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With the Cardinals and the NFL, headlines are often meaningless

Howard Balzer Avatar
April 17, 2023

Catching up on the “breaking news” . . .

The Cardinals might trade down in the first round of the draft

Wow. That’s ground-breaking. The reaction was palpable last week when ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that at least six teams have inquired about trading for the Cardinals’ third overall pick in the first round.

Really? That’s news? The real story would have been had the report said no teams were inquiring about trading up. Conversations like this happen every year in the run-up to the draft.

Teams that have their sights set on a specific player or two will try and learn what it would take to move up. The packages discussed depend on how far the Cardinals would move down and whether a quarterback is who the team trading up wants.

The Cardinals are in a good spot, especially if the Texans don’t select a quarterback with the second pick in the round. Of course, if that is their plan, they will likely trade down with a team that wants whoever the Panthers don’t select at No.1; either C.J. Stroud or Bryce Young. After that, it’s unknown whether other teams value Will Levis or Anthony Richardson enough to move up.

They shouldn’t because history is littered with quarterbacks selected early in the draft that don’t live up to expectations and many that were part of trades. It’s even questionable whether Stroud and Young are worthy of their perceived draft status.

But this is fall-in-love-with-a quarterback season and many teams feel compelled to mortgage the future to get one.

Still, it’s not out of the question that a team might be willing to get to No. 3 for someone other than a quarterback, but the bounty likely won’t be as promising.

It does appear likely the Cardinals will make the best trade they possibly can to acquire additional choices in this draft and future years and that would happen when they are on the clock for the pick.

However, always remember that virtually everything speculative that becomes public before the draft has an agenda attached to it. And that every team ranks players differently than those whose general evaluations can’t possibly take into account what every team thinks.

Budda Baker asks to be traded

This apparently happened in February, as Schefter reported this week, after Baker was supposedly rebuffed in his quest for a contract extension and to become the league’s highest-paid safety.

It also became public shortly after Baker removed references to Arizona and the Cardinals from his Twitter profile and also posted a GIF of Michael Jordan in “The Last Dance” saying, “That’s all I needed. That’s all I needed for him to do that and it became personal with me.”

We don’t know who “him” is or what he said or did, but it’s likely it was a strong “no” from general manager Monti Ossenfort.

The trade request didn’t occur long after Ossenfort sang Baker’s praises when he talked to the media after being hired in January.

Ossenfort said, “Before I walked in here, I had a chance to say hi to Budda. A little story about Budda is when I came for my interview in the conference room where we sat down and spoke, there was a picture of Budda on the wall. I was the only one in the room and the interview had not got started yet. I distinctly remembered I was with the Patriots at the time and Budda came in. We interviewed Budda at the Combine for our 20-minute interview.

“After the end of that 20-minute interview, I think I was ready to run through a brick wall for Budda Baker and I just relayed that story to him. There’s other leaders on this team as well, but Budda Baker represents everything that we want this organization to be and I am excited to be on a team with him.”

But how excited?

At his introductory press conference in February, defensive coordinator Nick Rallis said, “Budda sets the standard on how you play this game. It is violent. It is high-motor 24-7. We’re going to continue to demand to push that even further and for everyone to be at that standard of playing violently and being explosive. Everybody has to get better.”

Last season, Baker famously didn’t miss time after suffering a high-ankle sprain and in an episode of Hard Knocks, quarterback Kyler Murray said about Baker, “Budda Baker, man, real quiet dude, I would say. Just a savage. If I had to go to war with one dude on this team, it would be Budda. I think everybody in this locker room, everybody in this building understands why. Gives everything for his teammates. Loves his teammates. He’s a dog. That’s the definition of Budda.”

Then-coach Kliff Kingsbury said at the time, “He’s got a different level of passion, crazy; whatever it takes. The way he plays the game each and every snap and the way he practices. It’s unique to the sport. It’s an honor to be on the field with him.”

Then-linebackers coach Bill Davis challenged his group to play as hard as Baker and safety Chris Banjo said, “The fire and passion he brings to the game. I don’t think you can replicate that anywhere in the league.”

Baker is currently the seventh-highest paid safety in the NFL at $14.75 per year according to Derwin James, who signed a contract extension last summer with the Chargers, averages $19 million per year.

Jessie Bates, who left Cincinnati for Atlanta as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, is now fourth after signing a four-year, $64.02 million contract ($16.005 million a year) that includes $36 million guaranteed.

Baker signed a $59 million deal in 2020 that has two years remaining at salaries of $13.1 and $14.2 million. His situation is similar to Titans safety Kevin Byard, whose current contract is worth $14.1 million per year and he has two years remaining at $13.6 million each season.

Byard, James and Bates are all represented by David Mulugheta, who was also Baker’s agent until recently. According to NFLPA records, he has not selected a new agent yet.

Hopefully, both sides keep their heads and are able to come up with a solution that takes into account Baker’s value on and off the field.

What do Murray’s squats actually mean?

In reality, very little.

The social media reaction was over the top after quarterback Kyler Murray posted a video lifting weights with some actually believing it could mean a return to the field by Week 1. That would mean being able to practice in August, a mere seven months after surgery.

Let’s tap the breaks on that. Dr. David Chao noted that while it’s a good sign that Murray is apparently working hard, he said what Murray showed isn’t unusual for “a high-level athlete” 13 weeks after ACL surgery. A local gym owner told me the weights Murray was lifting along with the bar totaled around 200 piunds, which is close to his body weight.

Chao said he is sticking to his original belief that considering Murray’s style of play that relies significantly on his legs, the realistic return is after four games at the earliest and perhaps as much as halfway through the season.

At the league meeting, when asked about Murray’s potential return, coach Jonathan Gannon said, “I’m not really concerned with a timeline, honestly. There is a long time before we line up and play a game. When Kyler is fully ready to play mentally and physically, that’s when he will play. I don’t put timelines on guys coming back from injuries. I really don’t do that because you’re always wrong when you do that. Whenever he’s ready to play, he’ll play.”

Last week at the onset of the team’s offseason program, Gannon was asked about the weightlifting video and said, I’m not [on] Twitter or wherever he posted that, but obviously I talk to Kyler a lot. He’s got competitive juice, so he wants to be doing everything that he can to get out there when he can to help the team win. So, pleased where that’s at. I think I told him the other day, ‘As good as you feel, there’s going to be a little bit of a dip. You’ve got to make sure you don’t overdo it, too.’

“That’s a part [of] being smart when you rehab from any injury. You want to go, go, go. Sometimes you’ve got to push the pause button a little bit. But, excited about where he’s at and where he’s going.”

Decision on Simmons looms

As a first-round pick in 2020, the Cardinals have to decide by May 1 whether to exercise the guaranteed fifth-year option of $12.722 million on Isaiah Simmons’ contract.

When he signed, Simmons received a fully-guaranteed four-year deal worth $20.664 million. This year, he is scheduled to receive just north of $3.4 million that includes a $1.01 million salary and $2.418 million roster bonus.

Simmons has moved all over the defense during his previous three seasons and last year had to earn a starting position back after a disappointing performance in the season opener against Kansas City.

The new coaching staff has to figure out how best to utilize him while also deciding about the fifth-year option.

Gannon recently said, “He obviously has a very unique skillset. A lot of the guys that look like him can’t do what he can do. Just excited to get on the grass with him and see what he’s comfortable with and what we’re going to ask him to do. Just excited to see how he fits into what we’re going to do and help us win games.

“Even though we might have a vision for (him) and he might say, ‘I can do this, this and this,’ let’s make sure he’s comfortable with what we’re asking him to do mentally and physically. That’ll take a little bit of feeling out from both sides, but we got time before we line up for Week 1 in September. We’re not going to rush that, but (we’ve had) really good communication with Isaiah.”

Don’t hesitate to comment or ask questions on Twitter @hbalzer721 or email me:

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