It's Super Bowl week out in Los Angeles. It's mailbag day right here, like every Tuesday. To send in a question for a future mailbag, you know what to do.
From Andre Calihoo:
"More a comment than a question. I hope the Cardinals will do what's necessary hopefully reasonable to re-sign James Conner. He brings a lot of soul to the team."
I understand the sentiment, and he had an excellent season. You are right; he seems to bring an emotional edge in his game. But in the offseason, it is business that reigns, and emotions usually don't play a part. We will see.
From Charley Shurtz:
"The past two seasons Kyler Murray got hurt then we dropped off. Just hoping that's not a yearly thing. I am seeing Conner as a solid piece in the offense but not to the point that we pay him or anyone else what they just want and maybe not for a long contract. Both our main backs were hurt this year. Would it not be prudent to carefully evaluate the ability of the backs, the timing of contracts and the backs coming into the draft before making any final decisions with the way offenses and defenses are developing the last 5 years or so?"
Why yes, it would be prudent. And believe it or not, the Cardinals indeed take all those things into account, every year.
From Blake Duffield:
"Hi Darren. Thank you for always taking questions in the mailbag, I always enjoy reading the questions and your answers each week. My question surrounds Kyler Murray, and the reason for him scrubbing his social media accounts on late Sunday/early Monday after the Pro Bowl. I can't help but think that he is doing that for a contract extension, but obviously makes fans worry about his standing and feelings towards the team. Do the Cardinals have any plan to extend him this offseason, or address any of these unhappiness rumors with him? I would hate to see the best QB in franchise history (my opinion) go, because I believe he will lead us to the promised land one day soon. Thanks for your time!"
Let's start with the social media stuff. I haven't had a chance to talk to Kyler, so I don't know why he did what he did. But on Instagram, for instance, he had a lot of other photos on there besides just Cardinals ones and those are all gone too, so does that mean he's upset with other things too? I understand the speculation, and I do wish Kyler would address it, because these days, any move on social -- innocent or otherwise -- is going to be interpreted unless someone explains the reasoning. As for the contract, we will see. The Cardinals have three options: extend him now, let him play out his deal in 2022, or exercise the team option for 2023 (which is guaranteed if they do it.) The latter has to be done no later than early May. If there isn't an extension by then, I think it's safe to say the Cards will exercise the option.
From Sidney Sexson:
"Darren. I would like your considered opinion on a couple of points with Kyler Murray. I tend to agree with Ron Wolfley that it would be better if Kyler was under center more often. Second, it seems that Kyler's hand clap for the snap of the ball is much easier for the defensive lineman to follow and get a jump on rushing him then if he used his voice and cadence for the snap. Of all the other teams' games I watched this year I do not recall any other quarterback that did not use their voice other than in silent count situation. Thanks as always and let me know your thoughts."
I can understand the concept of Murray under center more often, except that both the coach and quarterback prefer shotgun, so that obviously becomes a factor. I don't know, after three seasons, if we are going to see a significant change like that. As far as the hand clap, other than the kerfuffle in the preseason of 2019 when he was getting flagged for false starts, I don't think the hand clap really has much impact on how plays are turning out.
From Kev Sanderson:
"Hi Darren, per your story, that's wild Tom Brady has only played Arizona twice in 22 years. I understand it should've been four, but still. That seems like a scheduling issue to me, don't you think? I want to throw something out, and you're welcome to disagree: Divisional games should only be one apiece. Alternate home/away season to season. That gives you four more games per year to play other teams. Sure it's not a big change, but in my opinion, Arizona playing New England four times in 22 years is a problem. This every four years thing is ridiculous. This prompted my to go do research and we've only played Baltimore seven times ever. In fact, in the grand scheme of things, we've played a handful of teams a bunch, and then most of the league very little over our 33 years in Arizona. I'd like to see a change."
Given that it still means a lot to win a division when it comes to playoff seeding, I don't like the idea of playing division foes only once a year. I understand the frustration to a point. But again, unless you are willing to forgo multiple games against the division, there are no options. The 17th game does mean NFC teams will get an extra AFC opponent every year -- ironically, it's the Patriots for the Cards in 2022 -- so that helps.
From Jefty Joffer:
"Is it me or is Jalen Thompson being overlooked by everyone? He had 121 tackles this season and 12 tackles in the playoff game. No Cardinal player made more tackles or big hits. He had three interceptions. seven pass deflections. three tackles for loss. No Pro Bowl. No Cardinal defensive MVP. Nothing after an incredible stat line. This is really Jalen Thompson's second year because he was hurt all last year. Jalen is a stud. And when Budda is added to that mix it makes for the best safety tandem in the league."
Thompson isn't overlooked by me. The Cardinals too know they have a very good safety tandem with Thompson and Baker. It's his first big season, as you mentioned; many times it takes the accolades to catch up.
From Melinda Schussele:
"Many years ago a sports writer called the Cardinals 'that little desert outpost in the West.' It's a very offensive and disrespectful label, but at the end of this season I wondered if the team was trying to live down to that moniker. I remembered all the really good players we have as a core group and those I hope GM Steve Keim will be able to keep, and I decided to believe they will change course, get fired up for a whole season and play at a consistently high level in 2022. It seems imperative. Any chance free agents Conner, Edmonds, Kirk, etc. will sign before free agency starts in March?"
It's always hard to know how many, if any, players will re-sign before free agency. I would be surprised if anyone re-signed much before actual free agency starts, when teams will have a better idea what the market is for particular players. Re-signing speed also works two ways -- sometimes teams want to see if they can get someone else on the open market first.
From Joe Cardea:
"Darren, looking at 2022 free agents, are there any combos you imagine we can't sign? Tier 1 would be Murray, Kirk, Connor, Ertz, Green, Chandler Jones, and I think that's it. I'd probably let Green go, he hasn't seemed on fire this year, I think the rest are must signs but money is a harsh reality. First, did I miss any top names and second, can they afford all of them? Which would cost the most that would be difficult to swallow? Murray will cost a lot but he's a no-brainer in my opinion. Conner, Ertz, and Jones seem like a bridge too far."
Not sure why Murray is lumped in there; he is not a free agent. Would they like those other guys back? Again, it always comes down to cost. A player who would be obvious to re-sign at one number might not be at a higher number. That's just roster management 101. Can they afford to re-sign all their own free agents? No. I mean, if they all took less than market value, but that's not going to happen, so no -- choices will have to be made. Lots of variables arise with who might be back.
From JR Cardsfan:
"Darren, is there anything to the belief that good players can spot good players? Yes this is an Adrian Wilson question, I'm not sneaky. James Jones is killing it too. Thanks."
I don't know if I'd say there is any direct correlation. There have been a number of non-players over the years that have picked good and great players; there have been former stars that have not been good at player evaluation. And while James Jones was a nice NBA player, he wasn't as good at his sport as Wilson was at his.
From Todd Brown:
"Hi Darren. Greetings from Madison, Wisconsin where it's 4°F and feels like -11*F! Last week's allegations of certain owners incentivizing coaches for losing games to better the team's odds at landing the #1 overall pick in the NFL draft was certainly a blow. One suggestion to lessen the likelihood of behavior that threatens the game's integrity is to transition to a draft lottery system like the NBA or NHL where losing teams have the best odds of obtaining the top pick, but are not guaranteed the top pick. Personally, I'm in favor of it, but I'd like to know your opinion on the odds of an NFL draft lottery system becoming a reality at some point."
Personally, I don't think it's necessary. While I understand there have been these allegations, in the Dolphins' case, they didn't get the No. 1 overall pick anyway. I think in football it feels a lot more difficult to know for sure you are getting a surefire star/QB (and that's the only reason anyone cares about this, is to get the QB; no one gives a flip if the team drafting first takes a pass rusher.) I am also of the belief the lottery actually invites more teams to fail, since they have a shot. So no, I don't think it'll happen, and I don't think it should.
From Franklin Schubert:
"I appreciate that Kliff has shown improvement year after year with the Cardinals and I must remind myself that 11 wins was NOT the expectation when the season started. I noted that the projection experts viewed the Cards as a 9-to-10 game winner and squeaking into the playoffs. You do not fire an 11-win coach that gets you into the playoffs. As Mike Shanahan and Sean Payton are not looking for a coaching job and both are good friends of Mr B., why not bring one of them in to mentor a good coach in need of a little help? Pay him as a consultant so it does not hit your cap number and build your coach into another Hall of Fame figure! Any noise regarding a mentor for Kliff?"
Just to clarify, coaching money doesn't not impact the cap. But no, I don't expect a mentor. That actually seems like a strange idea, since it could essentially undercut a coach from the inside.
From Shane Bird:
"Which do you think was a bigger mistake by the Cardinals (hindsight notwithstanding) - Calais Campbell or Tyrann Mathieu? While CC has arguably been one of the five best defensive linemen in the NFL the last few years, I just think Tyrann+Budda could've been magical."
I mean, if we aren't including hindsight, it's got to be Calais, right? The Cardinals have had more issues on the defensive line and Campbell had always been healthy. The same couldn't have been said for Tyrann at the time, but yes, he and Budda together would have been exciting to watch (albeit you'd have two small safeties.)
From Jeff from Scranton:
"Hi Darren, I have two questions. I know that football is a physical and sometimes violent sport, however, during an altercation in the wildcard game Aaron Donald had his hands around D.J. Humphries' throat 'choking' him. I was surprised to read that in Week 16 or 17 he did the same thing. At what point does a physical altercation cross a line and how many times does a player have to commit the same act before it becomes a pattern? Aaron Donald is way to good of a player to keep doing that. Second the Cardinals have had very little success against the NFC South and AFC West over the past 15 years. What is their record against each team during that time span? Thank you for your time!"
An interesting two-fer of questions there. With Donald, that's a question for the league. I didn't know he may have done something similar. I do think that, as emotional as the NFL is, however, I understand why stuff like that happens. As far as the 2007-2021 record of the Cardinals, they were 9-21 against the NFC South and 5-7 against the AFC West.
From Caleb Thompson:
"Trent Sherfield makes big special teams plays. And flashed at wide receiver. Why do we not bring him back but kept a couple safeties who don't bring as much presence on defense as Trent did on offense as the core special teamers? I won't say Isabella because of his draft stock."
I am assuming you would be referring to Charles Washington, because the only other safety that might fit that description is James Wiggins, who wasn't drafted until Sherfield was gone. In the end, I'm sure it was a combination of money and what they think of Washington on special teams. Perhaps Sherfield was hoping to get to a team that might have given him a chance at receiver, which he knew wasn't going to happen in Arizona.
From James Chandrick:
"Our drafting over the last decade or so has left much to be desired, however I also think its' important to keep things in perspective. Practice a little patience and gratitude because things use to be much worse. Take the 2002 NFL draft for example.
- DT Wendell Bryant - 3 years. Only 2 seasons prior to suspension.
- LB Levar Fisher - 2 years. Basically only 1 season, due to knee problems.
- QB Josh McCown - 4 years. And one of the most interesting NFL careers of anyone ever.
- DE Dennis Johnson - 2 years. Who?
- DT Nate Dwyer - 1 year. Who?
- WR Jason Mcaddley - 2 years. Who?
- RB Josh Scobey - 3 years. Pretty good special teamer.
- TE Mike Banks - 2 years. Who?
So while it may be true guys like Simmons and Zaven have been slow to develop, we are in an infinitely better place now than we were 20 years ago. Who knows, maybe in another 10 years we will start to see consistently well drafted and well developed players who turn into Pro Bowlers."
That draft was doomed the minute they took Wendell Bryant. Scobey still is with the team in the front office as the Western Regional scout though. And we'll always have McCown-to-Poole.
From BUDB Wooten:
"Darren, this isn't all that relevant now but it's bugged me for a while. But I heard this several times since he left and read it again last week on popular site, that the Cardinals 'nudged' Bruce Arians into retirement. That the Cards were done with him. Can you confirm or deny this? Or provide your thoughts? I know BA's personality could probably rub people the wrong way but if true why would the Cardinals do that? BA was clearly the best coach we ever had, players loved him. He made us an immediate winner that first year. Even his last year with all the injuries I believe he went 8-8. I'm very curious about this. Thanks!"
Obviously I don't know what was said between the sides at the end. But I do know that a) his wife told him if he stayed in Arizona she wouldn't be here and instead was moving to their "forever" home in Georgia, something Arians has acknowledged himself; b) he was going through a ton of health problems at the time; and c) B.A. has had no problem saying he didn't retire from the Steelers he was "re-fired" and yet he's never said the same about the Cardinals. He's not the first coach to leave coaching truly thinking he might be done and then realizing he wasn't.
From Sudon Berry:
"Do you think the Suns should make any trades prior to the deadline? Thaddeus Young is the obvious and popular choice. He's a really good defender. Will provide excellent depth at the 4. However, a valid counter argument is the team is perfect as is. We are 41-10. If it ain't broke, dont fix it. Things are going so good, you are afraid to mess with anything. What do you think?"
The Suns are indeed very good. My opinion is if you can get a cheap add (a la Torry Craig last season), it can't hurt. I'm not making a major move and breaking up the roster though. (Unless Durant is available.)
From Grant Moji:
"Hi Darren. Early in the offseason it was said Byron Murphy would be moving back to his natural slot CB position. Season came, and Murphy established himself as the No. 1 CB. He played really well too. Unfortunately he faded down the stretch. Do you think he ever eventually moves back to that slot CB position? Necessity pushed him to the outside this year, but assuming we can get another CB capable of manning that outside position, can Murphy ever go back to the slot?"
Murphy still played some slot down the stretch -- he was in the slot 34 snaps in the playoff loss and 23 outside -- so it's something the Cardinals are still doing. Yes, I think in a perfect world, if they can make sure they are confident with the two outside cornerbacks, they would have Murphy inside. But the roster construct will likely dictate what happens.
From Timothy Gillis:
"I've been a Cardinals fan for 55 years so I've seen a lot of coaches and players come and go but I wonder why our current head coach constantly moves during his interviews."
Kliff Kingsbury has made no secret doing interviews are not his favorite thing. So he's usually ready to get out of there as soon as he can leave. He's always been good about answering whatever questions there are, but it's safe to say when his press conference ends, Kliff is ready to leave ASAP.
From Will Gray:
"Hey Darren. Suns talk. Are you worried at all about a Bucks rematch in the NBA Finals? I am. Yes, they have to make it there first. But I feel as confident about this team as I have any Arizona franchise. As terrific as the Suns look, I think the problem remains with Milwaukee; and that is Giannis being unguardable. I do feel better that we have Biyombo and Javale this year, for depth. But I'll be heartbroken if we get a replay of last year and I have to watch Giannis just plow his way into the paint and our guys are helpless."
Well Will, this is a better topic than my sons lamenting how the Suns are going to keep this team together two years from now but you are right -- they've got to get there first. Giannis is great and very difficult to slow down. If the Suns have to face him again, it will be difficult. But no I'm not worried, mostly because if I've learned anything as I have gotten older, it's the necessity of worrying only about things you truly need to worry about, and a potential Finals opponent here in February isn't one of them.