2023 NFL Offseason: Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals (Last Year: 4-13)

2023 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Jeff Driskel, OT Dennis Daley, G/C Hjalte Froholdt, DT L.J. Collier, DT Kevin Strong, LB Kyzir White, LB Josh Woods, CB Rashad Fenton.
Early Draft Picks:
OT Paris Johnson, DE/OLB B.J. Ojulari, CB Garrett Williams, WR Michael Wilson, G Jon Gaines, QB Clayton Tune, LB Owen Pappoe, CB Kei’Terel Clark. Cardinals Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
RB Darrel Williams, WR DeAndre Hopkins, WR Robbie Anderson, WR A.J. Green, TE Maxx Williams, G Justin Pugh, G Max Garcia, G Cody Ford, C Rodney Hudson, C Billy Price, DE/DT Zach Allen, DT Trysten Hill, DE/OLB Markus Golden, LB Ben Niemann, LB Tanner Vallejo, CB Byron Murphy, P Andy Lee.

2023 Arizona Cardinals Offense:
Arizona’s 2023 season was over before it even began. That’s because Kyler Murray tore his ACL in December. There’s a chance Murray could play at some point this year, but he won’t be ready for the season opener. He will likely miss about half the 2023 campaign, which will once again force Colt McCoy into action. McCoy has proven to be a solid backup who can win games when everything is going right. That almost certainly won’t be the case because of a recent transaction.

That move was the release of DeAndre Hopkins. The All-Pro receiver was the subject of trade rumors, but Arizona couldn’t find a partner. Hopkins’ departure will obviously make Arizona’s receiving corps less daunting. Marquise Brown has been promoted to the No. 1 receiver, while Rondale Moore and Greg Dortch will have to take on larger roles. Third-round rookie Michael Wilson will be given a chance to produce as well. There’s also Zach Ertz, but the veteran tight end could be moved as well. If so, that’ll open up opportunities for second-year Trey McBride, who didn’t do much as a rookie.

The final receiving threat worth discussing is James Conner, who caught 46 passes for 300 yards in 13 games. While Conner is an effective pass-catching threat, he’s also a mediocre runner. He also isn’t very durable, as he has played more than 13 games just once in the past five seasons.

Conner and McCoy at least received a blocking upgrade via the 2023 NFL Draft. That was Paris Johnson, whom Arizona obtained after trading up from No. 12 to 6. Johnson was considered the top tackle in the class, but he may have to start at guard as a rookie because the Cardinals had a huge hole at the position, all while maintaining a couple of capable edge blockers. D.J. Humphries and Kelvin Beachum are both solid tackles, though the latter is 34. It’s likely that Johnson will shift to tackle in 2024.

Aside from Johnson, the interior of Arizona’s offensive line is comprised of Hjalte Froholdt and Will Hernandez. Froholdt, replacing the retired Rodney Hudson, projects to be one of the worst starting centers in the NFL. Hernandez, meanwhile, hasn’t been reliable in terms of health; he has missed nine games in the past three years, including four for Arizona in 2022.

2023 Arizona Cardinals Defense:
While the offense has its problems stemming from Kyler Murray’s torn ACL and the DeAndre Hopkins release, there are at least some quality players that will allow the unit to be functional as a whole in matchups against mediocre or poor stop units. Arizona’s defense, on the other hand, is completely devoid of talent, so much so that it shouldn’t surprise anyone if the team sets records for futility on this side of the ball.

Arizona’s defense has so many problems, one of which is the pass rush. Losing Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt in consecutive offseasons has depleted the pass-rushing talent on the team. As it currently stands, the Cardinals’ edge rushers are people named Myjai Sanders, Cameron Thomas, and B.J. Ojulari. The latter is a second-round rookie with some potential, while Sanders and Thomas were second-day selections from a year ago. Both recorded three sacks in limited snaps as rookies. It’s impossible to know what the Cardinals will get out of them on a larger sample size.

The defensive line is also sorely lacking talent. With Watt gone, the projected starters are Rashard Lawrence, L.J. Collier, and Carlos Watkins, with Leki Fotu and Jonathan Ledbetter set to rotate in when necessary. None of these players performed well last year. Lawrence never played after being carted off the field with a shoulder injury in Week 7.

A diminished pass rush will make Arizona even worse against the pass, but that’s not the only reason the Cardinals will be very weak to aerial attacks in 2023. The other problem is the departure of Byron Murphy, who signed with the Vikings this offseason. Murphy was Arizona’s best cornerback by a mile last year, and he was not properly replaced. Antonio Hamilton will be the new No. 1 corner, which is far from ideal. Hamilton had some solid performances down the stretch in 2023, but projects as a mediocre-at-best option if he needs to cover top receivers. Hamilton will start across from Marco Wilson, who was torched frequently this past season.

The Cardinals at least have one great player in the secondary, and that would be Budda Baker. However, like DeAndre Hopkins, Baker has been the subject of trade rumors. If Baker isn’t moved, he’ll start next to Jalen Thompson, who is solid in run support, but tends to get beaten often in coverage.

If Baker moves on, the top player on Arizona’s defense will be Zaven Collins. The versatile linebacker misses one too many tackles, but covers very well. He’ll play next to Kyzir White, who was signed from the Eagles this offseason. White won’t be a liability in Arizona’s defense, but he won’t be much of a strength either.

2023 Arizona Cardinals Schedule and Intangibles:
Something that was apparent during Arizona’s run to the Super Bowl in 2008 was the home-field advantage the team unceremoniously established. They have not maintained that with Kyler Murray. Arizona is 13-18-1 as a host in the Murray era.

Matt Prater had a strong season for the Cardinals last year, going 22-of-25, including 5-of-6 from 50-plus.

Punter Matt Haack finished near the middle of the pack in net punting. He did well to pin the opposition inside the 20.

The Cardinals have some easier games on the schedule against the Redskins, Falcons, Texans, and Bears. They have some very difficult opponents as well like the Eagles, Bengals, and the rest of the AFC North.

2023 Arizona Cardinals Rookies:
Go here for the Cardinals Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2023 Arizona Cardinals Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2023 Arizona Cardinals Analysis: The Cardinals were picked to advance to the Super Bowl in this space two years ago. Now, they’re expected to be the worst team in the NFL. If Kyler Murray were healthy, they’d have a chance to be competitive, but Murray’s absence ensures that wins will be extremely rare in 2023. With DeAndre Hopkins gone, and the defense being unable to generate pressure or stop the pass, Arizona is likely to own the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Projection: 1-16 (4th in NFC West)

2022 Projection: 6-11. 2022 Actual Result: 4-13.
2021 Projection: 12-5. 2021 Actual Result: 11-6.
2020 Projection: 9-7. 2020 Actual Result: 8-8.
2019 Projection: 5-11. 2019 Actual Result: 5-10-1.
2018 Projection: 5-11. 2018 Actual Result: 3-13.
2017 Projection: 8-8. 2017 Actual Result: 8-8.
2016 Projection: 13-3. 2016 Actual Result: 7-8-1.

NFL Draft Team Grade: A Grade

Goals Entering the 2023 NFL Draft: TThe Cardinals are arguably the worst team in the NFL, so they need to acquire the best player available at every position, all while trading down in the process. They won’t be competitive this year with Kyler Murray coming off a torn ACL, so obtaining prospects who can’t start in the short term but have high upside for the long haul would be ideal.

2023 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Arizona absolutely had to trade down, and that’s exactly what it did. It moved all the way from No. 3 to 12, but then shot up to No. 6 to obtain Paris Johnson. The Cardinals had to move to No. 6 in order to land Johnson because the Raiders were going to draft him. Johnson is essential to the Cardinals’ plans because Kyler Murray hasn’t been able to play a full season. Improved blocking is needed to make sure Murray can remain upright once he returns from his torn ACL.

With extra resources, the Cardinals made numerous, solid selections in the second round and beyond. In fact, all but one of the picks scored a “B” or higher. The lone exception was Michael Wilson, who was chosen at No. 94, but every team can have one dud pick, especially if they are able to obtain extra draft capital.

Of the Cardinals’ other picks, B.J. Ojulari and Kei’Terel Clark stick out as being the best. Both will help the defense, as Ojulari was a much-needed pass rusher, while Clark could start sooner rather than later because Arizona’s cornerback situation is a disaster. Numerous other picks stood out as being promising as well, so the Cardinals should be graded accordingly.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

6. Paris Johnson, OT, Ohio State – A Grade
The Cardinals had to move up ahead of the Raiders to draft Paris Johnson. This is the prospect Kyler Murray wanted, so it’s hard to hate this selection. Arizona had to find someone to protect Murray, given that Murray hasn’t been able to play a full season in the NFL yet. No one could have hated the Cardinals for picking Johnson at No. 3, so moving down three spots for him was great management.

41. B.J. Ojulari, DE/OLB, LSU – B+ Grade
In the past couple of offseasons, the Cardinals lost Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt. Think they needed to address their pass rush? There was interest in Nolan Smith in the first round, but another SEC edge rusher makes sense in the second frame. Ojulari was always in the second round in my mock updates, so this pick makes a ton of sense.

72. Garrett Williams, CB, Syracuse – B Grade
I thought Garrett Williams would be drafted later than this because he’s coming off a torn ACL. This will be a very good pick if he’s healthy, though I suppose that the Cardinals won’t even need him to play in 2023 because they’re going to be dreadful without Kyler Murray anyway. This is a solid selection for the long haul, though it comes with risk.

94. Michael Wilson, WR, Stanford – D Grade
Michael Wilson is not someone I would have drafted in this range. He’s a huge receiver and runs routes well, but there are some serious speed concerns. He also has major injury question marks.

122. Jon Gaines, G, UCLA – B Grade
The Cardinals are getting an athletic offensive lineman to help Kyler Murray. The injured quarterback has to be happy about this pick. Jon Gaines has high upside, so this is a good pick in the middle of the fourth frame.

139. Clayton Tune, QB, Houston – B Grade
The Cardinals needed to draft a quarterback to develop behind Kyler Murray and his albatross of a contract. Clayton Tune is an accurate quarterback who projects as a career backup. There’s not much upside here, but the pick had to be made.

168. Owen Pappoe, LB, Auburn – B Grade
It’s a new regime in Arizona, but the team still loves its linebacker-safety tweeners. Owen Pappoe is a gifted athlete, but I’m not sure if he has a natural position. You have to love his upside though.

180. Kei’Terel Clark, CB, Louisville – A- Grade
This is good value for Kei’Terel Clark, who easily could have been a fourth-round pick. He’ll be limited to slot duties because of his size issues, but he’s a talented cover corner and could fight for playing time in Arizona’s awful secondary.

213. Dante Stills, DT, West Virginia – B Grade
Dante Stills needs to fill out his frame, but he is capable of generating a quality pass rush. I had him going around this range, so this seems like a fine pick for an Arizona squad looking to bolster its depleted defensive line.

Season Summary:
Expectations were high entering the season, thanks to last year’s playoff appearance and the trade for Marquise Brown. Arizona was a huge flop, however, as DeAndre Hopkins missed time with a suspension, and then Kyler Murray suffered an injury. Hopkins and Murray were on the field together for just four full games. Now, things look very bleak, as Hopkins has requested a trade, while Murray is coming off a torn ACL.

Offseason Moves:
  • Cardinals sign QB Jeff Driskel
  • Cardinals sign DT Carlos Watkins
  • Cardinals sign CB Rashad Fenton
  • Cardinals sign LB Josh Woods
  • Cardinals sign OT Dennis Daley
  • Cardinals sign DT L.J. Collier
  • Cardinals sign G Hjalte Froholdt
  • Cardinals sign DT Kevin Strong
  • Cardinals sign LB Kyzir White

    Team Needs:
    1. Three Cornerbacks: Arizona has one of the worst cornerback groups in the NFL, and yet it could get worse if Byron Murphy leaves via in free agency! Signed Rashad Fenton

    2. Two Defensive Linemen: J.J. Watt has announced his retirement, while Zach Allen is hitting free agency. Arizona’s defensive line is in shambles right now. Signed Carlos Watkins

    3. Two Edge Rushers: The Cardinals took a big hit last offseason when they lost Chandler Jones. They never replaced him, so they’ll need to strengthen their pass rush now.

    4. Two Guards: Arizona’s offensive line is a mess. Major help is needed at guard to keep Kyler Murray protected upon his return from injury.

    5. Running Back: James Conner is a mediocre runner, so the Cardinals may want to find an upgrade. Bijan Robinson is an option if the Cardinals trade down from No. 3 overall.

    6. Punter: Andy Lee is entering free agency.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2023 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Kyzir White, LB, Eagles. Age: 27.
      Signed with Cardinals (2 years, $11 million)

      Kyzir White is a quality, Jack-of-all-trades linebacker with no weaknesses.

    2. L.J. Collier, DT, Seahawks. Age: 27. — Signed with Cardinals
    3. Rashad Fenton, CB, Falcons. Age: 26. — Signed with Cardinals
    4. Carlos Watkins, DT, Cowboys. Age: 29. — Signed with Cardinals
    5. Zach Pascal, WR, Eagles. Age: 28. — Signed with Cardinals
    6. Jeff Driskel, QB, Texans. Age: 30. — Signed with Cardinals
    7. Dennis Daley, OT, Titans. Age: 27. — Signed with Cardinals
    8. Josh Woods, LB, Lions. Age: 27. — Signed with Cardinals

    Arizona Cardinals Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Byron Murphy, CB, Cardinals. Age: 25.
      Signed with Vikings (2 years, $22 million)

      Byron Murphy is a talented cornerback who somehow is only 25. He missed eight games last year, but missed just two other contests in his career.

    2. Zach Allen, DE/DT, Cardinals. Age: 26.
      Signed with Broncos (3 years, $47.8 million)

      Zach Allen had always been a decent player, but he made a big leap in 2022. He was terrific, so he may get a big contract.

    3. Kelvin Beachum, OT, Cardinals. Age: 34.
      Re-signed with Cardinals (2 years)

      Kelvin Beachum is a solid tackle, but he could be in for a decline because he turns 34 in the summer.

    4. Andy Lee, P, Cardinals. Age: 41.
      Andy Lee was once an excellent punter, but he’s a declining player at 41.

    5. Markus Golden, DE/OLB, Cardinals. Age: 32.
      Signed with Steelers

      Markus Golden registered 11 sacks in 2021, but looked like a shell of his former self last year.

    6. Justin Pugh, G, Cardinals. Age: 33.
      Justin Pugh is a solid blocker when healthy, but he has played just three full seasons in his career.

    7. Will Hernandez, G, Cardinals. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Cardinals (2 years, $9 million)
    8. Rodney Hudson, C, Cardinals. Age: 34.
    9. Trysten Hill, DT, Cardinals. Age: 25. — Signed with Browns
    10. Ben Niemann, LB, Cardinals. Age: 28. — Signed with Titans
    11. Max Garcia, G, Cardinals. Age: 31.
    12. Cody Ford, G, Cardinals. Age: 26. — Signed with Bengals
    13. Tanner Vallejo, LB, Cardinals. Age: 28.
    14. Antonio Hamilton, CB, Cardinals. Age: 30. — Re-signed with Cardinals (1 year)
    15. Maxx Williams, TE, Cardinals. Age: 29.
    16. Billy Price, C, Cardinals. Age: 27. — Signed with Saints
    17. Robbie Anderson, WR, Cardinals. Age: 30. — Signed with Dolphins
    18. A.J. Green, WR, Cardinals. Age: 35. — Announced retirement
    19. Darrel Williams, RB, Cardinals. Age: 28.
    20. David Blough, QB, Cardinals. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Cardinals
    21. Josh Jackson, CB, Cardinals. Age: 27.
    22. Chris Banjo, S, Cardinals. Age: 33.
    23. Kamu Grugier-Hill, LB, Cardinals. Age: 29. — Signed with Panthers
    24. Rashaad Coward, G, Cardinals. Age: 28.
    25. Sean Harlow, OT, Cardinals. Age: 28.
    26. Michael Dogbe, DE/DT, Cardinals. Age: 27.
    27. Nick Vigil, LB, Cardinals. Age: 30.
    28. Stephen Anderson, TE, Cardinals. Age: 30.
    29. Charles Washington, S, Cardinals. Age: 30.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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