Arizona Cardinals: Making the case for a (near) complete rebuild in 2023
Before the 2022 season, the Arizona Cardinals thought they were one of the NFL’s most stable franchises. They couldn’t have been more wrong.
Nothing is worse for a professional sports franchise’s immediate future than a complete rebuild. For one, there is a lot of mystery surrounding it, because there is no guarantee it will work, which can set a team even further back than it is.
But on the other hand, what else is there to lose if you are the Arizona Cardinals? This franchise hasn’t won an NFL Championship since 1947. And they haven’t even appeared in a championship game since Super Bowl XLIII, when they lost in the closing minutes to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
We also know the Cardinals can’t keep heading in this direction. They are 4-9 under a coach in his fourth season. A coach who has won just eight of his previous 24 contests. Their general manager is on leave for health-related issues and there is no guarantee he will be back. Plus, we have no idea what Kyler Murray will look like once he recovers from his torn ACL.
The Arizona Cardinals need to rebuild
Kingsbury has done nothing but regress. And it’s not like he didn’t have a talented roster. He had a quarterback in Kyler Murray who was supposed to make the leap into becoming one of the league’s better quarterbacks. Instead, Murray suffered through the worst statistical season of his career and he has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is injury-prone. Not what you want in a franchise quarterback.
Anyway, back to Kingsbury, as it wasn’t like his quarterback was throwing to unproven receivers. He had Marquise Brown, then DeAndre Hopkins, and Zach Ertz. Greg Dortch and Rondale Moore proved to be effective. Early on, the defense held opposing offenses in check. But Kliff still couldn’t capitalize.
Besides an injury-prone quarterback and an ineffective head coach, general manager Steve Keim turned the Arizona Cardinals roster into the third oldest in football. Check out just how many projected key players on the 2022 Cardinals are 30 and over:
- J.J. Watt
- Markus Golden
- Kelvin Beachum
- Rodney Hudson
- Justin Pugh
- DeAndre Hopkins
- Zach Ertz
- A.J. Green
- Colt McCoy – thought I’d throw him in there since he could potentially start in six games this season.
Rebuild through the draft, supplement through free agency, trades
I can see most of the above names continuing their respective careers elsewhere in 2023. And I can also see a few of them retiring. This can leave the Cardinals with one too many roster holes in 2023, that it would be pointless to keep going with Kingsbury. If he couldn’t win with a moderately talented roster, he surely won’t win with a roster that is bound to see mass turnover.
Instead, owner Michael Bidwill needs to make a change this offseason. Get your coach, and perhaps your general manager, though Adrian Wilson may be an enticing fit there. And you can rebuild the team in that new regime’s image, preferably through the draft.
The 2023 draft class is supposed to be strong in defense, so go defense. If it means trading DeAndre Hopkins while he still has value, trade him for a first and a third round pick. Accumulate as many picks as you can in the early rounds and spend them on a corner, an edge rusher, and offensive linemen.
Staples already on the Arizona Cardinals roster
The Cardinals may also have a power play. Sure, Murray was terrible this season, but he still has potential to be one of the league’s better quarterbacks. Especially if you pair him with a coach who will design an offense to fit his strengths.
Marquise Brown should still be there, ditto for D.J. Humphries. Lecitus Smith could be a diamond in the rough from last season. And there are plenty of players on defense like Budda Baker, Jalen Thompson, Byron Murphy, Isaiah Simmons, and Zaven Collins young enough that they can withstand a rebuild.
That said, there are pieces in place. So why not get rid of the old guard, even if it means moving Hopkins, Ertz, and anyone else over 30 who can still contribute in this league? Sure, it may be another long year in 2023, but starting in 2024, especially with the pieces the Cardinals could already have in place, it may be another story.
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