Finally, a game is here. The Cardinals open in Tennessee on Sunday. The mailbag, of course, is first. To leave a question for next week, go right ahead.
From Kev North:
"Hi Darren. Losing Butler and Dennard back-to-back, big ouch! Suddenly our cornerback room is frighteningly thin. I have as much aspiration for Marco as anyone but the opponents he faced in his 2 outings are now working at Chili's this week. Let's pump the breaks on the hype. We desperately need CB help. The far and away best CB on the market is Richard Sherman! Oh boy you knew this was coming. The market is bare bones unless Steve Keim wants to part with picks in a trade. When do you expect we see the Sherminator in black and red?"
I understand when people are worried about the cornerback depth. However, I think people are missing out on Marco Wilson -- the hype isn't just outside hype. The Cardinals genuinely like him and believe he is prepared to contribute right away. I'm not 100 percent sure Sherman is the best out there. But here's the deal -- this team isn't looking for a top 3 CB right now. They want depth. Is Richard Sherman signing somewhere to be a No. 4? I feel like fans who are throwing names out there don't seem to take that into account.
From Zack Maus:
"I hope there isn't a bunch of slandering mailbag questions coming in talking poorly of Malcolm Butler this week. He's fully entitled to put whatever is personal to him WELL before football. Butler has had a great career and wish nothing but the best for him. As for the Cardinals situation now, I'd love to see Steve Keim at least contact Jacksonville about CJ Henderson. Imagine him opposite of Murphy, could be something special to build on! But more realistically could you see us possibly bringing Kirkpatrick back? Considering the fact he knows this defense very well, and isn't a complete liability. Marco could work too, just hate to do to him what we did to Murph year one. Week 1 in Tennessee definitely just got more interesting."
I don't know if Dre is an option, but I'd never say never. I think after adding Douglas and Hamilton -- both players who have played a bunch in the NFL -- to the practice squad and having them available to be pulled up at least a couple of times on Sundays while they find out if Butler's situation is permanent, is the cornerback answer for now.
From BDUB Wooten:
"Darren, just saw the news about Malcolm Butler and his possible retirement. Reports are he scrubbed all things Cardinals from his social media. Prior to all of this I'd seen reports that Murphy and Alford were listed as the starters with Butler next guy in. Even though teams use multiple defensive backs these days do you think this could be the potential issue in Butler's mind? That he's not a so-called 'starter?' Seems odd he'd scrub all Cardinals things off his social media if this was just a personal issue at home. Thanks!"
I don't know the answer, but your theory and the thinking behind it makes some sense to me, especially your social media example. Hopefully at some point Malcolm speaks on the subject, or at least talks about it via social media.
From Stevie Henderson:
"I couldn't help notice KeeSean Johnson was not added to the practice squad. I initially thought the Cards released him early so that other teams might pick him up, since all reports seemed to think the coaches really liked him, but had a stacked room with guys who could play special teams. Since they didn't add him to the PS, do you think there hurt feelings involved? If so, is it possible his agent was instructed not to work with the Cardinals, or do you think the team has seen all they need to see from him?"
I think it's fair to say the team saw what it needed over two years and a training camp. You are right, he was not a fit on special teams. There was nothing nefarious about this. I think if the Cards wanted him back on the PS, he would've come back. But as you can see with Dortch and Baccellia, they had other guys at the position they preferred to keep around.
From Cap H:
"Since Malcolm 'retired' does that mean we get that $3M back? That's a nice chunk of cap we could use on a new cornerback. Just seems weird a guy can come in, take that money and then say I'm retired and be gone with it."
If Butler is truly retired -- and I want to see what happens in the next week or so -- the Cardinals can get that money back. His salary hasn't been paid yet, so they just wouldn't pay it. According to Pro Football Talk, only $800,000 of his signing bonus has been paid out, so they wouldn't pay the balance and they would have the right to try to get the rest of it returned.
From Quinn Dailey:
"Just for fan sanity, can we please cut Jordan Phillips? No ill will. Also don't feel bad for him, he's a multimillionaire. But it's really aggravating. In the echelon of bad free-agent deals, this ranks very high in Cards' history. Heading back around to the depth issue, do you now expect us to sign somebody? Fingers crossed, but Allen and Watt cant be trusted for all 16. Scanning the bin for a CB, we may also need a DL."
The Cardinals kept seven defensive linemen for a reason, and believe -- and have to expect -- draftees Fotu, Lawrence and Dogbe can produce. They also added a couple of defensive linemen to the practice squad. So no, I don't expect a defensive lineman added at this point.
From Justin Perez:
"Why is Steve Keim folding on the season? Signing Rasul Douglas is comical, you're telling me there isn't one serviceable corner available or is Keim just being cheap? I damn sure wasn't feeling cheap when I purchased season tickets."
Feels like a tad over the top here, Justin. OK, I get you don't like Douglas. Not sure how many CB1s or CB2s or CB3s that are still out there. No one is folding on the season. The Cardinals didn't know this was going to happen with Butler, and as I have mentioned, they like Wilson, and Murphy, and have confidence Alford can give them something. I'm sure they are going to keep an eye out to others out there. But at this point, if there are cornerbacks still available, there is a reason for it.
From Brandon Clark:
"Hi Darren. We always hear about the huge contracts that top stars are getting and even the still generally lavish contracts for 'average' players. I was wondering if you have any info on what the compensation is like for players who get cut or are on the practice squad. How much can a player make if he lasts through training camp but then ends up getting cut? I'm sure it varies widely among individuals, just wondering if you have any ballpark numbers. Thanks. I always look forward to reading the mailbag!"
So let's start with the practice squad. The non-veterans make minimum $9,200 a week. If a player has more than two accrued seasons, they get $14,000 a week. Teams are allowed to pay more than that if they choose. (By way of comparison, a player with two years experience who is on the active roster makes $47,222 a week on the minimum salary.) As far as players in camp, you of course get whatever signing bonus (which for many fringe guys, there isn't one), but all players get is a small stipend. Rookies get about $850 a week, other players get about $1,600. In comparison to the rest of the season, it isn't much.
From Robert Malicki:
"Is Michael Bidwill directly involved in NFL owners committees overseeing this head-scratching issue of the preseason? The allocation of TV monies, the to-play or not-to-play question for important players, the correct path to the final roster, the pushback from the NFLPA are only some of the arguments playing out. What do you sense is developing behind the scenes?"
I don't know if there is a committee directly connected to preseason games. Yes, there are issues with these games, but I don't see a whole lot changing. Some day, I can see the NFL pushing to get to 18 regular-season games, with two preseason games. Playing time is going to be doled out how the coaches and GMs think is best for their situations. I'll be honest, I don't see some big issue with preseason. I get that some fans don't like them. They are like anything else; you can take it or leave it.
From Wes Galman:
"Why Chris Streveler? First of all, it's dumb having three QBs. Secondly, I understand his appeal is gadgety trick plays. But that's pointless when you don't actually call them. Prior to week 16, he took three snaps all year. What's the point?"
This is another one I don't fully understand. I get wanting to know why, but why the anger? Seriously? There are seven guys inactive every game. Are you worried that they didn't keep, what, another end-of-the-bench offensive lineman or a fifth safety? Or is this just because you don't like Streveler (which again, that's fine but why be angry about it.) Just FYI 3 of the 4 teams in the NFC West kept three quarterbacks. A total of 16 teams kept three quarterbacks. So there's that.
From Brad Cain:
"Hey Darren, so in your opinion, is Andy Isabella better than KeeSean Johnson, or did they keep Isabella to try and save face seeing how they blew it taking him over Metcalf. In two years the guy has done nothing and still here, why? Thanks for your time Darren. Always appreciate your input."
For what they are looking for -- which includes special teams -- yes, Isabella is better than Johnson. Are they still trying to salvage a second-round pick? I mean, they saw benefits -- speed mostly -- and they want to give it another shot. Johnson had more catches than Isabella, but really, when comparing, I am a little surprised so many seem to think Johnson is that much better of a player. Isabella also looked good in practice in camp. Yes, he missed time because of Covid, but that's something that isn't going to be used against him.
From Stevie Henderson:
"When teams talk about the various position rooms, does that include players on the practice squad, or are only guys on the 53-man roster included.? And is it a real room where they gather for meetings and film study with coaches or is it just a term to define each position group? I would hope all players are included so they can benefit from the acquired wisdom and experience of the veterans and coaches. Thanks, Darren."
Yes, it includes everyone from active roster and the practice squad. And yes, there are actual meeting rooms for each specific position. Sometimes there are meetings for the whole team, or all of offense and defense, but often they are meeting by position.
From Nat Shirley:
"To no surprise to Cardinals fans Kyler Murray threw the third-most WE/TE screens in the league and he was the worst in the league when he did make those throws (which are the worst type of throw statistically an offense can make, according to Football Outsiders.) Do you think and/or believe that Kliff Kingsbury will suitable adapt and alter the offense to reflect what was a very poor area for us?"
Everybody is waiting to see the evolution of Kingsbury as a playcaller/schemer this season. I still expect to see some of those screens. I don't know if it will be as many, but I've said all offseason I think the most important part of the offense/Kyler Murray that has improve and get more consistency is the intermediate passing game.
From Gibby Dayne:
"LOVED this episode of Flight Plan! So good. And man is that WRs coach (Shawn Jefferson) a special dude. I can see why the players have been so complementary of him. And I'm sorry Darren, I know you get this comment a lot (it's a big discussion on reddit) but if a coaching change is made I really wish we can keep this staff together. Please don't fire this WRs coach or Kugler or even the special teams coach. We have such a good coaching staff, we might just need a new OC eventually, that's all. thanks!"
Appreciate the kind words about Flight Plan.
From Jason Beckum:
"Why don't the Cardinals do joint practices with other teams? If iron sharpens iron, and you want to see what you truly have this is an opportunity that we are missing. I have seen training camp and watched there practices we don't hit because they don't want to hurt each other and it shows in the game because our tackling is not that great. It hurts to hear our starting LB reiterate the same sentiments on the radio about our lack of tackling. Our offense always starts off slow and takes a quarter or two to get going we can't always wait that long or put the defense in those situations every game. What can be done to correct these problems?"
They have looked into joint practices. The issue is that no team is going to do one in Arizona because there is no place to house two teams inside and it's too hot to do it outside. The Cards could do some elsewhere, but that usually is built around a preseason matchup, and this year, the only chance was New Orleans and that didn't work out. Those kinds of workouts could help with playing a different defense, but that'll never help much with tackling; those practices are just like all the others where you would never tackle.
From Bob Kitsos:
"Hi Darren. Thanks for the mailbag, It's a fun, informative read. Your prediction on the Cards' record for the upcoming season? I'm thinkin' 10-7, if we stay reasonably healthy."
Have to stay healthy. That's every team. If they do, I think this team has the capability of winning 10 or 11. Doesn't mean they will; it's the hardest division in the NFL and they still have to prove things with offensive consistency and defensive youth. It should be fascinating to watch.
From Jay C:
"Urbz! Picking up the conversation from last season, Dennis Gardeck and his starter opportunities. Of course his health is No. 1, but that assumed, any chance he gets more reps this year? On passing downs, why would we not pull Golden and put Gardeck and Chandler out together? Statistically he was the most efficient pass rusher in the NFL last year. That's nothing to sneeze at. It would be a travesty to ignore it and not utilize it."
We will see what happens when Gardeck is healthy. But Golden hasn't been a bad pass rusher in his own right. Yes, Gardeck was efficient and I'd love to see him get chances, but he was right when he noted it was a small sample size. I just know the Cards have some depth at pass rush.
From Carlon Dore:
"I want to talk about this tweet from the Cardinals official twitter: It's obviously echoing Kliff's statements. However, coming off that atrocious game vs KC, no other Kyler sightings this preseason, and memories going back to late last year, the talk and the eyeballs aren't lining up. I attended several camp practices, and saw much of what you noted in a couple of your camp blogs, Kyler wasn't particularly sharp. Especially early on. It's good to hear he had better practices as of late, but all the same, it doesn't feel good when the team tells fans 'ignore what you consistently see and just trust us.' Alright, but that trust leash is going to be VERY SHORT."
Gotta ask this, Carlon. With everything you just said, are you telling me that if the team had *not* tweeted "Trust us" you would have had a longer leash? (Narrator: He would not have had a longer leash.) I get the concern about Murray heading into the opener, and we will see how it unfolds. But let's not pretend a tweet from the team account -- the type of account that's all about hype and pushing positive messages, just like every team account -- really changes anything.
From Ottawa Al:
"Darren, go check P2s Instagram. I've always been a big P2 defender but he's done something wretched. He said 'I guess it wasn't meant to be wored' (sic), referring to No. 21 and Butler's retirement. God forbid this turns out to be a family-related issued for Butler - P2 should apologize immediately. That is if he cares about his ROH candidacy. We don't know the context of Butler's issues yet, but this is a terrible move by P2. I'm certain Michael and the team will hear it far and loud if that turns out to be the case. Unacceptable behavior."
Yes, I was made aware of the post. Obviously, Peterson has strong feelings about his number; we already know he had strong feelings about his departure. He made his statement. People will react to it as they will.
From Dave K:
"Hi Darren. Longtime reader, 1first-time writer. A few words of insight from a 16-year season ticket holder for Blaine. S.:
- Bring a SEALED bottle of water to each game. It will save you money.
- The food has improved over the years and is reasonable for a stadium. I recommend the burgers, chicken fingers, the RED ZONE pizza-box nachos (ONLY sold in the RED ZONE) over some of the other offerings, but your preference.
- ALWAYS go to the bathroom BEFORE the game. There haven't been enough bathrooms in the stadium since it was built.
- If you have small children / people joining you, NEVER go through the RED ZONE at the end of the game. Poor architectural decisions put the passages at each end of the Zone too close together and vendors with big carts push through at the same time as 75,000 people.
Overall, being a season ticket holder is a great experience. Enjoy, and I hope you find these points helpful."
From Jose Valdez:
"When do the Cardinals plan on changing their uniforms? We need a refreshment so bad."
I appreciate this Jose. We suddenly had been without some uniform queries for a couple of weeks. I was worried for a minute there.
From Sammy Sunshine:
"I see Kevin Parrish Jr. has joined the squad on a probationary basis dependent upon his ability to pass the fans' interview. Good luck.
- Who has a house in Phoenix?
- The team needs new uniforms, yes or no?
- What do the initials D.W. mean to you?
- What's the name of the family who owns the team (incorrect spelling only)?
- Lastly, what nickname has Ron Wolfley famously given to Larry Fitzgerald that literally nobody has ever used ever other than Ron himself?"
Sammy, I've reached out the Kevin, who officially starts later this week, to answer these. I gave him your exact questions, but if you're going to go with the inside jokes, No. 1 should have been, "Who has a house in Chandler. Disappointing, Sammy. Be better. But on to Kevin's answers. Kevin, take it away:
- Based on Kyler Murray's contract, I'm sure he has a dope house in Phoenix.
- No, I don't think the team needs new uniforms. Personally, I'm a big fan of the Cardinals unis. My girlfriend is actually looking to buy a Cardinals jersey soon because she likes the way they look as well.
- If we're being honest, seeing the initials DW makes me think of Disney World.
- It's the Bidwill family. You want to get me in trouble right off the bat?
- You know, seeing the word "Ron" by itself makes me think of Ronald McDonald. But to answer your question, I have no clue.