Looking Ahead: What might Year 2 of the Arizona Cardinals rebuild look like?

Phase One of the Arizona Cardinals rebuild has been painful to watch, given the team’s 2-10 record. What might Year 2 look like?

Arizona Cardinals linebacker BJ Ojulari (18) reacts after a touchdown by the Los Angeles Rams in the
Arizona Cardinals linebacker BJ Ojulari (18) reacts after a touchdown by the Los Angeles Rams in the / Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY

Yesterday, I wrote a piece imploring three potential options the Arizona Cardinals had with quarterback Kyler Murray. The quickest possible way to put the team in a position to win again would be to keep the keys in Murray’s hands and build around him, as demoralizing as it is that a former number-one pick has shown us he can only take a team so far…for now.

However, don’t expect the Cards to bring in too many notable free agents in March 2024, as the plan, among other factors, will likely be to have enough money put back to identify and lock in a few players long-term. Talents like Trey McBride, Jalen Thompson, and Kyzir White should be here for a while, and the rookie class from this season also looks like a winner. 

But with so many draft picks in 2024, another offseason like the one the Cardinals went through in March 2023 shouldn’t be so surprising. With Murray most likely sticking around, here is what the starting offense could look like come the offseason before any re-signings, extensions, or cuts:

  • Quarterback: Murray
  • Running back: James Conner
  • Receivers: Michael Wilson, Rondale Moore, Zach Pascal
  • Tight end: Trey McBride
  • Line: Paris Johnson, Will Hernandez, Hjalte Froholdt, Jon Gaines, D.J. Humphries

The defense doesn’t look much more promising. If we were to use the same formula, adding projected starters before anyone is cut or re-signed if their contract is expiring, we would get the following:

  • Defensive line: Dante Stills, Roy Lopez
  • EDGE rusher: Zaven Collins, BJ Ojulari
  • Linebacker: Kyzir White, Owen Pappoe
  • Cornerback: Garrett Williams, Kei’Trel Clark, Marco Wilson
  • Safeties: Budda Baker, Jalen Thompson 

Source: Spotrac

Weaknesses on both sides could force an extended rebuild

Once again, the projected starting lineups for 2024 do not include players whose contracts are expiring or those who may be cut following the season, hence the reason some different names are appearing. But as you can also see, the Cards front office will be rather busy trying to put an adequate team on the field while they continue to overhaul the roster. 

Weaknesses include receiver, one guard, and tackle position, defensive line, and perhaps one EDGE rusher position. Though you could realistically put Dennis Gardeck or Victor Dimukeje above Zaven Collins since their respective contracts don’t expire until 2025. 

Linebacker is an obvious weakness before anyone is re-signed, and the Cards will also look to upgrade their cornerbacks. Realistically, they can bring in a few more rentals in free agency while again having enough money to extend existing talent who can be part of the core, then fill the other needs with draft picks. 

Depending on who the Arizona Cardinals re-sign, extend to long-term deals, sign in free agency, and ultimately draft, this rebuild may not show signs of turning the corner until at least 2025. It won’t be easy to talk pending unrestricted free agents into coming to the desert because such a rebuild is occurring, sans those obscure names who will undoubtedly be looking for work. 

Therefore, the next phase of the Cardinals rebuild, or Year 2, could look eerily identical to Year 1. This doesn’t mean the team will be 2-10 next season at this point, but following another potentially boring offseason could mean the Cards will find themselves with a losing record and a top-10 draft pick once more.