First of all, let me begin this op-ed by asserting that it is my utmost hope that come Sunday evening we much-beleaguered Cardinals’ fans will be pleasantly surprised by what new Cardinals’ GM, Monti Ossenfort and new Cardinals’ head coach, Jonathan Gannon manage to accomplish throughout this potentially game-changing NFL Draft weekend for the franchise.
Before I expound on the reasons for my pre-draft sense of angst, I would like to reiterate how pleased I feel about the way MOJO have handled free agency. My worries at the onset of free agency were that few outside UFAs would want to sign with the Cardinals and that it would take “over-paying” the outside free agents to woo them. Those early worries have been completely allayed.
Not only does it feel like MOJO signed more outside free agents in one year than the Cardinals ever have, MOJO managed to execute a perfectly designed plan to attract a healthy number of highly affordable free agents in the 25-28 age range with upside and/or an impressive number of NFL starts and/or special teams reps under their belts.
The fact is, MOJO managed to accomplish this without over-paying any of them. Furthermore, they were able to attract these free agents by providing them with detailed road maps as to what their expected roles will be and what it will take on their part to take their games and NFL careers to higher performance levels.
What MOJO has achieved in free agency —- is building solid competition and potential depth at every position —- not just for the 54 man roster —- but for the 14 man practice squad, as well.
The most promising statement and message to the team that I believe Jonathan Gannon has iterated —- when he has been asked whether certain players have been projected as starters —- he’s maintained, “No, everything’s a competition.”
Bravo. A million times bravo. That is, if JG is good to his word.
That said, here are my concerns about the team’s approach to the draft and trades:
Treating Pick #3 Like a Hot Potato
Seemingly from day one, the whole NFL world has known that Monti Ossenfort wants like crazy to trade the #3 pick. Per some whispers, Monti has even been initiating calls himself to try to peddle the pick.
While i understand the romance of accumulating as many draft picks as possible, I am also mindful that there are a couple of players in this draft whom the Cardinals can take at #3 who could be the kind of game-breaker and culture-changer the team so desperately needs.
One such player, in my opinion, is Will Anderson Jr. of Alabama.
Drafting Will Anderson Jr. would bring instant cred to the newly reconfigured Cardinals.
If the only chance to draft Will Anderson Jr. is by staying at #3, then make the pick.
It infuriates me to think that the Cardinals could trade too far down and miss out on Anderson, who for three years was an absolute stud at Alabama, a man among boys at the most prestigious college football program in America, for the chance to go ahead and take a one year wonder who was not on any pundit’s 2023 list of top draft prospects last summer.
That would be SO typical Cardinals of old to do THAT.
Here a text posted this morning by ESPN’s Todd McShay that pisses me off something fierce:
Interesting note as we prepare for Night 1 of the draft: There hasn’t been a draft-night trade in the top-9 picks in the past four years! That’s not promising for a team like Arizona, which is borderline desperate to move out of Pick 3.— Todd McShay (@McShay13) April 25, 2023
The perception of the Cardinals being “borderline desperate” is flat-out annoying.
By making it so clear all along that the Cardinals have no interest whatsoever in staying at pick #3m despite the rare opportunity to draft one of the top studs in this draft class, Monti Ossenfort has potentially diminished the vale of making a trade to #3. Who wants to deal with an historically dysfunctional organization that is “borderline desperate” to “move out”?
Why not deal from a position of strength, rather than from a position of weakness?
NFL Teams Actually are learning From Past Draft Day and Off-Season Trade Debacles
There is a very good reason why there have been no trades in the top 9 picks for a few years now. look at what the Bears gave up by moving up one spot to draft QB Mitch Trubisky, in a draft class no less that included Patrick Mahomes.
Look at what the 49ers gave up in order to draft QB Trey Lance:
- 3 1st Round Picks (one of which turned into Micah Parsons)
- 1 3rd Round Pick
The odds of crazy trades like this happening again are very slim.
Yet. there seems to be a an expectation from a plethora of Cardinals’ fans that a Trey Lance-like haul is what the Cardinals should be able to get for #3.
The problem in this draft is that beyond Alabama’s Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young, this year’s QB class does not appear to be chock-full of slam dunk prospects. So much so recently that as our editor Seth Cox pointed out yesterday in his timely thread (linked below) that some teams appear interested in trading up for T Paris Johnson of Ohio State, which would naturally be at considerable less a price than moving up to draft a QB.
The question is —- what is the realistic value of trading down from pick #3?
If the reports are accurate that Monti Ossenfort has been clinging to his expectation that a trade involving WR DeAndre Hopkins should command at least a 2nd round pick and a player in return, then this warrants a significant question mark as to how realistic Ossenfort is about his trade demands.
There is no way that Hopkins, that after three injury-riddled, PED suspension-marred year since the Cardinals gave up a 2nd round pick for him in 2020, was ever going to command a 2nd round pick, let alone a pick that high, and a player.
The only way a GM should cling to this kind of demand is when the GM simply wants to hang on to the player. Yet, holding Hopkins hostage this season would be the last thing a new coaching staff should want or have to cope with.
Guaranteeing Hopkins’ more money is absurd based on the extremely disappointing fact that he’s only played in 20 of the team’s last 35 games, the last two of which he essentially quit on the team —- without any guaranteed money remaining on hjs fat contract, Hopkins has slammed the door on the Cardinals.
I have said this before and I will say it again. Had Bill Belichick been handling this Hopkins trade, he would have taken the best offer well before now, even if it was a 5th or 6th rounder. Why? It’s called moving the franchise forward and away from dark clouds with dispatch.
Any team that trades for Hopkins has to not only offer up the draft capital, it has to work out a new contract agreement with him because his current contract is untenable. That combination of factors is not going to impel teams to give any Day 2 picks. A Day 3 pick is possible. Day 2 pick? Impossible.
Thus, asking for a 2nd round pick and a player for DeAndre Hopkins, based on the circumstances, does little to enhance Monti Ossenfort’s credibility and perspicacity as a rookie GM. Other GMs could be looking at this and conclude that Ossenfort is not going to be a reasonable trade partner, whether it be for player trades or draft trades.
Furthermore, there has been JG’s dubious handling of the Hopkins’ situation. Recently when asked about Hopkins’ status with the team, JG lauded Hopkins for being a great player and expressed his hope that Hopkins would join the team in OTAs to “come and improve” with the rest of the players.
Did you laugh out loud when you heard that?
First of all, the likelihood of Hopkins joining the team for OTAs is nada (as in nada-gonna-happen) and by now JG should know and understand that. Secondly, for a new regime in which MOJO have preached “no egos will be tolerated” and saying the covet players who put “team first”, Hopkins is has an ego as vast and large as the Grand Canyon and he is a master manipulator when it comes to playing and pocketing money on his own terms. One cannot possibly describe Hopkins as a “team first” player.
JG’s statement about Hopkins made him look foolish.
Monti should have advised JG to take the Belichick approach when he’s asked to comment about AWOL players. Belichick always says, “I will only comment about the players who are in the building.”
What About Budda Baker?
Monti Ossenfort has been handling this situation with care. He expressed some regret about Budda going public with his trade demand, because he had been hoping to keep their conversations private. And thus from his end, Monti has vowed himself to keep the conversation private.
While that is s=the wise approach, in light of the Hopkins situation, adding Budda Baker’s trade demands to the mix has created an even darker cloud over the Cardinals’ organization as they head in the draft.
If Budda is correct in asserting that the Cardinals have rejected his plea to be given a new, top of the safety market contract, then once again, how can the Cardinals afford to hold a high profile player hostage, particularly under a new coaching staff?
What happens if the draft comes and goes and the Cardinals, for whatever reasons, do not trade Hopkins and Baker? How long can this organization withstand further prolong the incessant drama and negative national and local PR that has turned the Cardinals into the NFL’s laughing stock?
What About Isaiah Simmons?
Isaiah Simmons, save for Kyler Murray and Budda Baker, is the Cardinals’ most high profile draft pick who is currently on the roster. How and why in the world was Simmons a conspicuous no-show for the unveiling of the team’s new uniforms? No Budda. No Isaiah.
We are now six days from the May 1st 5th year option deadline. What will the Cardinals decide with regard to Isaiah Simmons? Why haven’t they decided by now?
If they are against picking up Simmons’ 5th year option, then wouldn’t it behoove them to put him on the trade market as well?
Here are Isaiah’s two most recent tweets:
April 16, 2023
Blessed! pic.twitter.com/iN4VIayiu8— Isaiah Simmons (@isaiahsimmons25) April 16, 2023
What are your interpretations if these tweets?
Is Isaiah pissed that the Cardinals have yet to try to sign Budda Baker to an extension?
Is he feeling “blessed’ because he’s been told the team will pick up his 5th year option? Or is it because he’s been told the team will try to trade him during the draft?
What confounds me is that JG has gone out of his way to create a bond with Kyler Murray. But to date there is no such evidence of JG making that kind of effort with Isaiah Simmons. As a defensive oriented head coach one would think JG would be amped to inherit a supremely physical talent like Isaiah.
What About D.J. Humphries?
Now that it’s become public knowledge that Kyler Murray has expressed his desire for the team to draft Paris Johnson Jr. with their 1st pick, what happens with D.J. Humphries if the Cardinals go ahead and make the pick?
if the plan is to switch Paris Johnson Jr., the most natural left tackle in this draft, to guard or even to right tackle, so as to placate and accommodate D.J., Humphries, that would SO typical of the same ol’ same ol’ for the Cardinals.
If the Cardinal’s draft Paris Johnson Jr., who is one of my six 80s Club favorites for the 1st round pick (along with Will Anderson Jr., Brian Branch, Nolan Smith, Calijah Kancey and Peter Skoronski) —- for crying out loud, will MOJO do the right thing and trade D.J. or at least ask him to make the switch to RT? Here i am saying this while I firmly believe we already have a very good left tackle for the present and future in Josh Jones.
But, let’s be clear. What position does Kyler want Paris Johnson Jr.to play? Rhetorical question, right?
I am hoping to the point of begging that MOJO’s plan is to draft and play players at their most natural positions —- from the GET-GO. Not at mid-season, not in a whole year from now —- or two —-or three —-NO. From Day 1.: YES.
if you haven’t yet viewed Joe Comeau’s Final Mock Draft it is a gem of a production spawned by countless hours of research.
After months of research and Mock Draft Monday Livestreams, here it is: The official TCR 2023 Arizona Cardinals Mock Draft!https://t.co/xDvRONW0dd— The Cardinal Rule (@jokomo13) April 23, 2023
Note: it is important to understand that Joe is not selecting his favorites in this Cardinals’ mock —- he is selecting the players he senses the Cardinals would most likely take at each spot.
Here is the TCR mock:
- #11: Nolan Smith, Edge, Georgia
- #34: Jonathan Mingo, WR, Mississippi
- #66: Luke Wypler, C, Ohio St.
- #72: Garrett Williams, CB, Syracuse
- #91: Gervon Dexter Sr., DT, Florida
- #96: israel Abanikanda, RB, Pittsburgh
- #105: Kei”Trel Clark, CB, Louisville
- #168: Braedon Daniels, G/T, Utah
- #180: McClendon Curtis, G/T, Chattanooga
- #213: Kaevon Merriweather, S, Iowa
On a scale of 1-10 (highest), how much does this mock excite you?
This poll is closed
Last night, Joe posted a mock of his own favorites:
- 1-6 Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
- 2-34 Tuli Tuipulotu, EDGE, USC
- 3-66 A.T. Perry, WR, Wake Forest
- 3-81 Chandler Zavala, G, NC State
- 3-91 Kobie Turner, DI Wake Forest
- 3-96 Israel Abanikanda, RB, Pittsburgh
- 4-105 Olusegun Oluwatimi, C, Michigan
- 5-168 Braeden Daniels, G/T, Utah
- 6-180 Jerrod Clark, DI, Coastal Carolina
- 6-213 Puka Nacua, WR, BYU
On a scale of 1-10 (highest), how much does this mock excite you?
This poll is closed
High Hopes All 80s Club Mock:
Note: if Cardinals trade Hopkins —- take a WR with the pick. If the Cardinals trade Budda, take a S with the pick.
General Mood at ROTB heading into the Draft:
What are your expectations for the Cardinals heading into the draft?
This poll is closed
My brilliant pal Trish, who has been relentlessly kicking my arse and skunking me like mad at Cribbage, recently gave me this small coping mechanism: (go ahead, click on it)
I highly recommend this li’l feller.