Mon, 10 May 2021

You've Got Mail: Whither Fitz

Arizona Cardinals
14 Apr 2021, 05:03 GMT+10

Topics include the wide receiver's future, the 17-game season and the Hudson trade Darren Urban

The Cardinals are finally coming off a quiet week, which makes sense with the Cards going full-bore into their final draft meetings. The mailbag is never quiet though, is it? If you want to send in a question for a future mailbag, you can do it by going here.

From Derek Cooper via azcardinals.com:

"I want to see Larry Fitzgerald get a ring as a Card as much as anybody. Is it possible to use his knowledge on the receiving corps as part of the coaching staff and activate him to the roster if needed? Is that allowed in the NFL and how deep do the rings go as far as staff? I think he would be a great mentor and still has it as a route runner just like A.J. Green. Thanks."

No, you can't use a coach as part of the roster. It would be considered trying to skirt the salary cap, and it's been suggested before in other situations. Besides, I'm pretty sure Fitz doesn't have any interest in coaching; he's aiming to be further up an organizational food chain. In terms of rings, if you win a Super Bowl, basically most people in the organization usually gets a ring (obviously, players and coaches and some others get the very expensive ones and a different version exists for the rest of the staff.) Heck, when the Colts won the Super Bowl the year after Edgerrin James came to the Cardinals, they still gave him a ring for being such a big part of their organization as they built toward that moment.

From Tom Hessler via azcardinals.com:

"Is it possible that Fitz will not retire, but remain a free agent to potentially sign with the Cardinals if they make the playoffs to give it one last shot for a ring without going through an entire grueling season?"

I mean, I suppose that is possible. But if the Cards did make the playoffs in that scenario, they will have done so without him, and with a lineup that -- barring injury -- wouldn't need him, correct? Plus he would not have been practicing all season, and wouldn't be in true football shape going into the most important games of the year.

From Nathan Kurtz via azcardinals.com:

"Any chance Larry could come back and play for one home game so he can retire in front of fans? Not sure how a contract like that would work or if it even could. I would just hate to see him retire without his fans."

Again, like the above example, yes, that is possible. But I don't see it happening. Football isn't a game where you can just drop into one game or one playoff run, as you might be able to in other sports. If Fitz decides to play more, it'll be for the season, not for a one-off game just to have a proper sendoff.

From James Savage via azcardinals.com:

"I've loved the previous two offseasons/drafts and felt like the Cards did a very good job prioritizing their draft picks for team-specific needs. But I've been very frustrated with the lack of playing time for high picks like Isabella and Simmons, and the choice of how to develop players like Reddick and, to a smaller degree, Byron Murphy. Why does the team seem to insist he's a slot corner when he had the traits of a fine perimeter player in college? He certainly could've done better than Dre last year. If they're really in 'win now' mode, is it possible that the team will take the training wheels off their top pick this year?"

You've hit on a couple of topics here. Let's start with Murphy. He did play a lot on the outside as a rookie, and after seeing him play there -- and let's face it, three cornerbacks is basically a starting lineup these days -- they feel like he plays better in the slot. It's different than Reddick, where they tried to put him in the position they wanted him in and it didn't work. As for "training wheels," the reality is, once the draft happens, all the players are just players. The best ones play. Isaiah Simmons, for instance, wasn't ready. Losing the offseason hurt him, and losing a chance to play in a preseason game or two. They were better off easing him in.

From Gray North via azcardinals.com:

"Say we use our first-round pick on a cornerback, and Fitz retires. What are your thoughts on wide receiver? Are we OK as is? I don't know how to feel. On one hand, if A.J. Green returns to form, we are in great shape. If not, where does that leave us? We have always dominant Hop. And we have hot/cold Kirk. And then, I don't know. KeeSean Johnson and Andy Isabella are total unknowns. Let's not forget the loss of Dan was significant. Round 2 is notable this year because of our lack of a third-round pick. There's a big dropoff in talent after our second, so our first- and second-rounders this year MUST hit. Round 1 CB, WR round 2? Or is there a greater need?"

Even if Fitz retires, I think they can make it through this season as is. Does that rule out, for instance, a second-round wide receiver? No. And they have a lot of figure out beyond 2021. Kirk and Green will have expiring contracts after the season, and at best, Isabella and Johnson are unknowns, at worst, you need to find guys above them on the depth chart. But you need to be smart with both those first two picks. If there is a good offensive lineman in the second round, or tight end, or running back, for instance, that wouldn't be a bad pick. But -- if your go cornerback in round one -- a wide receiver in round two wouldn't be bad.

From Matt Koosh via azcardinals.com:

"What would you grade trading our third-round pick for a 32-year old Rodney Hudson? I'm confused by the philosophy. Calais Campbell was too old but here we are trading picks and giving extensions to a player in similar circumstance?"

So this is apples and oranges here. Campbell was actually given a contract worth way more money than Hudson is getting, and that was a few years ago. The Cards, at the time, hoped Robert Nkdemdiche could replace Campbell in the lineup. (Obviously that bombed out, but that was the thinking in the moment.) The Cardinals thought Campbell still had a couple good years left, they just didn't want to pay a four-year deal for two years of production. Obviously, Calais proved them wrong -- but in some ways, that shows maybe the Cards learned something. Hudson is still playing at a high level, and they had a big need to upgrade at center. Oh, and Hudson's "extension" was just a question of turning what money he already had into guarantees -- he didn't get any extra years or cash.

From Gary Wang via azcardinals.com:

"The recent deals that have created cap space of around $15M-16M. Around $6M-10M of that I assume would be for the draft picks. That doesn't leave a lot of room to sign Larry if he decides to come back. Do you think they have a re-worked deal ready with Chandler if Larry decides to come back? That way they are not creating more future cap issues down the road? Also if Larry comes back do you think he might accept a hybrid TE/WR position? That way you can get Andy in the slot where he should shine and the LB that normally covers a TE might have trouble with covering Larry or they put a faster LB on Larry and that might slow the pass rush? Thanks for all you do with us fans and our strange questions...(D-wash coming back and jersey changes)."

Once again, no, I don't think Fitz would play tight end. As of now, the Cardinals have approximately $13.3 million in cap space. They will need about $2.8M of cap space to account for their current draft picks (don't forget only the top 51 cap numbers count right now, so the Cardinals likely will only have their first- and second-round picks count against the cap until we get to the regular season.) As I noted earlier, if Fitz decides to play -- which seems less likely as we go, in my opinion -- it'll be as a wide receiver and I'd think they will have already talked about what kind of contract it would take to have him stay.

From Wally Michaels via azcardinals.com:

"Since the NFL is talking about the possibility of full return of fans to stadiums, do you think there's a chance Cards camp will be open to fans this year? I miss it. As fun as taking a day trip up to Flagstaff use to be, I have to say the new arrangement at the stadium is terrific. So comfortable and laid back. Also, isn't it a little silly that players have to stay in the hotel during camp when they live 40 minutes away? I think rookies and second-year players should stay in the hotel. Vets should be allowed to commute."

Yes, I think there is a chance some fans could be at training camp, but that is far enough away that it makes sense to wait to see where we are with the pandemic (although if you're a fan, getting vaccinated seems like a big step in assuring stuff like that can happen.) As far as the players, the vets actually were able to commute last year, although I don't know if that was specifically because of the pandemic. Personally, I understand the hotel -- players get started between 6 and 7 a.m. and have meetings until 8 or 9 p.m. most days, so you're not at home much.

From Mike White via azcardinals.com:

"Just saw that video you posted about Anquan Boldin on 60 minutes, stepping up to secure a vaccination site in his hometown. Good, good man. Great player. It's heartbreaking that he and the Cardinals have no relationship. Said it before, say it again, he absolutely deserves to be in the Ring of Honor. Along with Karlos Dansby, while we're talking about it."

Q is a good man. And I know that he and Michael Bidwill have worked together some on the league level when it comes to social issues, so it isn't as if Boldin is totally estranged. I know it didn't end well for Boldin here but I agree that it'd be cool to repair that relationship.

From Kenneth Schroeder via azcardinals.com:

"Cards fan from South Dakota again. About the 17-game season -- I know it makes sense money-wise, but I'm actually not in favor of this change. More meaningful games means more injuries. Also, single season records aren't going to mean as much with having an extra game to do it in, so that really saddens me. Is this a one-year trial thing or is it as long as the new CBA? I can see it just to get past Covid impact. Thoughts?"

This isn't a one-off. The NFL will play 17 games, until they likely eventually expand to an 18-game season at the end of this CBA. You have fair concerns about injuries, and I get the argument about records. But ultimately, this is a league built so owners (and players) can make money. Expanding the season makes money, and, within reason, that will always be the deciding factor.

From Luan Figueredo Martins via azcardinals.com:

"Hi Darren. About the 17-game regular season, I like it as a fan. But thinking about the players health, I really think it was unfair. With this 17th game, the players deserved another bye week (in my opinion). Was that even discussed or considered? Also, will/should teams give some starters a day off? I know that this is very unlikely because every game is crucial in the NFL. Thanks!"

I'd be surprised if another bye wasn't discussed, but it didn't go anywhere. Because they are expanding the season but still don't want to start before Labor Day, adding extra weeks can get a little dicey. As far as NFL "load management," I don't know if that might happen. I don't see a totally healthy player sitting. A guy banged up that may be able to play anyway, perhaps there are a few more of those inactive on game day.

From Richard Wakefield via azcardinals.com:

"I don't understand people worrying about Patrick Peterson leaving. When he was on performance-enhancing drugs he was one of the best and when they took them away from him he was average. There's a reason the NFL tests. It levels the playing field. Eight million bucks? Get real!"

Other than to say I think you are making some pretty giant assumptions, I think it's not hard to understand they were fans of Peterson and didn't want him to leave. You're allowed to be angry, but not everyone sees it as you do.

From Jack Jones via azcardinals.com:

"Hey Darren. I was a little younger when Lyle Sendlein was our mainstay at center; and so I'm a little surprised now, in hindsight, to learn he only played nine years. In fact he retired in Year 8 (only to be coaxed back). As a kid that's an eternity. But as an adult, that's a fairly short NFL career, by choice. Why did he retire so early? Centers can play a long time. One of the benefits of acquiring what would be an 'older' Rodney Hudson, he can keep on trucking. Just wanted to get the historian's view."

Actually, nine seasons is a pretty nice NFL career. The average career is less than 3.5 seasons. Sendlein's career is a great example of what happens, however. He didn't retire after Year 8. He was released by the Cardinals and no one signed him. When the Cards went into training camp in 2015 and realized that A.Q. Shipley and Ted Larsen weren't going to be the answer that year, they went out and asked him to come back. He signed a one-year deal and then wasn't re-signed for 2016 and again no one signed him. It's like Fitz likes to say, usually, you don't retire from the NFL, the NFL retires you.

From Sebastian Hofmann via azcardinals.com:

"Hi Darren. First at all, I love your mailbag. I'm from Melsungen in Germany. In Germany, you have the possibility to be part of your lovely team. You can sign a membership. I was seeking at the homepage of the Arizona Cardinals, but didn't find such a possibility to be part of the Cards. Does the Cardinals offer such a membership to be part of the organization? Greetings from Germany. Thanks for listening. GO CARDINALS!"

Sebastian, I appreciate the question, but let me deem you already part of the team. No sign up required. I would hope that all the fans reading this virtually welcome Sebastian as part of the Red Sea. #RedSeabastian

From Tyler Jones via azcardinals.com:

"This is a comment regarding the last comment in last week's mailbag. Somebody was making the obvious snarky point 'how come Keim doesn't draft three all-pros every draft?" Nobody is asking for that. The bar of expectation has dropped through the floor. Keim is great in free agency. No one is complaining that Keim doesn't draft all-pros. Dude, we just want players who aren't busts at this point. So take a hike with your snarky 'fans have over-expectations." No, we don't. We are in fact extremely jaded and are thrilled by mediocrity at this point."

Counterpoint.

From Joseph Cammiso via azcardinals.com:

"Whatever happened to Daryl Washington. I know about the suspensions, and domestic violence but there was no closure. How did the contract situation play out? Did he just bail on the game after getting suspended. Josh Gordon had his issues and came back numerous times, what was different about D-Wash? Did the Cardinals try and help him get back right mentally? Also for fun, if Adrian Wilson was 22 coming into the league this year would he still be a safety or would teams view him more of a box player now that the game has turned into more physically conservative game?"

I need to be careful here, because I think A-Dub would have very concrete ideas how a 22-year-old him would be in 2021 NFL and if I'm not on the same page, he'll let me hear about it. I mean, if Adrian was coming into the NFL now as the player he was, I would see him more of a box player. But, if he were coming into the NFL now, he would've been playing in today's game and I'm guessing he would have evolved just like every other player has.

In terms of D-Wash, not sure how much closure you need other than his release. He was reinstated in 2017 and there could have been an opportunity for him to return and fight for a spot on the roster, but not for the much-more-than-minimum salary his contract -- which had tolled all that time -- called for. Washington apparently wasn't good with such a scenario, and so they released him. No other team wanted him. So he went on with his life. He had already missed three NFL seasons. It really wasn't shocking.

From Zack Maus via azcardinals.com:

"Alright Urbs, the gig is up! You can't make fun of the fans for demanding new uniforms anymore! Kyler posted on his IG story a template of new ones and is the SECOND time he has made it known he wants new ones! Please make sure Bill knows about this so Kyler doesn't leave because he doesn't feel as though he's being 'heard.' Uniforms CAN'T be that expensive. C'MON man!"

If the Bill to which you refer is Bill Bidwill, he passed away two years ago. I mean, c'mon man. If you think Kyler would leave the Cardinals because of uniforms, that would also seem to elicit another c'mon man. As for the uni prices, I can't speak to how expensive they are. But trust me, it is known that there are fans who would like new uniforms.

From Kellen Hunt via azcardinals.com:

"I fully expected to see D-Wash signed and in an updated uniform on April 1st. Opportunity missed!"

There's always next year.

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