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You've Got Mail: Schedule Release Week

Topics include Simmons' role, the Cardinals' hype and the supplemental draft


We still don't know what the offseason will look like as a whole, but we do know the 2020 schedule is being released Thursday at 5 p.m. Arizona time. Beyond that? Life is certainly week-to-week these days. But each week also means a mailbag. As always, you can leave a question for next week right here.

From Michael Schmorr via

"Like most Cards fans, I was ecstatic with the Simmons pick but I've certainly got my doubts as well. I compare the doubts to the times Kyler Murray was trying to outrun defensive linemen, a feat he'd have no problem doing in college. The speed of the game at the NFL level really surprised him and in some cases overwhelmed him. Of course he was able to overcome this and flourish, something that is so encouraging for a rookie to do. My question is when you see Simmons' highlights include so many plays being made mainly on account of his athletic ability are you worried that won't translate to the NFL level?"

Look, there is always a chance a great college player won't translate. Otherwise you'd never have any first-round busts. I've never seen Simmons on the field live (and I likely won't for a while) so I don't know what it might look like. It would be disingenuous to say he's too good to fail. That said, I do think he can be successful and a potential star, and using your own example, it might be like Kyler. There will be an adjustment period. There will be mistakes, and there might be times when the Cards use him in a spot where he just isn't going to have success. But I do think he has the size, athletic ability and intelligence to figure out his way in this league.

From Michael Travers via

"Hello Darren, thank you for this opportunity to talk about our team. The draft is over and by all accounts the team added some real assets who will help us take on and win the NFC West. So, Steve Keim, through his trades and drafting, has what we hope improved both sides of the ball. Kyler in his second year should be improved with his experience. But without practice, nobody is getting any better. Since nobody currently knows when the players will be able to practice again we can only speculate on how good our team will be with these new additions. My question is how much better do you think Coach Joseph's defense will be with all the new additions?"

All I can do right now is see the improvements on paper -- and I do think they are improvements -- and see a unit that has a chance to be pretty good. But, and maybe I'm gun-shy after watching the defense get gutted from the time they built it to the time they actually started playing last season, they need all the pieces in place when the season starts. May doesn't matter much on the depth chart if it changes for the worse in September.

From Jose Cardena via

"Hello. I know this is wishful thinking, but would it be possible to come up with enough cap space to make Markus Golden an offer he would consider? He's a productive, relentless player and would nicely round out the depth of our OLBs. Devon Kennard is not his equal as a pass rusher and Haason Reddick is fast but undersized. I heard he was looking for $8-$10 million a year and now the Giants have used the May 5th designation which guarantees he gets at least $4.1M a year. What about two years at $12M? We'd have a diverse productive rotation and maybe Chandler could get a breather on a couple of first downs and then wreak havoc with his old teammate on third downs?"

At this point, I don't know if it makes sense for Markus to go to a team where he wouldn't start, and Kennard was signed to start. Golden, I am guessing, would want to try this free agent thing one more time. So maybe a one-year deal makes more sense for him. I think they feel Kennard is a little more athletic on the edge than Golden might be. What happens with Golden is intriguing, but it's beginning to look like he never will get that huge deal for which he had hoped.

From Garth Short via

"Last season at Clemson Isaiah Simmons played a number of positions and also had a number of sacks and interceptions. My question is what position was Simmons playing when he had his sacks? I'm old enough to remember Larry Wilson when we first heard of the safety blitz. Also, what position was he playing when he had his interceptions? Thanks."

I don't have that film and it would be hard to break that down given the information I have. That said, I don't know if his playing time would be doled out based on his college big plays. He did come off the edge as a pass rusher a few times. It's safe to say the Cardinals see him as a playmaker regardless where he is. Even if he is Daryl Washington 2.0, D-Wash had sacks and interceptions just being at linebacker.

My guess is we won't know for a couple of months. The NFL obviously is working behind the scenes for multiple scenarios. But anyone -- the NFL, or any sports league, or frankly, any business or person -- that is planning on just one way of things playing out in their lives a month from now, two months from now, is just being foolish in my opinion. No one knows exactly what things will look like on June 5. Or July 5. Or August 5. I would guess the NFL won't make any absolute decisions until it has to, and we are weeks and/or months from that.

From James Walsh via

"Hey Darren! Hope all is well. With all these people saying the Cards should have gone with offensive line at the 8th pick, do you agree that had the cardinals held on third-and-8, third-and-15 last year with their defense and Kyler got the ball maybe 50% more times, do you think our record would have been better? There are three games that I can say yes! What are your thoughts? Cards Super Bowl!"

If you are asking if the defense would have forced a few more punts would they have had a better record? Sure, that's possible. We'll never know. The offense did have the ball late in games a couple of times and couldn't generate a drive, so it's no sure thing. Again, I'll say now what I said before the draft -- the Cardinals needed to spend the first-round pick on a player (not a position, not a side of the ball) they felt could become a star or Pro Bowler. That's what they did.

From Quint White via

"Hi Darren. I know it's too early to start worrying but I'm looking into the future, and I'm worrying. In 2021, Budda, Pat P, Zane and Larry (of course) are free agents. In 2022, Chandler and Christian Kirk are free agents. Let's not forget DeAndre Hopkins' raise. I'm trying to make the math work, and I don't know if I can. What do you think? Do you think it's even possible we can keep all these guys, or will one have to walk?"

First, I'm not worrying. We live in a world where we're all stuck in our houses for our own well-being, and people are dying across the country because of the coronavirus, so at this point, I can't get to worked up about free agency next March. (I'm not trying to be a smartass -- just realistic). The NFL is a league based on, believe it or not, year to year. Hopkins is under contract. They want to get something done, yes, but he can't go anywhere. Some decisions are going to have to be made, about the money spent and on whom. Players get older. If you are asking if every single one of these players are going to be on the roster for the 2022 season, I'm going to play the odds and say no.

From Jerry Brown via

"Hi Darren, thanks for the mailbag and all of your great reporting. The Cards are saying that Isaiah Simmons will probably start playing at weak inside linebacker and cover tight ends. But wouldn't the strong inside linebacker logically be the one to cover the tight end? How would that work?"

I think people get way too caught up in the positions, especially in a world where sub-packages are used all the time. Simmons is going to get plenty of chances to cover the tight end. Jordan Hicks is the strong inside 'backer and he isn't the guy who is best suited to cover the George Kittles and Greg Olsons of the world.

I do think there is lesser of a chance for a lot of roster moves because if there isn't a bunch of offseason on-field work, the coaches won't have a chance in real time to judge if some of these guys can play -- which is what would happen normally. That said, no I don't think this will be the roster going into training camp. I'd be surprised if there were not a couple of moves at least, for one reason or another -- for instance, if a veteran decided to play for a cheap one-year deal and come to the Cards.

From Kamron Hodges via

"Bro, I'm like Defcon-1 worried right now. The excitement over Simmons selection lasted about five days until Vance said "We don't expect him to play much safety or cornerback" or aka "We don't expect him to do the best thing he does". So he's primarily an ILB? That's great. The position he played the least in college. Consensus agreement he's at least an OLB or S, but no, let's make him a ILB. Feel free to lambaste me for being an over-interested fan, but I feel awful about all of it. This reeks of Reddick 2.0, a team not knowing what to do with a unique player. You can say they will move him around. But why not make his base position safety or outside linebacker, and then move him around from there? I really hope in five years you aren't answering questions about ex-Cardinal Isaiah Simmons and how he was a bust because the Cardinals staff couldn't see what seemingly everyone else sees."

I'll start by saying apparently I'm not everyone else, because my thought all along -- if they drafted him -- was that his base spot in this base defense (and don't forget, they will be in sub-packages most of the time) would be inside linebacker. In a base defense, are you putting him on the edge on run downs? Yes, Joseph did essentially say they weren't sure he was going to play a lot of CB or S, but he emphasized that a) they weren't going to rule anything out until they saw what he could do on the field and b) they wanted "Isaiah to be Isaiah" and they drafted him because of what he did in college.

I'll tell you what I tell anyone that says they are worried ahead of time about something -- I'm not going to tell you what emotions to have. But I chuckle at the idea that the Cards drafted Simmons without having likely dozens of conversations of how he would best be used. It's not like Keim and Kingsbury grabbed him in the first round without knowing what Joseph thought. Also, Simmons might not have played linebacker all the time in college, but he did it much more than Reddick did. Apples to oranges.

No idea. If every snap all season is around 1,000 -- which was the total Budda Baker and Jordan Hicks reached last season -- I could see him playing, maybe 80 percent of the time. (And that's a total guess.) I don't know if he'd have a role on the goal line -- although maybe he will -- and they still have De'Vondre Campbell. But assuming he's healthy and transitions to the NFL well, he'll be out there a bit.

From Red1 Cardinals Fan via

"Freddie Joe Nunn currently holds the Cardinals' career sack record at 66.5. Chandler Jones is sitting at 60 after only four seasons. Talk about amazing. Do you think Chandler Jones is Ring of Honor-bound or HOF bound? And since we are talking about pass rushers, what happened with Simeon Rice? I was too young at the time. But in looking at his stat pages, that dude was a pretty devastating pass rusher. Why the heck would we ever let him leave?"

A lot to cover here Red1. Chandler first. Do I think he has a chance at the ROH? Yes. Hall of Fame might be more difficult, but if he has a few more years like he has had, he will be hard to ignore. It would help greatly if the Cardinals could be more relevant in his tenure here. They have yet to be above .500 since he arrived. But he's been a superstar.

As for Rice, Simeon wanted a lot of money at the time, but more importantly, he wanted out. The relationship between player and organization frayed pretty good by the final year after the team used the franchise tag -- he called the Cardinals "the armpit of the NFL" while proclaiming he was the deodorant, and of course there was then-GM Bob Ferguson's infamous line, "Don't talk to Mike Jurecki, come talk to me!" He was a free agent at the end of 2000, the Cards agreed not to tag him a second time, and there was no way Simeon was coming back at that point. Worked out well for him -- he went to Tampa and won a Super Bowl.

I think the Cardinals' roster is better. I think Kyler Murray is primed for a big second season. I think having an extra playoff team helps the math. But until we get to the season, until I've seen what this team is like on the field and until I know what the roster looks like then (i.e., no surprise injuries or suspensions or off-the-field-problems leading to a key guy getting cut), I can't say for sure.

From Tom Nooke via

"Hi Darren. Of course everybody needs to earn their roster spot on this team, but would you think this year especially the draft class seems pretty safe to all make the team? Just from a need and depth standpoint, I expect all six guys to be here. Also, we don't know yet where Simmons will play. Some are saying S. Some OLB. But would you think his arrival may push Chandler back down onto the line as a DE? That's a heck of a front seven. Simmons, Hicks, Campbell, Kennard at LB. Chandler, Peters, Phillips on the DL."

You sent this in before Vance Joseph made clear he'd be an inside linebacker. I wrote above my feelings on Simmons elsewhere. But no, Jones isn't going to be used on the line in a 3-4. Why move arguably your best player on defense from the spot where he is most effective? As for the draft class, yes, I expect them all to make it. All but one out of 12 guys made it last year (and the other guy was on the practice squad.) We'll see. You still have to do it and on-field work tends to quickly show if a guy isn't suited for the game. But mostly, I look at these six guys and have a hard time not seeing them on the 53.

From Tim Welch via

"Our team has not been good at stopping the opponents' tight ends. Why not use Simmons too do that?"

An excellent idea. I'll pass that along.

From Mark from the comments section via

"Darren, Missed the mailbag (last week) but a few questions: How do you envision the new CBA rules expanding the roster by two and allowing more practice squad members affecting roster construction? In the spirit of developmental players, what is the story with Brett Toth? Last year they kept him around when it could have been easy to part ways after injury. Also, listening to Joseph talk, he never mentioned Jordan Hicks. He talked about how Campbell was their primary target in free agency, how Campbell and Simmons and the variety of OLB and DL could confuse pass blocking, even threw in a Kennard and Fotu reference but never once mentioned Hicks. Hicks did struggle in pass coverage like the rest of the team, but with the addition of Simmons could they be considering trading Hicks sometime before 2021 free agency and making Campbell a longer term commitment?"

Here are a few answers.

  • To clarify, the roster does not expand by two -- it remains at 53 -- but the game day actives increase from 46 to 48. So it'll impact how game-day rosters are constructed but I'm not sure it'll impact the overall roster. Having two more practice squad guys absolutely helps, but again, those guys can be signed away at any time.
  • Toth is a project at offensive tackle. Perhaps he can eventually become another Alejandro Villanueva, himself an Army product.
  • Hicks isn't going anywhere. He played well last season. Joseph talked about all those other guys mostly because that was the first time the defensive coordinator had spoken since the Cardinals acquired all those draft picks and free agents. That's why they were the topic of conversation. I don't anticipate Hicks going anywhere anytime soon.

From Halee Kleo via

"Hi Darren. Will the rookies be a part of the virtual meetings this week, and receive playbooks? They technically aren't under contract yet, so I wasn't sure how that would fly. Thanks! Hope everybody is well."

So normally, the rookies would be arriving Thursday for physicals with rookie minicamp starting Friday. I am assuming the schedule begins like that. Not sure how things might've been tweaked with the circumstances. As for signing, many rookies come to minicamp and beyond unsigned. That could take a while because of the issue with physicals -- just like trades and free agency -- but it will not be a hurdle in terms of offseason "virtual" work for the rookies.

Good question. Hakeem Butler needed this offseason, so he will be hurt by this setup after missing all of last year. Some of it will depend on what kind of offense Kliff Kingsbury will run game to game. Hopkins, Fitz and Kirk are your top three receivers. After that, guys will be battling for time. No way to really know until it begins to play out on the field.

From Alan Noonkester via

"Being that the Cardinals didn't draft any wide receivers and lost Pharoh Cooper and Damiere Byrd in free agency, what are your thoughts on the Cardinals investigating the possibility of Cam Phillips (XFL star receiver for the Houston Roughnecks)? I know that there were a few undrafted free agents picked up by the Cardinals in the aftermath of the draft but how would Phillips compare to this new group?"

I would doubt that at this point, in part because of the question previous: This team already has receivers it wants to see develop, like Butler and Andy Isabella and KeeSean Johnson. And that's assuming they see Phillips as a guy who can transition to this league. They might not analyze it that way.

From Duane Spencer via

"Hello Darren. Your newest post wrapping up the draft mentioned that GM Steve Keim 'loves' the trait of acquiring players that were team captains in college. Is it possible to find out how many current Cards were captains in college? Also I just realized that with so many guys that had had been that well thought of in college, how special the guys are that are named Cardinals team Captains. Thanks in advance."

I wish I had that information a little more readily available, but I do not, and I apologize but that would be a rather large undertaking right now. There is no question there are probably a good many, but I don't have the exact totals.

From Jesse L via

"I feel like most Cardinals fans are thrilled with the way the draft fell, and many of the post-draft grades have been among the highest, but I see a few (Mel Kiper in particular) that questioned the Cardinals going BPA with Simmons when there is such a 'need' at OT and then praise the Cowboys (ahem, Mel) for going BPA over need. I don't really have a question, I just find it interesting that need vs. best player available is apparently an argument that's on a team-by-team basis. Any thoughts?"

My thought is that it's interesting to read all the grades and the analysis that comes with it, but it doesn't really matter. Power rankings, draft grades, it's all the same. Also, need is always factored in to draft boards for every team. The Cowboys, for instance, did feel like they had enough of a need at wide receiver that taking one made a difference. And the Cardinals did need a playmaker on defense.

From Bob Kitsos via

"Hi Darren. Thanks for the mailbag. Painting with a broad brush here, but is it fair to say that our three just-drafted D-linemen, Leki Fotu, Rashard Lawrence and Evan Weaver, can plug gaps and are good against the run, but rushing the passer and mobility is not their forte?"

First, Weaver is a linebacker, not a defensive lineman. And yes, it's fair to say that all three are known more for their work against the run. But Weaver, at least right now, is likely a guy you want on special teams, given that you already have Hicks, Campbell and Simmons at inside linebacker chewing up the snaps. As for the defensive linemen, I am expecting guys like Zach Allen, Jordan Phillips and Corey Peters to get the bulk of the DL work in sub-packages (when the Cards essentially have four down linemen and the two on the outside will be Chandler Jones and Devon Kennard), so it is the run downs where the Cards could use depth and help. It should also be noted that Fotu and Lawrence both believe they will be better at pass rushing if put in those situations.

From JuJu Macky via

"Steve Keim gave an interview on the Mike Tirico show and he said the No. 1 thing he wants to see out of Kyler Murray is 'professional development.' Getting in his playbook, learning the reads, like that. This might be something every GM says about their young QB and there's nothing more to read into it -- or the conspiracy theorist in me is thinking there's concern for Keim. I myself am a big gamer and Kyler is on Twitch all day every day. That boy plays video games like it's his job. Now, even pro athletes have lives and it's none of our business. But do you think getting into the playbook is a concern that all GMs have in regards to younger players in this video game society we have now?"

So I guess I'd ask you the question, since you are a gamer -- how much do you let that detract from your job (and I don't know your age -- maybe how much does it detract from school?) Ultimately, you have to trust a guy is going to do his job regardless of his off-field pursuits. People do have to understand players -- as you noted -- have lives. One of my biggest pet peeves is those who thing the athletes should be about their sport 24/7. No one does that with their job, why should they be different?

As for Murray in particular, I think you need to tell your conspiracy theorist to relax. I think every GM is expecting "professional development" from a young QB. Kyler will be fine. He cares about the game and his preparation.

I'm not sure exactly what you are asking, but when the game was in Mexico, that was going to lower the cost of a season ticket because there would only be nine dates (two preseason, seven regular season.) Now that it is back up to 10, I'm sure that will be taken into account because a game has been added to the slate at State Farm Stadium.

From Sidney Sexson via

"Given the situation that we are all living in, there is a number of the media putting forth the possibility that the supplemental draft may have a lot more college players ask to be included due to uncertainties with the college football season. I know that the supplemental draft is based on blind bids of what 2021 draft pick you are willing to give up for a specific player and if two or more teams bid for the same player then the team with the lowest round bid or lowest position within the same round gets the player and gives up that pick in next year's draft. I also know they divide teams up into 3 groups; teams with 6 or fewer wins, teams with more than 6 wins that did not make the playoffs, and playoff teams. Darren could you give us a few more details such as when is the Supplemental Draft, what is the process for a college player to go through to be in the draft, and within the groups how is a team assigned their position?"

You covered most of it (although I am not sure the "6 or fewer wins" is set in stone -- it looks like last year the first tier was 5 or fewer -- but yes, it's three tiers. It takes place in July, like when the Cardinals took Jalen Thompson last year. Teams are assigned within their tiers with a weighted lottery. As for players getting in, they have to apply to the NFL, and it's a case-by-case basis -- and it's supposed to be reserved for players who have had their status change since the regular NFL draft. Essentially, only players who would've been eligible for the regular draft can apply (players must be three years removed from their high school graduation), so it'd be guys who decided to return for their senior or redshirt junior years in 2021. But has their status really changed? The world around them has. So the NFL would have to say they acknowledge there might not be college football, and if that is the case, I'd think they'd have to let everyone making that claim go into the supplemental draft.

From Andy Joseph via

"Darren, over the years, from afar, it looked as though Adrian Wilson and Bill Bidwill became close — friends, even. As well, Steve Keim and A-Dub have both a strong personal and professional relationship. I know the Cardinals don't officially retire jersey numbers anymore (The Ring of Honor taking its place), but this is something I've been wondering since he retired — and now with so many people making unfounded comparisons to him — will No. 24 ever be used again? To me he's earned that unofficial honor,, but will Adrian's continued dedication to the Cardinals — and the respect he garners from both management and ownership — shelve that number forever?"

I guess we will see. It's not correct to say the Cardinals don't retire jersey numbers anymore. They do it very infrequently and go to the ROH -- as do most teams with a similar setup -- because there are only 99 numbers you can use and with 90-men rosters in the offseason, you're in trouble once you retire too many. The Cards, as you have noticed, try not to use 24. I don't think that's a coincidence. But again, there are only so many numbers to go around.

When you say "rebrand" I assume that's a uniform question? Because the Cardinals are gonna stay the Cardinals.

From Jeremy Heathcoat via

"Hi Darren, I know the question about new jerseys has been raised a lot in the mailbag and while I doubt it's on the agenda how about head office looking at other sports who are putting out special jerseys to help raise funds for the community during COVID-19? It would be great to see a one-off jersey that fans can buy and all the profits go to some local charities in the local area."

I will pass along the thought.