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Arizona Trade Winds Intensify

Syndication: Arizona Republic Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Front-loaded sweetheart deals of the past, as generated by former GM Steve Keim, are creating “make or break” situations for the Cardinals.

We know that the Cardinals under first year GM Monti Ossenfort are trying to trade DeAndre Hopkins and now, in light of the whispers that Budda Baker’s contract extension request has been rebuffed, it would appear that Budda Baker may be on the trading block as well.

When Steve Keim gave Hopkins and Baker front-loaded top-dollar sweetheart extensions, Keim knew that key “make or break” decisions would have to be made after the guaranteed money in the contracts had run out —- each with 2 years remaining on their contracts, which happen to coincide this year.

Whether the Cardinals might have wanted to extend DeAndre Hopkins a second time despite him only playing in 20 of the team’s past 35 games, it is a moot point. Hopkins wants out of Arizona.

The problem is —- no team has offered the Cardinals what they consider to be an acceptable deal for Hopkins . Rumor was that the Cardinals’ asking price for Hopkins is a 2nd round pick, plus a player.

The problem for interested teams is Hopkins’ prohibitive contract. He wants a new bag of guaranteed money. Just as he did when he was traded to the Cardinals. That’s Hopkins’ m.o. The fact that he and his agent have not been able to find a trading partner by now means that Hopkins and the Cardinals may be stuck between the Scylla and Charybdis.

Baker’s Situation

Budda Baker now finds himself in a similar situation as Hopkins’ in Houston. For Pro Bowl caliber players, playing without guaranteed money is like an acrobat walking the tightrope without a safety net.

Four years ago, after the Cardinals’ defense was 32nd in the league in yards given up per game at 400.4, Budda was successful in convincing the Cardinals’ front office to hang on to Vance Joseph as the team’s DC. Budda put forth a cogent argument —- saying that Vance was his and some of his teammates’ third DC in 3 years.

However, this year Budda championed like mad for the Cardinals to promote Vance to head coach —- not just making his case to Michael Bidwill, but also to Monti Ossenfort. While Ossenfort said that “Budda Baker represents everything we want our organization to be” —- at the end of the day, the FO hired Jonathan Gannon and Vance moved back to Denver as the Broncos’ DC.

If the Cardinals are not going to extend Budda, then due to the nature of his contract, which they must have seen coming, out of respect, they should do the right thing and trade him.

One can just imagine how loudly Vance Joseph has been pounding on Sean Payton’s desk for the Broncos to acquire his MVP. The Broncos do not have a 1st or a 2nd rounder this year. Their three earliest picks are:

  • #67 (R3 from IND),
  • #68 (R3)
  • #108 (R4)

In 2024, they have R1, R3, R3, R4, R4, R5, R7, R7.

If the Broncos offer one of their two early 3rd round picks for Budda, unless another team offers a higher pick, the deal might be enticing. Perhaps the Broncos might be willing to add a player or one of their 2024 draft picks. But maybe not, seeing as they will have to sign Budda to a new, lucrative contract.

Another possibility might be a straight-up trade of Budda for Justin Simmons, who finds himself in a similar contract situation. Simmons is a 3 time 2nd Team All-Pro (2019, 2020, 2022). Budda Baker is a 2 time 1st Team All-Pro (2017-ST, 2020-D) and a 1 time 2nd Team All-Pro (2021).

2023 base salaries —- 2024 base salaries —- 2023 dead cap —- 2023 cap savings:

  • Budda Baker: $13.0M —-$14.2M —- $7.6M
  • Justin Simmons: $14.4M —- $14.5M —- $10.4M

Yet, perhaps one of the main reasons why the Cardinals are choosing not to extend Budda Baker is that they have decided to play Isaiah Simmons at safety and to pick up his 5th year option (app. $12.7M in 2024).

Having already extended Jalen Thompson (3 years $40M, with $24.5M guaranteed) and with Isaiah Simmons’ 5th year option and future with the team in mind, the timing for an extension this year for Budda Baker is not ideal.

In addition, the Cardinals have been doing their due diligence in scouting safeties. For example, they met with Jammie Robinson of Florida St, last week.

What about D,J, Humphries?

Not only have the Cardinals scouted a significant number of tackle prospects in preparation for the NFL Draft;

And now it appears the Cardinals are on the verge of signing another free agent tackle:

Add Jackson Barton to D.J. Humphries, Josh Jones and Kelvin Beachum —- plus Dennis Daley and Elijah Dickinson (as depth if needed) and Futures contract signees Badara Traore and Julien Davenport.

Therefore, it’s possible that if one of the needy LT teams is unable to address their need at the NFL Draft, then they could make an offer for D.J., perhaps during the draft, after the draft or eventually at the trading deadline.

General Theme of the Off-Season

Monti Ossenfort and Jonathan Gannon want to build around younger players whom they can have a fresh start with.

What about Colt McCoy?

The Cardinals worked out QB Jeff Driskel this week. Assistant GM Dave Sears, as with David Blough, knows Driskel very well from their time together on the Lions.

It feels kind of bizarre that Colt is now going to take on a color commentary role for upcoming USFL games. In Arizona, he is coming off a very difficult injury-marred 2022 season where he suffered through months of arm ailments and then a season-ending concussion. Some expect him to be the bridge starter at QB until Kyler Murray is able to return.

How then can Colt afford to take significant time and energy away from the Cardinals and the new offense that he is going to have to learn and command? Sure, it seems like a good way for him to try to transition into the broadcasting business, but having to research all of the USFL teams, coaches and players is going to take a considerable amount of time, in addition to all the travel, game preps and broadcasting coverage.

Again, this appears to be a “one foot in, one foot out” situation for a Cardinals veteran who is on the verge of retiring. Do Ossenfort and Gannon have a QB plan for 2023 which would not include Colt McCoy as the bridge QB? Have they already decided to run with David Blough as the bridge? Are they keen on drafting a QB, like Tanner McKee, for example, whom they could be eager to play as a rookie?

It feels like some sort of an agreement or understanding has been made between the front office and Colt McCoy. At this point, such an agreement is anyone’s guess.

As Trade Winds Intensify

Now less than two weeks before the NFL Draft, the Cardinals are expected to receive a good deal of trade interest in the #3 pick. While some pundits and fans are predicting that the Cardinals could wind up with the 3 1st rounders kind of haul that the Texans got from the 49ers to move up to #3, there are strong reasons why such a haul is unlikely to happen. One is, the 49ers trade at this point looks like an epic bust. Two is, the 2023 QB class does not appear to be elite by any stretch of the imagination.

Just as the Cardinals need to temper their expectations with regard to what they might get in return for DeAndre Hopkins, it might be wise of them to temper their expectations on what trade offers they might receive for the #3 pick, to the point where, if they are not satisfied with the offers, then they need to feel confident in picking the top graded player on their board at #3 —- and then perhaps —- get a stronger trade offer at pick #34 the 3rd pick of Round 2). Their early pick on Day 3, #105, may garner some robust trade interest as well.