Normally, we'd be in the heart of pro days and draft visits. Instead, it's a world of draft prep without those things. I hope everyone is staying safe and being smart about socially distancing. To help it my little way, here's a few minutes of mailbag reading. As always, you can leave a question for next week's mailbag here.
From Halee Kleo via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren! I'm worried about Larry Fitzgerald and his records. He is two good seasons away from becoming the No. 1 all-time receptions king. We know that's important to Larry, being the stat watcher that he is. But with the addition of Hopkins (yay!) it seems the money allocation to the WR room just got tighter. Could the addition of Hopkins mean there isn't enough money for Larry in 2021, and thus this is his last season, choice or not? Or do you think Michael Bidwill keeps a spot open for Larry no matter what? I'm so worried Larry will come within one season of the record, and be financially forced out."
It's funny -- my first reaction when I started reading the question was about Fitz's records given the possibility of missing games because of COVID-19. Which, of course, seems kind of meaningless. In terms of Hopkins' arrival, there are two ways to look at it -- Fitz might see more openings with defenses focused on Hopkins, or he could lose targets because of Hopkins. No way to know for sure how that plays out. Not now. As for the future, I think if Fitz still feels like he can produce at the level he expects to play at, he will choose to return -- and if he chooses to return, I think the Cardinals find a way to make it work.
From Veera Klint via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren. I want to discuss the team's process for deciding who they bring in as free agents. Because isn't future Cardinals GM Adrian Wilson currently the head of pro scouting? Meaning he scouts NFL pros on other teams, viable targets in free agency and trades (as opposed to college scouting, who deal with the draft). So Adrian and his team have a big part in who we sign. Adrian must've identified Jordan Phillips and De'Vondre Campbell and Devon Kennard. Does the fact that Adrian co-signed on these guys give you any extra confidence in them? Secondly, and this is just a gripe. If Adrian is scouting other pro talent available, then how on earth do we not go after Calais Campbell? He was available, clearly, for a fifth. I like the the guys we signed, but arguably, CC by himself has as much impact as the three of them. He is a game-changing elite talent and it just makes me sad and confused why we didn't bring him home."
One of those lot-to-unpack question(s) here. Yes, Adrian is director of pro scouting. He does look at other pros (although Adrian still looks at some college guys too.) But this idea that he is the only one looking at targets; that's not really how that works. The entire pro scouting side is doing it, and the group as a whole are looking at potential FA targets as far back as during the season. They aren't going to sign players they think are going to wash out, so I don't know if I feel strongly one way or the other in terms of confidence. As for Campbell, I don't know if the Cardinals knew he was on the trade block or if it would've worked out. The Ravens and Jaguars had apparently been talking for a while about the deal.
I think that's still TBA. The inability to give physicals to certain free agents might've slowed this possibility -- for instance, I don't know if Tony Jefferson is getting signed until a team can check him out -- but Thompson would definitely be an option. We are likely in a spot now where the team will want to go through the draft first and then reevaluate the roster.
From Sidney Sexson via azcardinals.com:
"I agree with all the talk about not trading the No. 8 overall draft pick for another team's first-round pick when you are moving back into the high teens or even the 20s and maybe also get that team's second-round pick, but I think that you could see the Cardinals do this where you are swapping our No. 8 pick for that high teens/20s pick and getting a good player that is currently under contract to that team. As you always say Darren, most anything can happen."
Well, I could be wrong but I don't see another big current player acquisition coming. I certainly can see the trade down, but as I noted in the most recent Cardinals Underground podcast, I wouldn't trade down too far -- so yes, I'd agree with your stance.
From Jesse L via azcardinals.com:
"I'm sure this has little to no bearing on who the pick at No. 8 is, but if it is indeed an offensive tackle, and all of them are on the board, do you think Mekhi Becton's height (6-foot-7) is something that could work against him, unless our quarterback has a growth spurt over the summer?"
If Becton is the best tackle on the board and you decide OL is the way to do, god I would hope not.
From Bill Thompson via azcardinals.com:
"Darren, what is your opinion about the Cardinals re-signing A.Q. Shipley? He started every game and I believe played every offensive play last year. I think that there is a lot of good football left for him and his team. I'd love to see him back; how about you? Any other FA signings for our guys?"
Unless/until Shipley signs elsewhere I won't rule it out -- Steve Keim re-signed Lyle Sendlein two weeks into training camp in 2015 and Sendlein was immediately the starter all year. But I think they are ready to have someone younger at the position, and they have two candidates (Cole and Gaillard). Besides, as I noted above, I don't see much more roster movement pre-draft.
If by links you mean the fact Bucs GM Jason Licht was once Steve Keim's top lieutenant, remain friends and could be someone Keim links up with easily for that potential trade, yes, it means something. But neither Keim or Licht are going to make a trade they don't feel is beneficial.
From Michael Travers via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren, thanks again for the opportunity to talk Cardinal ball. Well the draft is only a couple weeks off now ... and this is the first time in years after trades and free-agent signings that the Cardinals could actually take the 'Best Player Available.' I certainly hope they use the pick and do not trade it. Recent local chatter believes the Cardinals should add to the offensive weapons for Kyler Murray and add the fast deep threat WR, some believe that should draft DL to help bolster their recent moves. This is what makes draft time so much fun -- all the guessing. What do you think about the Cardinals drafting Henry Ruggs III at number 8?"
I know people have tired of me phrasing it like this but ... is Ruggs the guy you think is going to be the best pro of who is on the board? Is he better than Jeudy? Lamb? Wirfs? Wills? I have no problem if the Cardinals take Ruggs because of that. I would be leery of taking Ruggs because he is the "speed" guy and while not as good as Jeudy, for instance, might fit better. If you're taking a receiver, he better be more than an upgraded J.J. Nelson when you could also pick a multi-time Pro Bowl tackle.
From Tom Ward via azcardinals.com:
"Do you think Jadaveon Clowney is worth between $15 million-$17 million to bolster our defense?"
Is he worth that? Yes. But they would have to do a ton of salary cap gymnastics to shoehorn that much money on a one-year deal under the cap, and I don't think he's playing for that little on a multi-year deal. Where Clowney ends up is so interesting, because he clearly misjudged his current market. Maybe that's because of his health concerns in an NFL world that is physicals-challenged, but he hasn't signed yet.
Getting a lot of questions about this from all angles, and was getting it even before Pro Football Talk brought it up. Obviously, everyone involved is aware of it. This is all fluid these days -- everything going on is driven by the COVID-19 situation, and the holdup is strictly about the physicals and we all know why that has been an issue. That said, I feel pretty confident they will be able to get clarity prior to the draft. Kliff Kingsbury feels the same, saying he has no concern that it won't get worked out before the draft.
From Marty AZ via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren! Hope you're staying safe and thanks for doing these every week. DeAndre Hopkins posted an Instagram story a few days ago when he got to AZ and it got me thinking, is there any news on when you guys might get a chance to do a video press conference with him? Thanks."
As noted above, we're still waiting for the official, official completion of the trade. I don't expect a press conference until that happens, but it will happen.
From Russell Gilbert via azcardinals.com:
"In this bad time with the coronavirus, do the players get paid while they are not playing? Is that in their contract that they do no matter what?"
Players are not usually paid in the offseason, not with their regular salaries. They do get small stipends during workout sessions and OTAs. The Players Association and the league still has to figure that out when it comes to virtual meetings, etc. (and that's one of the reasons those virtual meetings couldn't start this week even though normally teams with first-year head coaches would have been abale to start Monday.) What happens when we get to the regular season, when the actual paychecks are supposed to begin, is TBD if the regular season is impacted.
From Blaine Pierce via azcardinals.com:
"Hello. With the No. 8 pick, I would draft a right tackle, Wirfs or Wills. With Keim re-signing Gilbert and Murray as the swing, perhaps he feels he can look elsewhere. So let's look at cornerback. If the Cards could trade down to no lower than No. 12 and pick up additional picks, would C.J. Henderson at No. 12 make sense to you? Thank you!"
From what I have seen, I don't know if Henderson is that kind of player, but I'm not someone who has studied him either. If you're looking at Henderson, maybe you trade down a couple more picks again, get more draft capital, and still take him.
From Rob Laycock via azcardinals.com:
Does the re-signing of Marcus Gilbert bring all options back on the table? For example Jeff Okudah has always been seen as unlikely due to Petersen, Alford and Murphy but if he's available at 8 has that become a possibility rather than the right tackle option which previously seemed most likely. Do you think the team is more likely to try and move down to pick up a second now? Has there been discussions on the draft room with regard to social distancing?"
I have always thought if Okudah dropped to 8 he was very possible as a pick even if they hadn't re-signed Gilbert. I think trading down has increased as a possibility, yes, but it always matters what is offered. Yes, they have plans on what to do with the draft and staying apart, especially since the NFL Monday essentially said team decision-makers are going to have to work separately.
When you say "early in the draft" I am assuming with that first-round pick. And so I'd say, no, it doesn't need to be addressed. That doesn't mean it won't be, nor does it mean that adding a really good young right tackle wouldn't help. But if they didn't, I don't think it hurts them a ton, and I would be surprised if they didn't draft a tackle at some point.
From Bob Mariano via azcardinals.com
"What plans do the Cardinals have to commemorate the 100 years since the team's founding?"
Since the team was founded in 1898, that 100 years came in 1998, and they celebrated by making the playoffs for the first time since moving to Arizona.
From Rob Jones via azcardinals.com:
"Darren, I know Steve Keim and his scouting staff put together their final draft board a week or two before the draft, but do they create a preliminary Top 100 list at the end of the season? It seems that prior to the Scouting combine they would want an idea of the 10 or so players they might draft at No. 8 and the 10 or so players they might draft at No. 40 (now traded away), so they can schedule interviews with the right guys. It also seems they would update this list after the Combine so they know who to bring in for workouts (in a normal year). Can you enlighten us on the offseason work the scouting department does once the season ends?"
I don't think they have a top 100 list per se, but they do narrow down the top prospects and the top guys at certain positions they will want to talk to at the combine/visits. But they also talk to some down-the-draft prospects in Indy and have guys on visits down the draft as well. It's not just the guys in the first two rounds. There are a round of draft meetings late in the regular season, they meet again pre-combine and again leading into the draft. Normally, the scouts are out doing all the pro days and background work right now. Obviously that has been changed up given travel restrictions.
From Eli S via azcardinals.com
"With all the craziness going on in the world right now, will Flight Plan continue this season? And if so, when will the next episode come out? Thank you, Darren!"
Flight Plan will continue. There will be an episode released pre-draft -- I don't have an exact date right now; as you can imagine, trying to put one together right now is not ideal. But there will be one coming, and it'll be excellent as always because that crew won't do anything less. I'm sure there will be a post-draft episode as well. Beyond that, we will have to see as we figure out the direction the world is headed.
From Melinda Schussele via azcardinals.com:
"I understand players are no longer allowed to work out at team facilities at Tempe, including being with fitness trainers and eating meals there. What are players doing to stay fit? Second, as a comment, I like our original, old black uniforms a lot, but truly dislike the all red ones that look like pajamas from a distance! The home and away unis are fine. So, instead of changing the unis how about changing the helmets for occasional games (if that's legal), along the lines of the U of Oregon, with feathers. Fun to think about anyway. Can't wait for the draft and all the speculation will head in other directions! Thanks, Darren."
They are staying fit in whatever way they can, but it isn't simple, and these are humans too -- it's difficult to ignore the hardships of the world around us and whatever everyone is going through. Training camp will be important this year. As for the uniforms ... so noted. (Changing helmets has not yet been legal. That apparently could be amended in 2021.)
From Dansby Ring of Honor via azcardinals.com:
"With the free time and the free NFL Gamepass that we've had access to over the past few weeks, one of the biggest things I've noticed in the older games is how much of an impact Karlos Dansby had on the defense as a whole (Daryl Washington too, but we won't get into that). Karlos wasn't only a ballhawk and played all over the field, he just seemed to make everyone else better. With that being said, how much longer until Karlos Dansby gets in the Ring of Honor? Even though he left a couple times, he always came back. And always killed it. Thanks for keeping us engaged and informed throughout this slow slow slow time!"
I don't know about the ROH. Those decisions are made well above my head, although leaving a couple of times ... I don't think that is meaningless. Los was a very good player, though, and I always thought his 2013 season was criminally underrated. He should've gotten his Pro Bowl nod that year.
From Michael Schmorr via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren, I guess I'm still at a loss for words when talking about the David Johnson trade from a Houston perspective. I mean if you just ignore Hopkins involvement and only look at DJ and his contract along with inconsistencies highlighted by other backs coming in and having immediate success be it Drake, Adrian Peterson, or Edmonds, you'd have to guess something just isn't right. ... I just can't imagine a team willing to take on his entire contract. We all expected a buy-low option from a team holding all the Cards, not this. Oh and then you see they also gave up Hopkins, someone who looks like a level-headed non-diva wide receiver."
I am realizing as I read through this there really isn't a question. But it's safe to say the Cardinals are very happy they were able to execute the trade.
From John M via azcardinals.com:
"This is something that is sort of bothering me over the last couple of years and I just wanted your opinion on it: The trend in college football letting their star players skip the bowl games because them not wanting to risks their draft status. In a way, I kind of get where there coming from. It is a gamble, but that would be in any game. As a fan, I am a little miffed that I don't get to see him in the a bowl game that the team worked so hard to reach. Especially if he is not injured. What's next? Do they let players skip the Super Bowl, because they may get injured and hurt their chances in free agency? I mean no disrespect for the players. It's a tough career. But as a fan. It's just disappointing. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest."
I guess I can understand some disappointment, but I cannot say I agree. Guys aren't skipping the college playoffs. They are skipping bowl games that are essentially meaningless to them. Would a guy skip a Super Bowl? Uh, no. They are under contract to play, and that could come with significant blowback (skipping the Super Bowl would indeed impact free agency, and I don't think in a good way.) Comparing the Super Bowl to the Sun Bowl or the Weedwhacker Bowl is not apples to oranges. And if fans were willing to all contribute to a fund that would pay a player a few million dollars if he suffered a bad injury in a bowl game so he'd play, I'm sure the player might consider changing his mind.
From Rhonda Smith via azcardinals.com:
"I know this has nothing to do with players. My apologies. But my family has season tickets that the children have enjoyed for years.
With the Corona happening they are canceling EVERYTHING. SO MANY SENIORS MISSING THEIR WALK. Would the Cardinals be willing to give a pregame to seniors only? Fill the stadium with children getting ready to be adults. Give them something to remember. We have six seniors in our family, and we are just trying to show all students they are not forgotten in these times. That we as American's celebrate their achievements. Please could you help me?"
I can pass on your comments. I get where you are coming from. I don't have six seniors in my family. But I have one (one that has gone to every game the last 10 years as well.) As a parent, I am crushed he won't have a graduation ceremony. It hurts, probably me more than him. But as this goes on, it's tough for me to remain too upset because if that's the roughest part for me or my family, we are incredibly lucky. People are losing jobs, losing family businesses, losing family members. Again, that doesn't mean a graduating senior isn't losing something important. But I'd guess everyone would love for the world to be different right now.