Topics include McBride's role, Hopkins concerns and Humphries' contractDarren Urban
The rookies and the veterans have finally come together as we move toward next week's OTAs. The mailbag? That comes together on a weekly basis. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. As always, you can send in a question for a future mailbag here.
From Ed Burmila:
"Do you think the offensive coaches see Trey McBride in the kind of role they hoped Dan Arnold would have? Sort of a Jumbo WR who stretches the field?"
No. Dan Arnold was definitely just a big wideout. Not only does McBride like to block, but if you watched the latest episode of Flight Plan, it was clear they see him as a guy who can play in-line. If anything, I'd think they might use Zach Ertz from time to time as the "Arnold" if there are two tight ends on the field.
From Will Koch:
"Hi Darren! I'm over the moon excited about the Mexico City game (with apologies to the British BirdGang who likely have a different preference). My question is about the Cardinals 'marketing rights' in Mexico. What opportunities do the rights provide the Cardinals? What are the Cardinals currently doing with those rights? Love the mailbag. Appointment reading. Thanks! #NewUniformsWheresFitzDarylWashington"
For the Cardinals (or the other eight teams granted the ability in Mexico) it means they have the right for the next five years to activate whatever they want in the region -- kids camps, radio broadcasts, etc. -- that is not allowed for teams who aren't under the Mexico umbrella. Right now, the Cardinals are doing as much as they can -- they sent a group, including guard Will Hernandez, to Mexico City for the draft -- to build up interest and go on a media tour. The Cardinals have been working in Mexico for many years, with former player Rolando Cantu helping spearhead. This just allows that to continue.
From Darrell from Pinetop:
"Hey Darren, first off thank you for humoring my worst-case scenario question in regards to the first six games without D-Hop. Do the rookies that were drafted recently (and by extension, their agents) negotiate their contract salary before they sign it? I've always wondered how that works. If so, could that be a reason why it takes some of the higher-round picks awhile to sign their rookie contracts?"
Rookie contracts used to be much more complicated and time-consuming. But with the updated CBA of 2011 -- and continued with the new CBA in 2020 -- rookie contracts are slotted in every spot. The third-round picks sometimes can take some extra time, but for the most part there isn't much to figure out. It doesn't really take much time even for higher-round picks. I think I saw that more than half the first-rounders are already done, and I'd think it would be too much longer before all the Cardinals' draft picks were signed.
From J Nash:
"Any news on Robert Alford? If we are seriously going into the season with our current mix of CBs, this season is chalked before it starts."
Alford remains a free agent and I wouldn't rule out a return, but I don't think it's a certainty. I think Alford was solid before he got hurt, but you're saying the difference between a horrible season and, what, playoff contention is Robert Alford in the secondary?
From Jacob Lagang:
"Hello sir. Would you prefer Darren or Mr. Darren? Something that I am confused about is Hopkins suspension and the PEDs. He did use them in November so how come he's suspended now for the first six games? I remember in 2020 when Will Fuller got caught with it he got suspended the remainder of the season that year. I was just curious about that. We had visits from Billy Price and Darrel Williams -- is there anything on that yet? Do you think we'll still look around. If so what are positions we'll still look at? One last thing sir, forgive me if this is off topic but if you were to play any sport what sport would you do? I feel like if you were to be a coach I think that you would be like a John Harbaugh. Please don't take this in a wrong way sir. I mean it with lots of respect."
I mean, why would it be Mr. Darren? That seems ... odd. Lot of questions here. Suspensions kick in once the appeals process ends. I can only guess the failed test for Fuler came in training camp or early in the season and the timing was just different than Hopkins' situation. With Price and Williams, as long as they remain unsigned there is always a chance; that usually means they want more money than anyone is willing to give them. I do think they will continue to look at what's out there, but at this point, it's more about specific players at positions of need rather than, "Oh we need this position let's sign one."
As for other sports, anyone who knows me knows it is basketball. As for me as a coach and John Harbaugh, I don't know why I'd take that in a bad way. (And what's with all the "sirs?")
From Joe Cardea:
"Darren, do you get intel from the team or any advance notice, even if only 15 minutes, of personnel moves? Is this the site to get first word on Cardinal news? I realize some individuals may scoop you with agent info etc, but do you get accurate info first?"
Why, Joe, I'm disappointed you have to ask if this is the place to get accurate first word. But to answer your question, yes, I am usually in the loop, although as you note, the time can vary and sometimes I have a small window to get something written.
From Matthew Stroh:
"Hey Darren. Thank you again for the mailbag. I'm a think positive kinda person. So I believe that Hopkins missing the first 6 games can turn into a positive. Vance Joseph said last season that offenses need to adapt halfway through the season and with Hopkins gone they will have to. And I love the Hollywood signing, because it's been proven that a great connection between quarterback and wide receiver is key and they have that. So we will have a change in offense when Hopkins comes back. Do you think the Cardinals can turn it into a good thing?"
I'm not sure how losing one of your best players, regardless of how it is handled, can ever be a good thing. But there are ways to make it less of a bad thing. Brown coming is would be a big part of it; being able to use two tight ends and hide what you want to do on offense play to play would also help.
From GG Dolin:
"Here's one of those Twitter prompts (see below) a bunch of fan bases were filling out. I wondered how you'd do it?"
Let's see. Off the top of my head:
• Most Underrated: Jalen Thompson
• Best Player: Kyler Murray
• Key New Addition: Hollywood Brown
• Could Surprise: Zaven Collins
• Takes a Leap: Rondale Moore
• Make or Break Year: Rashard Lawrence
Of course, I could answer these differently in a month.
From Sonny Mistacho:
"Hi Darren. Do you think D-Hop's contract, in addition to the missed time and other coming contract needs (Hollywood, Kyler) might mean he is a cap casualty in the next two years? That's an interesting conundrum when making deals. If you give them too much it might be the impetus for their release. Thanks."
I don't know what will happen with Hopkins but if he plays like he normally does, I don't see him going anywhere. You are right, the more you make the chances are greater money can become your undoing on the roster. But this is a year-to-year thing, and it's impossible to know where this goes until this year plays out.
From Greg Painter:
"I am an Okie and huge SOONER fan, but did not like the Hollywood trade. I understand it, he can stretch the defense, which makes it very hard to double Hop. In my opinion we went into the draft with a glaring need at cornerback (am I missing something?) Cards didn't address it until the seventh round. Do you know anything about this corner from Valdosta? I love his size and speed but played against inferior talent."
Why yes, I do know something about Christian Matthew. I don't know how he will play. He'll have a learning curve certainly. But he's got the size and I like his mental makeup. I could have seen them going after cornerback earlier. But they also had major need at wide receiver and at pass rusher, and you can't grab everyone early. After the third round, the earliest you could've taken a cornerback was the sixth round and I don't know what guys were out there that they liked.
From Bob Kitsos:
"I know odds vary from team to team depending on a team's needs, but what are the 'ballpark' odds of most undrafted rookies making an NFL squad?"
The fact that practice squads now have 16 players, that's a more likely situation. But to make a roster? You better be a special teams star (Dennis Gardeck, Ezekiel Turner) or the team is trying to rebuild a roster. To make the 53, you may keep one or two. But the odds are usually not great. Since 2013 -- the year Steve Keim took over as GM, the Cardinals have had 14 total UDFAs make the initial 53-man roster over those nine seasons. They did not have one make the team in either 2021 or 2017.The best one? Safety Tony Jefferson in 2013.
From Cal Zonk:
"When do you expect the second wave of free agency will begin? Interior DL is big priority and it just makes me anxious to see no movement, not even visits reported. Also I'm happy the DJ Humphries situation was brought up last mailbag. I don't know when the next scheduled presser with Steve Keim is but please put it in your notes to ask about D.J. because it's very strange that our franchise left tackle is walking into his last year and we aren't talking about locking him up on a daily basis."
Not sure what you mean by second wave. Free agency is ongoing. There isn't going to be some giant influx of players at this point. Here and there additions. You did send this in before the Kingsley Keke signing, so there is a move for the defensive line. As for Humphries, there are a lot of players whose contracts must be addressed at some point going into 2023. Just because it isn't a constant topic of conversation doesn't mean it isn't on the radar.
From Walker Walker:
"Dumb question but, are the Cardinals chartering their plane out during the offseason? I cannot imagine they are letting it sit."
I'll be honest, I don't know the answer to that.
From Nate Kurtz:
"I know you have answered a lot of questions about Hopkins already but I have a question from a different angle. We all know tests have false positives. His test results contained only trace elements. Were there any second or third test given to him so he could combat a false positive and prove that he wasn't using anything? When (how soon after) are players told that their test came back positive? Is it in time so they can retest and protest the results? Thank you for your time."
I wish I knew all the details but I do not. I do believe they keep multiple samples because retesting could be needed. But the bottom line: The suspension isn't announced until after the appeal process has played out. So whatever the background, Hopkins went through his appeal and it ended without him winning.
From William Flamand:
"Hi, Darren. As of right now, D.J. Humphries is still on the last year of his contract. Knowing how much money the Cardinals could free up by giving him an extension (which seems inevitable), why are they waiting that long? I understand that Kyler's situation may be more urgent, but with a very good corner in James Bradberry available, I don't understand why we are not trying to free as much cap space as possible to make the team better."
Some layers here. One, Bradberry might be the best cornerback out there, but I'd guess he would've been signed by now if he was "very good" at this point because a team would snap him up. He's probably not getting the offers he wants at this point. As for the Cardinals, you are right, an extension would lower Hump's cap hit. For all I know they have discussed an extension. But both sides have to agree on something.
From Colin Ondrejech:
"Hi Darren, I am wondering if we are done with signing free agents and if we are not what's going on with the Dez situation."
I don't know if there is a "Dez situation." Like I have said previously, I don't know if it makes sense. I'm guessing if he came in for a workout, the world would know, so until then, there is no update.
From Edson Sierra:
"Hey man. Why do you think when we talk about the tight end room, Maxx Williams is overlooked? We just re-signed him and has been solid for us, and is still part of our team! I also wanted to send some appreciation to Ron Wolfley, who is the best local football commentator in my opinion. I mean, he made the final moments of Game 14 so entertaining by shouting 'IT'S THE MULTIVERSE!' Love the guy."
I don't know if Williams has been overlooked. The reality is Williams is coming off a serious injury. Until he's back on the field -- and he's still rehabbing -- there is going to be more conversation about Trey McBride with Zach Ertz. Once Williams is healthy, they will find a spot for him.
From John Turilli:
"Do you know what the salary cap for 2023? I worry about the entire team and not just Kyler."
The salary cap for 2023 won't be finalized until after the 2022 season. But it's been estimated to be between $220 and $225 million. This season the cap is $208.2 million.
From Tim from Phoenix:
"With the recent announcement of Shawn Jefferson being promoted to associate head coach, can you please walk me through the coaching hierarchy? What is the difference between an assistant head coach (like Jeff Rodgers) and an associate head coach? Does the recent promotion mean that Jefferson ranks higher in the pecking order than say Vance Joseph, who many of us thought (before the team's slide) might leave the team for a head coaching job? Thanks!"
I don't know if the hierarchy has really changed. As we saw last year when Kliff Kingsbury missed the Cleveland game, Rodgers and Joseph were essentially co-head coaches. I think the title just puts a public face on something Jefferson is, which was a trusted voice and a coach (and former player) who is someone else Kingsbury can use as coaching counsel.
From Cory M:
"Are you going to release all of the draft footage from the war room? I've seen several little snippets here and there but in the past you've released full videos. The convo between Keim, Mike and Kliff about trading Rosen was some of the best behind the scenes Cards' footage we've ever seen. If it hasn't been decided yet we would really like to see as much footage from the draft interactions as possible, it's really interesting to us fans."
The draft episode of Flight Plan has been released which has a lot of that content. I assume that is the "full video" you are talking about? Because the whole video that's taken up there is never put up in full.
From Mark Mason:
"Going 0-6 to start the season? That isn't pessimism, that's just plain delusional. Apparently, whoever started that nonsense didn't get the memo from Kliff. 'Welcome to football Paradise.' We don't go 0-6 in football paradise. Sorry, I digress on my question, but hey congrats on calling Faalele in the third and he went to Dallas. I'll take Trey and pick 100 thank you very much. Back to my question. Rondale Moore. I love this kid's abilities and we just saw a sprinkling of it last year. How much of a role will he play this year with the sad departing of Christian Kirk?"
As it stands, the plan is for him to be a lot bigger of a role. He was a second-round pick, and without Hopkins at first, they will need him. Until they get on the field at training camp it'll hard to know exactly what all this means, but I am sure Moore wants a much bigger role and he's the kind of kid who will work to make it happen.
From BDUB Wooten:
"Darren, I know we've only seen a small sample size and obviously I'm not around him, but being someone who judges people and employees through my business I get a very strong vibe that Zaven Collins does not truly LOVE football. Call in a vibe, a hunch whatever you want but I just have that feeling. First round pick, talented, says all the right things, but has a few million in the bank and doesn't love it enough to ever truly break out. Thoughts?"
My thought is it's one thing to evaluate employees but I don't know if announcing you are someone who judges people is something to brag about. I have no idea how you could get a "vibe." I spend more time around him and I wouldn't be able to make that kind of call. Did he perform the way he had hoped last year? Obviously not. But it's funny that you include "ever truly break out." You don't give much runway for a kid to grow. He hasn't even been to a second training camp.
From Cole Underwood:
"Full on Debbie Downer but it's 100% warranted. Tell me where I'm wrong. The 2022 Arizona Cardinals defense. Young, inexperienced cornerback corps with next to no depth. Redshirt rookie Zaven Collins starting at ILB with zero safety net. Defensive line consists of oft-injured JJ Watt and several backup-caliber rotational guys. A slow and stiff/ young and inexperienced pass rush group who might set the record for fewest collective sacks in an NFL season. A pretty good safety duo. Our defense might be historically bad this year. How can it not be? I told no lies. It's not good, chief."
Well, champ, can't get much more negative than that. Are there some defensive issues? Yes. Do I think they are going to set a record for fewest sacks? No. (How did that not happen in 2020, when Chandler Jones got hurt and had one sack? Riddle me that.) I do not think the defense will be "historically bad." But your concerns are on the record, boss.
From Sal Smiley:
"Hey Darren! This is probably an absolute first for the mailbag but I hope we DO NOT get new unis this year. Given this coming season is probably going to be a rough one, I don't want our nice new unis to be associated with it. Save them for NEXT season when we can rebound and get back to the winning ways!"
Man, I'm thinking you and Cole must be big fun at parties.