Topics include Murray's rehab, rookies signing, and offensive line tradesDarren Urban
OTAs are underway as the final month of the offseason begins its countdown. The mailbag, of course, is always here. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. As always, you can send in a question for a future mailbag here.
From Steven Accetta:
"I am confused as to why Kyler is going to miss a chunk of the NFL season? He had his surgery in early January (3rd according to a quick Google search) and it has a six-month recovery. I know everyone isn't Adrian Peterson but given the timetable he should be a limited participant in camp with the potential to start Week 1? I am assuming the organization is saying he won't be ready by the start of the season to temper expectation. I have recovered from two ACL surgeries myself so I know the hard work it takes to get back and he won't be 100 percent until 2024. I am finding myself questioning Kyler's work ethic."
I am not sure where you get the six-month recovery. I know you have had a couple yourself, and perhaps that's how you know the timeline. But with all due respect, Steven coming back from ACL surgery and doing whatever job you have is just a bit different than standing in a pocket during a play, perhaps running with 11 large humans trying to tackle you and certainly facing a down-in, down-out possibility that a 300-pound guy could crash on top of you. I have covered the NFL since 2000 and while the process has gotten faster I have never been around an ACL tear that is considered a six-month rehab. Also, as you noted, there is the point when the player can return to play and a later point when he should. Once Murray was hurt in December I never believed he would be ready for the opener this year.
From Rodley St. Remy:
"Is there any chance that if Kyler gets the clear to play by opening day, do you think they let him play or is it take it slow and prepare for next season?"
As I mentioned, I don't think Kyler is ready for Week 1. There is no reason to rule anything out at this point, but again, with that injury in December, for him to be back in the lineup that quickly is unlikely.
From Garret Tanner:
"Hi Darren. My memory could be wrong on this, but it seems like it has taken a lot less time to get the majority of this rookie class signed to deals than it has the last few seasons. How exactly does the rookie contract process work? Is there a minimum-maximum range that a contract can be worth for a rookie, thus requiring a negotiation process which results in some contracts taking longer to sign than others? If so, does that range differ depending on what round a rookie was drafted? Thanks for the mailbag!"
Not a lot less time. Last year's draftees were signed only about a week later. Since the CBA of 2011, rookie contracts are essentially slotted; it's usually about the two sides getting around to the signing rather than any real negotiations. There are some instances of sticking points with second- and third-round picks at times (and, sometimes, quarterbacks) but for the most part it's about checking boxes -- so the signings will almost always come pretty early, and certainly not as late as they could be when I first started covering the team (when it was a fairly regular occurance to have the first-round pick unsigned when training camp started.)
From Rosie Spain:
"When are you going to post when the Cards Camp practices that are open to the public?"
Those dates are usually posted in late June or early July; last year the story came out on July 11. It's possible it will be out earlier this year, but there are a lot of logistics that go into it, especially when working with a new coaching staff.
From Derek Cooper:
"As the season begins, is it an advantage to face three straight former opponents of JG in the last year or do you think this will be a disadvantage?"
I don't know if it will be either. Maybe it'll help a little, given Gannon's familiarity with the Commanders, Giants and Cowboys from his NFC East dealings the last two seasons. But he's got a completely different roster, and in the end, that is what makes the biggest difference when you match up with a team -- the players you have.
From Red Rocket:
"Why does the question come up of trading Josh Jones? Isn't there greater value in trading D.J. Humphries? Jones played well at left tackle last year and is younger, not as much for salary and his health has been better. Why not look into trading Humphries, since they're looking to get younger? I really don't feel this team is going to win this next year, so get yourself a young established line that will be here for years."
Given what you said, you might actually get more in return for Jones. I understand your logic. I suppose it is possible, although Jones and his contract situation -- cheaper, and going into the last year of his deal -- maybe makes him easier to trade. I don't know what is going to happen there, but it does seem like there is a tackle surplus so trying to move someone makes sense.
From Art Pozza:
"I have always rooted for QB Colt McCoy, but I no longer believe he can finish a season. So what now? And what are your thoughts on RB? I'm thinking the available free agent running backs. Anyone come to mind to sign?"
The quarterback question feels pretty wide open right now. But I'm not sure why you'd need McCoy or any other QB to finish the season; they are holding the spot down until Kyler returns. As for running back, I don't know if I see them signing another running back unless there is an injury; I think Conner is their guy and they will see who might emerge out of the other guys.
From Robert Malicki:
"Admittedly, it is trying for an old-school NFL fan such as myself to follow the 'noise' conversation of today's media. My question to you, Darren, revolves around a recent Colin Cowherd radio show topic about the NFL mimicking the NBA's strategy of 'tanking' and bettering their draft position. They were using as an example how the Raiders treated Derek Carr and their fans by not playing him. Too many comments about our Cardinals and the DeAndre Hopkins situation of 'will he stay or will he go?' have arisen and this confuses me. DeAndre is under contract at an appropriate number for his status. He has not stated a desire to leave. His presence for whomever will under center is a big plus for our offense and the receiver room. I understand the dynamic of a new front office, a new HC and staff, and our ballyhooed QB likely out for the season's first four games. Why this talk of our 'racing to the bottom' when Gannon must compete in the tough NFC West?"
It's the offseason. The Cardinals a) struggled in 2022; b) won't have their quarterback to begin the season; c) have a new coaching staff; and d) are clearly resetting the roster in a lot of spots. All that leads to the talk you are hearing. Does it necessarily mean anything in September? No. The Hopkins stuff may not all live out in the public eye, but all this discussion doesn't happen without some reasons, whatever they might be. Change happens with new regimes, and oftentimes it's veterans that are impacted.
From Louis Frustaglio:
"HI Darren, I am a long-time Cardinals fan going back to the days of the St. Louis Cardinals. Just to want to say it makes me smile big when I read and hear the words of Paris Johnson Jr and how happy he is to be a Arizona Cardinal. I hope Paris can stay healthy. His attitude, smile and happiness is infectious and would be so positive to other players on the team. Love reading the posts and your comments. Thanks."
I've had the chance to interact with Paris a couple of times and yes, I love his attitude about being in Arizona and how he looks at football. He has to prove himself on the field but the rest of it is excellent to hear and see. The kind of guy you want as a backbone of your team.
From Cynthia Dobbins:
"Why is BJ Oljurai holding out? I thought rookies contracts were pre-set. Thanks for the mailbag and podcasts."
Whoa, whoa. Ojulari is not holding out. He's been here every day since the rookies arrived. Now, is he signed yet? No. As I mentioned earlier in the 'bag, sometimes there are some nuances in the contracts of second- and/or third-round picks. That's what this is, so it might take a little longer. But he'll be signed at some point before training camp, and won't miss any offseason stuff, and that's all that matters.
From Philip Castillo:
"What do you think about our receiving room in the next season or two? Nuk is going to leave, if it isn't this year it's going to happen in free agency. With his departure we are going to have a pretty small group of receivers in the room; and with Zach Ertz approaching the end of his playing days we are going to need to see some leaps from Trey McBride. I like Brown, Moore, and Dortch and I'm sure we'll see more reps from them to help decide who stays long-term, but do you see the Cards retaining even two of these guys? Drafting Michael Wilson has been a big move and I sure hope he can log starting snaps but that is asking a lot from a day three draft pick."
It's always a year-by-year proposition. If Hopkins is here this season the wide receiver room looks a lot different (and IMO it's just fine) than if he isn't. But I think they are going to see what guys like Brown and Moore and Dortch do this season. Pascal too. Could there be a major WR overhaul in 2024? Yes. But again, we will see how this turns out. I do expect McBride to take steps. How Ertz returns from his ACL tear will be crucial.
From Mike Galvin:
"First time 'asker' here. I know you probably don't get a lot of punter questions (or maybe you do and you are just smart enough not to waste time talking about punters, lol), but I am curious why no teams have signed Matt Araiza. Specifically, I am curious why the Cardinals haven't signed him. The dude is really good and new evidence has shown that he is innocent of the accusations levied against him, thus leading the San Diego prosecutors office to not file charges. Is this just a case of Michael Bidwill not wanting to face any media/fan pushback?"
As I mentioned in last week's mailbag, the facts are that at this point, you are correct, no charges have been filed. I have not seen where he declared innocent. He still faces a civil lawsuit. I think teams are going to want the entire affair settled before one chooses to sign him.
From Matthew Stroh:
"Hey Darren. Thank you for the mailbag. I've seen a lot of media say Arizona hasn't done anything to build our offensive line for decades but I disagree. I feel that we have two good tackles with Beachum and Humphries but the interior is where we had issues. If we can find a center to stay healthy and be OK and put Paris at guard I think we could have an OK-to-good year overall. If we move Paris to left guard and he learns from Hump and then it would be an easier transition to left tackle down the road. Do you believe I'm stupid for thinking there's a chance we can have seven to nine wins this season if we figure out the offensive line? And do you believe our starting center is on the roster?"
Any chance for success always hinges in large part in having a decent offensive line. Is that the determining factor of getting near .500? Teams still have to play defense, they still need good QB play. That all has to be proven. As for the starting center, it's so hard to predict right now. I could see this playing out a lot like it did for the Cardinals in 2015 -- go to training camp and see what things look like on the field, and if you aren't comfortable after a couple of weeks, signing a veteran (like the Cards did that season in bringing back Lyle Sendlein.)
From Raymond Staples:
"Whoa! Hang on a second. I thought these punters they are bringing in were just camp bodies. What happened to Andy Lee? He's a good punter. Steady eddie. They let him walk? Why? You realize that at six years, he quietly became one of the longest tenured Cards? Him leaving is a big deal in that regard."
Lee has been steady. Better than, actually. And I don't know if I am completely ruling out his return if absolutely needed. But he is going to be 41 this season and even at punter, I think the Cardinals would like to get younger. There is a reason Jeff Rodgers keeps taking a look at Nolan Cooney, and the signing of a vet like Matt Haack seems to show the Cards are moving on from Lee.
From Bob Kitsos:
"Las Vegas oddsmakers have ranked the Cards as the 32nd-best team in the league. We open on the road against a competitive Washington team and probably won't have Kyler Murray for the first three or four games. We have a completely new coaching staff with a first-year head coach and a new offensive and defensive system and with about 20 minutes remaining in the season, we get a bye in week No. 14. Do you think Vegas has a point?"
Vegas is going to Vegas. They are going to set odds based on how the money is going to come in. There is no argument -- obviously there are a lot of people that, whether it's Vegas or my favorite "power rankings," feel the Cardinals are going to be near the bottom of the standings. I don't see that changing much, and it's up to the Cardinals to change minds when the season begins.
From Webby Robinson:
"How come we've gotten no Clayton Tune? No draft phone call. No meet the press. What's the happs? It's Tune Time!"
Not sure what you are talking about, to be honest.
From Ben Jury:
"Hey Darren. Not a super-deep question or anything, just wondering what the general vibe at HQ is now that you've had a couple months exposure to the JG/Monti era. Any noticeable changes? There are things we know about, such as the smaller rookie camp than usual. But just wondering if you could give your two cents of what you've seen. Thanks."
I think the vibe has been positive, which is not surprising both because of how the two men interact with people on a daily basis and also the freshness of change itself. Mostly it has been what it always has been -- unless you are in the locker room and meeting rooms all the time, which I am not, you aren't going to catch a lot of subtle changes. I do think there is a change in the strength and conditioning, which isn't surprising given the structure now (a sports performance coach and the biggest coaching staff for that ever.)
From Dave Stoller:
"I have been and continue to be very frustrated with the Cardinals' failure to fully utilize the talents of Isaiah Simmons in his tenure with this team. In anticipation that the Cardinals' coaching staff may claim it hasn't been able to find a position for him I say that he's never been given a real opportunity at any one position accompanied by focused coaching. Had that occurred it would have been touted by the team. I fear that he is another example of a Cardinals' player with tremendous potential who will go elsewhere to realize it."
We will see what they do with Simmons. There are things they drafted Simmons to do that he has struggled to do, and that doesn't necessarily have to do with where he plays on the field. Let's see what happens this season.
From Jason W:
"Why does it seem like the Cardinals organization take way more shots than any other teams? After the NFLPA survey came out it seemed like the only team that had failing grades were the Cardinals, I mean let's just keep ignoring the fact that the Chiefs were 29th on the list with low grades on family treatment and training staff questions or the Jaguars having to deal with a rat infestation. Then all of the Jonathan Gannon press but let's just ignore that question about the offensive coordinator being distracted and that is why Jalen Hurts fumbled the ball. Thank for taking time to read through the rant/question? Have a good day."
Gotta say, Jason, this is where we turn to that famous cliche: Control what you can control. You're not going to be happy with most national narratives about your team regardless of who your team is. You are right about some of those things but the Chiefs just won the Super Bowl and the Jaguars made the playoffs. You certainly aren't going to make Eagles people feel some kind of way about the Super loss if they already want to blame Gannon. There's one way to make it better. Win games.
From Cole Lavalee:
"Hey Darren. Scenario: Clayton Tune ends up playing as good as the 49ers' Lance, so do we trade Murray given his attitude and lack of leadership? Also, with the allegations of late will Michael Bidwill have to sell the team? Respectfully."
I assume you mean Tune playing as well as Brock Purdy, not Trey Lance. And a lot went into Purdy playing that well and I'm not sure it's fair to think Tune gets to that level, especially as a rookie. As for the Bidwills selling the team, it's not going to happen.
From Chase Fariso:
"This point has made before, but I'm making it again because of troubling news I've heard. Dylan Raiola, the No. 1 QB prospect in high school football, committed to Georgia. You know where he goes to high school? PINNACLE. He's an Arizona kid. Every stinkin' year man, Arizona high schools churn out top talent and all that talent leaves. Should I blame ASU recruiting? Are they not cutting big enough checks?"
You're late to the party. Raiola had already committed once before, to Ohio State. And he is also not really an Arizona kid -- he was from Texas, moved to Arizona to play his junior year at Chandler and then transferred to Pinnacle. And I'm not sure why you fret. College football is a free-for-all anyway. ASU still has three years to to Raiola in the transfer portal. (Or would've had a chance to lose him in the portal had he stayed in Tempe. Such is college sports now.)