The 2023 Cardinals have historically been a marked departure from the team’s offseasons.
In 2013, Cards’ new front office trailed behind Carson Palmer, Rashad Johnson, Jerraud Powers, Karlos Dansby and Rashard Mendenhall to post a 10-6 record.
They spent the new couple of offseasons in the 2016 season making big strides each offseason, signing veteran players like Mike Iupati, acting for Chandler Jones, expanding their QB and Larry Fitzgerald, and even adding players to try in 2017 to fight.
When it came to the 2018 season… Arizona was still trying to compete with the signing of Sam Bradford and then built back in big hauls every year until the 2022 season, when the Steve Keim era ended.
Now, the Cardinals are the third-ranked team in the NFL and what are the projected moves for them? Not many.
- Trading with DeAndre Hopkins
- Take a player on pick 3 or trade them for more picks
- not chasing/signing the best free agent starting quarterback available
- no extension for Zach Allen/Byron Murphy
- slow, cheap supplements
Definitely…Arizona has the third most cap room and makes the fewest splashes, making many wondering if they’re tanking for the 2023 season.
And what’s more…it might be less intentional tanking than realizing the team has a new offense/defense, more holes than a piranha net on the list, and not just one, but TWO quarterbacks who are ineligible for off-season training.
It’s the worst overall situation for this upcoming season for a team in the NFL, according to the latest NFL performance rankings, which ranks them 32nd out of 32.
Here’s what NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus had to say:
The lack of moves has also pushed Arizona down almost everywhere, which…if it happens, means the team could end up in the top 3 of the NFL draft again next year, and it feels like…that might be plan.
Saving money, giving up expensive veteran contracts, and a lack of signings all seem to point to it, which begs the question…should the Cardinals try harder to win in 2023?
Or is refueling part of the plan, and if so, is it a good plan? A lot of people accept that tanking happens in the NFL, just not openly.
Dolphins 2019 fans said “Tank For Tua!” and ended up with a top five pick. Granted they had some great quarterbacks in that class but it just wasn’t the one they wanted, it was Joe Burrow at 1 and Justin Herbert at 6.
Things can of course change, but let’s follow this train of thought. WHEN the Cardinals inadvertently follow up a miserable, disappointing season with an intentional, miserably disappointing season, fans want reassurance that it was worth it.
The 2018 season was tough…but the improvements and a future at the QB position with Kyler Murray almost made it worth it for some with hindsight.
So let’s take a look at the top talent in the 2024 NFL Draft Class and ask ourselves if there are any players who might be worth tanking for.
Most of their pro day at Ohio State didn’t even have their star QB or draft-eligible WR as the most talked about part…
Instead, it was the sophomore, who is in fact the son of a former NFL legend, who caused quite a stir:
At that point, the kid could probably announce he’s out of this world, and pro scouts would believe him.
With all the hype, does it make sense to tank for a wide receiver? At least for the Arizona Cardinals, it could.
With some of these insane readings, it makes sense that Harrison Jr. could be the tallest receiver drafted since Calvin Johnson or even Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald.
But does it make sense from a team building perspective? Probably yes.
Trading in the aging DeAndre Hopkins means they have a wide receiver under contract for the 2024 season ahead of the draft at Rondale Moore. They don’t have a true X, or underdog, or even a playmaker who, as far as we know, hasn’t had Moore’s injury woes. And we’ve seen young receivers turn teams quickly, from Justin Jefferson to Ja’Marr Chase with Joe Burrow. In fact, pairing the Cardinals with Harrison Jr. is already a common theme in mock drafts from 2024 (and yes, I know it’s too early to focus on that, but if this season is lost before it begins, you have to you somehow make content).
Having a bad year and moving on from DeAndre Hopkins to adding a future stud a year from now makes a lot of sense for the Cardinals and could be “worth” tanking for.
Sometimes, with a dynamic pass rusher, you can find another player who can quickly turn your franchise around.
Arizona has a chance this year to potentially pick one in Alabama’s Will Anderson, but what’s next year’s harvest going to look like?
With Will Anderson moving to the NFL, Alabama’s Dallas Turner looks to be the next man to explode, with 8 sacks as a freshman and 4 as a sophomore, and will move to the primary pass-rush position.
Meanwhile, FSU’s Jared Verse was draft-eligible that year but chose to remain in college after a stellar season with 17 tackles for loss and 9 sacks after transferring from Jr. College.
There’s no defender that has as big an impact on a team as a dynamic pass rusher, and if the Cardinals’ method of approaching a successful turnaround is similar to that of teams that have TWO quality pass rushers, then it could worth it too.
Corner/Offensive Line: Is either need worth fueling for?
I’ll list this as an option because sometimes you don’t know what your needs are (DJ Humphries and Josh Jones might mean Arizona is discontinued, but you can see a lot of changes every year). Usually when a team is “tanking” or we see heavily tucked in offensive linemen or corners, they’re an almost generational prospect. Even a potential Bijian Robinson caliber wasn’t deemed “worth tanking” and judging by next year’s class these probably aren’t worth either.
Think of your Joe Thomas or a Darrelle Revis/Charles Woodson type player.
The problem is, when it comes to team building, these aren’t necessarily the “most influential” players on the field. Even highly regarded linebackers like Micah Parsons and Hassan Reddick showed that their ability to really make a difference wasn’t about being off the ball.
As a passer, as a passer, and as a passer are arguably the most dynamic positions in the NFL, not spots like cornerback or offensive line like we did with teams like the Niners or even the 2008 Cardinals have seen able to become schematically due at these positions.
Which brings us to the most controversial part of this article:
Quarterback: Caleb Williams and/or Drake Maye
Having “survived” the wars between Josh Rosen and Kyler Murray during the 2019 offseason, I’m not ready for that, but it’s already being talked about by both fans and some NFL fans from other teams as well, taking stock.
If Arizona ends up with a top-3 pick (as they’re predicting), should they pick a quarterback and move on from Kyler Murray?
Way too early to tell. What we seem to be saying at the moment, though, is that there’s a lot of hype surrounding UNC’s QB Caleb Williams and Drake Maye’s Heisman win.
Sure, it’s early, but the 2023 season SHOULD have a major impact on the 2024 season. Last year was finally bad enough for Arizona to blow it up.
If next year gets worse, the Cardinals may feel compelled to switch to a new quarterback, especially if they have a cheaper rookie QB deal and are able to rebuild some. It could certainly be the “worst case scenario” but one wonders if GM Monti Ossenfort’s plan to burn down the current Cardinals to rebuild them could include the core players of the team when they feel that they are SO far from arguing.
There’s no point in having 3rd largest cap spot available and still not spending in free agency or trying to win with the rookie QB contract unless the intention is… not to spend and not to win.
Some have even pointed to a connection to the Cardinals after the team didn’t bring in Jacoby Brissett, Baker Mayfield or any other starter, but simply hooked up with the likes of David Blough…because Caleb Williams went to the same private school district as Michael Bidwill’s Georgetown, for example -Preparation was in.
Am I saying the Cardinals blow everything up, including Kyler?
No, on the contrary, my hope is the opposite and the team can improve on last year with a new system, building up the lines and adding receivers in the long run.
But there are teams that have also learned the hard way that sometimes holding on too long is worse than letting go when a guy is hitting the wall. For example, the Eagles pulled from Carson Wentz and made a Super Bowl. The Washington Commanders previously saw RG3 never get back to his old self after a brutal knee injury that was worse than Kyler Murray’s but still difficult.
And everyone saw how badly Russell Wilson fell off.
Rather just a little knowing that sometimes in the NFL you have to cover all your bases. And if the Cardinals do indeed embrace a bad year for better years to come, you’d think it’s going to get worse and pick the top 3 again, they’ll be ready for it.