Thu, 09 Apr 2020

You've Got Mail: Hopkins Trade Aftermath

Arizona Cardinals
25 Mar 2020, 18:03 GMT+10

We're into free agency. We're into a -- at least for now -- a whole new world. As society tries to social-distance (please, do your part) the NFL tries to remotely go about its new league year. I remotely sit in my den in my house with the weekly mailbag. As always, you can send in a question for next week's version by going here.

From Sidney Sexson via azcardinals.com:

"Just like the rest of the Red Sea I was speechless when the news came out on the DeAndre Hopkins trade for David Johnson -- wow! I also like the deal with Jordan Phillips. My questions involve how to get the deals finalized. Since players can't travel and team management can't travel, and physicals would have to be done by a facility near where the player lives and not by the team's medical staff, it would seem that there are risks that parties could back out. On the trade with the Texans is there some paperwork that was signed between the teams that makes it so the trade would only be canceled if physicals were failed? Also on the signing of free agents could a team decide to waive the physical and then sign the contact remotely?"

So yes, in theory, a failed physical could/would void a deal. I don't expect either from Hopkins or Johnson (and at this point, I don't even know if we will even know whenever those physicals are completed.) Dealing with COVID-19 has change the dynamic with everything. Teams are unlikely to simply waive the physical -- there is too much money on the line.

That would be a question you'd have to ask the players. It's one of the many things that have to be considered as we go through this offseason. Devon Kennard had some thoughts.

From Jim Dewalt via azcardinals.com:

"With all the good moves the Cardinals have done so far, how much money is available to add other pieces to the team. Where do you think they still need to add players. Thanks for doing the mailbag."

I don't know where they are in cap space. I'll will try to post on the blog about it later. We are definitely into the latter part of free agency. They went out and signed the key parts already. They need depth. But I think we've closed in on the let's-see-what-we-do-in-the-draft phase of the offseason.

I won't say exclusively. But that "added" talent would likely be a rookie draft pick if anyone, and in that scenario, I see them putting the rookie on the right side. You don't make an investment like they did in Humphries and then move him -- he's the left tackle.

From Todd Wright via azcardinals.com:

"Darren, what do you think is the most likely scenario for Patrick Peterson for this year and beyond? If they truly wanted to make him a 'Cardinal for life' as Steve Keim stated, when would they most likely extend his contract?"

We will see how this plays out. I do think Keim would like to keep Peterson, and as the Cardinals have revamped, I think Peterson has gotten back to a spot where he'd like to be around. But that doesn't mean the Cardinals and Peterson necessarily will be on the same page when it comes to what an extension looks like. The cap is a factor (although in theory they could actually lower Peterson's cap number this year if an extension was reached), and the Cardinals could always think about the franchise tag for 2021 if it came to that. Regardless, I don't see that as something they are thinking about at the moment; this is about the roster build and the draft and navigating the coronavirus. To me, if it were to happen, I could see something in training camp perhaps.

From Freddie Mitchell via azcardinals.com:

"How many draft picks do we still have in this coming April draft?"

They still have six: first round (8th), third round (72nd), two in the fourth round (114th, 131st), sixth round (202nd), seventh round (222nd).

I would doubt either player coming in. Griffin will be too pricey, while I would think Rhodes would want to find a team where he would have a starting shot -- and the Cardinals already have their top three cornerbacks. As I said earlier in the mailbag, I think the guys that will be signed for now are depth guys, not starters.

From Tzur Perets via azcardinals.com:

"Hi Darren, so excited from the trade on Hopkins and I have a feeling it's like an all-in free agency so far and I'm loving it. In your opinion, why the Texans go on this trade? I mean I love David Johnson a lot but to give away Hopkins for a 2 and a heavy RB contract look like someone got crazy there, to me."

I don't know Bill O'Brien or how the Texans work, so I can't answer that. I would agree with you -- it seems one-sided. There are reasons that have been put out there by the Texans (indirectly) of why they were willing to move on: Hopkins' need for a big raise, an apparent concern about practice work. I can only see it from the Cardinals side: They wanted to move on from Johnson, and more specifically, Johnson's contract, and they were able to do that totally -- and still get a player back, and not only a player but a great player at a position of need. Stunning.

From Bill Thompson via azcardinals.com:

"Darren, not a question, but a comment: in your 'aftermath' article, that was a very classy statement about David Johnson. I too wish him the best in a fresh start. Fans, if you didn't see it, check it out!"

Sometimes we get lost in discussing players merely as pieces in the machine, as only their production. Things didn't go as well for Johnson as he or anyone wanted the last couple of years. (And also, it's not like he didn't produce anything, just not that he reached the bar he set for himself earlier in his career.) But Johnson the person didn't and doesn't change. He's a good man.

I'll be honest, I don't know those specifics. To say I study the players to that degree would be disingenuous. Safe to say, they will have those guys ranked as they need. And even if they want to take a tackle, I don't want them to settle either. They need a guy at 8 who can be potentially great, regardless of position.

From Jesse L via azcardinals.com:

"I was at work when the news of the Hopkins for DJ swap came about, and I thought I was being pranked. I didn't believe it until I looked it up myself, and it still seems too good to be true. What was your initial reaction? I don't know that I can recall a trade that shocked me more."

Well, if you go look at my timeline on Twitter over the last week before that, I know I said a few times I couldn't see how the Texans would trade Hopkins, I didn't see how the Cards would really -- because of the contract -- get anything of significant value in a deal for Johnson. I was very wrong. As I have said a few times, that's the biggest part of the trade to me, is getting the value of a good player plus moving Johnson's contract.

From Tom Cowley via azcardinals.com:

"Thanks Darren, great week. Who are we bringing back in your estimation? Kerr, Gilbert, Banjo, Chris Jones, Kevin Peterson, Bullard, Mills, Shipley? I assume the front office already knows."

Obviously, Bullard and Banjo were announced Monday. I think it's all going to depend on what kind of money some of those guys want. I could see maybe another chance for Gilbert, but probably for a lot less than he played for last season. Is he willing to do that? Do they bring Shipley back and create that competition?

From John M via azcardinals.com:

"Now that we have traded for Hopkins and brought in help for the D-line, do you think the Cards will turn their focus on drafting a offensive lineman with the first pick? Honestly, I would still like to see them get one of the top wide receivers with the 1st round pick."

It sure feels like a shift to an offensive lineman. However, I will remain with the same mindset I have all along: Take the best player you can with that pick, regardless. If it is a receiver, yes. OL? Fine? On defense? Sure. You need a guy who can be a star, and that's why you fill the positions the way you have in free agency and trades, so that you have the flexibility to do whatever you want at 8.

As I indicated, you want the best player. A receiver I suppose isn't out of the question. I don't know if Ruggs is a guy I'd want at 8. Now, if the Cardinals can trade down ... I mean, you could move down 5-8 spots and still get a great receiver.

From Robert Malicki via azcardinals.com:

"The transaction Steve Keim conducted with Houston in acquiring DeAndre Hopkins seems too good to be true. My question concerns a 'behind the scenes' take. Does Kliff Kingsbury have any history with former the OK Sooner wide receiver? If so, it could explain SK's comfort in making the deal knowing the trade-off between DeAndre's self-importance and Kliff's style of coaching. The last thing the Cardinals need is another Anquan Boldin fiasco."

Little confused here. Are you saying Hopkins is from Oklahoma? Because he went to Clemson. Are you making a reference to CeeDee Lamb? Because I don't know what that would have to do with anything (especially since it wouldn't be/isn't a given Lamb would necessarily be the first-round WR they'd take if they took one.) Finally, not sure what "DeAndre's self-importance" means. Obviously he and Bill O'Brien butted heads. I don't know the details, nor does anyone except for the two of them. But he's a three-time all-pro, so I certainly think he's earned the right to feel like he's pretty good.

When you are talking about the Boldin situation, I'll give you this -- there is a parallel of Boldin, like Hopkins, was looking for a new deal when he still had three years remaining. But moreso, that particular situation devolved because Boldin believed he was promised a new deal and didn't get it, rather than just wanting more money on its own. I have to believe the Cardinals were looped into the idea Hopkins wants to upgrade his contract.

From Chad Johnson via azcardinals.com:

"Do you think players sign big contracts well aware that it will put them at risk of being a cap casualty? Of course you sign because of the money, but they have to be aware that it puts them at risk of getting cut or traded (Gurley, David Johnson) and the possibility they'll never see the back end of that contract nor money promised."

Here is the reality of current NFL contracts: They are always about the guaranteed money. Is it possible for a player to play out a deal he has signed, even if the last two or three years aren't guaranteed? Sure. But look at the league -- usually that doesn't stay static. Either a player's performance goes down, and as you note, a team wants to cut the player or make him take a paycut or trade him, or a player's performance remains good and the player's deal becomes below market and the player wants a raise (like Hopkins wants.) It's rare to have a situation like Patrick Peterson, who is closing in on the possibility he will end up playing for the entirety of his last extension as is.

If I was the GM, it would be my first choice, yes. That doesn't mean I would do it no matter what -- I'd need to know, as you said, who is on the board and also where I would be moving. Unless it'd be a crazy haul, I don't want to go from 8 to, say, 23. If you can move to no further back than 12 or 13, I would certainly consider that heavily.

From Brett Lawrence via azcardinals.com:

"Hi Darren, after recent events I am forced to reevaluate. So now, if he's there at 8, Derrick Brown baby. My question is directed more to the Keim haters who were so vocal a couple months ago Where y'all at? Steve just pulled off one of the greatest trades in Cards history. You're loving him now, aren't you?"

So I guess the question isn't really for me to answer. I'll say this: I understand why fans would have been frustrated with Keim, because the product on the field has not been good in terms of wins and losses. But I agree that he's fixed things, they are trending in the right direction, and I do believe that if this team has another good run over the next few years, he deserves to be credited just like he was criticized.

From Dominick Kelly via azcardinals.com:

"My question is in regards to the draft. It was reported heavily last year that the team was stoked about Zach Allen. Having now Allen, Peters, and Phillips, DL doesn't look like such a large need any more. What are your thoughts about shoring up right tackle for the long term? I think our two biggest needs at this point are RT and ILB, albeit I am a fan of what Justin Murray was able to do last year. Without there being an elite LB option outside of Isiaiah Simmons, to me this seems like the most logical selection, or a potential trade back?"

You make the point many have made, that a right tackle with the first round pick makes sense. I cannot argue against it. But I won't come off my stance that I think the Cardinals should take the player they feel will be the "greatest" long-term -- whether that's a receiver, a lineman, a linebacker, whoever.

I wouldn't say it is punitive. Reportedly, it gives Campbell $6 million up front -- a $1 million salary, a $5 million signing bonus -- but the deal is structured as "five years" so the bonus is pro-rated over five seasons. But the deal voids if Campbell is on the roster at the end of the season, which he will be, so it'll be that one-year contract. It means Campbell's cap hit this season is $2 million, and his cap hit next season without being under contract will be $4 million of dead money.

What it means is that the Cards are willing to push $4 million of his cap hit into next year, when the cap is expected to go up. If they try to extend Campbell, that $4 million hit will be in addition to any cap hit with the new deal. If he is a $6 million player -- and that might've been his market -- spreading out the hit isn't the worst thing. Obviously, they have a long-term view of the roster and the cap, so there is a reason why they are doing this.

From Dave Smith via azcardinals.com:

Hi Darren, love checking the app every week for the mailbag and seeing all of the fans questions and your answers. One of my favourite days as a longtime cardinals fan this week was waking up in Australia and seeing that the Cardinals had somehow managed to get Hopkins for barely anything! Do you think the last two great offseasons from the front office can return this team to the top of the NFC West this season?"

I'm not ruling anything out. But the 49ers made the Super Bowl and will have the roster pretty intact, and the Seahawks are the Seahawks. I do think the Rams will take a step back, but asking for a division title is anything but a gimme. Do I think the Cards might be able to compete? I'd like to see how the draft plays out, but I am bullish on the direction they are headed.

From Nathan Palmer via azcardinals.com:

"With the Deandre Hopkins coming to AZ (totally hyped about that move, wonder what Bill O Brian was thinking) I have a couple questions:

How much cap do we have? Your list of top free agents that haven't been tagged that we should target (a slim chance we sign them if they have been tagged)? How the Hopkins trade effects our needs in the draft? How are the Drake/Hopkins contract/extension talks going? Thanks."

Here goes:

Not sure. Probably around $10 million at this point if not a little less. Will try to sort at end of the week, but as always, cap space isn't the end-all, be-all, to make moves. I don't see them chasing any more "top" free agents. It's about filling in the roster now. I think it clears the need to take a wide receiver. Doesn't mean they won't, but I don't think you have to spend a pick if you don't want. I don't know about the talks. Drake signing the tag changes the dynamic there. He would have to get a pretty nice deal to offset an $8-plus million for this season to go long-term. Hopkins, I do not believe, has even taken a physical yet. So one thing at a time.

If the offseason is canceled, it doesn't necessarily mean anything for the season. This is all going to be week-to-week, month-to-month.

From Garth Short via azcardinals.com:

"Darren, hope you and yours are well. Just wondering, at the Cards' headquarters, how many cars are in the parking lot? How does this compare to other years when we didn't have to deal with coronavirus? Thanks, and stay well."

I can't answer how many cars are in the parking lot because I am not there -- working from home. At this point, I'd guess there are very few cars there. Most everyone is working remotely, which is what everyone should be doing if at all possible.

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