As all Cardinals’ fans know, LT D.J. Humphries, the Cards’ 1st round pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, is now an unrestricted free agent.
D.J. is coming off a milestone season of sorts in that for the first time in his 5 year career, he started all 16 games. That is superb timing for a player whose career has been marred by coaching taunts and a variety of season ending injuries. It also was a vindication for GM Steve Keim who elected to pick up Humphries’ 2019 5th year option worth $9.6M, despite all of Humphries’ medical red flags.
When asked by the Arizona media whether he would consider giving the Cardinals a bit of a hometown discount, D.J. Humphries was emphatic that he is looking for top LT dollars—-something that his teammate C A.Q. Shipley assured him he would get if he had a very good, injury-free year in 2019.
Humphries took care of the injury free part. That was big. As for having a very good year—-the PFF analytics would say otherwise, as Humphries earned an overall grade of 64.5, which ranked him as the #47 tackle.
For those of you who don’t like to put much credence into PFF’s analytics—-let’s establish two things. One is—-the Cardinals are relying more heavily on PFF’s analytics these days. Two is—-by virtue of the eye test—-while D.J. had his best season as a pass blocker giving up only 2 sacks, he gave up 30 QB pressures (which is fair but not great), he was inconsistent in the running game run and his 13 penalties were most on the team.
In the locker room, D.J. has emerged as a popular, gregarious teammate and outspoken catalyst. He’s come a long way maturity-wise in 5 seasons, and it’s credit to him that he was able to get through the “Knee Deep” stigma that Bruce Arians slapped on him as a 21 year old rookie. Plus, to D.J.’s credit, he was able to re-adapt to the LT position after being switched to RT during his first two years.
In terms of the numbers—-let’s start with the numbers that work very well in D.J. favor:
D.J. is the youngest UFA LT on the market and his best days of football could be ahead of him.
This comes in a year where the other top UFA LT options, Anthony Castonzo, Jason Peters and Andrew Whitworth are all in their 30s.
Proto-typical size and athleticism for a LT. His one less than ideal measurement is his 33 5/8” arm length. By comparison the top young UFA RT, Jack Conklin of the Titans is 6-6, 308 and has 35” arms. Conklin’s 2019 PFF grade: 80.6 (#10 T).
D.J. heads into his 6th NFL season and into his prime (if healthy) at 26 years of age.
Sacks allowed in 2019.
Now for some numbers that do not work quite as favorably for D.J. Humphries:
43/82 = 52.4%
Number of games that D.J. Humphries has started in 5 years (including 2015 playoffs).
3/4 = 75%
Seasons in which D.J. Humphries has played, but finished the season on the IR.
Lowest PFF LT grade in the NFC West
- SF—-Joe Staley: 81.3 (13 games)—-2020 salary: $11.5M
- SEA—-Duane Brown: 74.1 (13 games)—-2020 salary: $12.3M
- LAR—-Andrew Whitworth: 72.8 (16 games)—-UFA—-2019 salary: $11.2M
- ARI—-D.J. Humphries: 64.5 (16 games)—-UFA—-2019 salary: $9.6M
Free agent ranking by PFF and 5th tackle behind Castonzo (17), Conklin (21), Whitworth (46) and Jason Peters (48).
Not ranked in NFL.com’s and NBC.com’s Top 50 2020 Free Agents—-not even ranked in NBC’s top 10 OL: (1) Joe Thuney-G; (2) Castonzo-T; (3) Brandon Scherff-G; (4) Conklin-T; (5) Brian Bulaga-T; 6. Connor McGovern-C; 7. PeterT; 8. Kelvin Beachum-T; 9. Graham Glasgow-C/G; 10. Matt Feiler (RFA-Steelers)-T.
6th rated tackle by Sporting News: 1. Castonzo; 2. Conklin; 3. Bulaga; 4. Whitworth; 5. Peters; 6. Humphries.
Average salary of the top 10 highest paid offensive linemen in the NFL. This is what Humphries and his agent want to be paid per annum.
Franchise tag figure for Humphries in 2020.
Transition tag figure for Humphries in 2020.
Tackles with 1st round grades in 2020 NFL Draft: 1. Andrew Thomas, Georgia; 2. Jedrick Wills, Jr., Alabama; 3. Tristan Wirfs, Iowa; 4. Josh Jones, Houston; 5. Mekhi Becton, Louisville.
Tackles with 1st round grades in 2021 NFL Draft: 1. Penei Sewell, Oregon; 2. Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame; 3. Alex Underwood, Alabama; 4. Thayer Munford, Ohio St.; 5. Walker Little, Stanford.
By comparing the analytics to players’ salaries, D.J. Humphries’ current market value appears to be somewhere in the vicinity of $9.6M, precisely what he made this past season.
Number of Cardinals’ options:
1—-spend $14M a season on RT Jack Conklin, who is the best young tackle in this UFA class. Then, either sign UFA LT Le’Raven Clark to a one year prove-it deal—-or draft a LT at #8 or #40.
2—-sign a veteran LT like Andrew Whitworth, Jason Peters or Kelvin Beachum to a one year deal in the $10-11M range. Look ahead to the the 2021 draft to select LTOF.
3—-use the #8 pick on a LT.
4—-use franchise tag on Humphries ($16.4M)
5—-use transition tag on Humphries ($14.5M)
6—-sign Humphries to a 3 year $42M deal with $20M guaranteed.
7—-sign Le’Raven Clark to a one year prove it deal worth $3-4M.
8—-sign Anthony Castonzo to a 3 year $42M with $20M guaranteed (if he can assure the Cardinals that he would be fully committed to the deal and is no longer considering retirement).
You make the call. Which of these options or another of your own makes the most sense to you?
I love Anthony Castonzo, so my first impulse is to go with option #8, that is if he gives the team his word on a full 3 year commitment. I think Castonzo is a top 5 LT and one of the most under-rated players in the NFL.
But, as much as I love Castonzo, I love the idea of signing the 25 year old Jack Conklin more than taking the risks on Castonzo and Humphries—-
The choice to go with option #1—-is aided and abetted by being completely enamored with the left tackles in the 2021 NFL Draft—-
I believe that the Cardinals signing RT Jack Conklin this off-season would be a major confidence and talent boost (if we’re going to spend $14M on a tackle, he’s the one worthy of it in this UFA class)—-
Then, I would sign LT Le’Raven Clark on a one year prove it deal to compete with Justin Murray (switch to LT) and Joshua Miles. And no matter what happens—-if Saahdig Charles (6-5, 305, LSU) or Ben Bartch (6-5, 308, St. John’s-MN) is on the board at #72, the Cardinals should pounce on one of them.
That’s my choice—-what is yours?