Kyler Murray won’t play the first four games of 2023 as he begins the season on the PUP list.
Will the Cardinals sit him all year so they can keep him healthy and move on in 2024?
It’s a theory that has gained traction in recent days — highlighted by ex-NFL GM Michael Lombardi espousing the possibility on the Pat McAfee show Tuesday — but it’s not rooted in reality, as the Cardinals have no plans to sit their standout quarterback for the season.
Once Murray is ready to be on the field following his recovery from a torn ACL, he will be out there, according to multiple sources. That has been the plan since coach Jonathan Gannon was hired in February and nothing has changed.
"Kyler Murray has $56M coming & he has a potential to earn $92M that are only protected by the injury guarantee clause..
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) August 29, 2023
The Cardinals have certainly not tried their hardest to field a competitive team this year, as moves have been made with the future in mind, but they are also not going to actively try to lose games in 2023.
Murray gives them the best chance to win, and even though it could potentially hurt their draft stock, getting him on the field is a priority because it will help this season as well as clear up future plans.
Even though Caleb Williams is seen as a mega prospect, there are multiple ways in which Murray can remain the quarterback in 2024 and beyond.
The first is if he returns to form near the end of 2023 and proves to be a good schematic fit in Drew Petzing’s offense. The Cardinals could then trade whichever high picks they land for more draft capital down the road and build out the roster around Murray.
It’s a scenario that excites some internally, even if Williams is on the table as their potential selection.
The other would be if the Cardinals finish without a top-2 pick in 2024, meaning that Caleb Williams and Drake Maye would likely both be off the board.
Odds to be the No. 1 overall pick in 2024, per FanDuel:
Caleb Williams -350
The Field +210
— Kyle Odegard (@Kyle_Odegard) May 25, 2023
While Arizona may end up with a rookie quarterback next season, it’s far from assured, and alienating their current signal-caller by sitting him all year against his wishes would be a rough decision if the team doesn’t end up in the top two.
Lombardi brought up injury guarantees that would kick in if Murray was hurt again, but that was with the unsaid premise that he has a bad contract.
In fact, after Joe Burrow signs a mammoth extension, Murray’s average annual value of $46.1 million per year will only be the sixth-highest contract among the 18 starting quarterbacks on non-rookie deals, and will continue to drop further down the list as the years go on.
Murray is a viable option as the quarterback of the Cardinals for the long-term, and sitting him all season would damage a relationship that is currently very healthy, and it would also hurt his trade value.
The move doesn’t make much sense, and according to sources, it’s not in the team’s plans.
I was on vacation for the past week-and-a-half, so here are a few more nuggets from the whirlwind of moves in that span:
Colt McCoy Was Cut Because He Can No Longer Perform
There is a big conspiracy theory about the Cardinals’ decision to cut Colt McCoy, and how it signifies they are tanking.
First of all, the 2023 tanking happened in free agency and the draft.
Secondly, the team considers Josh Dobbs an upgrade on McCoy, per a source, so it was in no way a decision meant to lose more games.
McCoy was supposed to be the bridge quarterback until Murray was ready this season but has dealt with a bothersome elbow injury for months. It’s been clear for awhile that he no longer has any zip on his throws, and the joint practice week in Minnesota sealed the notion that he would be unable to move the offense.
McCoy is a bigger name than Dobbs or Clayton Tune but he’s not the better player any more.
Joshua Dobbs Expected to be the Opening Week Starter
The Cardinals’ coaching staff would love for Tune to take advantage of the open starting quarterback job and grab that role, but it’s a lot to ask for a late-round rookie.
While he has more upside than Dobbs, the floor is considerably lower. The Cardinals are well aware that this season is going to be a battle, but they are still going to put the best quarterback on the field and try to win games.
Dobbs is almost certainly going to be that guy when the season begins against the Washington Commanders.
Isaiah Simmons Wasn’t A Culture Fit with the New Regime
The Cardinals didn’t get much of any cap savings or draft capital in the Isaiah Simmons trade, so why do the deal when his value was at its lowest?
GM Monti Ossenfort had a memorable line about no egos during his introductory press conference, and I’ve been told that Simmons wasn’t a good culture fit for what the new regime would like to accomplish.
The same was true of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who was released before training camp.
It remains to be seen if the Cardinals can actually create a Patriot Way-like atmosphere in the building, but so far they have certainly practiced what they preached, shipping out a pair of high-profile players who didn’t fit their vision.