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2023 Arizona Cardinals Offseason Preview

Kyler Murray

Kyler Murray

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off an 11-6 season that ended in a devastating loss in the Wild Card Round, Arizona entered 2022 looking to build on that momentum with another strong regular season. Clearly seeking to do so via an elite offense, Arizona added Marquise Brown through a trade with the Ravens, re-signed James Conner, and drafted Trey McBride with their first selection. The puzzle pieces on offense never seem to fit correctly and the defense came apart at the seams. Aeozona quickly proved to be a middling team with fleeting hopes of a playoff berth. The team’s incongruities on offense were magnified by occasional shouting matches on the sidelines. Kyler Murray eventually suffered a torn ACL in Week 14 and the team lost seven straight games to end the year. Kingsbury was fired the day after the season ended and GM Steve Keim stepped down to deal with health issues.

Key Offensive Stats

  • Points per game: 20 (21st)
  • EPA per play: -0.08 (28th)
  • Dropback EPA per play: -0.08 (28th)
  • Passing yards per game: 213.3 (18th)
  • Rush EPA per play: -0.09 (22nd)
  • Rush yards per game: 110.2 (22nd)

Brown, Murray, and DeAndre Hopkins played a single full game together, so it’s difficult to give the team an assessment as a whole. However, as individuals, the receivers looked great. Hopkins came back from his six-game suspension and hit the ground running. He earned at least 10 targets in all but two of his nine appearances. Hopkins averaged 7.1 catches for 80 yards. Brown struggled late in the season without Murray in the lineup but was a force early in the year, nearly matching Hopkins’ before the latter returned from his suspension. Murray, on the other hand, didn’t have his best season. He had a negative completion percent over expected and was graded as Pro Football Focus’s No. 37 passer. Most notably, his deep ball was nowhere to be found. He completed 30 percent of his throws 20 or more yards downfield. That was a decrease of nearly 20 percent compared to 2021. Some of this can be blamed on his disconnect with Kingsbury and the Cardinals’ rotation of receivers, but Murray was simply less accurate in his fourth pro season.

Key Defensive Stats

  • Points per game: 26.4 (31st)
  • EPA per play: 0.01 (20th)
  • Dropback EPA per play: 0.06 (23rd)
  • Passing yards per game: 230.3 (24th)
  • Rush EPA per play: -0.06 (22nd)
  • Rush yards per game: 118.6 (14th)

Arizona made some efforts to add talent to their defense through the draft and free agency in recent years, but their spending has mostly fallen on deaf offenses. The Cardinals ranked 31st in success rate against the pass and were graded as a below-average team by pass-rush grade and coverage grade. Budda Baker and J.J. Watt were among the few bright spots. Baker notched two interceptions and forced a fumble while leading the team in tackles. Watt added 12.5 sacks to his Hall of Fame resume. Isaiah Simmons, who had been a first-round bust by any other name, played a positionless role for the undermanned Cardinals and it unlocked his uber-athletic potential. He picked off two passes, forced a pair of fumbles, and logged four sacks. Try as they might, these few standouts did not come close to masking the team’s lack of talent at outside corner or linebacker.

2023 Offseason

Notes

Cap Space

$14.6 million

Draft Picks (Top-150)

3rd, 35th, 67th, 97th, and 106th

Notable Free Agents

OT Kelvin Beachum, CB Byron Murphy, OG Will Hernandez, OG Justin Pugh, C Billy Price, K Matt Prater, and DL Zach Allen

Cut Candidates

WR Robbie Anderson (12$ million in savings), EDGE Markus Golden ($3.1 million), and LB Dennis Gardeck ($2.9 million)

Anderson’s contract doesn’t have any dead cap and his departure is a foregone conclusion. Watt and A.J. Green both retired at the end of the year. Though the Cardinals have a surplus of cap space, but they also have the seventh-fewest players under contract for 2023.

Team Needs

Defensive End

Arizona ranked 23rd in sacks per game last year. They lost Chandler Jones in free agency an offseason ago and Watt is getting fitted for his gold jacket. Zach Allen, their second-best defensive lineman, is also a free agent.

Guard

Between seven different players, the Cardinals are set to lose 46 starts at interior line positions in free agency. Some of these players will be brought back, but injuries tested Arizona’s depth to a breaking point in 2022.

Cornerback

Marco Wilson led the Cardinals in outside corner snaps and was ranked as PFF’s No. 100 corner. Byron Murphy and Antonio Wilson faired better but are free agents. Facing Cooper Kupp, DK Metcalf, and Deebo Samuel six times per year, Arizona needs a corner who can square up with elite receivers.

Coaching Changes

Following their tumultuous 2022 season, the Cardinals axed Kingsbury with a 28-37-1 record over four years. Days after the Super Bowl, Arizona tabbed Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon to be their next head coach. Gannon led Philly’s defense to a No. 4 finish in EPA per play in 2022. They secured 70 sacks, the fourth-most for a team in NFL history. The Eagles logged the second-highest pressure rate despite blitzing at the 18th-highest rate. Gannon’s unit in Philadelphia was loaded with talent which he utilized to its full potential. He will now have to work that magic with a defense bereft of playmakers. The Cardinals are now in search of an offensive coordinator who can revive Murray after a lost season.

Outlook

With fresh faces throughout the coaching staff and at general manager, the Cardinals are entering a new era in 2023. Based on how late in the season Murray suffered his knee injury, Arizona is also likely to be stuck with a new quarterback under center to start the season. All of this points to the upcoming season being a rebuilding year for the Cardinals. That also aligns with their reported plans of trading Hopkins in the offseason. Zach Ertz could be next in line to be sent off. Moving on from veterans and trading down in the draft repeatedly would help Arizona turn the corner quickly. Part of that means sacrificing success in the upcoming season for better odds down the road.