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You've Got Mail: Slowly Returning To The Building

Topics include expanded rosters, adding depth and the constant Lions


Ever so slowly, the NFL is trying to reopen in-person, although players and coaches aren't permitted back yet (and one report this week was that they won't be back until every franchise is able to return to their team facilities). As for the mailbag, we keep on keeping on. If you want to leave a question for next week, do it right here.

From Robert Malicki via

"There seems to be a developing doubt, or at least a hesitancy, to get behind Isaiah Simmons, our No.1 pick. Where do you stand on Vance Joseph in developing him? People are making Karlos Dansby comparisons and fans have a tendency to not favor hybrid players. I get both sides and have over the years come to the conclusion that even a good football player needs the right coaching. Being a Cardinal fan behind the lines in Bear territory I got a close-up take on Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher. His college career at New Mexico, his measureables and promise are eerily similar to Isaiah's. As a rookie with the Bears there were struggles that got many 'experts' to label him a draft dud. But it was coaching that proved the difference."

I'm not sure there is a hesitancy on Simmons in particular. Look back - there are always some doubters no matter who is the first-round pick. Doesn't matter who it is, whether it is Simmons or Kyler or Rosen or Reddick, etc. There is never 100 percent backing on a pick. As far as the coaches developing him, well yeah. Coaches have to develop any rookie. The players that have spoken about it profess belief in Simmons getting that tutelage. Simmons has the smarts, and we know he has the physical tools. But there are no answers for your questions, truly, until he actually can get on the field.

From Robert Nelson via

"Darren, Follow up from last week. Judy Battista at wrote 'The active roster on game day will go from 46 to 48 players, and one of the extra players has to be an offensive lineman. Practice squads will also expand, to 12 players in 2020 and 2021, and to 14 starting in 2022. Two practice-squad players each week can be elevated to the team's active roster, meaning that the roster during the week will effectively be 55.' With that, I can envision some players that are good enough to play in the NFL but on the bubble for the roster this year being placed on the expanded practice squad with the intent of bouncing them up when injury or gameplan calls for it. P Ryan Winslow, DE Michael Dogbe, DT Miles Brown fit this category. Then there are gadget players like QB Chris Streveler, maybe T Brett Toth, who could be on the practice squad unless the game plan fits them and then they could be one of the 2 players moved up. Do you see any roster-forming adjustments in mindset and approach regarding the end of the roster?"

A couple of clarifications: The only way you can have 48 active on game day is if you have at least eight offensive linemen on the roster and you make eight of them active. Otherwise, you can only have 47 (up from 46.) Something to consider, although the Cardinals almost always have at least eight offensive lineman on the 53-man roster. As for the practice squad, don't forget that a player must pass through waivers initially even to reach the practice squad. And then a player can only be elevated from the PS to the game day roster twice before he has to be waived again to get back on the PS. So there are limits. Will it mean teams could adjust the roster based on such things? Yes, I think that's possible. But we are still talking about the bottom of the roster.

From Joe DeMeulenaere via Twitter:

"How are contract extension talks (making him the highest paid WR in NFL history) with DeAndre Hopkins going?"

Hold on there. I don't know anywhere that said Hopkins would be made the highest-paid receiver in the game. I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but when a player still has three years left on his contract, I think there is probably some give and take there. As for the talks, I am guessing a lot of the big-money discussions around the league are going to go slowly right now because of COVID-19. We don't know how everything could be impacted this season, and that includes revenue -- which could mean something going forward on the salary cap. We will have to see how it plays out.

From Irwin Giannitrapani via

"Hi Darren, I hope everything is good for you and your family. In Flight Plan, Mr. Keim talked about the team recognition and the importance of having popularity for the organisation in reference to Kliff's crib tweet. My question is business-oriented. We all know that the organization is also a company that need to generate profits, so I wonder if someone is working on the team's international recognition? I ask because the NFL has done a collaboration with a French brand a few months ago and only teams like the 49ers, Packers, Raiders were represented. The same example is with the Nike store in London during NFL weeks. Almost 20 teams are represented with team apparel to buy but not the Cards (except the week they played there.) I know popularity comes with history, trophies, etc., but I am wondering if someone is someone is working on the international notoriety."

Hope you are staying safe in Europe, Irwin. Yes, the Cardinals do have work they do in that regard, but at the same time, a lot of those decisions are of course coming from the NFL side of things. You're right, though -- winning helps.

From Sidney Sexson via

"Darren, I saw your article on possibly adding Clay Matthews for depth as a pass rusher. I had previously seen him linked to the Patriots but he would certainly also add insurance at linebacker in case of an injury. Even though he is 34, I assumed he would be asking more than we might be willing to pay. What would be your best guess at what he might command for salary?"

To be honest, my initial thought when I saw it suggested on was that he would probably be too expensive. The price would have to be right. They wouldn't be signing him to start, he'd be depth -- is he OK with that? Is he willing to play for $2 million or $3 million? Actually, the remainder of the offseason free-agent market will be interesting to watch league-wide.

From Tom Cowley via

"Hi Darren. Guess we wait to get on the field to begin the evaluation process. Any undrafted free agents jump out for you given our needs at cornerback, edge rusher or wide receiver?. How about any standout /cheap free agents being available? Do you agree with the pundits regarding an 8-8 season?"

None of the undrafted guys are going to stand out until I'd see them on the field. Until then they are just names on a roster. I've noted above that edge rusher might be a place to look for depth on the free agent market, but with them re-signing Kevin Peterson and again talking about wanting to see what they have in the 2019 wide receiver class, I don't see them making some big push to seek out guys at those positions. As for the record this year, I know people don't want to hear it, but who knows in May? No time on the field yet, no sense of where the roster might stand come September. The roster looked way different in May 2019 than it did by the season opener.

From Ian McMechan via

"In your time covering the Cardinals, which coordinator or position coach has had the biggest positive impact on the group of players he worked with and why? Thanks."

That's a hard one. There have been a few over time. When Jerry Sullivan was here the first go-round, he had a pretty big impact on Anquan Boldin when Q came into the league, and on Fitz even though Sullivan never officially coached Fitz before last year. I think Todd Haley had an impact on how Fitz developed and how things meshed with Kurt Warner. And I think Todd Bowles did a masterful job with the defense when he was coordinator. There are others, but those are the guys that pop off the top of my head.

From Steve Drumm via

"Hi Darren. The Saints released Pro Bowl guard Larry Warford last week and he is drawing interest from multiple teams. I'm sure you know where this question is headed. Warford wants around $7 million annually, can the Cards afford to sign him and if so, would they be interested in adding him to upgrade their O-line?"

No, I don't think they have interest with that price tag. You're always interesting in getting better, but I think they feel pretty good about the offensive line as it stands at the moment.

From Marcos Benites via

"I've been a fan since the beginning and will always be a fan! Now, what do we have to do to get Larry Fitzgerald a championship?"

Props to anyone who has stuck around since 1898. As for Fitz, it is simple -- if the Cardinals are in the Super Bowl and score more points than the other team, he should be good.

From Average Super Dad via Twitter:

"How big of a drop in salary cap next year can be expected if games this year are played without fans?"

That's math beyond my pay grade. I'd say at this point we have to see how games unfold this season, but clearly if you take away a revenue stream like that, the cap will be impacted. I've seen various speculation about numbers, but that's all it is right now -- speculation.

From Leonardo Faria via

"Hello Darren, again representing Brazil. Wouldn't it be a good idea to hire CB Logan Ryan, and is it worth the effort since Patrick Perterson will be able to leave next year as a free agent. And the question of Jadeveon Clowney, he already said that he would reduce the salary requirement and play in a team to reach the Super Bowl, would it be worth the effort? My opinion: If our Arizona Cardinals want to go far in this and other seasons I just think it would be worth the investments mentioned above and a few more of course, hugs Darren and go Cards!"

Just because Clowney is willing to perhaps play for less than he originally wanted, it does not mean he is suddenly affordable. There are a few reasons why I don't see Clowney making sense at this point, and money is the biggest reason. Ryan is in the same boat -- for his price, you are signing him to start, and in that case, what about the investments you're making in Alford and Murphy? Cornerback, at least for 2020, is not a spot that needs that kind of help right now. You are right, Peterson could leave, but that's a topic that can be addressed later.

From John White via

"Hi Darren! You know with all this fuss about Simmons I've hardly heard anything about Evan Weaver! My question is this: Do you think Weaver will have significant time on the field this year?"

When you ask about significant time, do you mean special teams as well? Because I do think he can play a big role in that portion of the game. I do not, at this point, expect him to play a lot of defensive snaps.

From Chester Davis via

"Darren, great to read your mailbag every week. Long-time Cardinal fan from the days of Woodley Lewis and 'Night Train' Lane. My question is, when are the Cardinals going to sign their draft choices. Everybody else is signing them left and right."

It would have been done by now had the rookies been around for minicamp and the like. But the restrictions mean something. There have been a couple of teams that have signed guys, but the vast majority of the draftees in the NFL have yet to sign. There's no rush, obviously. It will happen.

From Shaak Ti via

"Why do we play the Lions and Broncos so much? I feel like we play them every single year. And then there are teams like the Jaguars and Texans who we only played like four times in my lifetime. Whats the happs?"

The happs, Shaak, are pretty simple. The Cardinals, as an NFC team, are only going to play each AFC team once every four years (which gives me a sense of your age if the Cards have only played each of those teams four times.) The Broncos are on the preseason schedule as the finale basically every year, and that's just to ease logistics -- if you look, each team basically has one other team in the league who is their annual preseason finale game. The Lions is just luck. The Cardinals play every division in the NFC once every three years -- including the NFC North, where the Lions play -- and then they play one team in each of the other two NFC divisions every year. That team is determined by where the Cardinals finish in the NFC West the previous year and the like finisher in those other divisions. In the years the Cards don't play the NFC North, it just so happens that many years, the Cardinals and Lions have finished in the same spot in the division -- hence, the frequent matchups.

From Edson Sierra via

"Not a question for you but to the other readers asking about uniforms, what's wrong with the ones we have now? Just cause the kid in the park got a new toy don't mean you need one too!"

From your lips to God's ears, Edson. As for those asking about uniform changes, that answer can be found on the final question last week here.

From Coxronavirumus via Twitter:

"When Kyler wins MVP, who do you think he'll thank first?"

God ... that all this offseason hype finally ended and he was able to play the season.