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You've Got Mail: The Roster As April Arrives

Topics include player/coaches, center, and flexing Thursday games

Bananas Mailbag 0404

Draft month has arrived, as has the month of the start of the offseason program and the first Jonathan Gannon minicamp. Mailbags continue. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. As always, you can send in a question for a future mailbag here.

From Will K:

"Hi Darren. We had 30 free agents going into the offseason, and we've signed SOME guys, but it seems like we still have a lot of holes to fill. The draft will address some of this, but as this next mailbag is published, what is the breakdown of open roster slots and position groups? Thanks as always for one of my favorite reads of the week."

As of this mailbag, the Cardinals have 65 players on the roster (they can have up to 91, with tight end Bernhard Seikovits still owning an exemption.) There are no set numbers at each position. But right now they have:

  • QB 3
  • RB 4
  • WR 8
  • TE 5
  • OL 13
  • DE 4
  • DT 8
  • LB 8
  • CB 5
  • S 4
  • ST 4

You figure -- ballparking -- that of the 25 they still need to add, they should be a QB, a couple RBs, four receivers, two or three offensive linemen, three or four defensive linemen, five or so linebackers, five or so defensive backs. Those are guesses but with the draft picks, a good number of undrafted rookies I'd think and a few more free agents, they'll round out those positions.

From Kenneth Schroeder:

"With all the signings at LB, could you see Gannon moving Simmons to OLB and rushing the passer? Similar situation with Reddick and how he started at LB and is now finding success at OLB. Thanks!"

Possible. I don't know what they are going to do with Simmons. I think the ultimate base defense they will have is a 4-3, so in this case Simmons would be used as a edge/DE, and so at his size does that make him a specialist in passing situations? I'd think you'd need him on the field. I think the new staff faces the same issue with Simmons that was a concern when he was drafted -- where is the best place to play him?

From Cindy Dobbins:

"Everyone seems to be all in on Will Anderson. He did have an injury this year. I'm wondering if Nolan Smith out of Georgia wouldn't be, perhaps, a better (and maybe cheaper) pick. He killed at the combine and all year at Georgia. What are your thoughts? Thanks for all you do."

Anderson hurt his knee early in the season but it wasn't serious and it didn't really impact his year. It's interesting you bring up injuries and then mention Smith because Smith tore his pec and actually missed half the season. In terms of money, the draft status is what will impact that, so if you are saying the Cardinals trade down and take Smith because Anderson will be off the board, then I get it. Otherwise, no, I'd take Anderson if I could.

From Dizzy Hill:

"Are we going to sign a center this free agency? Ben Jones and Ryan Kelly are both available still. I get we are tanking, but at the same time, you don't want Kyler to get killed when he comes back. You want at least some stability on the offensive line."

I talked about some of this in this article. Jones is available. The Colts have come out to say they aren't moving Kelly. The Cardinals will be adding at center. That's certain. I wouldn't be surprised if they want to do it through the draft, and know they can bring in a vet if that doesn't work out.

From Art Pozza:

"Say the Cardinals trade down and get extra picks. We already have a lot of picks (with compensatory). Would it make sense to bundle some of these picks to move up to Bijan Robinson?"

No, for a couple of reasons. One, Robinson will go at some point in the first round and I am one who doesn't think teams should spend a first-round pick on a running back. Robinson has a chance to be special, but ultimately, to me a first-round RB pick usually is for a team who is already a Super Bowl contender and even then it often doesn't pan out (like CEH with the Chiefs, for instance.) In the Cardinals' case, their roster needs are so great running back just doesn't rank high compared to many others.

From J Schubert:

"If a player retires, does his remaining contract amount still count toward the cap for the remaining years of his contract with the club? Second, if a team signs an older player to say a big five-year contract with the first two years at a reduced amount while they are a player and the last three years backloaded for him to become an assistant coach or some other type of team role outside of being a player, would those last three years count toward the cap? The reason I ask is some of the older players are terrific team players and mentors and would be valuable locker room team role players but are looking for a long-term deal before they retire."

If a player retires, his remaining cap hit -- if there is any -- still counts against the cap, just like if he were released or traded. The salary goes away, but bonus money cap hit remains. The Cardinals will have dead money on the cap this year, for instance, from J.J. Watt. As to the second question, that is not allowed. There cannot be player-coaches, or a sliding over of a contract, because the league doesn't want teams circumventing the salary cap in that way -- basically giving the player more money to "coach" (when they might not really be coaching) just to avoid a cap charge when the guy is on the roster.

From Matthew Stroh:

"Hey Darren, thank you again for the mailbag. If you could change one thing about the Arizona Cardinals facilities, what would it be? And if you could sign any current player for this year who isn't on the team and the only rule is it would have to be a current NFL player who would you sign and why?"

Well, for purely selfish reasons, I wouldn't mind my own office. But truthfully, given that the facility is so close to my house, I've got the biggest thing I need. As for other players, I'll be dead honest -- I am not sure about NFL rules and I would not want, given that I am a team employee, be accused of tampering. (But there are some hellacious defensive linemen, including some in the Cardinals' division. Just sayin'.)

From Steve Bowers:

"Regarding your center article, I always wondered why did Lyle Sendlein retire so young? He was a steady player. We certainly had need to keep him. If not Arizona, other teams would've snatched up a long-time starting center in a heartbeat. It's funny because I always thought he was here for a long time, but really it was only about seven years. What happened? He left a lot of money on the table by leaving the NFL early."

To be clear, Sendlein didn't retire in the same fashion that, say, Fitz or Watt did. He was released by the Cardinals in March of 2015, which he didn't want to have happen, only to have the Cardinals bring him back in 2015 to play on a one-year deal. They had been ready to move on from him. At that point, I don't think Sendlein had much desire to play in another city. So when the Cards let him walk after 2015, I guess technically he "retired" because he didn't want to play elsewhere. But I don't know if he had a lot more left.

From Robert Malicki:

"Hi, Darren. I would like you to consider my take on the Cardinal's draft approach for their No.1 choice. With the new GM having a good chance at the best non-QB player, keep the pick and take him. Why? Do not overthink it and give the coach a 'difference maker' like Will Anderson Jr. With your picking high in each round and having compensatory picks, too, you can strut your stuff there."

I get it. I do. But again, I'm not declaring any absolutes about the third pick and potentially trading it until I am on the clock and know what my options are if I do trade.

From Susan Ford:

"Just read that the owners are thinking of flexing Sunday afternoon games to Thursday night. For fans that actually attend games, this is a bad idea. If we were planning to attend an out of town game, had tickets purchased, airfare, etc. this would ruin the trip. And we do attend Cardinal games in other cities. True for rival fans coming into Arizona. Why would the NFL think this is a good idea?"

This is absolutely a fair take and one shared by Giants owner John Mara. But there is one simple reason why it is being considered: money. Amazon is paying the NFL about $1 billion a year -- or about $67 million per game -- to air this package. If a game is flexed, yes, it would be harsh for any fans coming from out of town or even fans in the home city planning on a Sunday game. That's a price owners apparently are willing to pay. I would not think it would happen more than once -- maybe twice -- a season. But it sure sounds like it will happen.

From John Turilli:

"Do you think the NFL is moving towards paid streaming with the announcement that a Thursday night football game flex plan is coming? Is player safety at risk? I truly think when the two teams on Thursday night have both played the previous Sunday the play is slower. Change the Thursday night game to Saturday and flex all you want. Hypocrisy over player safety has reared its ugly head."

You seem to be making two different points. I talked about moving the games previous (and you aren't going to have Saturday games during most of the season because they aren't going to step on college football.) As for paid streaming, I mean, it already is there with the Amazon package. But you're also paying for any of the NFL Network or ESPN games too. I don't think they will ever go fully paid streaming, but then again, if you had asked me 10 years ago if the league would have games on streaming I wouldn't thought you were crazy.

From Ryan Mcgehey:

"What are your thoughts on this Lamar Jackson v Ravens saga? I think it's topical to the Cardinals because Kyler's contract keeps getting brought up as a rational for Lamar's asks. I'll say this: the Ravens are the best organization in football for a reason. I think they were right to say no. I hated that we paid Kyler. He wasn't worth it. I would be in full support of teams putting their foot down and saying 'no more $50M' QBs. It kills your roster."

Again, there are multiple things you bring up. I am not sure how you mean Kyler's contract is brought up as a rational for what Jackson wants, because the only way it makes sense if it is brought up is to note that Murray did not get a fully guaranteed deal. And Jackson is reportedly looking for more guaranteed money than Deshaun Watson so I'm again not sure what Kyler would have to do with it. Salaries aren't going backward, so this thing about QBs not making that much isn't happening. They are that important. As for my thoughts on the "saga" itself, Jackson has earned the right to demand what he wants in free agency. He has to deal with the franchise tag, but he can ask for what he wants, and the Ravens can give it to him or not. I have no problem with players trying to get what they want.

From Guy Gilliand:

"You mentioned Daryl Washington in your mock draft article. I know there's a slim chance he plays again but he's only 36 (with fresh legs). London Fletcher played at a high level until he was 38. It's crazy to me how Keim spent so many first-round picks trying to replace D-Wash when we could just go get the actual D-Wash! He left football because he wasn't getting the offers he wanted, so up the offer."


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