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You've Got Mail: Seven Weeks To Training Camp

Topics include CB2, Kyler Murray's immediate future and Chandler Jones

Baker Alford Mailbag 061521

The rookies still get a little work, but the veterans are off until training camp. You know what's not off until camp? That's right -- the mailbag. Send a question for a future mailbag right here.

From Stephen Vairo:

"I do remember Larry Fitzgerald saying at one point rather than be a spectacle and take away from what the team was doing, good or bad, that rather than announce his retirement he would simply walk away. What do you think? I am all for it if that's what he chooses to do. He has been an absolutely amazing person for this organization and I will respect whatever he decides to do."

I think what I think doesn't really matter. Fitz is going to do what he wants, and that's fine. If he decides to retire I'll have a story (or many stories), if he decides to come back I'll have a story. It's news either way, and whenever it happens, that's when you write it. I hope he doesn't decide to make a decision when I am on vacation, but if he does, I'll have my computer, because I'm obsessive that way.

From Clarey Dent:

"Do you think Darqueze Dennard can compete for a starting job or is it reserved for Butler and Alford do you think? As much as I like Alford, he hasn't played in three years. Coaches say every position is up for competition, but we know that's not true (see Collins, Zaven). So I'm wondering if there's a true battle at CB2?"

I don't think anything is set in stone, other than Byron Murphy is going to be on the field covering someone all the time. If the Cards only have two cornerbacks on the field, I think the person joining Murphy is very much an unknown. It could be Butler, it could be Alford. I am not sure where Dennard might fit; in the open parts of minicamp, it seemed like he was doing more watching to see how things were done that actual reps. Training camp will be when this is sorted out.

From Paul Klopp:

"The Kyler baseball thing is extremely obnoxious, mostly because Kyler isn't THAT good yet. 5-10 & 8-8? If he doesn't deliver 10-plus wins and the playoffs, then it's moot because he probably won't be extended anyways. But that's one year away still. Can it until then."

Can what until then? I assume you mean him mentioning baseball, and frankly, I'm not sure why he should take that advice. Also, I'm not sure what you mean by not being that good. Is he in the Rodgers-Brady range? No. He was in the Pro Bowl. He was pretty good last year. I watched every snap. I'm not sure how you could interpret it otherwise. Also Paul, I am guessing Kyler will be extended, even if they don't make the playoffs, so I'm afraid you're off-base there. I apologize for the baseball pun. (Not really.)

From Blaine Pierce:

"Hello. Kyler Murray claims to be and is the face of the franchise. His current record as the 'face' is 13-18-1. This year, I am predicting a 9-8 season. Next year I predict a 10-7 record. After Murray's fourth season as face of the franchise his predicted record will be 32-33-1. I believe Kyler Murray, with a losing record, will demand $50 million. No NFC Championship, no Super Bowl appearance. (I am also the one that called for the trade of Chandler Jones before the draft for a third and fourth round pick. Looks like a good call.)

I have to say I do not understand the many who seem to want to dump Kyler Murray already. It's mind-boggling. It's really impressive when, for your 'evidence" in criticizing him, you are using two seasons that haven't even happened yet. That's next-level Haterade there, Blaine. The man was a Pro Bowl alternate as a rookie as well as being Offensive Rookie of the Year. He was a Pro Bowler in his second year. Was he perfect? Of course not. Does he need to improve? Yep. But how about we let this play out? (As for Chandler Jones, you just want to give up your best pass rusher? Would that be so it's easier for Murray to struggle to that 9-8 record you predict?)

From Jo Lake:

"Hi Darren, have you met Rodney Hudson yet? I've seen nor heard so little about him. J.J. Watt is getting the lion's share of coverage, understandably so, but Rodney is arguably the MVP of team additions. Just wondering where he's at. Thanks."

Hudson was here at minicamp. If locker rooms were open and we weren't reliant on Zoom interview opportunities, I'm guess we would've caught up with him and A.J. Green, in particular. I did get to meet Hudson when they first traded for him. He seems like a good guy -- laid back. I do not get the sense he's going to be a media talker in the vein of Humphries or Pugh, so that might limit his exposure. I'm guessing he won't mind. But I agree on his addition -- on the most recent Cardinals Underground podcast, I called him the player that should be talked about more but isn't.

From Joy Brooks:

"Why haven't the Cardinals extended Chandler Jones' contract yet? Yes, he had an injury last year but unless it hasn't healed, he should be good as new for the season. I love the J.J. Watt signing, but he has a history of injuries so I'm really hoping Steve Keim didn't intend to trade Watt for Jones. You can never have too many great pass rushers and Chandler Jones is one of the best ever. As you've said before, they can always find the money when they want too, so I hope Keim does the right thing."

I don't know specifically why Jones has yet to get an extension, or of there are plans to give him one. All I can do is speculate. Yes, you would think Jones' bicep is healed. I expect him to be the Chandler Jones we have seen since he got to Arizona. But he is also 31 years old and coming off a serious injury. I can understand why a team would be leery about doing a deal at this point. I can also understand why Jones decided not to attend minicamp. The Cards may want to see Jones back on the field performing in real games first, to make sure he has returned to his old form.

I don't think there was ever any intention of "trading" Watt for Jones; to the contrary, I think they wanted Watt to team with Jones and make a better pass rush. Watt is only signed through 2022 anyway; it's not like he got a long-term deal either. I understand both sides when it comes to this situation, and I expect both sides to do what's best for them. I know it's frustrating, but that's the biz.

From Michael Travers:

"Hello Darren. We as Cardinal fans are anticipating Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt lining up on the same defensive line in 2021 season. However, reading recent articles that Jones could be traded before the season begins would be disappointing if it happen. Now no one has a crystal ball as to who will get a new future contract but what is your opinion about Jones? Will he be in a Cardinal uniform in 2021 and what are the chances he'll be here beyond? Big fan of No. 55!"

I would be stunned if Chandler Jones isn't on the field for the Cardinals in 2021. Even Chandler believes that; otherwise why would he show up to media day and get all the photos and videos done that the team will show on social media and in-stadium for games this season? Now, does that mean he will definitely get an extension? No. As I noted, I don't know what will happen in that regard. I'm not ruling anything out. As it usually goes with contracts, it comes down to how much each side might be willing to work with the other.

From BDUB Wooten:

"Darren. Welcome back from vacation. I take it you didn't go to the Grand Canyon, haha. I'm sure you've seen the reports by now that Chandler Jones may be disgruntled and has wiped all things Cardinals from his social media. Have you heard anything? Should we be concerned? Thanks for your mailbag, you do a great job."

I'm never a big fan of reading into much about the social media stuff. Things can change quickly in a lot of ways. Again, Chandler still took part in media day. Whenever a high-profile player is going into the last year of his deal, it can get ... interesting. Let's see how this plays out. I will be very surprised if Jones isn't on the field for the Cards in 2021.

From Jake Jones:

"Hey Darren. I know the Cardinals just signed former undrafted rookie NT Xavier Williams back, but if they were looking for a little more depth and another former undrafted rookie NT, then Miles Brown is available. I know this is weird, but I swear Miles Brown is an untapped really good player. I was at Cards' camp in 2019 and watched him practice. He looked so good. He was fast, twitchy, strong. He looked Watt-ish in some ways. I know its a long shot, but maybe Keim reads the mailbag."

I do not expect that Steve reads the mailbag. As for Miles, you're right, they did have him on the roster. But the personnel department is always keeping a ready list. If they signed Williams instead, it's because they saw Williams as a better player.

From Jerry Brown:

"Hi Darren, any updates on Gardeck the Barbarian? Does the team expect him to be ready to play this season? He was such a big part of the special teams and defense last season."

Dennis continues to work on rehab and was at minicamp getting his work done on the side while the team practiced. We'll see where he stands at the beginning of training camp. Given how late he suffered the ACL tear, I wouldn't be surprised to see him start camp on the PUP list and see where he stands as the month goes on. But we will see. He's already doing some light sprints on the side. He seems to be coming along just fine.

From Dennis Anton:

"Is preseason still on and if so what is the schedule?"

Preseason is on -- cut to three games now that there are 17 games in the regular season -- and can always be found on the schedule page.

From Todd Brown:

"According to the new jersey number rule, when a veteran player changes their number that player must purchase the inventory of their outdated jerseys. My question is what inventory? The inventory at and/or the team's website and/or every online/virtual retail sporting goods store?"

Essentially, yes, it's the inventory out there. It does seem, with the increased use of internet orders there are fewer actual pre-made jerseys (people order them and are made as they go oftentimes) so that helps. The bigger the name, the bigger the amount of jerseys already out there. The rule is players have to pay if they want to immediately change. If they are willing to wait a year and announce it 12 months in advance, they don't have pay anything.

From Jason Appen:

"Hey Darren. While the OTAs were only voluntary, I have read that veterans like AJ Green, Jordan Hicks, and Chandler Jones did not show up. I know Kliff Kingsbury has already acknowledged their absences but I still am wondering why Chandler isn't present. Jordan Hicks was giving permission to trade so it makes sense why he was absent. In a CBS article discussing about Chandler's absence, the author brings up that Jones is probably angry that he is playing on a contract without any guarantees. Do any of the veterans' absences concern you? I am looking forward to your insight. Thank you for your time."

Green was at minicamp. I was not surprised Hicks was not there given the circumstances you noted. But again, we will see how the Jones situation plays out. Jones has not said anything publicly about what is going on so that also means something to me; even if he wants to get a contract worked out he's not trying to make it a spectacle. But no, the absences don't concern me. It's June. If a guy missed training camp, that's a different story.

From Owen Hecheaffe:

"Good to see the Cardinals are keeping an eye on Corey Peters, however why don't they just sign him to a reserves contract? If it's a foregone conclusion that he will be back -- ACLs just aren't devastating anymore, thank goodness -- then just sign him. Don't expose him to the market. Let him work with team doctors and trainers and he can be around the team and in the playbook. So the day he's cleared, he can get to work for us. The day Peters is medically cleared, he's instantly the 2nd best DL on our team."

I love Corey, and I hope he returns, but you are awful certain a 33-year-old player coming off a major injury (and third of his career) is the second-best lineman on a team with Watt and Jordan Phillips and maybe even Zach Allen. He might be, but you can't know that. The injury was reportedly a torn patellar tendon, not an ACL, and at that age, the Cardinals nor any team is going to want to sign a guy until they are sure he's healthy and can at least participate in camp.

From Leo K:

"You say it's a long shot that we bring back Peters but why? Assuming he's healthy and ready to go, he's not going to be expensive, and he's a Day 1 starter. Our DL depth really isn't that great. Our two best DL last year were arguably Peters and Blackson. To lose both will hurt more than expected and it's unnecessary. Just go sign Peters."

I do not think Peters is an automatic starter if he returns. They drafted two defensive linemen last year for a reason, and they like Rashard Lawrence. In the answer above I've outlined why they likely haven't signed him as of now.

From Jonathan Keen:

"I understand from a fan standpoint that people are upset that Kyler didn't target Fitz as much as some would have liked, but isn't it more important that Kyler have his go-to guy, regardless of who it is? Someone who he knows he can throw it to and there will always be a decent chance of a catch. Larry was that guy for Kurt Warner, and Hop seems to be that guy for Kyler. Obviously we all love Fitz, but I feel like people aren't recognizing the importance of having that connection even if it's not with Fitz?"

Kyler needs receivers with whom he is comfortable to throw to, and I suppose Hop is that guy, but Hop is also the best receiver, which is why he's going to get the bulk of the targets. I do think Murray could've looked to Fitz a little more often last season, but I also know that clearly, the intermediate middle passing game is probably the place Murray looks to the least and that's where most of Fitz's routes were. I'm not a big fan of those claiming Murray doesn't like Fitz; I don't think it's true. I get that people wish (wished) Fitz gets the ball more. But again, Fitz is not 2009 Fitz anymore either.

From Noam C:

"I've been a Cardinals fan since I started following NFL. Been following the mailbag for a while and finally came up with a question. The four teams per division system seems to have a high probability of skewed divisions. Meaning, you could end up with a super strong division like our NFC West, where all four teams could be playoff worthy, or a super weak division, like NFC East from last year. I've been wondering what would you think about a concept of eight teams per division (to a merged total of 4 divisions). Two first-places in each get a playoff ticket, then it's best record (wild-card style) between each two NFC/AFC divisions. That would balance out the variance and make the competition more fair in my opinion."

You would have to figure out how the division games would go, however if you had seven division rivals, you're not going to have a home-and-home with each I wouldn't think. That would allow for only three games outside the division. I understand the frustration to a certain extent, but the NFC West also went through a time when the division was down -- the Seahawks won the NFCW at 7-9 one season, for goodness sake -- and I just don't think the NFL is is need of a change like that.

From UNC Ivey:

"Hi Darren. The position group I'm most interested in for cuts is safety. Because to my eye, we have seven keepers: Budda Baker, Jalen Thompson, Deionte Thompson (STs), Chris Banjo (ST/backup), Charles Washington (ST), James Wiggins (unknown but he speaks like a ST ace), Shawn Williams (highly regarded ST ace.) Can we keep all of them? Why not? Why can't we have 40 percent of our kick units be safeties?"

Can the Cardinals keep all of them? Of course. Will they? No. You've got 53 on the roster. You figure at most you keep 10 defensive backs (potentially just nine). Every one you keep beyond that is a lost position elsewhere (and if the Cards keep three QBs, there is even less room for error.) Baker and JT are locks, I'd think. The rest of them will be battling for let's say three or four other spots. I get the argument and it's nice to have a group that you will be happy choosing from, but no, I don't expect all of them to stick.

From Bryant Gates:

"Was reading about Orlando Brown Jr's trade to KC and how important it was to him to play LT (he was the RT in Balt). Penei Sewell of the Lions is another highly touted LT, who the Lions are forcing to play RT, and he said in an interview its extremely difficult to adjust. That concept of moving a player out of position makes no sense to me. Part of the reason that I think we're happy about Zaven is that we're actually drafting a first-round guy to play his natural position for once. For that reason I'm still worried about Simmons. I worry we are watching Reddick 2.0."

If you have a guy who was playing all over the field -- including where he is "officially" lining up for the Cards, although Simmons will continue to move around -- how is that out of position? I get Reddick. He was a straight pass rusher and they tried to make him something else. Simmons can rush the passer but he is most definitely not a pass rusher. He's also intelligent. I see no reason why he won't figure it out.

From Boston Mike:

"Durbz, it's weird to me that Kliff's biggest regret from last season was some hard count play from Streveler, and not the one-legged Kyler Murray scramble on 3rd and 15 vs the Rams with our season on the line. You think we forgot about that? We didn't. SOMEBODY (looking at you) needs to pester Kliff until he answers for it. I know it probably doesn't make sense to you, why we're going on and on about one play. But have you ever heard the phrase Jump The Shark? So yeah, I think its important that he talk about that play."

That makes one of us, Mike. You don't think the season was on the line in the first half when the Cards had a chance to into the break with a lead against a team that never loses when they have a lead at the break? I think that regret makes sense too. Sorry you don't. As far as the 3rd-and-18 run, no, I don't think it was the best call and I'd guess Kliff would do that differently too, but I am curious, since you already have your mind made up and your anger on boil about it -- what good would it do to revisit? Honest question.

From Chris Smith:

"I keep hearing you guys speak about the revenge games with regards to Pat P, J.J. Watt, and DeAndre Hopkins. Who you've forgotten is David Johnson! He's still on the Texans and he's probably going to try and bring it to the Cardinals in his revenge game against us too! Watt might not have a revenge mentality against the Texans like how Hopkins might, but Johnson definitely will towards us. Do you think DJ has a chip big enough to be that much of a threat to the Cardinals? Go Cardinals!"

I mean, most players going against their former team feel some kind of way about it. So yes, you figure David is going to want to have a good game. He knows what was said about him, and about his part in the trade that got Hopkins to Arizona. But he can't shine by himself. We'll see what the Texans look like in October. BTW, I think Watt will be very motivated to have a good game that day.

From Chris Sheridan:

"Speed round: 1. Why haven't we signed all the rooks? Years past we were much quicker than this. 2. Was Hudson at OTAs? 3. Any more tight ends on the way or are we set? 4. Will Dennis Gardeck be ready for Week 1 or is he a PUP list candidate? 5. New uniforms, Daryl Washington, Donovan McNabb."

  1. Sent in last week but they are all signed. False statement anyway -- normally, minicamp wouldn't have been until this week anyway. There is never any reason to get weird about when rooks sign anymore.
  2. He was at the week of OTAs the vets came to.
  3. I could see them potentially finding someone else. But I don't think it's a lock.
  4. I think he's a PUP candidate to start camp but I'd guess he'll be back by Week 1 -- or at least off PUP.
  5. Tim Tebow, Fitz playing tight end, Santonio didn't get two feet down.

From Jeremy Heathcote:

"Hi Dazza. Might be a silly question but with all the fanfare on draft pick signings do they actually have guaranteed money? If a seventh-rounder signs a four-year how much does he actually get? Also do you watch other sports like Rugby League? Check out State of Origin coming up in a week if you haven't? No pads and full contact."

I've watched some rugby and Aussie Rules Football (which I actually like a little better than rugby). Yes, those guys are nuts. As for guaranteed money, yes, every draftee gets guaranteed money. But it's not much all things considered. James Wiggins, the first of the Cards' two seventh-rounders, got just shy of $100,000 of guaranteed money. The higher the draft slot, the more guaranteed money. If he is on the active roster, his salary would be $660,000 this season.

From Wally Rogers via

"Oh my lanta I'm so happy we got a veteran CB. Yay! The thing I want to talk about is PFF. I understand players hate it. Fair enough. With that said, they watch every snap, of every player, of every game. And assign grades. Armchair me isnt going to pretend I know better than them. With that said, Darqueze Dennard graded out at a 66.0 last year, and on average over his career sits at about the 70.0 mark. He's very close to Malcom Butler, who similarly has about a 70.0 career average. By comparison, Kirkpatrick was a 49.0 last year, with a career average around the 60 mark. And Patrick was a 55.2 last year. I'm a nerd for this stuff. But if last year our 1-2 corners were a 55.2 and 49.0, this year we have a 70.0 and 70.0 as our 1-2 CBs. That's a pretty substantial upgrade! Yes?"

We will see who the top cornerbacks are. Right now, you're forgetting about Byron Murphy, whom Vance Joseph left little doubt was the top cornerback on the roster. But yes, they are hoping/counting on guys like Butler and Dennard to be better. Whether the PFF grades are correct, I don't know.

From Mark Pinetop:

"Hi Darren. Why is ownership ignoring the fans' plea for new uniforms? Do the fans pay for mostly everything, by purchasing tickets, jerseys, anything and everything bought at the stadium. How about TV deals. Not to mention the energy source generated by sold-out stadiums. Look at the power the Suns fans created the other night. My point is the aesthetics matter. The color of the uniforms matter a lot. It's powerful when they roll out in all-black. It turns us on. We are all a part of the big picture. Mr Bidwill you are a fantastic owner, hear us. We deserve it!"

I think it's kind of over the top to say it is being ignored. But otherwise, here's your soapbox.

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