Arizona Cardinals: Like it or not, Kyler Murray is the (probable) starter beyond 2023

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) takes the field to make his first NFL start against
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) takes the field to make his first NFL start against / Rob Schumacher/The Republic via Imagn

With such a large contract in hand and the offense getting tailored around him, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is likely here to stay.

Last month, I gave a few reasons why the Arizona Cardinals could move on from Kyler Murray following the 2023 season. In the piece, I cited that if Clayton Tune overachieves, that the front office may want to build around their own imported talent, and finally, poor play upon Murray’s return as factors for the front office to replace him. 

However, the primary issue of why Murray is probably here to stay in 2023 and at least for the foreseeable future comes at the expense of his contract. For example, if the Cards released Murray following the 2023 season, they would owe $81.521 million in dead cap, and their overall savings would account for -$29.664 million, per Spotrac.

Obviously, this isn’t a smart business decision. If they traded Murray before June 1st, 2024, they’re still looking at $46.221 million in dead cap, and they would save just $5.636 million. A post-June 1st release or trade also doesn't look much better. 

Arizona Cardinals quarterback is here to stay beyond 2023

While Kyler Murray is probably going nowhere, this shouldn’t be a bad thing, even if he returns and underachieves in 2023. There will be rust early, no doubt, so I wouldn’t allow a couple of bad games to dictate any desire to call for Clayton Tune to enter (or return) to the lineup. 

Now, if Tune won the starting job out of camp and was playing at a level that has the Cards overachieving, then it’s a different story, as I outlined earlier. But when I say overachieve, I mean he’ll need to have the Redbirds at least over a 0.500 record for this to occur, at least 5-3 or better by the time Murray’s cleared to play. 

But let’s assume Tune or McCoy, depending on who wins the job, has the Cardinals at 2-6 when Murray returns, and the former number one overall pick finishes the year 2-7. Clearly, going 5-15 in your last 20 starts will leave fans clamoring for a new quarterback under center. 

But look at this in another way: We know Murray, despite his small size, is a rare talent. We also know the Arizona Cardinals will likely have two picks in the top 10 come 2024, allowing them to snag an elite talent on offense and on defense. 

If you kept Murray around and say, drafted Marvin Harrison Jr, the starting offense could look like this in 2024:

  • QB: Kyler Murray
  • RB: James Conner
  • WRs: Marquise Brown, Marvin Harrison Jr, Michael Wilson
  • TE: Trey McBride
  • OL: D.J. Humphries, Paris Johnson, Jon Gaines II, Will Hernandez, Kelvin Beachum

I would expect the Cards to get another back to ease the pressure from Conner, who will be starting to age in running back years. But check out the pass catchers for a second, and tell me you’re not intrigued. 

Regardless of how Murray performs in 2023, his huge contract is probably keeping him around long-term. But that won’t be a bad thing, since it would free the Redbirds to draft a generational talent like Harrison, insert them into the lineup, and give the small but talented Murray even more young talent in the pass catching unit.