Top 3 reasons why the Arizona Cardinals were offseason winners in 2023

The Arizona Cardinals have had a polarizing offseason in 2023, so it hasn’t stopped some in the NFL universe from panning them.
Arizona Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon watches his team practice during mini-camp on June 13,
Arizona Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon watches his team practice during mini-camp on June 13, / Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY

Say what you will about the Arizona Cardinals offseason, but neither general manager Monti Ossenfort nor head coach Jonathan Gannon lost out. Sure, there was roster turnover, but when you walk into town with a plan to build a team your way, as opposed to what hasn’t worked for the last decade, turnover is just a byproduct of Year 1 for that plan. 

That said, you can’t measure the Cardinals offseason based on who they lost, or their refusal to bring in big-name free agents. Instead, you need to measure their offseason based on whether Ossenfort advanced his plan to the best of his ability. Below, you will find three reasons why he managed to accomplish that.

Why the Arizona Cardinals exit the 2023 offseason as winners

1 - The Cards ended the ill-fated Keim Plan

With so much available cap space in free agency this past March, I shudder to think what Steve Keim would have done with all that cash. In all likelihood, he would have probably tried to have lured a couple of big-name free agents by tossing money at them, regardless of how well they would have fit the system. 

Under Ossenfort, that didn’t happen, as the new general manager wisely decided to focus on building the Redbirds via the draft while signing low-cost one-to-two-year rentals in free agency. Sure, it resulted in a weaker roster, but also a much younger roster, which leads me to my next point. 

2 - Ossenfort saved cash to retain his players

By showing restraint from signing nothing more than baseline talent in free agency, Ossenfort now has cap space to sign current players to more lucrative, lengthier contracts. Talents like Isaiah Simmons and Budda Baker could be the first players to experience this, along with receiver Marquise Brown

The more productive young players Ossenfort sees, and with the cap space he will have on hand, expect the Cards general manager to get busy in signing them to extensions, which will keep his best players off the free agent market. This, in time, will create a young core that he can build around with role players, setting the stage for potential long-term, sustainable success. 

3 - They are finally tailoring around Kyler Murray the right way

This is one aspect where the old regime clearly fell short. For one, they were trying to run some hybrid type of an “Air Raid” offense that Murray never saw sustainable success with. This time around, Ossenfort not only hired the right coach in Jonathan Gannon, but Gannon, in turn, hired Drew Petzing, a man capable of highlighting Murray’s strengths

Ossenfort also went out and got the right personnel, re-signing reliable linemen like Will Hernandez and Kelvin Beachum, bringing in depth players like Hjalte Froholdt, Dennis Daley, and Elijah Wilkinson, and drafting Paris Johnson and Jon Gaines II. He also added size to the receiving unit with Zach Pascal and Michael Wilson

Putting this together, the Cards offense looks like it’s anything but an “Air Raid.” Instead, you should expect to see a throwback style of play, similar to what the Cleveland Browns have been doing, but with a more talented quarterback in place when Murray makes his ultimate return. 


Source: Biggest Winners and Losers of 2023 NFL Offseason by Brad Sobleski,