It is a somber way to start the week, with the tragic death of Jeff Gladney (and his passenger) in the early-morning hours of Memorial Day. OTAs return Wednesday, and coach Kliff Kingsbury and some players will be made available to speak to the media -- and inevitably the loss of a teammate. For today, we have the mailbag. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. As always, you can send in a question for a future mailbag here. As an FYI, almost all the questions came prior to the news of Gladney's death.
From Mike Liddick:
"First I'd like to offer my condolences to Jeff Gladney's family. It is a tragic loss especially for them. I hope this question does not come off as insensitive since this is so fresh. It is frustrating for us as fans to now have paid for contracts in two consecutive years for cornerbacks that will not have played a single regular-season down for the team. Are the contracts such that the money owed to these players are not void in that instance? Are we able to recover any of the money owed in those situations that can be paid to someone who actually plays? Thanks, Darren."
I understand why you are curious and/or frustrated, but in these circumstances, yeah, I don't know if the timing is all that great. There are mechanisms for the money in both cases, but I'm not getting into specifics. This is a horrible tragedy, and right now I think the Cardinals are just trying to get their head around the fact Gladney was just here and now he is not.
From Meta Yorkville:
"This is J.J. Watt's last season under contract. Time flies. Do you think we will re-sign him for more years? He looks great still. I understand he's pricey but he's still the best defender we have. It makes no sense to pay Kyler and then let all our other best players walk. Great we have a QB but the team stinks because we cant afford anyone else. I say we should keep Watt, especially after losing Chandler Jones."
I think at this point in Watt's career and after he got hurt last season, it'll probably be a year-to-year situation and the Cardinals are going to want to see how this year plays out for him. I agree Watt played well before he got injured. I could see him staying in 2023. But there are a lot of variables and I think some of this has to play out first.
From Walker Walker:
"Darren, I noticed the rookies do not have decals on their helmets, is there a story behind that? Also, Trey McBride seems to catch everything, is that his reputation? Seems Hopkins-like, might we have a D-Hop at tight end? Did he have many drops in college?"
The decal-less helmets was just for minicamp; all the players have decals now that OTAs have started. I don't think it's a big deal. A lot of those players weren't going to be around after those three days. As for McBride, he had more than 1,000 yards receiving as a tight end with 90 catches, so yes, he's known as a very good pass catcher. Is he Hopkins at the position? Let's see if he is even Zach Ertz, which is already a high enough bar to reach.
From Robert Malicki:
"Hello, Darren, this NFL 'Accelerator Program' that is being brought to our attention got me to thinking. Will we see developing divergent ways for owners/GMs to structure an offensive philosophy? Using the Cardinals as one example, having a head coach who is the team offensive coordinator and calling the plays, which eliminates the need for a OC and closing off an avenue for a head coach wanna-be. Other teams have a HC as the overall general with a handing the keys to the offense to a OC who uses that position to pursue a HC opportunity. Owners/GMs could become married to one type of staff structure or the other."
I don't think any owner or GM thinks in those terms. You are looking for a head coach that will successfully turn your team into a winner. You obviously want to know how they will structure things, but in the end, you're going to pick the guy who you think will be successful regardless. I'd also argue that if you end up hiring an offensive coordinator who calls plays to be your head coach, he oftentimes is going to want to keep calling plays.
From Matthew Stroh:
"Hey Darren. I'm just a simple man. I'm not that smart -- look at my grammar and the fact that two of my questions have been talked about on Cardinals Underground make me feel so cool. Thank you for that. No one is perfect. Kliff Kingsbury has been called a bad coach because every team of his has had a bad second half of the season. I do believe it's not all on the coach but some is on Kliff. I think is trying to get better and with the coaches he put around him I think he has a chance to improve. Do you think that the second half problems are 100% Kliff or 80/20 or 50/50? What degree is it his fault? P.S. you and Dani don't bicker. I love the chemistry of the three of you."
Matthew, I'm glad you listen to the podcast. I agree. That isn't bickering. As for Kliff, it's impossible to know what that percentage would be. He's the head coach, so in some ways, the buck stops there. But realistically, we all know, with all the moving parts involved with a football team, there are a lot of ways things can get sideways (including factors that shouldn't cause blame for anyone, like injuries or bad luck.) I know this: Kingsbury is aware of those second-half issues, and he's trying to make sure it doesn't happen again. Can the Cardinals figure it out? I suppose we will all see ... on a brand-new season of "Hard Knocks In Season."
From Harry Roland:
"We need a full list of who is not at OTAs please."
Here's the deal, Harry. Not every OTA is open to the media, and more importantly, some guys come to some workouts and skip others. One example: cornerback Byron Murphy was not there on Monday when OTAs began, but I happened to see him Wednesday. If we could take roll every day, maybe it makes sense. Kyler is a story and I get that. I mentioned the offensive linemen the other day: Hump, Pugh, Beachum, Hudson. I haven't seen Markus Golden. But in the end, this is voluntary and while I know that frustrates fans, I'm not a fan of putting guys on blast when they aren't doing anything wrong.
From Garland Player:
"It's been several weeks since the draft and I still can't wrap my mind around the fact we traded a first for Hollywood Brown. Did they not try anything else? A second? A second and a sixth. A FIRST-ROUND PICK? I don't mean to preach because you know what I'm talking about. There are an infinite number of trade combos that would've made more sense than trading our first-round pick (lifeblood of the team, claims Keim) for a fourth-year player whos mostly a mid-level wide receiver thus far."
I'm curious -- if you found out they had indeed made other offers, and the Ravens said, nope, first has to be in the deal or no deal, would that change your anxiety? (About that ... I know this got to me prior to last Tuesday but c'mon man, there are bigger things to obsess about than a trade a month ago.) The Cardinals also got a third-round pick back, potentially turning that one pick into two players that are needed.
From Matt Smith:
"I've heard Steve Keim reference Marquise Brown's two years left on his contract several times and that strikes me as odd considering Kyler is currently pushing for (and will likely receive) a new deal in year four. What's stopping Brown from demanding a new deal after this season? Considering they traded a first-round pick for him, he has quite a bit of leverage. Was there a verbal agreement that Brown wouldn't hold out? Ironically if Brown does ball out this year, puts up 1200+ yards, he's all the more likely to demand to get paid. Even if he doesnt ball out, he will still likely get paid given the first-round pick investment."
He does have two years left. Could he demand a new deal? Sure. Just like every player could conceivably do. It strikes me as odd that some fans seem to have this weird dynamic going on that a) they want players to play well and then b) fret when it means they will have earned a big contract. If you want all the players to play for cheap, you're going to have a bad team full of bad players. If you have a good team of players playing well, many are gonna want to get paid and you're going to have to let some go because of it. That's the game. How about we see what Brown does this year and how it plays out? Maybe playing with Kyler will mean that much to him.
Frm Cam Cardsfan:
"Regarding Kyler's potential new deal he's seeking, is it based on what he wants or what he deserves? Because I think we universally agree that Kyler should be paid what he deserves, but that's probably far off from what he wants. What would you say Kyler ranks as in the QB hierarchy in the NFL? 10th? I think that's fair. But the 10th-highest paid QB is a ways off from the top highest paid QB. It's a fair question. Why does Kyler think he deserves top three QB money when he's not a top three QB? Would he accept 10th-best QB money?"
I'll ask you first: If you were at work, and your boss said you were the 10th-best person in your department ad he was going to pay you as such, would you agree? (I'm going to say no.) And before everyone says, "This is different, these players still make millions, etc." let me stop you right there. You are paid what the industry you are in pays, and then you go from there. Once you acknowledge that he deserves more, then it becomes market value. If Murray were on the open market, he'd make those big dollars, even if you say he's 10th. Because if he signs a contract for five years now, then he's not going to be the 10th-highest paid QB soon enough, right? Because salaries are only going up. I get the argument. But it's made like these players shouldn't try and max out their earning potential just like every other worker is doing out there.
From Griffin Ross:
"I know we've come a long way but there are still things here and there to nitpick at. Notably the headquarters in Tempe. It's the same HQ. You drive by it looks like a dentist office with a big backyard. Have you seen the Jets practice facilities? Or the Cowboys? Or the Alabama? LSU? Georgia? It has to be discouraging as a player to downgrade when going from college to the NFL. We've come a long way but I think the HQ needs a major upgrade."
I don't know if anything would happen with the team facility but it isn't a bad facility. They are always looking at potential changed/upgrades everywhere in the organization. As for discouraging, if my choice is top-of-the-line facilities or a $500,000 salary, I know what I would prefer. These players are no different.
From Charles Isaacs:
"What is your overall prediction for this team in the 2022-23 season?"
No idea. Let's see if they sign any more vets, let's see how healthy they are coming out of training camp, and let's see them have real practices and not just what they are doing now (without their whole roster.)
From Bryan Rowlan:
"Will you please relay to Dani Sureck how good of a job she is doing this week stepping into a host role on our weekly podcasts? She is such a welcome addition. My daughter just finished her junior year at the University of Missouri and has a roommate majoring in broadcast journalism. I often reference Dani as an example of what you can accomplish! MIZ-ZOU."
I am guessing Dani will read this herself, and after the work she has done on the Cardinals Underground podcast, I had no doubt she'd excel on Cover 2. I can't help it if she (or your daughter's roommate) failed to choose the excellent Cronkite school at ASU, but alas, Mizzou will have to do.