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You've Got Mail: Waiting For Indy

Topics include OL at No. 8, WR draft picks, and franchise tag explained

AZC_CardinalsMailbag

And so we move into the quiet time of the offseason, at least until we get near Indy and the Scouting combine. Keep the questions coming for the weekly mailbag, though -- as always, go here to leave one for next week. It's also come to my attention that the mailbag on the app has been a little wonky to read. We are working on fixing that issue, and you can always go to azcardinals.com to read it too.

From Michael Travers via azcardinals.com:

"Hi Darren, again thank you for this forum to ask questions and offer our opinions about our Cardinals. We just witnessed the Super Bowl and the magic of Mahomes during the 4th quarter. It is real clear the similarities between the Chiefs and the Cardinals on both sides of the ball. Each have offensive-minded head coaches and young talented quarterbacks. Their fans are reaping the rewards and we have more than hope to look forward too. My question is, in your judgement, which position should the Cardinals draft with their first pick?"

I've said this a few times, but in a vacuum (without knowing free agency outcomes, what happens at the combine with meetings and physicals, who is chosen ahead of the Cardinals picking eighth) I'm leaning defense. The Simmons kid from Clemson if you think he can be that inside linebacker for you, or a defensive lineman like Derrick Brown from Auburn. But this doesn't happen in a vacuum and there are a lot of moving parts here.

I think Kingsbury will have a say for sure, and given that he's had a full season to fully understand what he wants/needs, it makes even more sense. It's always been important for Steve Keim for he and the head coach to be in tandem with what is needed player-wise, but Keim will still have the final say. As for your second question, I don't see why you can't position yourself to do both -- upgrade the defense to at least middle-of-the-pack, yet really ramp up the offensive possibilities.

I don't see any reason why they would move on from Alford at this point, and certainly not trade assets to get another CB. With Peterson, Alford and Murphy right now, you have your top three guys at the position.

From Nathan Palmer via azcardinals.com:

"Hey Darren, love this mailbag btw. Assuming we retain the 8th pick in the draft, what are your thoughts on the Cardinals drafting CeeDee Lamb if he is available. To me there is clear upside to this since he already has the chemistry with Kyler Murray, and it address the need for WR on our roster without using cap space for a big-time free agent. In addition, all the mock drafts I have read have us taking offensive line, but none of the O-lineman in the draft seem like Quentin Nelson-type players (good enough to be taken in early first round of the draft). Your thoughts on that as well."

I'm not going to pretend like I know for sure if the offensive linemen being talked about as potential Cardinals picks are "good enough" to be chosen that high -- but I will say, it makes me very leery when there are four or five names at the position being thrown around for No. 8. If there isn't a consensus pecking order on the offensive linemen (and yes, I know there is still a second part of the evaluation process coming), I do wonder how good they really can be.

As for your question about Lamb, I mean, yes, I could see it for the reasons you give. But there are so many good receivers, if I think there is one with Fitz/Julio potential, I don't care if he played with Kyler or not. As I said above, I'd lean defense, but there is a case to be made for receiver. There's also a case to be made for linemen on both sides of the ball. Or pass rusher. Or inside linebacker. So you figure out the best players, and there should be a stud available at 8 that fulfills one of those needs.

I get that you are limited in a tweet, but I have questions -- I'm not sure what you mean by the defense not being entirely at fault for their ranking. Are you saying the offense put them in bad spots? That climate change is to blame? What exactly does that mean? When there is success or failure anywhere in sports -- and in the NFL, if we are talking about a side of the ball or a position group or even an individual -- the bottom line is that it can only be two things: Talent or coaching. By talent, that can mean actual physical ability, mental acuity or effort. By coaching, that can mean the person doing the coaching, or scheme fit, or how the message is communicated. I've said before, while I'm sure Vance Joseph has some things he'd do differently, I think the Cardinals need upgrades in a few places defensively to improve.

Yes, I'd think there would be a chance. It does seem like Simmons would be a good tight end-antidote. Of course, many mock drafts have him off the board by No. 8, so we'll see how it plays out.

From Kenneth Schroeder via azcardinals.com:

"Question here from a fan in South Dakota. Since the 2010 draft we have selected 11 WRs in the draft. Of that 11, only 4 remain with the team. (Kirk and the 3 from last draft.) Floyd turned out to be fairly good for a few seasons and John Brown had his one year. Aside from these two, how come it has been so hard for the Cardinals to develop and retain their receivers? Is it time to draft using a high pick to get one these stellar receivers in a deep WR class? Thanks!"

A quick rundown of those 11 receivers:

  • 2010 Andre Roberts. 3rd round. Solid time in Arizona after slow start. Let him walk after Brown arrived.
  • 2011 DeMarco Sampson. 7th round. A seventh-round pick, so odds were against him.
  • 2012 Floyd. 1st round. Was a good player at times. Could have been better had he not had his off-field issues, and why he didn't stay.
  • 2013 Ryan Swope. 6th round. Concussions caused him to retire before his first offseason even ended.
  • 2014 John Brown. 3rd round. Walt Powell. 6th round. Powell was released because the Cards at that point were fine at WR, and played in the league for a time. Brown is a good player. He was good in 2014 and 2015, and his health derailed him the next two seasons, which also strained the relationship between he and B.A. He wanted a fresh start in 2018. I can't blame him.
  • 2017 Chad Williams. 3rd round. Just a miss.
  • 2018 Kirk. 2nd round. He's a good player.
  • 2019 Andy Isabella. 2nd round. Hakeem Butler. 4th round. KeeSean Johnson. 6th round. All TBD.

I think yes, they could use a high pick, first or second round, on a receiver. I don't think it's a lock. I wouldn't say the rookie years of the 2019 trio were a great start, but it's too early to write them off. Roberts wasn't great early and he turned out fine. As for the team, there was a time not too long ago when receiver was a strong suit, and they were all home grown -- Fitz, Brown, Floyd, Jaron Brown. You're also talking about a time frame with four different head coaches, and that impacts styles and who fits.

Sometimes an avatar is just an avatar. There is always the possibility he got some encouraging news but I do not believe anything is imminent. I'm guessing he just liked the picture. It's never been a secret that he's a good fit here, and I think in a perfect world both sides want him here. The question, as always, is agreeing on the money.

From Kenny Williams via azcardinals.com:

"Considering what Ryan Fitzpatrick was able to do in Miami, is it safe to say at this point that Josh Rosen is a complete bust, or was he again just a victim of lousy circumstances that Fitzpatrick's experience enabled him to overcome?"

I wasn't in Miami nor watching close enough to judge Rosen's 2019. Not sure how Fitzpatrick's play translates to Rosen analysis, unless Fitzpatrick was terrible all the time and they left Rosen on the bench anyway -- which is not what happened, exactly. I think Josh has had a lot of things working against him in his short time in the NFL. I also think he still has a ton of questions he still needs to answer about his ability to succeed in this league. It does not look like he's going to get that opportunity in Miami.

I know that Tony has acknowledged he might be on the market. Whether he would make a return would all depend on how much interest people have in him and what his price would be. I could see the Cardinals bringing in a veteran safety this offseason. But right now, Jefferson is a Raven. We will see if that changes.

From Sidney Sexson via azcardinals.com:

"Darren I would like some clarifications on franchise and transition tags. Please correct me if I am wrong on any of the following: The differences between a non-exclusive franchise tag and a transition tag is that the first uses the top five salaries (averaged) for that position and the second the top 10 salaries. Also if a team doesn't match another team's offer, then with the FT the team gets two first-round picks from the other team and with the TT the team losing the player gets no compensation. If that is correct, and you can only use one tag per year, it would seem that the TT would be rarely used. Are there any circumstances where you can use both a TT and a FT in the same year? If a restricted free agent is not tagged and they sign with another team, then what compensation does the team receive in the way of extra picks? Same question for an unrestricted free agent?"

You are correct on the explanation of both the non-exclusive franchise tag and the transition tag. Normally, yes, you can only use one tag per year -- but if a new collective bargaining agreement isn't reached before free agency March 18 and the current CBA goes into its final year, then teams can use both in one offseason. So that would be the rare time both could be used. You are right, the franchise tag is used much more often, but there are circumstances in which it might make more sense to use the transition tag instead of a franchise tag -- it is a significant difference in the one-year salary most of the time.

If you are just a plain unrestricted free agent and you leave, there is no compensation. If you are a restricted free agent, a team must tender one of three offers to you to keep you restricted and to allow a team to get potential compensation. A first-round tender (meaning if you are signed away the other team must surrender a first-round pick), a second-round tender, or the "original pick" tender, which is the lowest tender offer and the compensation is whereever the player was drafted. If he was a first-rounder, it'd be a first-rounder. If he was a sixth-rounder, it'd be a sixth-rounder. If he was undrafted, there would be no compensation. In every case, the team also has the right to match any offer -- like the transition or franchise tags.

Speaking of free agency, be sure to bookmark our free agent page.

I guess I wouldn't completely rule it out, but I'm not sure how they saw Bryant even before his injury. That would be the kind of signing IMO that would come after the draft, and once you sort out your wide receiving corps to see if there is still a potential need.

From Steve Drumm via azcardinals.com:

"Hey Darren, I was hoping the Cardinals and D.J Humphries would have agreed to an extension by now but it seems more likely as we get closer to free agency that D.J will test the market. Do you think it's more likely than not that Humphries gets the franchise tag, especially if the Cards can't come to an agreement and don't sign a starting free agent OT?"

I have always thought the tag was possible for Humphries, to at least buy time as you figure out free agency and/or the draft. His is an intriguing case. As I've stated before, you can say and think what you want about Humphries, but given his age and abilities, he would get a significant amount of money if he reaches the open market.

From Stephen Hanan via azcardinals.com:

"Is it feasible that if we re-sign Kenyan Drake to convert David Johnson to a receiving tight end! He is fully capable of blocking and is an excellent receiver and once he catches the ball is tough to bring down. Just wondering?"

Well ... no. I'm thinking Johnson's blocking is not his strong suit. He is an excellent receiver. But he is also 6-foot-1 and 224 pounds, and while he is most definitely sturdy and not a small man, the Cardinals' tight ends run much taller and heavier. Not gonna happen. (Plus Johnson absolutely has no interest in doing that.)

From Chad Johnson via azcardinals.com:

"Do you see any similarities between Beanie Wells' career and David Johnson's career up to this point (obviously, his story is not over)? I remember Wells have some huge games, had some injuries, benched, and then just seemed like he disappeared. Johnson had some huge games, had some injuries, and was benched. Of course, 1st-round pick versus 3rd-round pick is different, but do you think the careers of the two is a common story among RBs in the NFL in general?"

I guess I could see a slight parallel between the two, although Wells was never really benched. Injuries undercut him -- he had a degenerative knee issue basically from the early part of his career and it went downhill from there. Johnson, while he has had some injuries, isn't in the same situation. I think in both cases though you can see why so many have issues with paying running backs a lot of money, because it is hard to predict who will be able to sustain long-term success.

From Eddie Bramble via azcardinals.com:

"I remember earlier in the season when Kliff Kingsbury was asked about potentially moving David Johnson to WR and pretty much said no. Now that the Super Bowl is over and the offseason is officially upon us, I'm wondering if that view of DJ has changed any (pending re-signing Drake of course)? He's clearly not the RB he used to be, the only trade suitor would probably be BA in Tampa and we wouldn't get much for him with this kind of production anyway, so why wouldn't Keim and Kingsbury entertain the idea of DJ changing positions? It would completely change the game plan for this offseason if this idea was on the table. No need to chase an impact WR which allows more cap space to improve the rest of the team and no need to use more draft capital on the WR position after using so much last year. DJ's contract isn't out of line for WRs either if he can evolve his game into a productive full-time WR. I guess I just don't understand why this possibility isn't being entertained more when it seems like the best option to maximize the value of DJ's contract at this point."

I have never fully understood this line of thinking, to be honest. Johnson has excellent receiving skills -- as a running back. He does not really have the skillset that would translate to being an outside wide receiver. One of the reasons he has been able to make his mark as a pass catcher is because he has come out of the backfield, and mismatches are forced in coverage because of that. I do not think Johnson would be nearly as effective as a receiver if he were covered every play by a cornerback.

From Tom Cowley via azcardinals.com:

"When do you believe we will see a start to the Cards offering extensions to perceived worthy players on our roster? Do you expect any surprises? Really pumped to see who we target as free agents when that opens in March. We have, IMO, much 'dead wood' to release."

Your last comment got my attention -- when you refer to "dead wood," are you including free agents you're just not bringing back or are you talking about the remaining guys under contract on the roster? Because I'm not sure there are a lot of cuts coming when you have to build a 90-man roster and you have many free agents that might not return. As for extension, I wouldn't be surprised if some talks are ongoing, but usually the Combine (which starts Feb. 24) is a major starting point when it comes to contract talks and extensions. As with many things, deadlines spur actions, and with free agency not until March 18, there isn't a lot of pressure to get anything done by players or teams -- any teams.

Again, we have to see what happens in free agency first. I never think it's necessarily a question of one side of the ball or the other. That's actually to narrow of a way to look at it -- especially if you stumble upon a highly ranked player on your "strong" side of the ball. Not sure what you are asking about Drake, but again, I think they'll have a number they are willing to go and above that, they'll look at other options.

From Chris Minton via azcardinals.com:

"As an out-of-market Cardinals fan living in Kentucky, who can only watch live games when they're in prime time, do you know if Sunday Ticket/broadcast rights will be a part of the 2021 CBA discussion? If not, have you heard anything regarding the future of that arrangement? It seems that with streaming and On-Demand becoming so prevalent, the NFL could gain many more sets of eyeballs by going away from the DirecTV monopoly model."

From what I understand, the new TV deals might not be negotiated until after a CBA is in place. That said, the TV deals aren't directly connected with the CBA. I do think there is a good chance that streaming and/or on-demand will be a part of NFL watching going forward. What form that takes is TBD.

From Amy Pierce via azcardinals.com:

"Hello. Now is the time to look toward free agency and the draft. I have a question regarding Steve Keim's philosophy on drafting players, specifically, is he a 'best player available' or a 'position need' guy? I worry because this year has by all accounts a very deep WR class, we cannot be distracted especially since we took three in 2019! I am personally hoping for 'need' so we can address the OL and DL. By the way, if our scouts knew 2020 would be this good for WR, why didn't we wait? Thank you for your thoughts."

It's dangerous enough to wait a round or two and not take a guy because you think someone will be there who you need later in a particular draft, but waiting an entire year? Yes, in hindsight it makes sense but no one was advocating such things ahead of time. You can't plan like that. As for BPA versus need, this will be the first time I bring up something I know I will repeat often -- when teams, including the Cardinals, create their top 100 (or whatever) draft list from which to pick from, part of the equation in ranking those players includes need. Fortunately or unfortunately, a lot of the guys considered the best in the draft also are spots where the Cards could use an upgrade. And if they think Tua Tagovailoa is, say, the fifth-best player in the draft and he's on the board when they pick, guess what? They won't be choosing him. As for the particular part of WR out there and the three the Cards took last year, are you saying the Cardinals would be distracted by the shiny new wide receivers and shouldn't just because they drafted three last year? If they thought they could get a Larry Fitzgerald sequel, you want them to pass because they took three at that position a year ago? That would be a mistake.

It's the commitment to the question that's so impressive.

From Steve Stardevant via azcardinals.com:

"Going with the Super Bowl's popularity of prop bets, how many games into next season do you think it will take for any NFL team scribe, after a bad loss against the Raiders, to use the phrase 'What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas' as their headline?"

Wait -- there's a team in Vegas?

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