The Arizona Cardinals got off to a dominant start in the 2021 regular season, only to fade down the stretch before getting pummeled by the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams in the Wild Card Round. It was a disappointing ending to a season that began with such high hopes, and now there is drama swirling around star quarterback Kyler Murray.
The Cardinals clearly have some work to do to patch up their issues under head coach Kliff Kingsbury. As of the moment, they are currently around $813,000 over the salary cap for the upcoming offseason, per Over The Cap. Letting go of a number of players as well as restructuring some contracts will allow the Cardinals to have more room to make moves. Surely enough, significant changes are needed in order for them to have a deeper playoff run moving forward.
With that said, let’s take a look at four predictions for the Cardinals in the 2022 NFL offseason.
Cardinals Offseason Predictions
4. The Cardinals will land a cornerback in free agency
Perhaps one of the thinnest units of the Cardinals as of the moment would be its cornerback rotation. The group just wasn’t the same after Robert Alford absorbed a season-ending pectoral injury in Week 14 of the season.
Marco Wilson and Byron Murphy were not able to hold their ground as much as they wanted to, especially when J.J. Watt also went down with an injury of his own. The Cardinals officially releasing Malcolm Butler now leaves the rotation even more shorthanded heading to the offseason.
A potential target they can look at would be Charvarius Ward from the Kansas City Chiefs. He finished the 2021 season with 67 combined tackles and a couple of interceptions in 13 games played. He may not be the best option out there, but he is a serviceable player who could be signed on a the cheap.
With the team in dire need of an upgrade, Ward may just be a viable option for Arizona to consider in free agency.
3. Re-signing Zach Ertz and James Conner will be the top priorities
The Cardinals have a long list of pending free agents, but a couple of valuable contributors in Zach Ertz and James Conner need to be prioritized in the offseason. Being newcomers in 2021, both players had a sizable impact on the team’s offense right from the get-go.
Ertz, who was acquired in a midseason trade, emerged as their top tight end and compiled 574 receiving yards and three touchdowns in 11 appearances as a Cardinal. Meanwhile, Conner led the ground game and recorded 752 yards and 15 touchdowns in 15 games played.
Both are expected to garner significant interest, so Arizona will do what it can to bring them back.
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2. The Cardinals will let Chandler Jones walk in free agency
Aside from Ertz and Conner, linebacker Chandler Jones is also set to become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. It can’t be denied that he has been one of the pillars of the Cardinals’ defense through the years.
In 2021, he had another stellar campaign with 41 combined tackles, 10.5 sacks, and six forced fumbles in 15 games played. Surely enough, Jones will be demanding a hefty sum for him to continue playing in the desert. He definitely deserves every single penny that he will call for, though it might just be too expensive for the Cardinals at this point.
The four-time Pro Bowler is already 31 years old, and it will be more sustainable for the team to pursue and develop younger prospects moving forward. Additionally, the massive paycheck that could go to Jones would be a huge help in addressing the other areas of their roster instead.
1. The Cardinals will pick up the fifth-year option on Kyler Murray’s contract
Cardinals QB Kyler Murray is set to head to the final year of his rookie contract signed back in 2019. The team can opt to pick up the fifth-year option on his current deal. However, it became more expensive by around $3 million as the 24-year-old was named a Pro Bowler in 2021, thus bringing his projected money in 2023 to around $28 million.
Another option for the Cardinals would be to offer a long-term extension in order to lock in the QB, that is if they are confident in his abilities to continue being their franchise gunslinger moving forward. Looking back, Murray received a ton of criticism due to his lackluster performance in their Wild Card Round loss to the Rams, and there are questions about his leadership.
However, Murray still deserves some benefit of the doubt due to his young age and inexperience in playing in the postseason. He can erase all of those question marks if he can manage to perform better, especially in the playoffs in the years to come.
The Cardinals have until early May to figure things out and decide if they will stick with Murray or find a new playmaker to lead their charge moving forward. However, a more logical choice for the team would be to pick up his fifth-year option and see how things play out in 2022.