Trades, Signings for Cardinals to Help Kyler Murray Meet Expectations of New Contract

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIJuly 21, 2022

Trades, Signings for Cardinals to Help Kyler Murray Meet Expectations of New Contract

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    Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Arizona Cardinals and quarterback Kyler Murray have agreed to a five-year, $230.5 million ($160 million guaranteed) contract that ties him with the team through 2028, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

    The former University of Oklahoma star is now the second-highest paid quarterback annually behind only the Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes.

    Expectations will naturally be high for the four-year veteran after this monster deal, with the hope that Murray can lead this team to the Super Bowl.

    The arrow is already pointing up in Arizona, though, after Murray led the Cardinals to their first playoff appearance since 2015. Arizona's 11 wins was also a franchise-high since that season as well.

    With the franchise cornerstone now locked onto the team for nearly all of the 2020s, the question now is what the Cardinals will do to support Murray in hopes of earning the team's first-ever Lombardi Trophy.

    On that note, here's a look at some trade and free-agent signing ideas that could put them in position to do so. The focus will be on moves the Cardinals can do before, during and after the 2022 season.

Preseason: Add Veterans for OL, Edge Depth

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    AP Photo/Stacy Bengs

    Even though the Cardinals have lost DeAndre Hopkins to a six-game suspension for a violation of the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy, they're seemingly in good shape at wide receiver with Marquise Brown, Rondale Moore and A.J. Green forming a solid trio.

    However, Arizona could use more veteran depth at some of the other positions. The Cardinals are banking on youth behind their current starting five up front, with rookie guards Marquis Hayes and Lecitus Smith and second-year tackle Josh Jones all on the Ourlads two-deep.

    While that could work out, one more veteran in the mix couldn't hurt, especially in case of injury. Names out there include tackles Duane Brown, Eric Fisher and Riley Reiff as well as guards Ereck Flowers and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.

    The most intriguing name might be nine-time Pro Bowl OT Jason Peters, who at 40 years old has made clear to SiriusXM NFL Radio (h/t Myles Simmons of Pro Football Talk) that he's staying in shape and looking for a new NFL home if the opportunity calls.

    The Cardinals could also take a look at former Detroit Lions edge-rusher Trey Flowers. Arizona lost Chandler Jones to the Las Vegas Raiders, and while replacing that sack artist's production will be near-impossible, Flowers can fill out the depth chart. Injuries curtailed his past two seasons, but the 28-year-old has 31.5 sacks along with two Super Bowls as a starter with the New England Patriots.

Midseason: Trade for Saquon Barkley

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    AP Photo/Seth Wenig

    New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley was one of the NFL's greatest offensive stars in 2018 and 2019, when he had 3,469 scrimmage yards and 23 touchdowns.

    However, a torn ACL in Week 2 of the 2020 season prematurely ended his third season, and Barkley struggled during his 2021 comeback year (3.7 yards per carry, 856 total yards, four touchdowns in 13 games).

    Barkley did have some major obstacles in 2021, though, including a midseason offensive coordinator change, an offensive line that struggled run- and pass-blocking and a season-ending injury to quarterback Daniel Jones. That's all in addition to him returning from his knee injury. It's certainly possible he could return to past glory days on greener pastures.

    Now he's entering the final year of his rookie deal. With the Giants amid a new era under general manager Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll, it's fair to wonder whether this rebuilding team is inclined to move on from the star.

    If Barkley isn't in the long-term plans and a team largely predicted to do poorly gets off to a rough start, then a midseason trade seems possible.

    Enter the Cardinals. Yes, they just signed James Conner (15 rushing touchdowns) last year to a three-year deal. But they also lost his backfield mate Chase Edmonds to the Miami Dolphins and could potentially form a new dynamic duo with Conner and Barkley.

    If the Cardinals find themselves rolling in the midseason, perhaps they could be inclined to part with draft capital and load the team up with talent for a half-season to go for it a la the Los Angeles Rams last year with edge-rusher Von Miller. Barkley is a dynamic and athletic weapon when healthy, and he and Conner could give opponents fits since they are both versatile, pass-catching backs.

Next Offseason: Fortify the Offensive Line

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    AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

    The Cardinals have big question marks on their starting offensive line, and they will multiply in 2023.

    Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus ranked the unit 25th out of 32 NFL teams going into this season:

    "This is one of the most veteran-laden offensive lines in the NFL. The average age of Arizona's five starters come Week 1 will be over 30 years old. While that might sound 'stable,' it also sounds like injury red flags. Justin Pugh, Rodney Hudson and Kelvin Beachum are all firmly on the downswings of their careers, and the Cardinals can’t afford for any of them to fall off a cliff."

    The Cardinals could certainly prove doubters wrong, but three of their five starters (Pugh, Will Hernandez and Beachum) are not signed with the team next year.

    Simply put, Arizona needs to find long-term solutions to protect Murray.

    The potential crown jewel is Indianapolis Colts All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson, although one would have to imagine his team does everything in its power to bring him back. If not, the Cardinals should make him their prime target.

    There's a situation to also watch in Kansas City with franchise-tagged tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and the Chiefs not coming to terms on a long-term deal before the July 15 deadline.

    Other potential options include Denver Broncos guard Dalton Risner, Green Bay Packers guard Elgton Jenkins and Cleveland Browns tackle Jack Conklin.

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