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You've Got Mail: The End Of Training Camp

Topics include the loss of preseason, Simmons' role and the running back room

Butler Mailbag 090120

The Cardinals are just about at the end of camp, roster cutdowns and the regular season. With that, here's another mailbag. If you want to leave a question for next week, go here.

From Zack Maus via

"Hey Darren, long-time Cardinals fan from NE Ohio! I just wanted your take on if you think Larry plans to keep playing next year as he approaches 40. He's literally in my opinion the absolute best human being to put the pads on, but everyone in the league eventually takes that next step in life. I'm just curious because the way our WR room is right now I feel its harder for the Andy Isabellas, and Hakeem Butlers (who have promise) to make any noise when you got the other three guys ahead of you. Kirk will need a contract eventually here too, and Larry isn't the cheapest on cap space either. Just wanted your thoughts!"

It's a fair point to wonder about younger receivers making progress when older players are in front of them. However, as beloved as Fitz is, if he weren't playing better than the other guys, I don't think he'd play as much. Bottom line, Fitz remains one of the team's best receivers. That's who you want on the field, the best players. As for retirement, who knows? If he goes out and plays well and piles up another 800-1,000 yards on 80 catches, why wouldn't he want to keep going?

From James Wise via

"Regarding Robert Alford -- given how badly he wants to play, assuming this pectoral injury isn't super serious, do you think this is something he might play with? JJ Watt had a pec injury last year, but hes also a DE. I'm just looking for the bright side. People shouldn't be mad if Alford is injured again. That guy wants to play more than anyone."

Alford's recovery is a moot point now. Once the Cardinals put him on injured reserve and didn't wait until final cuts to do so, Alford's opportunity to return from IR this season went away. He can't play until 2021.

From @mattg13460 via Twitter:

"Any idea of why the Cardinals didn't go after Yannick Ngakoue? I know they signed Devon Kennard and are trying Haason Reddick out on the outside but you can never have too many pass rushers right? Especially someone like that across from Chandler. Price didn't seem that high."

It was low for someone like Ngakoue -- he is getting $12 million when he was supposed to get $17.8M on the tag, which tells you how badly he wanted to be traded -- but on a one-year deal, you still need cap space. The Cards might've been able to move some stuff around, but right now they only have about $5M in space, making such a trade impossible. And given some of the financial decisions they have to make going forward, are you going to be able to sign him to a mega-extension? Probably not. (Chandler Jones would've wanted a word.)

From Hasan Rahim via

"Hi Darren, long time listener, first time caller. Do you have an update on Eno Benjamin and how he's been looking in camp? Do you think he makes the 53-man roster or will the Cardinals carry only three RBs (Drake, Edmonds, and Foster) into the season?"

I think there is a chance they only carry three running backs, but there is still a good chance Benjamin would be No. 3. I think Eno has looked solid, but without any preseason games with which to measure, it's tough to tell. What will be interesting is if the Cards keep all four, or if they might want one on the practice squad. Foster is PS eligible, as is Benjamin (although either would have to pass through waivers first.)

From William Beltrami via

"DE Zach Allen was coming into his own. Then he got injured. Is he back healthy? Chandler Jones is the greatest defensive player we have. He needs help. When we blitz often and from different people, we seem to be very successful? Do you agree?"

Allen is indeed healthy, and yes, Chandler Jones needs help. The blitzing part of the equation is a little more nuanced. I don't know if I would absolutely say blitz at all costs. You need guys in coverage that can hold up. I think the Cards feel like that is available this season, but we will have to see how that plays out.

From LoBoJangles via Twitter:

"I'm surprised there wasn't at least one preseason game to work through the game day protocols and logistics of current environment. Is that going to be challenge? Or not really?"

There reason there were no preseason games was because it wasn't worth the risk of the health of everyone involved for games that didn't count. Does it make it more difficult in games once they begin? It's hard to think otherwise. I would guess there will be some learning curves to handle when the games begin on all kinds of logistical levels. Call it yet another exciting byproduct of 2020.

From Charley Ismael via

"Hi Darren, I enjoy your columns the most of all in the Cardinals coverage. I learn so much from your insight. It is a shame that Robert Alford is injured again this season. I was wondering what it means for the organization when a player goes down in preseason like this, as far as the contract is concerned. Do they still get paid as if they are playing, or does the pay get reduced to some level agreed on in the collective bargaining agreement? Is the contract put on hold where the team has options to retain the player beyond, in this case, his 3-year deal? Does the salary cap still take a big hit or is it adjusted to allow seeking replacements on the open market? Lastly, as good as he is supposed to be, should the team be taking a chance on him being healthy next year or cut their losses and release him?"

Thanks for the compliment. So it's pretty simple, most of the time. If a player is injured and ends up on IR, he gets his regular salary for the season. It does not toll -- the year counts in the contract, so in this case, Alford will have one year left. The cap hit is the same as if he played all season, and no there is no adjustment because you need a replacement -- you have to find that room under your cap. As for next year, we will see how it plays out, what his cap hit means to the overall cap in 2021 and where the Cards stand at CB.

From @cgaener via Twitter:

"Has there been any chatter about adding Wade Phillips during the offseason? Curious to here if that was considered at any time and if so/not, why? He has history with Vance Joseph and a great track record of success."

There was no chatter, at least none that I heard. I just think they feel they have the right coaches in place. I'm not sure there was a spot for him that made sense.

From Melinda Schussele via

"Thank you, Darren, so much for your always interesting mailbag! I appreciate reading it each week, and this week I have a non-football question for you. Sadly, being unable to attend practices at the stadium I have been watching some D-Backs games. There's a player on that team, Starling Marte, who looks like Chandler Jones. Might they be related? Have they ever met, been photographed together? Makes me curious."

Unfortunately, Marte is now an ex-Diamondback. But they are not related, and while I can't say with 100 percent certainty, I don't believe they have ever met.

From @Balliwood784 via Twitter:

"Do you think any undrafted free agents make the 53-man roster?"

I think it's going to be difficult, but I have to be honest -- without any preseason games, it's really, really difficult to tell (and the fact that practices have not been able to be reported upon also plays a factor). There are only four undrafted rookies that remain from April: RB Jonathan Ward, CB Jace Whittaker, WR JoJo Ward and LB Reggie Walker. I've noticed all four at times. But are they good enough to dislodge a vet at those positions? Patrick Peterson talked Whittaker up a little, but overall, it was always going to be an uphill climb.

From Rella Yoose via

"Hello Darren, I don't understand what the coaches mean by 'We will find a place for Simmons'. A football team is less flexible than we think. There's only 11 spots on defense and all of them are critical. Putting Simmons in means taking somebody else out. So is he an ILB? Is he an OLB? Is he a nickel CB? Is he a box S? No matter the answer, it means you are removing: Campbell, Kennard, Thompson or Budda, Byron, etc. It doesn't work at all. And most importantly, you don't spend that valuable draft pick on a rotational sub-package. We are trending towards a trainwreck with this pick. The No. 8 guy needs to play 99% of snaps, like Budda does. So make a final decision. If hes an ILB, then bench Campbell. That's all there is to it."

Gotta say, Rella, that seems kinda demand-y to me. They've already said he's an inside linebacker. I'm sorry you disapprove of the pick, but I feel safe in saying you are in the minority. You are right, there are only 11 spots on defense. I am guessing Simmons will find his way, sooner rather than later, into one of those 11 spots. Will he play 99 percent of the snaps? I wouldn't be surprised either way. But that's a lot of snaps for a rookie, especially when you have some depth. Given that you haven't seen what they are doing with Simmons -- and that no one has been able to report on it -- maybe you consider some patience?

From @LJ_Sherman via

"How much of a role will Chase Edmonds have this year?"

That's an excellent question. All I can do is fall back on what happened last year -- and Kliff Kingsbury sure looked like he preferred to stick with one guy as much as he could. I think Edmonds is anxious to do more, and if the offense can be as effective as everyone hopes, there will be more opportunities for everyone.

From @jpahel23 via Twitter:

"Should the team take a look at Leonard Fournette for RB depth?"

No. I don't think Fournette really makes sense in the Kingsbury offense, they already have Drake and they like Edmonds. How much is Fournette going to want to play a lower-depth role anyway? Not sure it would be worth the hassle.

From H H Wells via

"Darren, do you think this is the permanent end of preseason or will it come back, along with the fans? I'm actually not sure. Veteran players hate preseason. But it also makes TV dollars, so I doubt the owners would get rid of all the games, permanently. What do you think?"

This isn't the end of the preseason. Preseason will be shorter in the future, but there will be preseason games. Coaches want them, owners want them. It makes money, it helps lower-end players make a case to make the team. I think people will be able to tell there were no preseason games when we start.

From @GlicksmanBrian via Twitter:

"Are the Cardinals looking at the recently cut Prince Amukamara?"

I wouldn't think so. They've had the chance to make a run at him when he has been a free agent and he's never piqued their interest, and I think they like what they have seen from Dre Kirkpatrick.

From Jay Lue via

"With Robert Alford done for the season, does that put Byron back at #2 CB? And does that mean Simmons might get a lot more slot reps? I'm not implying Simmons is now a CB, however the most snaps he took in college, were as a slot CB. He actually plays that position amazingly well. So what do you think the shakeout is?"

I don't think it includes a lot of Simmons as cornerback. They like Dre Kirkpatrick, so Murphy might have a chance to stay in the slot. While I do think the Cardinals will eventually get creative with Simmons, he's not part of the Alford solution.

From Richard Wakefield via

"Why does everyone view Patrick Peterson as our savior this year when he cheated last year and left us without our best corner? And I would think that his poor play all year was a result of the suspension. He's proven he has no character and while he has always been a leader in the locker room I'm sure he has lost the respect of his teammates. Nobody should cheat, ever."

For starters, I'd be careful about speaking for the players when it comes to the respect factor. He made a bad mistake. I totally understand if, as a fan, you have issues with him and his behavior. But this is a year-to-year league. Peterson looks like he's in great shape and he's had a very good camp. The coaches expect him to be a shutdown corner and it's not an unrealistic expectation. I don't know if anyone is calling him a savior, but is he viewed as one of their best players? Yes.

From John Reese via

"Love this team. Love its leadership and connection to its players. I feel like Kliff, being younger than the average head coach, is closer to his players in respect to understanding their lives. Having been on the recruiting trail only three years ago, he sat in the living rooms and neighborhoods of talented kids growing up in hard circumstances. There's a reason you see elderly billionaires like Jerry Jones who are flabbergasted and don't understand. I appreciate Mike (Bidwill) is so supportive. He's a good man."

Guess there's not much for me to say.

From Kat JXA via

"Darren, if you could pick just one all-timer 'I wish the fans would lay off this guy, he's a good bloke,' who would it be?"

That's an intriguing question. I'll be honest, as I sit here writing this on a Monday night, nothing jumps to the top of the list. I know things changed with the suspension, but up until last year, I thought the amount of criticism Patrick Peterson absorbed from the fan base given his level of play was oddly disproportional. I think the grief Tyrann Mathieu takes for not accepting a paycut is unwarranted. There were times I didn't understand why people ripped Carson Palmer. I reserve the right to bring up someone in the future if I think of it -- I know there are guys who have been hurt over the years that I thought didn't deserve to be hammered. (And to be clear, I'm not saying fans don't have the right to feel that way, I just personally think they were wrong.)

From Dave Foley via

"How is Kyler Murray looking heading into his second year? Haven't heard as much about him as compared to some of the new players. The few videos that have been put out of him by the Cardinals twitter page show him throwing interceptions."

Murray has looked just fine in camp. Again, we were limited in what we could say and what video we could post, but rest assured the quarterback will be good.

From Andrew C via

"Is there a reason for no fans? Surely 20 or 25 percent could easily be spaced safely. Also that would allow some vendors to salvage some business. Because the fans would be few, only fans willing to follow whatever rules management requires, wearing masks entering and leaving, signing a waiver of liability, etc."

I appreciate the sentiment, but ultimately, it just isn't safe enough right now, at least for these first two games. As important as it is to have some fans, it's also important to Michael Bidwill for the organization to do its part in helping get the state through this pandemic. Hopefully by October the Cards can do the things you say and there will be fans.

From AJ Shravaka via

"Hi Darren, I was watching your question for Chris Streveler and had the same idea about his participation on special teams. What would it be like to have a QB catch or receive the ball for kickoffs/punt returns, and then work with someone like Foster on a read-option type of play and/or even a literal type of pass across the field? The old paradigm is to have a backup runner or receiver (or CB like Peterson) simply try to break loose and run it back, but with Chris he could get creative."

I don't know what they will do with Streveler on special teams. They might be able to get somewhat creative but don't forget that the read-option can work at the line of scrimmage is because all the defenders are close together. You don't really have that on kick or punt coverage.

From Tom Cowley via

"Hi Darren, in your opinion, is the injury to Hopkins real or a bargaining ploy regarding extension, and what is Maxx Williams' condition? This is a crucial time for injury with so many cuts imminent -- you need to know who ya got come Sept. 13."

It's funny that this keeps coming up. I think I've answered a Hopkins contract question every mailbag of camp. Again, no, I don't think it's a ploy. As for Williams, I don't know what was wrong with him but he was back at practice this week and I would guess he'll be ready for the opener.

From @LimonIsiah via Twitter:

"Will Larry Fitzgerald retire?"

Yes. Yes he will. If he doesn't, I guarantee you he smashes all of Jerry Rice's records.

From Isaac Fair from the UK via

"Hey Darren, just wanted to ask a more personal question than usual, about your job, hope that's OK. First, do you enjoy it? I'm guessing so, so then what is your favorite part? Does it feel weird knowing you are one of only a few people in the world with access to watch and interview the team? And would you recommend young people to aspire to a job like yours? (Don't worry, we'll find another team, we wouldn't want to replace you!)"

Well, of course I enjoy my job -- some parts more than others, like most people. My favorite part is probably just being part of the whole circus. I enjoy the sport, I enjoy the players and getting to know them, I enjoy being able to write about it. It doesn't feel weird because I've been doing it so long. This has been my life for more than 20 years. I'd recommend any young person to chase what they really want for a profession -- there are pros and cons to it, like anything, but I love what I do.