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You've Got Mail: Working In The Offseason

Topics include trade rules, rookie cornerbacks and Zaven's role

Mailbag Dimukeje 052521

The offseason rolls on. It feels like May just started and now it's almost over (I think the schedule being released later than it used to be has fouled up my perspective.) As always, you can leave a question for a future mailbag by going here.

From Kenyon Carlson via azcardinals.com:

"When a player requests a trade and is granted permission to seek one, does the league require that franchise to make that public? There's been a lot of talk on the forum that the Cards didn't need to make Hicks' request to actively seek a trade public. Also, what would be your personal rationale as to why the Cards chose to address WR in round 2 when there were some interesting CBs available at pick 47? Also, do players select their own plays for highlight reels or do they consult input from a coordinator? Finally, when a player is traded, does his salary follow him to his new team or is that something that is renegotiated?"

  1. There is no rule that says a team has to put out there that they have given permission to a player to seek a trade. But that doesn't stop anyone from leaking it -- which could be from the team, or from the player himself, or the player's agent, or even a team that, in this instance, Hicks' people reached out to to see if they'd be interested in a deal. Hard to keep such info private.
  2. This is pretty simple. They grade all these players ahead of time. Given cornerback need, I'm sure they looked carefully at the position, but if Moore had a grade of (and I am hypothesizing here) 84, and the "interesting" corners you speak of were graded as, say, 77, it's not really a choice, is it?
  3. This feels like a weird question, but highlight reels are usually produced by our digital department ASAP after the pick and done with whatever raw highlights that were provided to us. No, a player (or a coach) is not involved. Not sure why they would be.
  4. If a player is traded, his current contract remains in place, including salary, but yes, it can be renegotiated or extended.

From Lynn Anderson via azcardinals.com:

"How many fans will be allowed at the games in 2021?"

As of right now, the plan is for the stadium to be at full capacity. Let's hope we keep trending in that direction, and if you haven't already, get vaccinated.

From Greg Danielson via azcardinals.com:

"I know GM Steve Keim said that Larry Fitzgerald doesn't have a time limit in telling him if he is going to retire, but I would think there would have to be a limit for cap space. That said, what is the latest date that Larry can wait to tell the team if he's going to play or not? And have you heard anything about this?"

No, I'll know when everyone else does. And frankly, there is no "latest date." Given his stature, I would doubt Michael Bidwill and Keim would give Fitz a deadline of any kind. Fitz knows the deal. He's been around the game long enough to know when it would become a problem. Here's one to ponder: What if he doesn't announce anything at all? What if he just fades away?

From William Westman via azcardinals.com:

"The amount of hype and coverage Marco Wilson and Tay Gowan are getting is a little over the top. If anything, that should tell you just how thin and desperate we are at the cornerback position, that these two late rounders are being framed as the chosen ones. The answer to the Cardinals problems at CB, and ignoring that they were late rounders for a reason."

I don't know if anyone that I have seen is framing them as the chosen ones (I can't speak for fan reactions.) Nothing we've done speaks to them in such a way, unless you are saying they shouldn't be covered at all, which isn't going to happen -- it's one of the few things to talk about right now. But yes, you are right -- they are in the conversation specifically because the Cardinals are thin at cornerback. I don't know if they will be successful. But you also seem to be implying they have no chance to be good. Why don't we see how it plays out?

From Ben Upshaw via azcardinals.com:

"Questions: What did Zaven weigh in at for camp? Hicks for Ertz straight up is the internet's favorite trade. Makes sense for both teams. Thoughts? If Colt is readily accepted to be the No. 2, what's Streveler still doing here? Who is the backup LT? Is DL Michael Dogbe going to make the 53 this year?"

  1. Don't know exactly. Somewhere between 255-263, he said.
  2. Why does that make sense for both teams? The Eagles let Hicks go as a free agent.
  3. You think the Cardinals shouldn't have multiple quarterbacks in the offseason -- and yes, they could still carry three this year.
  4. My guess right now is that the backup LT -- if Humphries went down -- would be Beachum, with Josh Jones becoming RT. Although Jones played LT in college and could be in that role too.
  5. I don't know if Dogbe will make the team, but there might be a spot to have if he can make that push. He looks the part.

From Allan Zegiel via azcardinals.com:

"I have been a Cardinal fan since I was a child and went to the games in Chicago. I remember Ollie Matson and Night Train Lane. I went to games when they were in St.Louis and a few times in Arizona when we visited my daughter. I really don't have a question, but I read your mailbag column every week. Thank you for all the hard work."

Clearly I have never struck you with my biting sarcasm. But truly, I appreciate the kind words.

From Abbo Dhartea via azcardinals.com:

"Bit of a throwback question here, but what was the story behind Todd Heap's bizarre Cardinal tenure? I was young at the time, but I do remember local excitement for Todd's return to the Valley, similar to Terrell Suggs. Ironically it seems his time here mirrored Suggs' time here as well. Taking a look at the box score, he only played 12 games in two years. He got hurt Week 2 in 2012, but that ain't it. It's clear he was already being sparsely used regardless. So what happened?"

Well, the knee injury in 2012 was a big part of it, yes. But the Cardinals did not use the tight ends a ton, and let's face it, the QB situation in 2011 and 2012 was not exactly the best. In the end, though, I think it was -- like Suggs -- a situation where the Ravens knew there was not much left, and that's when Heap got in his brief Cardinals tenure.

From Sam S via azcardinals.com:

"Hey Darren. We have a strange team this year. It seems we went all in on veterans like Watt and Green and Hudson, and yet are leaving large swaths of team to be manned by relatively low experience players. The CB room is like 70% rookies. The interior DL is completely dependent on 2nd year guys ( plus Allen) 'stepping up.' I'll be honest, it worries me. Hoping people step up is a gamble, and not a smart one. You're supposed to pepper in young guys with the old, not leaving entire position groups basically rookies only."

If your top three cornerbacks are Butler, Alford, Murphy, or even if Alford is replaced by a rookie, how is that not adding in some veterans? The main two defensive linemen are Watt and Jordan Phillips. Yes, inside linebacker is going to be young with Simmons and Collins, but that was calculated and there will be veterans around them -- Chandler Jones, Markus Golden, Budda Baker -- to help. It's a risk. But mostly, it seems like this team is constructed like most teams.

From Shay Banjec via azcardinals.com:

"You ever run into former players, just out in the world? I don't mean the guys everyone knows. Like anyone in Phoenix is going to recognize Darnell Dockett walking down the street. I mean moreso the depth guys like LaRon Byrd, who only you'd recognize."

It's been a minute since I've heard the name LaRon Byrd, who, might I add, I have not run into. I have run into ex-Cardinals here and there at times, sure. But don't be so sure everyone knows certain guys. Back in the day, I went to lunch at Jason's Deli with Kent Somers, and Anquan Boldin was there picking up a to-go order. He had to wait for it, this Pro Bowl wide receiver, and not one person walked up to him.

From Ian McMechan via azcardinals.com:

"Hello! To what extent is the selection of Zaven Collins an attempt to mitigate the ongoing problems with covering tight ends, do you think? And if it works in reducing the damage, what are opposition coordinators likely to do next, run a lot of sweeps to keep the ball out of the middle of the field and away from the big lads?"

I didn't think opposing tight ends were nearly the issue last year as they had been in 2019. But yes, part of the move to Collins (and Simmons) is to aid in coverage, whether it be tight ends or running backs. I have no idea what the choice will be to counteract. The idea with having athletes at ILB like Simmons and Collins is that they'll be able to chase down the play even if it goes outside.

From Erin Nash via azcardinals.com:

"Hi Urbz. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the perception really feels like Zaven is the leader of the D. Not spiritually, that's Budda and probably Watt. But I mean 'QB of the D,' the playcaller. Hicks old job, now that's Zaven. Its' weird because a) he's a rookie. And b) is Simmons just the red-headed stepchild? He plays ILB too, and yet he's sort of forgotten about a little bit. The perception being Zaven is the No. 1 ILB and Simmons the No. 2 ILB. I don't recall a rookie (other than Kyler) ever being handed this much leadership out the gate before."

Yes, he'd be the QB. I don't know if I'd call him the leader for all the reasons you give. He is just a rookie, and the Cardinals have plenty of other leaders on that defense. As for the "ranking" at inside linebacker, no, I don't think there is a perception of Collins at 1 and Simmons at 2. Collins is going to get all the hype right now because he was just a first-round pick and it's big news that the Cards have handed him the car keys at Mike 'backer. But they play different spots. There is no reason to "rank" one over the other. Simmons is going to be just as important to this team.

From Boston Mike via azcardinals.com:

"There seems to be a big missing piece to this Zaven/Hicks story. Because there's no reason Hicks needs to leave. He's affordable. He's a good veteran. If Zaven flounders, we turn right back to Hicks. To say 'we're letting Hicks go to do him a favor' is frankly BS. We know that's not how it works. Did the team take Hudson's feelings into consideration when they traded for him? No. Hudson of course would've preferred to be released than get traded for. So 'releasing Hicks' is a frankly stupid and reckless move that can ONLY hurt the Cardinals. So why are they doing it?"

I missed something, because as of now, I have not seen anything that says they are going to release him. I've seen that he can try and find a trade, and for all we know, the Cards wouldn't deal him unless they can get a pick in, say, the top three rounds. I don't know. There's another part of the equation we don't know, and that's how they evaluated where Hicks is as a player right now. There had to be a reason they were looking at inside linebacker in the first round, regardless of how talented Collins might be. The Hudson-Hicks scenario isn't a true parallel; Hudson is going to start. Hicks doesn't want to be in a position where he took a pay cut, is definitely on the bench, and then could be released next year without much chance for a decent contract. You're right, the Cardinals have all the leverage. But if teams always just made the cold choices -- and teams do it a lot of the time anyway -- players would notice.

From Chad Johnson via azcardinals.com:

"The argument goes Tom Brady handpicked his organization and handpicked players (Gronk, Brown) the team signed after his arrival and because of this "'influence' Tampa Bay wins another Super Bowl. Thus Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and others demand that same type of influence. I suspect wise GMs are interested in their QBs skill set/preferences/style of play and work to get the most out of their franchise QBs (as with every other position. Do you believe star players should have more control of personnel? How do you think this line of thinking impacts Kyler as he looks to his second contract in a couple of years?"

I'd argue Tampa won the Super Bowl because it was able to get the greatest quarterback of all-time and drop him on a roster that was already pretty talented, and his presence was going to draw good players whether he had influence or not. Also, GOAT status at QB probably earns you some power in that regard. Yes, Rodgers and Wilson are frustrated, but I argue they have very specific issues and aren't just looking for "influence." Wilson wants better pass protection and the willingness to pass more often. Rodgers is mainly ticked off they drafted his replacement in the first round. Do I think you should loop in your star quarterback? Yes. Can they ask for things? Sure. Do I think they should hold some kind of decision-making power? I do not.

From Thomas Krepelka via azcardinals.com:

"I really enjoy reading the mailbag. It provides a lot of insight from both ends of the spectrum: fans and Cardinals. So this is a multi-faceted question. How much access are you granted to the players and coaches that allow you to answer the questions put forth? I noticed in the rookies mailbag you referenced the interest in seeing what Robert Alford brings to camp as a key component to the Cardinals' plans moving forward: when a player under contract is placed on IR ending his season, does that player remain with the team for treatment and recovery? How much time is that player allowed to spend with the coaching staff and in the room during position meetings, defensive unit meetings, etc. Again, thank you for the entertaining content provided."

I'm not 100 percent sure what you are asking in terms of the access when it comes to this topic. But if you are on IR during the season, yes, he rehabs at the facility, at least, once the rehab starts post-surgery. An injured player can be in all the meetings if he wants, although there isn't much sense going to all of them when you're not going to play that season. I know Alford has been around these last two years; it's not like he has disappeared after getting hurt. He will know the defense. It's whether his body will be able to hold up.

From Jonathan Keen via azcardinals.com:

"Tell Paul Calvisi I've got a Larry Fitzgerald theory for him: what if the plans to start Zaven Collins and allowing Hicks to find a trade are ways to open up cap to bring Fitz back? Probably not true, but Paul may find it a helpful addition to his plethora of theories."

Uh, yeah. Probably not true.

From Dhruvraj Parmar via azcardinals.com:

"This is probably a dumb question cause it just be my IQ on football is not as great. (Started watching the sport in 2016 when I moved to the States). So I have been reading Zaven Collins lining up with Simmons and taking over responsibilities of the Mike LB. If I understand correctly Mike LB is the QB of the defense and makes all the adjustments. Given that Simmons has been in the league for a year, shouldn't he be Mike LB (just based of off pure experience.)"

The two inside linebacker positions are not the same, aside from the guy calling the plays. Simmons' role will be one that moves around much more. It is just natural that the Mike will call the defenses. Honestly, you make a good point with Collins' inexperience, but frankly, Simmons doesn't have a lot more. But that is what this time and then training camp is for, to prepare Collins for this duty.

From BDUB Wooten via azcardinals.com:

"St Louis-area native here and a fan since 1976 and I'm only 49. Darren, what record do you think the Cardinals need this season in order for Kliff to be safe? I know there can be variables like how hard the team plays but if they win just eight games again would there be a possible change? I like Kliff. I think he's a good coach learning and we need to be patient. Thanks for the mailbag!"

As you noted, there are variables, so it's impossible to know in May. If things got completely off the tracks then it's a problem. But otherwise, it does matter how the team plays beyond wins and losses. How is the quarterback playing? Have injuries been a culprit? Things like that. I understand why people want sweeping speculation, but I don't really work that way, because it doesn't make sense to me.

From Monte Oates via azcardinals.com:

"Darren, when I look at the stats for Rondale Moore, they are very impressive but what concerns me is his height (or lack of it). With Kyler Murray being 5'10" and Moore being 5'7" that would make for some challenges with the ball trajectory as most of the defensive players would be 6'0" or more. Are they hoping that Rondale's speed will compensate by allowing him to get open more often?"

l mean, yes. Not sure what else to say. They wouldn't have drafted Moore, with Murray in place, without thinking it could work. I think there are plenty of ways to use Moore to get him the ball despite his stature.

From Steve Drumm via azcardinals.com:

"Hey Darren, A little off-topic here, what's your take on all this cryptocurrency craziness? I heard some NFL players are trying to get their salaries paid with Bitcoin. Russell Okung reportedly received half of his pay last season in Bitcoin and made a bundle. Darren, I hope you were you one of those shrewd fellows who got in early buying crypto and are now sitting on a fortune!"

I don't know much about it. But to clarify -- Okung wasn't paid in crypto. He immediately took part of his check and converted it, but teams don't pay out in Bitcoin.

From Zachery Links via azcardinals.com:

"A variation on the weekly uniform question: the Suns (how bout them Suns!) got their 'The Valley' jerseys this year and the Diamondbacks are supposed to get a new jersey in June as part of the City Connect Series. Do you ever see the NFL having 'City edition' uniforms? Do you like them? Personally, I think they're cool and you learn a little history about different places, but sometimes they can be confusing when you're watching other teams play and the colors are completely different than their normal team colors."

I didn't know if I liked the Valley jerseys at first but I have grown to like them a lot -- perhaps because the team wearing them has been very successful. No I don't see the NFL going down that road. Alternates, color rush and throwbacks seem enough in a 17-game season. And I very much don't like teams using non-team colors (unless black is involved; that works for me.)

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