five are at home against similar teams and two challenging road games, but winnable, Kyler's return to the locker room could find a confident team. The defense for me will be interesting with the offense emphasizing the running game and TE play. If Gannon schools them to minimizing penalties and turnovers and special teams they could be competitive. Kyler's return under those circumstances might ignite the team thru the the remainder of the season and the fans to still come out. Yes, I am drinking the Kool-Aid, for now."

Let's start with the "last-place schedule" thing. That only means something with three of 17 games. The 49ers and Cardinals play the same opponents for 14 of their 17 games. Beyond that, trying to read opponents is so difficult year-to-year -- you just don't know what you are going to lining up against year to year. I think the glass being half-full or half-empty is a personal view.

From John Turilli:

"Thanks for the humor and keep it going. Were you as surprised as I that Monti Ossenfort got us nine players drafted this year and 6 (picks) in the first three rounds next draft? I remember us trading up to get Josh Rosen. I could just imagine what Monti would have done in 2019 with the No.1 pick? Thanks again."

I mean, given the exact same circumstances, I think Monti is drafting Kyler Murray. The Cardinals needed a franchise quarterback. You don't trade out of a high pick when you need that. That's why the Bears dealt No. 1, because they already had Justin Fields.

From Garth Short:

"Darren, not a question, but a note of thanks for all your hard work in making the draft even more enjoyable. You came in a close second to Monti."

Maybe I could have gotten over the top if I had been able to deal Paul or Dani for picks?

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