The Chiefs and 49ers will play in Miami in the Super Bowl this Sunday, and in the meantime, I will answer questions about the Cardinals in this mailbag. As always, you can leave a question for next week's mailbag by going here. As a reminder, I didn't get to all the questions sent this week -- so be looking next week for many of those.
From Nathan Barnett via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren, long-time Cardinals fan. My questions is about the upcoming draft. With the salary cap in the mid-$70 million range, could you see the Cardinals spending some good cash for a skill player such as Amari Cooper and find a offensive tackle with a Top 10 pick?"
First, the latest projection has the Cards more like $53 million in cap space. Could I see them taking a tackle at No. 8? Yes. Do I think they will spend for a wide receiver like Amari Cooper? I do not. He's looking for $20 million a year. If you are truly looking for these two spots, in the context of this question, I'd rather spend a big chunk on a free-agent tackle, and spend the draft pick on one of these talented college receivers than vice versa.
From Johnny Redbird via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren. I know a lot of people have asked about Drake vs David Johnson, and how things will pan out. I agree with some that believe DJ would have also done well late in the season, as the O-line performed MUCH better later in the year. Up until his injury, DJ was performing well this year with a line that was not doing great. Anyway, my question is different. My question relates more to the sometime ineptitude of our front office. Is there any way the Cards could actually screw this up and lose BOTH guys? Like trading DJ before signing Drake, and then Kenyan chooses another team and signs with them. Thanks."
Not sure why you think that would happen. Johnson can't be traded until free agency starts, and by then I'm thinking the Cardinals will have a pretty good idea what direction the Drake thing will go. I think the running back situation is incredibly interesting, especially now that we're watching Raheem Mostert come out of "nowhere" with the Niners. I'd also argue that, if the offensive line is the key, as you seem to suggest in the first part of the question, then Chase Edmonds should have success as well. (I'd also have to ask, was the OL performing that much better late in the season or was it Drake's performance that was the biggest factor? I don't know.)
I assume you are asking in terms of salary cap? As in, if you have a fast-paced offense, you can't afford a good defense? In the end, I think there is a chance to have a perfect storm -- a quarterback on a rookie deal, a couple of those key offensive players on rookie deals, and then some smart free-agent signings. I think the 49ers have a pretty good offense and a good defense, although I don't know if I'd call it fast-paced. If you are talking about a defense like the 2000 Ravens, or even a very good Patriots defense this year, it's tougher. You certainly wouldn't be able to have it for long. Guys get good and they want to get paid. That's how its designed to work.
From Sidney Sexson via azcardinals.com:
"I would like your thoughts on Mel Kiper's mock draft choice of offensive lineman Andrew Thomas and Daniel Jeremiah's of offensive lineman Tristin Wirfs. I am not high on using the 8th pick on either of these. I guess if you don't re-sign D J Humphries you may want to go with Andrew Thomas but I hope that isn't the case. As always appreciate your input."
My thoughts are that it is impossible to know right now. By the time the draft comes around, we will know what has happened with Humphries, we will know if they did anything offensive line-related in free agency. Those wouldn't be sexy picks per se, but if you pick the right offensive lineman it can serve you for many, many years. I'm not sure why those picks don't do it for you -- if it is because it is boring, or not skill players, or you simply don't think either are very good. But that's what the next few months are for, to figure all that out.
From Steve Drumm via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren, I enjoy following the annual Reese's Senior Bowl in Mobile and seeing some of the future stars of tomorrow compete. My question is how do NFL teams get selected to coach the North and South squads and why have the Cardinals not shown any interest to coach a Senior Bowl game and get a leg up in the draft? I realize the coaches work very hard during preseason and during the season as well so downtime is probably much appreciated but with the teams long history of losing seasons and bad drafts I certainly feel it's in the Cardinals' best interests to coach this game when they get the chance."
The NFL asks for the coaching staffs, and it is generally the coaching staffs from the two worst teams that aren't changing head coaches. So for instance, the Bengals had one spot, the Redskins, who were the next worst, changed coaches, so then the other spot went to the Lions. There was a point where it looked like it was trending that the Cardinals might be invited, but then they won a couple of games. I understand what you are saying and having that up-close-and-personal look helps. But it's not like they aren't paying attention. Both Haason Reddick and Andy Isabella, for instance, improved draft stock from having big weeks in Mobile.
From Rod Remy via azcardinals.com:
"Good day. Now that the Super Bowl is upon us, I believe we are going to witness the best QB matchup in a while. My question to you is what's the best QB match up you've seen in the Super Bowl?"
Are you saying on TV or live? Because if it's TV and I've watched every one since January of 1979, that's a wide swath. I mean, the first one I saw was Bradshaw versus Staubach, two Hall of Famers. Brees and Peyton after the 2007 season was awesome. Montana and Marino in the 1980s. Just a few years ago Matt Ryan was coming off a career-season and he battled Tom Brady, who had been great. Even the Cardinals-Steelers with Kurt Warner at the height of his powers and Ben Roethlisberger. Ben vs. Aaron Rodgers in 2010. I think we see great QB matchups more often than not in the Super Bowl. It's why these teams get this far.
The offensive line is a big priority. Now, if you are asking if it is a priority to make a lot of changes, I don't know about that. They have to find out what will happen with Humphries. But they are always evaluating that group. Too important not to.
From Bob Haines via azcardinals.com:
"Looking at the Cardinals opponents next season, I believe Arizona is set up for a playoff run in 2020. They will be playing three new coaches in the NFC East as well as a first-time coach in Carolina, possibly with a rookie QB. They will oppose the rebuilding Dolphins with rookie QB and the last-place Lions here in the desert. I believe the Patriots' dominance of the NFL is over and the Cardinals might just catch them without the all-time GOAT TB12! The season will hinge on how they perform in their own division. As history has it, Arizona has a good track record in Seattle against the Seahawks, always play the 49ers tough (should have won both games last season) and the Rams may be loosing some key free agents in free agency due to cap restraints. Barring major injury, I foresee a 9-10 win season. Darren, do you agree or am I being overly optimistic?"
I'm not making any predictions ... well, I'm probably never making any straightforward win-loss predictions, but I'm certainly not doing it right now. There's been no free agency, no draft. Who knows how this all plays out. I know that with Kyler and Kliff in a second season, there is reason to be optimistic. But 2020 results? Heck, we haven't even finished the 2019 season yet.
From Boston Mike via azcardinals.com:
"You going to the Waste Management Open this week?"
I am not. Kyle will be out there for the Pro-Am, but given all the traffic and stuff, I'm good enjoying this week's weather at my house.
From William Thompson via azcardinals.com:
"Are we all rooting for Tyrann Mathieu and Terrell Suggs? I would love to see these guys get a ring! Thanks, Darren!"
I got to know Tyrann Mathieu pretty well during his time in Arizona, so yes, I would like to see him get a ring. My interactions with Suggs were limited at best and obviously he didn't even end the season here, so that doesn't resonate with me. But even guys like Xavier Williams, who is a great guy, it'd be nice to see him win one.
They felt like Peterson was a piece they couldn't afford to give up, and still have plans for him in 2020. Time will tell if that was the right move. As for perpetually 5-11, given they weren't in that realm the entirety of the Bruce Arians era, I can't agree with the statement.
From Rick Carter via azcardinals.com:
"With the eight pick, what would Kyler Murray prefer the Cardinals pick: an offensive tackle, a wide out, or help on the defense? I suppose a lot depends on what the Cardinals can do in free agency about how they use the eighth pick."
I like Kyler, but if anyone thinks his personal feelings will have any sway on how that pick is used, that person would be mistaken.
From Tom Cowley via azcardinals.com:
"When do you guess the extensions to deserving players will begin? Also which free agents will be on the front burner for Steve Keim to contact given the money ceiling this year? Would seem they will concentrate on filling obvious holes at ILB, EDGE, CB and DL and get the offensive needs done through the draft?"
My guess is there are already talks going on about extensions. But the tricky part this time of year is that players are thisclose to seeing what the market will hold and at this point, there is little reason not to wait if they feel they aren't getting the deal they can. As usual, deadlines will spur action and that time between the Combine and free agency -- about three weeks -- would see like the extension sweet spot. As for what positions they will target in free agency, I think it's slightly more nuanced. While they are going to see certain spots, I think then you look at what players might be available and go from there. If you see, for instance, a wide receiver you like and who might be the right price, no reason not to chase him because your philosophy is "offense in the draft, defense in free agency."
From Lee Stranders via azcardinals.com:
"The only round one draft trade-down option that could be viable is with the Falcons where we take their 16th and first of their two round-two picks at 47 (15th in round two). Can't see any other options. Can you?"
I'm not sure how you would know that or even be able to analyze that yet given free agency hasn't happened and draft trades usually come on the clock and are based on who is available at that point. This isn't Madden, where you blindly deal draft picks.
From Barbara Tower via azcardinals.com:
"Darren no question - just a comment about how wonderful that Larry Fitzgerald made an investment in the Phoenix Suns. He means so much more to the community then just his heroics on the field. He is going to be a great Phoenician for a long time."
If only he had a house in Chandler.
From Chad Johnson via azcardinals.com:
"Jordan Hicks received 'Newcomer of the Year,' which makes me wonder, for you, who have been the overall BEST free agent signings for the Cardinals over the years? It seems like Hicks has to be up there. It also speaks to Steve Keim's singings. He has taken a lot of heat but he signed Hicks, he drafted Baker, he traded for Jones, drafted Murphy, drafted Kyler, signed A.Q., drafted Kirk, traded for Drake, and others, right? Who else am I missing?"
Given that Keim has been the ultimate one to choose on every transaction since 2013, I think I'll skip listing stuff. There have been plenty of good calls and plenty of bad ones. As for the Cardinals' best free-agent signings, at least since coming to Arizona, Hicks has a chance although he's played just one season. Kurt Warner turned out pretty well, and probably is at the top of the list. Bertrand Berry was a pretty good call. Pete Kendall was a good signing that would've been good for awhile if he hadn't gotten on Denny Green's bad side. Edgerrin James helped on the field and off. Back in the day, Seth Joyner was still a pretty good linebacker.
From Don Patterson via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren. Really happy you are keeping the mailbag going. While I haven't seen anything official the word is five coaches were let go yet I'm not hearing anything about interviews. Of the five, DL coach Chris Achuff is the priority position. Any word on who or when they will replace him?"
You are correct, five coaches were let go. They are in the process of the interviews now, and they won't make any official announcements until all the spots are filled. I believe they are still working on the DL coach.
From Coach Smith via Twitter:
"The two biggest issues over Kliff Kingsbury's career, both at Tech and with Arizona, has been Red Zone scoring and end of the game defense. Specifically on defense, what is the focus this offseason to turn these situations into his favor?"
I think the idea will be to keep continuity -- with Vance Joseph -- and upgrade the personnel. They need better players on that side of the ball.
From C Peralta via azcardinals.com:
"Good day, mate. With the Cards' season over and news slow, what does a typical day in the life of Darren look like during the offseason? Also, being from Indiana, I am a Pacers fan. They did a number to the Suns on Larry's first day of ownership. However, I am not sure if you saw the Tweet the Pacers sent out trolling the Suns, but it was deleted. Can you explain why and who makes those calls to delete tweets like that, not Suns-specifically? To me, if a social media team put it out there, then leave it."
It's funny -- over the many years I have covered the Cardinals and the NFL, that's always a popular question whether I worked at a newspaper or with the team. "Now that the season is over, what do you do?" Once I get past the part that I am hurt because I am still writing things -- like this mailbag, for instance -- and I'd like to think people are still reading, but maybe not. While the pace certainly slows right now, we're not that far away from the Combine, or free agency or the draft or offseason workouts or OTAs. There really isn't a real offseason, and I still have plenty to do with planning and work internally as director of editorial content and running the website.
As for your social media question, your example was not one I was aware of so I went to search it out. While the tweet was officially deleted, nothing ever really leaves the internet. Savage for sure. But in terms of deleting that -- when you are in game situations, there are quick decisions to make on social media. There is trust in the people doing it, regardless of the team or sport. I also think there is a fine line with social media -- I do think it needs to have a strong personality, a willingness to be a little snarky or combative at times, even if you are a team. The whole point of social is to get people engaged with the brand. But there are instances when someone goes a little far, and someone higher up the food chain believes that it's enough that it needs to come down. Although again, once it's out there, people will find it, whether you take it down or not.
From Chad Johnson via azcardinals.com:
"About once a mailbag somebody asks about the Cardinals getting new uniforms. I know Titans got new uniforms this year, so I was wondering, is there any documented correlation between getting new uniforms and a deep playoff run the same year?"
And here's that one per mailbag.
I did not, although I did cover some Suns-Lakers games/playoff series with Kobe involved. As a Suns fan, he was never a guy I rooted for, but you had to respect the game and more importantly, the drive within him to be great at everything he did. I am like most after the news Sunday -- it was hard enough knowing he lost his life, but his 13-year-old daughter -- and the other two kids on board, in addition to the other victims -- is just brutal.