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You've Got Mail: What Could Happen On The Edge

Topics include vets going into contract years, Canton vs. ring, and No-Fly Zones

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The Cardinals had 100 percent participation to open the final week of OTAs. That means something as Jonathan Gannon builds here. I'm always 100 percent into the mailbag. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. Don't forget to send a question for a future mailbag with at least a first name and last initial.

From Jack R:

"Darren, I enjoyed your story about Xavier Thomas and I hope he turns into a success story here in AZ. My question is whether you think Thomas will make an impact immediately for this team? And what are you expecting from BJ Ojulari?"

As much as I enjoyed telling Thomas' story, he is still a fifth-round pick and he needs to make the team before we start talking about impact. I do like how he is approaching things and I think the journey he has gone on -- and the maturation he has undergone -- has put him in an excellent spot. He is, athletically, a guy who felt can't-miss once upon a time. Can he get into the OLB rotation? Possible. They have a lot of candidates, and they can't all make the roster. As for Ojulari, they need him to make a big jump. Rotation or not, you need your second-round picks to be difference-makers (or close to it.)

From Matthew Stroh:

"Hey Darren, you the best thank you for all you do. I was listening to some radio and about what free agent pass rusher the Cardinals should sign, even though they are older. But as a fan I want something we haven't had, which is a team that is long-term when it comes to making the postseason. Monti and coach Gannon will build a team that can not just make it once to the postseason but year after year. Do you think signing a older free agent to take reps away from younger players this year is a good thing?"

I am a fan of taking things on a case-by-case basis, so making a blanket comment of whether to sign older free agents doesn't make sense to me. But what I will say is that this team has put so much draft capital into their outside linebacker corps, I'd like to see if they can develop them and yes, that would be hampered by bringing in too many vets. I feel the same about cornerback at this point.

From Stan G:

"We've got so many guys who have contracts up after this season. Three in particular I am wondering about: Conner, Budda and Zaven. What happens with those guys for 2025? I think they will all be important to us this season, but it's weird that there has been no talk about any extensions for anyone."

From Buddy Meola:

"I read recently that the Cards have $35 million in cap space to use this year. I think it makes sense to use some of that money to lock up some of the leaders on this team for another year. I'm talking Connors, Baker, and maybe Hernandez."

These are fair questions. I do think Monti Ossenfort is a guy who is going to be careful about extensions, and I think there are a lot of things that go into the situations of all those guys. They did draft Trey Benson at running back, but that said, Conner is valuable to to this team in multiple ways and he's the kind of guy you want in your locker room. Same for Budda, although the safety market has been funky -- many safeties got less in FA and Justin Simmons, who is very good, remains unsigned, yet Antoine Winfield is now the highest paid DB period. The Cardinals also have another highly-paid safety in Jalen Thompson. All that must be part of the equation.

As for Collins, this year is a big year as he transitions to OLB in Year Two. Hernandez has been solid at right guard -- and he seems to be the perfect kind of O-lineman for this offense. Business is business and we have to see how this plays out. I won't pretend to know exactly how it'll play out.

From Charles O:

"Darren, have you ever asked the question to players which is more important to have a Super Bowl ring or a Gold Jacket? If so, what answered is mostly given and which would you prefer if you had played at that level?"

I have never posed the question in part because I don't know how fair it really is. If you are good enough to make the Hall of Fame, you're going to have made some money and been a star. You can't blame anyone for wanting that. A ring has a lot less to do with you, since everything else has to go right. No one is saying Larry Fitzgerald is less of a player because he didn't win a ring. As for me, I guess I'd say win a title, but it's easy for me to pick that because I don't know what it would be like to be a great player (and make big money -- can't even wrap my head around that.)

From Ken Davenport:

"Will all of the Cardinals games be televised locally by Phoenix affiliates? Or will we have to pay streaming services to watch our Cardinals on selected games?"

Yes, every Cardinals game will have a local over-the-air outlet in the Valley.

From John Turilli:

"I'm not sure why the NFL plays regular season games in Europe other than having early morning national TV time. Why bother trying to compete with soccer? Oh that's right they are not competing with soccer, they are competing for early Sunday air time and money here in the USA. The professional sports world with streaming on the horizon will lose. The mass majority of money in demographics is 50 to 70 years old. That group will be gone and my kids' generation are all sharing the streaming services because of the costs. Why subscribe to 3 or 4 services to see the major sports?"

You may end up right. But I don't understand people getting upset over this. This ability to watch most NFL games is a recent phenomenon; before Sunday Ticket came along (oh, and you had to have Direct TV and pay extra) there wasn't anyone who could see every game. So why is it now that people are upset you "can't see every game?" And they are "bothering" to reach foreign markets to develop more fans who could potentially spend money. That's what businesses do. As for all the streaming options, again, that's the free market. The NFL (and those services paying a lot for the rights) are betting that people will pay for it. If they are wrong, then they'll lose out. Also, if you think these services are all going to continue to let people "share" them, that's going to eventually change too. So again, everyone will have decisions to make.

From John McGill:

"Hey Darren. Hope things are well with you. Do the Cardinals still have their early training camp in Flagstaff or do they train solely in the Valley now? Also, a quick comment for all those who like to talk about the why did the Cardinals let this player go see what he is doing now. I think Gene Hackman said it best in 'Hoosiers.' 'You should embrace who we are, not who we are not. This is your team and deserves your support' or something like that."

Close enough on the Hoosiers reference. I understand the people who are disappointed when players leave and are successful elsewhere, but the Cards aren't the only ones to which it happens -- I'm pretty sure Patriots fans were disappointed to lose Chandler Jones -- and there is always nuance involved in these decisions. Also, the Cardinals haven't trained in Flagstaff since 2012.

From Jabo Wilke:

"Hi Darren! Since I know you're so intimately involved with the process, how do they coordinate a flyover for football games? Do they just call Luke Air Force Base and order up 3 F-35s? Does the team have to pay for gas? It's more interesting the more you think about it. Who would be in charge of that? The fan experience boss? Michael, since it is his stadium? I'm curious now."

Uh, yeah, I am most certainly not involved with the process. But it looks like yeah, you just reach out to Luke.

From Tyler D:

"Hello Darren. I think it is safe to say that most fans are merciless when it comes to (verbally) attacking opposing players on game day. My question is will Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker hear the same stuff from players on the field every time he lines up for a field goal, or are the players less interested in off-field controversy? Thank you."

I don't know if I'd say "most" fans, to begin with. I know there are a lot of who have something to say, but not most. As far as your direct question, I don't know if the opposing players are going to get revved up fora kicker, regardless of what has happened. I do think there is probably some kind of code about off-field stuff, but more importantly, when are you doing it? From 10 yards away when he is kicking a field goal? It's not like he's going to be involved in close-in plays.

From Frank McCoy:

"Just a thought, the Seattle Seahawks had the no-fly zone in their secondary at their prime and they were very good defending their name, so just as a thought for the AZ Cards, the name should be ATC -- 'Air Traffic Control.' I know it is too early to name but I wanted to get my two cents in. I really believe there's going to be a tremendous improvement on the back end of the secondary."

I wouldn't let Tyrann, Pat P, Jerraud Powers, Rashad Johnson and company hear about the Seahawks being the no-fly zone when those guys circa 2013-16 felt they earned that moniker around here. That said, you are absolutely right. Way too early to bestow anything on this pass defense/secondary. I know this -- if they prove to be solid, nickname or not, the Cardinals will be in fantastic shape.

From Ryan H:

"Darren, I have been a fan since 1974, when I was in fourth grade. My birthday gift that year was a Jim Hart Jersey that I wore until it fell apart. Why can't I find any retro/vintage Cardinals apparel? I would love to have a Roy Green, Dierdorf, Dobler, Wolfley, Ottis Anderson, Pat Tilley, to wear. I feel like the Cardinals are missing out on a great opportunity to provide vintage marketing to us fans of the Cardinals both old and new. Thanks for the mailbag and all you do! GO BIG RED!"

I can pass along your thoughts, but unfortunately, I would guess the demand for such things wouldn't support such a move.

From Barney Conway:

"Hi Darren. In the past, when abouts does the camp schedule get released? No need for exact dates, just a ballpark. I always like attending a practice or two and need to plan for the PTO. Thanks."

The schedule usually comes out between now and the end of June. But it is safe to say camp is going to start around the last weekend in July, and there will only be so many practices open to the public (last season it was 11.) Camp will close before they go to Indianapolis, so that's the ballpark of length.

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