I'm back from vacation -- tanned (kind of), rested (kind of) and ready. Training camp is coming at warp speed, and the mailbag has returned. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. As always, you can send in a question for a future mailbag here.
From Joel Soderberg:
"Hi Darren, I'm really worried about our issues at the center position. With the uncertainty surrounding Rodney Hudson's status and future with the Cards up in the air, I now see this as their No. 1 priority to address. Justin Pugh has no experience in any games at center and we drafted a guard in the sixth round of this draft to maybe play center, but I feel like we need a Keim Time signing to fill the void."
I think center is indeed the top priority to figure out, but until it comes out that Hudson isn't going to be the guy, there is still that possibility. If Hudson doesn't come back, you do have Pugh or Sean Harlow or aforementioned rookie Lecitus Smith, but I do agree there will be a veteran to sign. Whether that guy is signed to start or not, we will see.
From Dan Daniels:
"Hey Darren, how could this Hudson deal sneak up on the team like this? Do they not keep up on guys? Do they not monitor them whatsoever? To have a pillar of your team surprise you with 'hey, I might retire' some weeks prior to the season, to your complete shock, seems to indicate a massive pro personnel management issue. Who in charge of that? J.C. Tretter is a free agent and one of the top centers in the NFL. He's only 31 so he will actually be a long-term solution. Whys he still a free agent? Probably because he's expensive, as all top players are. But he's young, elite, a need. If we don't go get him, that would indicate a non-commitment to winning. We just lost our highly paid, all-pro center. Why should we not replace him with a highly paid, all-pro center?"
Just because something becomes public at a certain point doesn't mean the team was unaware up until that point, although for whatever reason you have made that leap. I do think Hudson owes some clarity to the Cardinals, if he has not done so yet. As far as Tretter goes, I'm not ruling anything out but I'll say this -- you're not signing him unless you are sure Hudson won't be back. The Cardinals obviously do not know that at this point (at least, as far as we know.) Also, why would the Browns let Tretter walk away -- and why would he still be unsigned -- if he were elite? That sounds unlikely. As does getting a 31-year-old as a "long-term" solution.
From Matthew Stroh:
"Hey Darren, thank you again for the mailbag. Hope you had a good vacation. It looks like my opinion about Eno Benjamin a few weeks back is wrong and I'm truly happy for Eno and as a fan for the team. Hopefully on my next opinion I'm right. I see a lot of people saying the team's two young inside linebackers are going to fail and the Cardinals are doing Haason Reddick all over again. I disagree. I think the first few weeks might be a little rough learning but we will never know unless we try. The offense will just have to help them out and I think they can even without Hopkins. Do you believe the Cardinals' offense can help the defense?"
To begin with, while I understand the Simmons-Reddick comparison to an extent, Zaven Collins is playing where he always has. At linebacker. The Cardinals need to see what they have in both those first-round picks. So yes, you have to see how it plays out. As far as the offense, I have felt for the last couple of seasons this is a team that needs to lean on the offense. Nothing has changed.
From Jon P:
"Hey Darren, I'm writing this on Canada Day to tell you how excited I am that the nation's capital and my hometown of Ottawa is now represented on the Cardinals in the form of newly-drafted linebacker Jesse Luketa. Could you lay out your impressions of @OttawasVeryOwn from what you've seen so far? How likely is it, in your opinion, that he makes the final 53? Thanks for your time."
To be honest, it's hard to know much on that front right now. His chance at the roster will come on special teams, and he should be good in that regard. But that's the kind of thing you need to see in preseason games. Offseason OTAs isn't enough. Training camp practices aren't really either.
From Luke Dobbs:
"The bizarreness of D.J. Humphries contract situation persists. Are they going to extend him, Darren? He's only 28. This is not a Chandler Jones or Calais Campbell situation at all. Left tackles can go a long time. They only get more expensive with each passing year. I know we are cash strapped but your LT is the second-most important player on your team. This is ridiculous."
I think Humphries will get a new deal but when that might be I do not know. That's a big enough deal that I wouldn't be surprised if it is on the backburner until the Kyler situation is resolved.
From Al Barca:
"What's the latest on the status of Justin Murray?"
He remains on the roster and he figures to battle for the right guard spot in camp. If not, he could serve as potential G/T depth.
From Carmen Shiote:
"Hey Darren, about that Twitter video you retweeted with the Cardinals pass rushers working on their stuff, does Leki look thin to you? He's suppose to be a nose tackle, not a edge guy. How come he's so svelte? He's got to be down in the 290 range, which is not good. I like seeing how twitchy and quick he is but his job is to be a space eater. I know it's a weird thing to complain about but am I wrong? Guy won't serve his purpose if he's this light in the pants? Maybe he will be more of a defensive tackle than a true nose tackle. If so, that feels like breaking news, yes?"
It did seem like Fotu was more streamlined this offseason. Looks good, actually. What that means for his role, I don't know. We will see how Fotu fits into the current defensive line soon. Camp starts in two weeks. But having a space eater -- whether it's Fotu or someone else -- is definitely something to watch as we go forward, especially when you are looking at having two first-round picks playing behind that spot.
From Collin M:
"Howdy. Not a question per se; just wanted to give a shout-out to Vance Joseph's column in SI. He really seems like a thoughtful, high-IQ guy and I appreciate his willingness to write the column. I appreciated his willingness to speak up for facts and trends he finds important, something I'll always respect. Having lived in many sports towns over the decades, one big reason I'm a Cards fan for life is the fact that it seems like we have good people at its core, from Mr B, to Fitz, to VJ, even to newer folks like Kelvin Beachum or to leaders past like B.A.and Todd Bowles. Thanks for the time."
There is no question Vance is not only a good person but a very smart football coach. I know there are times fans get frustrated with his unit and are critical, but I believe Joseph is a good defensive coordinator and, again, a good person to have on staff and as part of this team's leadership group.
From Tom Cowley:
"Hi Darren. Nobody home as I send this but questions remain. Is the front office functioning and working on the phones to chase up a good center and cornerback?"
Whether or not such players are signed right now or whether the front office is on vacation, there is always some talk going on. I've addressed the center thing earlier. I also would think a veteran cornerback would be brought in at some point. Now, will it definitely be before camp starts? Not necessarily. The Cardinals might want to see what they have on the practice field.
From Michael Shotwell:
"Are there going to be any open practice days this year, for the general public to attend?"
Obviously this was sent in prior to Monday, but yes, there are 10 open practices and all the details are right here.
From Alexander Schröder:
"Hi Darren, the time has come. I'll cross the ocean for my first NFL game for Week 9 -- Seahawks at Cardinals. Looking forward roaming around State Farm Stadium, soaking up the atmosphere and see the Cardinals win (Hope I didn't jinx it.) Now to my question. I'm planning my trip and aim for the full Arizona Cardinals experience. I wondered if there is possibilities to see the Cardinals facilities, like a guided tour, seeing the locker rooms, the Pat Tillman locker, visit a practice or something like that? If you have any tips? Thanks for all the great podcasts and stories. Love your content. All the best from Germany."
Congrats on the plans. It should be a lot of fun. Unfortunately, there is no situation where the team has open practice or a tour of the practice facility. Someday, I'll spearhead that "Cribs" video of the place everyone has yearned for over the years. There are off-day tours of the stadium, but since you will go there for the game anyway, I'm not sure how much that would mean to you. I don't know if there are any fans who might have suggestions for you, but they can be found down in the comments.
And, oh yeah, I'm not someone who believes in jinxes so I think you're safe there.
From Bakr Albarati:
"Who was your favorite player growing up?"
This is always an interesting question, since I grew up in Arizona and the Cardinals didn't move here until I was starting college (my first day of school at ASU was the same day of the Cardinals' first home game at Sun Devil Stadium on "Monday Night Football" -- the infamous Al Del Greco failed fake field goal.) Without going into too much detail, my Mom bought me a Lynn Swann jersey at a garage sale right before the Steelers-Cowboys second Super Bowl in January of 1979, so Swann was my first favorite. And I loved Jerry Rice too. Maybe I was destined to cover Larry Fitzgerald.
From Bob Kitsos:
"The Andy Isabella era with the Cardinals appears to be heading for the end. What parts of his game aren't the Cardinals pleased with? In limited play since 2019, he has 31 catches for 426 yards and three touchdowns. The speed and hands appear to be there. Also, are there any legs to the rumors of him being traded to the Bears for D-lineman Robert Quinn?"
It does seem like Isabella's time with the Cardinals is limited, whether that's to the end of this year (and his contract) or sooner. Kliff Kingsbury gives no real inkling of what the issues might be when asked about Isabella. But with all this time he's been passed by several players when chances for playing time happens. With Hopkins suspended, you might want a guy around who knows the offense. But we will see how it plays out. I'll be honest, I've never heard any specific Isabella trade rumor, and definitely not one with Quinn involved.
From Michael Weber:
"No question. I just wanted to say thank you for your work especially for the mailbag. I really like it. Hope you're doing well on vacation and you're having a good time. Wait one questions about new uniforms..... No just kidding ;) I like the uniforms. Don't know why people are so upset about it. Greetings from Germany. Go Cards!"
Vacation included a five-day cruise, so I'm not going to complain about that. But football seems very close suddenly. Mostly because it is.
From Davey Boi:
"KD is coming to town, BABY! It's happening kid no question. WHEN it happens, is he the biggest get in Arizona sports history? Missed out on Peyton. Got Emmitt Smith but he was 136 years old at the time. Charles Barkley is a big one, but he didn't have an MVP yet at the time so KD probably just edges him out? I'm not a big baseball fan but I know Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling were well regarded. But really I can't think of any more massive of a player than KD landing in AZ. Can you? LETS GO!"
Randy Johnson at his peak was pretty monumental. So too was Barkley, coming off his Dream Team appearance. Durant would be in the mix for sure. But a) sometimes, the addition of a player can only be graded through the prism of time and success. Johnson and Barkley set a pretty high bar (D-Backs won 100 games out of nowhere in 1999; Suns best record in the NBA, MVP for Charles and a Finals appearance in 1992-93) and b) let's see if this actually happens.