The question of what the Arizona Cardinals invest in their own draft picks heading into free agency is an interesting one.
Three years ago the Cardinals had a decision to make on one of the best players that has ever come through their organization, and they made the wrong decision.
In the 2017 offseason the Cardinals decided that Calais Campbell’s pending free agency would cost too much to re-sign and the two-time Pro Bowl defensive end wound up going to Florida and helping the Jacksonville Jaguars reach the AFC Championship Game.
Campbell signed a 4-year $60 million deal and that was deemed as too expensive for a soon to be 31 year-old who had already played nine seasons and played in 138 games. Campbell had missed six games in his nine seasons and the question of his pending demise seemed to be the one thing hanging over the decision.
The Cardinals believed they had already planned for Calais’ impending departure, taking Rodney Gunter in 2015 and Robert Nkemdiche in 2016.
Yet, Gunter and Nkemdiche’s career numbers barely eclipsed the All Pro season Calais Campbell put up in 2017 and his continued Pro Bowl level play in 2018 and 2019 showed the Cardinals decision to be one giant misstep.
Now, the Cardinals have another decision to make. While their defensive line has gone down because of their mistakes in self scouting, they have another similar decision lingering.
D.J. Humphries is nowhere near as accomplished as Campbell, but he is a Cardinals draft pick that has seen his contract end. However, the Cardinals are not nearly as prepared as they were for the "over-the-hill" Campbell.
The Cardinals had taken two players in two drafts they believed could replace Campbell.
The Cardinals have no one on their roster to replace Humphries.
The idea of drafting an offensive tackle to replace Humphries seems like an easy one, but rookie left tackles rarely play at the level that Humphries did in 2019.
In fact, the last time a left tackle was on the All Rookie team in the NFL (that is just all rookies) was 2017 when Garett Bolles was an all rookie player. Bolles turned in his best season to date in 2019 and there is still talk about replacing him.
The question becomes does Humphries presumed ceiling, a middle of the road left tackle, outweigh the potential of a rookie in year two or three?
The cost savings is the other question. A rookie is getting about $24 million in total value in cap, including right around $15 million in signing bonus guarantees.
The cost for Humphries will be about $20 million more in total cap value and about $10 million more in guarantees.
Is $11 million a season too much to pay Humphries?
Only if you think a rookie can match his play within two seasons.
Looking back at the left tackles taken in the first round the last five seasons, how many would you take over Hump right now?
2015 - Ereck Flowers, Cedric Ogbuehi
2016 - Ronnie Stanley, Laremy Tunsil, Taylor Decker
2017 - Bolles
2018 - Kolton Miller, Isaiah Wynn
2019 - Andre Dillard
The only two who have an argument over Hump at this point are Stanley and Tunsil. Both made their first and only Pro Bowl in year four of their careers.
No one else would be identified as a clear upgrade over Humphries at this point.
The final thing.
When people discuss how safe picks are, remember there's been a single player drafted in the first round this decade that was an All Pro left tackle until Ronnie Stanley was named as a first team All Pro this year. That's Tyron Smith.
The idea that drafting left tackles early is easy and guarantees you their success is simply not true.
When looking at overall success rates of picks, remember offensive line is not a position. It's a group of five positions.
What are the chances of getting a left tackle that is better than Humphries? That's the question you must answer if you are advocating letting him leave for a rookie.
Also, can you guarantee the rookie you want is there? You're picking eighth, not first.
This is not advocating one way or the other, this is asking the questions that don't get asked.
Can the Cardinals move on from D.J. Humphries and know they're getting an upgrade?