In less than a week, the Arizona Cardinals will know exactly where they are selecting in the 2024 NFL Draft. Their first choice will fall somewhere in the No. 2-7 overall range. They are currently picking No. 4 overall after upsetting the Eagles last weekend.
Arizona also has a first-round pick from Houston as part of a draft-day trade a year ago. They have the resources to make a change at quarterback if they determine Kyler Murray is not the long-term solution.
Murray was the No. 1 overall selection out of Oklahoma in the 2019 NFL Draft. Some may have forgotten that it was thought the Texas native would bypass a career in football altogether in favor of Major League Baseball. Once it was learned that Murray would be focusing on football, the dots were quickly connected to first year Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Five years and a lucrative contract extension later, the franchise will be weighing its options on Murray. Here’s a look at what they could do.
Why the Cardinals would keep Murray
Murray is an athletically gifted quarterback whose mobility presents a challenge for opposing defenses. Head coach Jonathan Gannon comes from Philadelphia, where Jalen Hurts’ dual-threat capabilities have uplifted the offensive output. Offensive coordinator Drew Petzing comes from Cleveland and Minnesota before that — offenses that are commonly executed by predominantly pocket passers.
Murray signed a five-year deal worth nearly $160 million in guaranteed money in July of 2022. He has four years remaining on that contract. If he were cut prior to June 1, the team would face roughly an $81.5 million dead salary cap hit. If he was released with a post-June 1 designation, the number dips to $48.3 million and another $10 million each year over the remainder of the deal. It is not a prohibitive figure but certainly one that limits the amount of major changes that could be made by a rebuilding team in a calendar year.
Arizona could certainly do worse than the Oklahoma product. If they were to move on from him and he thrived while his replacement struggled, it would likely lead to decision-makers being fired. If they were to hang onto him, they could use the No. 4 overall selection to add a quality player to the rebuild or trade the pick for assets expected to accomplish the same goal. The roster has several needs beyond the question of who should be under center.
Why the Cardinals would move on from Murray
General manager Monti Ossenfort and Gannon are finishing their first season with the organization. They have no attachment to the quarterback beyond the relationship forged in 2023-2024. New regimes often want their own quarterback in power.
Over his first two seasons in the league, the fast-twitched, elusive quarterback appeared in every possible game. His availability has been more limited dating back to 2021. Murray has missed 18 of the 50 possible regular season contests over that period, including at least three each season. Amidst injury frustrations, he was also the subject of multiple unflattering stories, including the leak of a clause in his contract mandating ‘‘ as well as comments from former teammate Patrick Peterson claiming “Kyler Murray but Kyler Murray.”
In five seasons, Arizona will have advanced to the postseason once with Murray at the helm. Since returning in Week 10, he has a passer rating of 86.8, according to TruMedia, which is No. 17 in the NFL. His career average passer rating is 91.9. However, his replacements ranked No. 28 league-wide. Murray’s -0.07 expected points adder per dropback ranks No. 23 in the league ahead of a few rookies and other quarterbacks that have been benched this season.
The other side to the financial conversation is that Arizona may be multiple years away from contention so moving on from Murray now would allow the team to re-establish salary cap health in the coming years and move them off the path of offering the 26-year-old another lucrative contract in a few years.
Some may ask why Arizona would rush trading away Murray when they could again be in a position to select in the top-5 overall next season. They may, but they may not. A team cannot depend upon being in this position year after year. It could be years before they are in a position to pick this early again. They are also equipped with significant assets (No. 4 overall, No. 17 overall from Houston, and Murray) to maneuver for their quarterback of choice.
Cardinals’ most likely path
It is a difficult decision. The Cardinals will probably punt on adding a quarterback this offseason and evaluate a future with Murray over the course of another season. That is their most likely path, but it is not a certainty; there is reason to believe it’s possible they’ll make a move for a quarterback this offseason.
The 2024 NFL Draft will take place from April 25-27 in Detroit. More draft coverage can be found at CBSSports.com, including the weekly, mock drafts and a regularly available look at the eligible prospects.