The Arizona Cardinals are on track to achieve way better things in the coming year. Working in the organization's favor is the fact that starting quarterback Kyler Murray won't be recovering from a torn ACL this offseason. The two-time Pro Bowler missed nine games in 2023, and the Cards limped to an ugly 1-8 record while Murray was on the mend.
Arizona may have done better if they had acquired a more competent signal-caller to stand in for Murray. Journeyman Josh Dobbs, for some odd reason, was the best that general manager Monti Ossenfort could come up with. The 6 foot 3, 216 pounder wore out his welcome after eight starts, and was ultimately dealt to the Minnesota Vikings at the trade deadline.
Just days after Dobbs was jettisoned, rookie passer Clayton Tune was thrown to the wolves during his first NFL start. That day's opponent, the Cleveland Browns, possessed one of the most talented and ferocious defenses in professional football. The Cardinals had set Tune up for disaster, and the result was a 27-0 shellacking in front of the "Dawg Pound".
At the moment, Tune sits directly underneath Murray on the Redbirds depth chart. The second-year pro out of the University of Houston certainly has potential, but the Cards would be much better off with an experienced backup. That's especially true if head coach Jonathan Gannon's squad has any hopes of contending when the 2024 campaign kicks off next September.
Arizona Cardinals could have their choice of several intriguing backup quarterbacks in 2024
In his 11 NFL seasons, Ryan Tannehill has amassed an 81-70 record as a starter during stints with the Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans. The 6 foot 4, 217 pounder has thrown for 34,881 yards and 216 touchdowns since he entered the league back in 2012. Ossenfort spent three years (2020-22) as Tennessee's director of player personnel, so the Arizona GM should certainly be familiar with the 35-year-old Tannehill.
Since he turned pro six years ago, Sam Darnold has already been employed by three separate franchises. The third-overall pick of the 2018 draft crapped out as a first-string passer (21-35 record as a starter), but the experience he could provide as Murray's backup could intrigue the Cardinals brass. Darnold spent the past several months with the San Francisco 49ers as a fill-in for Brock Purdy.
There's was some talk a year ago about the Cards possibly having interest in free-agent option Gardner Minshew. After all, the 27-year-old and Gannon spent two campaigns (2021-22) together in the locker room of the Philadelphia Eagles. Minshew shined as a substitute for the Indianapolis Colts this past fall, nearly leading the club to the playoffs after rookie Anthony Richardson suffered a knee injury.
One more free-agent passer that Arizona's management could kick the tires on is Drew Lock, the 27-year-old who was a second-stringer with the Seattle Seahawks this past season. The 6 foot 4, 228 pounder possesses an uninspiring record as a starter (9-14), but his performance versus the Eagles last month proved he could produce in a role as a backup signal-caller. Lock led Seattle on a last-minute scoring drive against Philly that climaxed with a game-winning touchdown strike to rookie wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
(Statistics provided by Pro Football Reference)