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Cards Dealing As New NFL Year Begins

NFL: Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • According to Texans’ GM/HC Bill O’Brien, he approached a few teams at the NFL Combine to gauge their interest in trading for WR DeAndre Hopkins. Word was that Hopkins’ agent informed O’Brien that the All Pro WR would hold out if he did not get a new contract in the $18-20M per year range.
  • This was tough timing for O’Brien on the eve of having to get QB Deshaun Watson and LT Laremy Tunsil signed to lucrative multi-year deals. It is also a very dubious precedent to set when a GM rips up one lucrative multi-year deal with three years left on the contract.
  • O’Brien was caught between the Scylla and Charybdis (the proverbial rock and a hard place).
  • One of the first teams O’Brien spoke with was the Eagles—-but the Eagles could not afford to add another high salaried player, knowing they would have to pay Hopkins roughly $20M a year. Another team offered two draft picks, but when O’Brien spoke with the Cardinals, to him, the Cardinals’ offer was “the best by far.”
  • Miracles are a result of impeccable timing—-and thus the timing of the Hopkins trade for the Cardinals is extraordinary in that they now have a franchise QB in Kyler Murray who is playing on a rookie contract and the Cardinals have the wherewithal to accommodate Hopkins’ salary demands—-just at a time too when national and local icon Larry Fitzgerald may be 1-2 years away from retiring.
  • It’s amazing that so many Cardinals’ fans and beat writers have completely written off RB David Johnson. Johnson, who is coming off two lackluster years on virtually the exact same $13M a year contract that Tyrann Mathieu signed, might flourish with the change of scenery the way the Honey Badger has. Interestingly, both Mathieu and Johnson landed in the arms of Bill O’Brien. And, of course, this year Tyrann Mathieu is the proud owner of a refreshed reputation and a Super Bowl ring.
  • It was impeccable timing for the Cardinals as to have been able to sign local standout OLB Devon Kennard (pictured above). Kennard, one of the Lions’ captains under Matt Patricia, is coming off two solid and productive seasons. Not only is it somewhat of a miracle that Kennard was let go just in time for the Cardinals to swoop in and lift him into the nest, it’s extraordinary that Kennard fits the exact description as a SAM OLB that Vance Joseph detailed to Steve Keim (Kennard is excellent at “setting the edge”, he’s an aggressive pass rusher and he’s very capable in pass coverage, which will allow Joseph the freedom to rush Chandler Jones to the max this season). Adding a leader like Kennard to the defense offers an auspicious ray of hope that the Cardinals defense will be markedly improved in 2020.
  • The Cardinals have also added a strong personality and locker room favorite in DT Jordan Phillips. Phillips is coming off his best season as a pro, where he registered 31 tackles and 9 12 sacks from the interior of the Bills’ defense. At 6-6, 341 pounds, it’s amazing how disruptive, powerful and athletic Phillips is in the trenches. Lining him up next to Chandler Jones is going to pose significant problems for defensive coordinators. Which one do they double team?
  • As we know, Chandler Jones has formed a magnetic bond with Kyler Murray and that likely will be the case with Jordan Phillips, as he and Murray are proud Oklahoma Sooners.
  • What’s so refreshing about the Hopkins trade and the timely and nifty additions of Kennard and Phillips is that the Cardinals are focusing on signing players in their football primes (age 25-27) to multi-year contracts. This is a clear departure from the Cardinals past tendency to sign older free agents to short term deals.
  • Such is also the case with RB Kenyan Drake, who by now has to be aware of the slow free agent market for RBs. Hopefully, the Cardinals and Drake can settle on a 3-4 year deal in the $5-6M a year range—-which, in this market, is more than fair for Drake and is very reasonable for the Cardinals.
  • The one remaining position the Cardinals need to address is the starting WILB position that has been an Achilles heel for the Cardinals’ defense the past few years. The top free agents at that position have signed elsewhere—-at salaries that are very generous, to say the least.
  • But, it just goes to show how valuable 3 down linebackers have become in the NFL. While it is a little difficult to understand why Matt Patricia would let Devon Kennard go, that decision may well have been prompted by the opportunity thatthe Lions are very likely to have at #3 in the draft to select Isaiah Simmons, who brings all of the top-shelf qualities of a three down 43 OLB and added versatility as a nickel rusher and cover man.
  • The one remaining LB in free agency who could be a superb addition at WILB for the Cardinals is Kamalei Correa of the Titans, who was very effective for the Titans in their remarkable playoff run both at OLB and ILB.
  • With regard to how the Cardinals’ current moves have shaped up their draft intentions with the #8 pick, I would venture to say that the odds of the Cardinals trading down to acquire added picks is now more than 50%. Much depends on what kind of offers they receive and whether one of their top “can’t miss” targets is on the board.
  • Right now, the leading candidates at #8 for the Cardinals would appear to be LB Isaiah Simmons, CB Jeffrey Okudah, T Jedrick Wills, T/G Tristan Wirfs, T Mekhi Becton, T Andrew Thomas, OLB/DE K’Lavon Chaisson, DT Derrick Brown, DE Javon Kinlaw, WR CeeDee Lamb and WR Jerry Jeudy..
  • One can still make a strong case for CeeDee Lamb because of Larry Fitzgerald’s possible retirement in 2021. Imagine how dynamic it would be to have Lamb playing opposite DeAndre Hopkins for the next 4-5 years, with Christian Kirk and Andy Isabella as the #3 and #4 WRs.
  • However, drafting Lamb might become a moot point if Matt Rhule and the Carolina Panthers take Lamb at #7, one pick ahead of the Cardinals. Now that the Panthers have settled on Teddy Bridgewater as their QB, Rhule knows he is going to be in a number of offensive shootouts in the NFC West versus the Saints, Falcons and Bucs—-and Rhule watched CeeDee Lamb up close and personally as Lamb caught 8 passes for 173 yards (21.6 ave.) in Oklahoma’s OT victory over Baylor in the Big 12 Championship game.
  • A guess at the first 7 picks right at this moment—-
  1. CIN—-Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
  2. WAS—-Chase Young, DE, Ohio St.
  3. DET—-Isaiah Simmons, OLB, Clemson
  4. SD (from NYG)—-Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
  5. MIA—-Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio St.
  6. NYG (from SD)—-Mekhi Becton, T, Louisville
  7. CAR—-CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
  • Thus, if this were the case, the #8 spot would be a hot spot for any team wanting to draft QB Justin Herbert or Jordan Love (plus, imo, some teams will want to trade up for one of the tackles, Chaisson or Jeudy—-and the Cardinals could essentially get what they got in the Rosen trade, three picks (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3).
  • With Wills, Wirfs, Thomas, Chaisson, Brown, Kinlaw and Jeudy all still on the board, it means that the Cardinals could trade down as many as 6 spots and still be able to take one of these top prospects.
  • Possible trading partners: 9. JAX; 10. CLE; 11. NYJ; 12. LV; 13. SF; 14. TB. Only 1 of these teams may be looking drafting a QB—-the Raydahs.
  • Thus, the Raiders may want to come up one spot ahead of the Jags for QB Justin Hebert, QB Jordan Love (we know how infatuated Jon Gruden is with young QBs) or WR Jerry Jeudy or OLB/DE K’Lavon Chaisson. Keep an eye on Jeudy as the Raiders’ top target.
  • A guess would be that they would offer the Cardinals the #12, #81 and $159 picks.
  • Then the draft might go:

8. LV ( from ARI)—-Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

9. JAX—-K’Lavon Chaisson, OLB/DE, LSU

10. CLE—-Andrew Thomas, T, Georgia

11. NYJ—-Tristan Wirfs, T, Iowa (they have been heavily linked to Wirfs)

  • That would give the Cardinals a choice of T Jedrick Wills, DT Derrick Brown or DE Javon Kinlaw.
  • Here are their PFF draft rankings: Wills (#9), Brown (#12) and Kinlaw (#13).

The Cardinals are dealing...give us a 5 card hand (5 players via FA and the draft) that you would like the Cardinals to play from here on out. I’ll give you mine in the comments section.