It was a newsy week since last mailbag, with Hudson returning, Kyler signing and black helmets unveiled. Training camp is here, as is the mailbag. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. As always, you can send in a question for a future mailbag here.
From John Turilli:
"I am very pleased to see that Kyler got his due. Now the only question I have is. How does this affect the salary cap moving forward? Neither Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers have won a Super Bowl after their large contracts?"
The Cardinals have worked very team-friendly salary cap numbers for 2022 and 2023 - $12.7 million and $16 million. It jumps to $51.9M in 2024 and stays high the balance of the contract. The overall cap is supposed to jump in 2024, but yes, the teams with a really high cap number for a QB have more difficulty spending on the rest of the roster. So it will take good drafting to fill out the team. (Rodgers has gone deep into the playoffs, so it can happen.)
By the way, John, our guy Alexander from Europe reached out to me with his contact info about tailgating, so email me your info so I can pass along Alex's.
From Andy Heldenbrand:
"Hey Darren, Thanks for all you do! Now that the contract is done what do you think Kyler will need to concentrate on most going into camp? Leadership? Accountability? Thanks. #cardinalsfanforlife"
That's a good question. I suppose I'd say neither of those things and go more football-centric, and say it's nailing down a more consistent mid-passing game. We know Kyler can throw the deep ball and the horizontal game, but if the Cardinals can get more production in the middle of the field 8-15 yards downfield, that could help a lot.
From Reese Hill:
"It's being reported that a chunk of Kylers money is tied to workout bonuses. What does that imply? Kyler has never seemed the type where you need to twist his arm for him to work out. But there must be an intent behind it. Is it concerning at all that the new second-highest paid QB in NFL history has to be given an ultimatum in order to force him to 'voluntarily' participate with his team? When a player gets paid, we often see one of two things happen: They get better (Calais Campbell, Chandler Jones, Larry Fitzgerald. Or guy gets paid, gets lazy, mega-bust. Albert Haynesworth is the classic example, but there are more.
"I don't think Kyler is the lazy guy, not remotely. Nor do I think he's going to take this massive next step because of the money. My question is in regards to Kyler's quirks, and whether or not this massive payday and commitment by the Cardinals changes his behavior at all. I think it's a very fair question. I cannot imagine Mike Bidwill/Steve Keim didn't have this talk with him right? With great money, comes great responsibility."
Kyler has preferred to spend most of his offseason working in Dallas. This was undoubtedly a compromise because yes, I'm sure the Cardinals prefer they happen in Tempe with most of the team. He's not the first or only QB to miss a lot of voluntary work otherwise, it works for me. He was going to get that $9 million or so one way or the other, so it's a compromise that works for the Cardinals. As for the contract, we'll see what happens but I believe Kyler when he says "nothing really changes." I think he wants to win, and I think in some ways he is still learning how to do that. But he is driven to be great, and I do believe he will continue to get better.
From Wes Blake:
"Well, the QB is locked up long-term, but why is my overall impression we wasted 'the window?' Granted, going after Watt and Hudson can be considered home-run moves. But other than that I can't really point to any major moves. They were over-reliant on non-star veterans and it just didn't pan out. We've lost more talent than we've added. It's not encouraging."
I mean, the Cardinals a) still have Kyler cap number low for two more years and b) not sure what exactly you mean by wasting the window. The team was 10-2 last season. They were in position to do big things. D-Hop got hurt, the running backs got banged up, and they played like a different team. To me, you are wasting time only if you don't put together a good roster. Seems to me they did, they just didn't play well after some injuries. I'm also not sure what the other side of using "non-start veterans" might be? You think they needed more young players? More stars? The cap is still a thing. Going forward, is it more challenging as Kyler's cap number goes up? Yes. But every team with a good vet QB has it. You have to be creative to build a roster.
From Ed Burmila:
"This is probably a common question, but given that the Kyler Murray extension freed up cap space for this season, can you speak to how that might be spent? Also curious to hear a knowledgeable take on how the structure of the contract might facilitate freeing up cap space down the road?"
It's funny, but Murray's cap number actually went up by about $1 million; still, at $12.7M, it's very low for a Pro Bowl QB, and it will be low again in 2023 ($16M). I still expect a veteran cornerback to be signed. How that could be spent, they could potentially look into an extension for another player but let's also understand they are around $10-11 million in cap space; that's not a lot. Down the road, there are a ton of variables. Could they move money around to lower the cap numbers? Sure. But you are pushing cap hits down the road -- and I am also guessing that one way or another, Murray won't see the end of this deal. It'll probably get re-done in some fashion, depending on his play.
From John McGill:
"Hey Darren. I hope things are well for you and your family. I see that the Cards had to put Maxx Williams on the PUP list which makes their drafting Trey McBride a really good move. Do you think they should look for another tight end as a backup or do you think they are OK with the backups we have?"
I don't see them looking at any more tight ends. They also have veteran Stephen Anderson on the roster. And at some point, they hope Williams will be back.
From Michael Tuckman:
"Hi Darren, Thanks for doing the mailbag. With Kyler signed (thank heavens) another variable addressed is how much we have left for cap to sign other positions of need. Overthecap.com reports about $10.8 million. That feels like MORE than enough to sign Kevin King at cornerback. And it would be great to have this done BEFORE training camp as opposed to a 'Keim time' signing right at the end of preseason, which doesn't give the cornerback enough time to learn the system. Do you think they will do this now?"
I could see them signing a cornerback at any time (and, for clarity, IMO a "Keim Time" sign happens right before camp and anytime after, so doing it now would still be one.) As for King, is he a guy they want or fits in the system? I don't know. Yes, that is more than enough. But just because you have the space doesn't mean you are willing to overpay a guy you don't think is worth it. They will sign a CB at some point and I'm not worried about whoever it is learning the system.
From Gary Muller:
"This is more of a technical question. As a 61-year-old lifetime Cardinals fan, my older brothers took me from our Chicago home to St. Louis a few times when I was little. I've seen five games in Arizona and a few on the road,. If you look at old footage of defensive backs, they rarely turned their back on the ball. At some point, mostly all of them started turning their backs on the ball and waiting until it arrives to try to knock it loose. When I watched footage of the top five DBs in this last draft, it appears they are going back to not turning their backs on the ball, giving much better chances for picks too. We rarely get interceptions, compared to say Diggs (11) on Dallas, almost more than our total (13) for the whole team?"
Interceptions aren't as plentiful as they once were back in the 1960s and 1970s and early 80s, because of the premium put on ball security, the evolution of passing schemes, rules and better athletes. In the case of Diggs, he got picks, but he also got burned more often than the better coverage guys. He took chances, and sometimes it paid off (and sometimes it didn't.) I can't speak for DBs running to the ball. You better be careful about looking back on the ball and not the man; all it takes is him slowing up and if you run into the pass-catcher, it's interference even if you don't mean it.
From Philip Bleakley:
"Hi Darren, thanks for the work you do putting together the mailbag. The time of year has arrived when as a UK fan I have to fork out the hefty fee for NFL Game Pass in order to watch the action. One thing which rather annoys me is that each week a number of games will be blacked out. Unfortunately every season this results in multiple Cardinals games (and other games besides) which I cannot watch. Can you give any insight into the purpose/reasoning behind blacking out games? To the best of my knowledge it's not a phenomenon we have with sport here in the UK."
I'll be honest, I don't know about the details of International Game Pass. I can try and track down that answer because I am surprised any would be blacked out overseas. I have reached out to you to get more info.
From Matthew Stroh:
"Hey Darren, love your mailbag. One of my favorites things to look forward to on Tuesday. I grew up in Yuma, Arizona, so I am a proud Yuma High School Criminal. Growing up in Yuma I never knew what cold was until I left Yuma. When I travel I hear people saying 'Oh, it's hot,' and I'm like, 'Not really.' With all the traveling you do, do you ever hear someone complain about how hot it is somewhere and be like 'this isn't hot?' Also, do you think because Pugh said he doesn't mind trying center they will have him take some reps at center during preseason?
Finally, I have to say this. The world in 2022 is full of haters who love to put everyone else down. I think Kyler Murray is great and he will continue to improve. All these haters saying he is not a leader, people say his bad body language and say they hear rumors. When did rumors become facts? Kyler Murray, I hope you read the mailbag and if you do, remember you're not living unless you're making people mad. I've learned you can't make everyone happy so why not enjoy making them mad?"
I too hope Kyler Murray reads the mailbag. As for the two questions, it is hard sometimes for people to understand the heat we grew up in, yes. But make no mistake, I have been in a different kind of hot before and it can be brutal. My family took a summer trip to DC a few years ago and the humidity plus 90-plus degree temperatures were terrible. Different than our 112, but still terrible. As for Pugh, it makes sense for him to get some work at center in camp. But I would guess it isn't a lot now that Hudson has returned.
From Kenyon Carlson:
"Hi Darren. Now that the Rodney Hudson has declared he'll be returning for training camp, would you share with fans why you ventured a 'soft guess' that Hudson probably wouldn't return for the season after he incurred two unexcused absences from mandatory minicamp? And have you any idea why Kliff Kingsbury chose to close mandatory minicamp a full day early? Kliff must be more than satisfied with the rookies, young players, and new free agents to cut a scheduled three-day camp to only two days. One would think that there's still plenty to practice, concepts and techniques the coaches could teach, and generally furthering the overall team chemistry."
The number of times the mandatory minicamp, once it moved to after OTAs from before them (yes, minicamp used to be the first thing of Phase 3), has made it to three days and not been cut to two is small if not zero. All the coaches seem to prefer to cut it short. Kliff is no different. One day is not going to change the complexion of the season. As for Hudson, it was a guess. At that point, his status was very much an unknown, and obviously I guessed wrong. But it seemed plausible at the time, Steve Keim has kind of underscored that.
From Bucky Buchannan:
"If the Cardinals think black helmets will satiate the fans lust for new unis, they are mistaken. I can't buy a helmet and wear it in society. Nor would I wear a helmet to games. I am not Cortez. We want new unis. Merch that we can buy and wear on Sundays and throughout the week and gift people on holidays. They are nice helmets. I don't want this message to sound overly negative. I like the red sparkles hidden in the black paint. But the fact remains, and let it be known throughout the organization -- we want new UNIFORMS. Thank you."
I'm sorry you are disappointed, Bucky.
From Chad Gato:
(In a question sent Friday, before helmet announcement): "Seeing a lot of reveals for new alternate helmets, could the Cardinals get one anytime soon? A black helmet would really help the color rush look, and just spice things up in general. This seems like an easy way to placate those fans who keep clamoring for new uniforms."
Appreciate the sentiment, Chad. Maybe you can talk to Bucky.