2024 NFL Season Preview: Arizona Cardinals

Kyler Murray

Arizona Cardinals (Last Year: 4-13)



Season Summary:
The Cardinals effectively had a year off from competing because Baker Mayfield tore his ACL during the prior December. This past season was all about developing young players, and now the Cardinals can bolster their roster with two first-round picks.



2024 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Desmond Ridder, RB DeeJay Dallas, WR Chris Moore, OT Jonah Williams, C Evan Brown, DT Bilal Nichols, DT Justin Jones, DT Khyiris Tonga, LB Mack Wilson, CB Sean Murphy-Bunting.
Early Draft Picks:
WR Marvin Harrison Jr., DT Darius Robinson, CB Max Melton, RB Trey Benson, OT/G Isaiah Adams, TE Tip Reiman, CB Elijah Jones, S Dadrion Taylor-Demerson, DE Xavier Thomas, OT/G Christian Jones. Cardinals Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
WR Marquise Brown, WR Rondale Moore, OT D.J. Humphries, DT Leki Fotu, CB Antonio Hamilton.

2024 Arizona Cardinals Offense:
The Cardinals were projected with a 1-16 record in this space last year because it didn’t seem likely that Kyler Murray would play at all in 2023. Murray tore his ACL during the prior December, yet he was able to return to action in Week 10. He was better than expected, leading the team to some upset victories, including wins at Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

Murray will continue to be a big injury risk – he has yet to complete an entire NFL season – but in the meantime, he should be even better in 2024. Not only is he further removed from his torn ACL; he’ll have a very gifted No. 1 receiver at his disposal. That would be Marvin Harrison Jr., who was chosen with the fourth-overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Harrison compares favorably to CeeDee Lamb, so he could one day be the best player at his position in the league. The rest of the receivers on the team aren’t nearly as exceptional, though Michael Wilson, a third-round pick from 2023, has potential. Greg Dortch has also proven that he can be a receptions machine if given the chance. Of course, there’s also tight end Trey McBride, who put together some incredible performances during the second half of the 2023 campaign.

Speaking of strong performers down the stretch, James Conner looked like a man on a mission late last season. Conner isn’t the most durable back, however, which would explain why Arizona used a third-round pick on Trey Benson. The Florida State product could be the starter down the road, but Conner should continue to perform well in the meantime.

The Cardinals also addressed their offensive line in the third round, picking up Isaiah Adams, who can play guard and tackle. There’s no chance he’ll end up at tackle unless there are injuries because Paris Johnson and newly signed Jonah Williams are entrenched as the starters. Johnson, a first-round pick a year ago, has the potential to be a great blind-side protector. Curiously, however, the Cardinals moved Johnson to right tackle even though Williams struggled at right tackle during his final season in Cincinnati and even complained about the move. It’ll be interesting to see if Williams does any better with a year of experience at right tackle under his belt.

Adams stands a much better chance of entering the starting lineup at guard. The current projected starters are Evan Brown and Will Hernandez. Brown has just been a mediocre player throughout his career, though his versatility can be useful. Hernandez, conversely, is coming off a solid year. They’ll once again sandwich center Hjalte Froholdt, who needed to be upgraded this offseason.



2024 Arizona Cardinals Defense:
Marvin Harrison Jr. wasn’t the only player the Cardinals drafted in the first round this past April. They also possessed the 27th-overall pick, and they used that on Darius Robinson. The Missouri prospect has major upside and will serve as a potential colossal upgrade on a defensive front that sorely lacked talent last year. The group was responsible for the team’s 26th ranking against the run.

The good news is that Robinson will help improve things up front. The bad news is that the rest of the group looks rather lackluster. The other projected defensive line starters are Justin Jones and Bilal Nichols, who struggled in Chicago and Las Vegas, respectively, last year. There isn’t much depth behind them, so if they continue to perform poorly, and Robinson doesn’t thrive right away, Arizona could have the worst defensive line in the NFL.

The edge rush doesn’t project to be very good either. Dennis Gardeck showed nice improvement last year when he collected six sacks, but B.J. Ojulari and Zaven Collins disappointed. Arizona finished 31st in pressure rate ahead of only the Redskins, who traded Montez Sweat and Chase Young during the season. No players of significance were added to this group.

A poor pass rush will place stress on a secondary that has some potential. The Cardinals used their second-round pick on Max Melton, who figures to be an upgrade at cornerback. Third-round selection Elijah Jones could push for playing time as well. There’s also Sean Murphy-Bunting, a talented slot cornerback, who was acquired in free agency. The new trio will join Garrett Williams in what looks to be a formidable group of cornerbacks.

The safeties are even better. Budda Baker is arguably the best player in the entire secondary, though he’s coming off a bit of a down year because he dealt with an injury during the first two months of the season. There’s also Jalen Thompson, who was terrific in coverage.

Rounding out the defense, the linebacking corps looks to be mediocre once again. Kyzir White is a fairly decent player, but he didn’t have his best season in 2023. Starting next to him is Krys Barnes, a rather lackluster player.



2024 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 15-24-1 as a host in the Murray era.

Matt Prater had a strong season for the Cardinals last year, going 28-of-33, including 9-of-12 from 50-plus.

Punter Blake Gillikin finished eighth in net punting, but struggled to pin the opposition inside the 20.

The Cardinals could be in a huge hole before they know it. Five of their first six opponents are the Bills, Rams, Lions, 49ers, and Packers. It gets easier after that, so Arizona will have to rally if it wants to make the playoffs.



2024 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.



2024 Arizona Cardinals Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Quarterbacks
Offensive Line
Secondary
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams
Receivers
Linebackers
Coaching


2024 Arizona Cardinals Analysis: The Cardinals have potential. If Kyler Murray can remain on the field for most of the season, he’ll have talented players to throw to, and he’ll be protected well. However, Murray has yet to play a full season, so that doesn’t seem to be a likely scenario. Also, Arizona’s defense appears to be very porous, so the team will likely finish with a losing record for the third consecutive year.

Projection: 5-12 (Tied 3rd in NFC West)

2023 Projection: 1-16. 2023 Actual Result: 4-13.
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:

C Grade

Goals Entering the 2024 NFL Draft: The Cardinals have lots of holes, so they need more resources. They also lack top-end talent, so trading up after moving out of No. 4 makes a lot of sense as well. Reports indicate that the Cardinals would love to move down, so we’ll have to see if they end up being the first team on the move.

2024 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Arizona did not trade down after all. The team remained at No. 4 and selected the best non-quarterback in the class. Though trading down and acquiring more resources may have been the better decision, there’s no arguing that Marvin Harrison Jr. will have a massive impact on the franchise, including Kyler Murray’s continued development.

It was all downhill from there, however. Daris Robinson was a solid pick at No. 27, but Max Melton and Isaiah Adams were slight reaches. Dadrion Taylor-Demerson was more egregious, while the worst pick was Tip Reiman, who was a late-round prospect chosen in the third frame. He didn’t even fill a need, so it’s unclear why Arizona made that choice.

The Cardinals had so many picks, so they squandered lots of opportunities. It wasn’t a horrible draft because Harrison was added, and there were some good picks, but given how great this class could have been, it was an underwhelming result.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:


4. Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State – B+ Grade

No trade for the Cardinals is lame because they could have acquired more assets and then drafted a top receiver. While they can’t get an “A” grade because they didn’t get a deal done, they should be praised for getting a superstar receiver for Kyler Murray, which is something they needed after DeAndre Hopkins left the team.


27. Darius Robinson, DT, Missouri – B+ Grade

The Cardinals wanted Jordan Morgan or Darius Robinson with this pick. Morgan was off the board, so Robinson it is. Robinson will help fill a huge need for the Cardinals, who lost so much talent on the defensive line in recent years. Robinson is effective at rushing the passer, so he’ll help stop the Rams and 49ers passing offenses.


43. Max Melton, CB, Rutgers – C Grade

I like that the Cardinals moved down to select a cornerback to help fill a need, but this seems like a bit too early for Max Melton. I also have to question Arizona eschewing some of the talented offensive linemen available to protect Kyler Murray.


66. Trey Benson, RB, Florida State – A- Grade

James Conner is coming off an excellent season, but the Cardinals needed to add another running back as an insurance policy and a future starter. I thought there was a good chance Trey Benson would go toward the middle of the second round, so I like this value.


71. Isaiah Adams, OT/G, Illinois – C+ Grade

The Cardinals made a big mistake by passing on Jackson Powers-Johnson earlier, so it’s no surprise to see them finally address the offensive line. Isaiah Adams was considered a fringe second-day prospect, but he’s a needed piece for a team that needs to protect its brittle quarterback.


82. Tip Reiman, TE, Illinois – MILLEN Grade

We had Tip Reiman slotted as a round 5-7 prospect. Reiman doesn’t fill a need either. What the hell is this pick?


90. Elijah Jones, CB, Boston College – C Grade

The Cardinals are reaching once again, though this pick isn’t as egregious as the Tip Reiman selection. Elijah Jones was slotted in the round 4-6 range, so Arizona should have considered moving down or taking him a bit later. Still, I don’t hate this pick because addressing the secondary is a must.


104. Dadrion Taylor-Demerson, S, Texas Tech – D Grade

The Cardinals are having a rough draft. This is another underwhelming pick. Dadrion Taylor-Demerson is a late-round prospect who projects as a career special-teamer. This pick could have been made in the sixth round.


138. Xavier Thomas, DE, Clemson – B+ Grade

Xavier Thomas is a project, so this is the right time to select him. He’s very fast and athletic, but didn’t produce very much at Clemson. Perhaps the Cardinals can turn him into something good. There isn’t too much risk here in the fifth round.


162. Christian Jones, OT/G, Texas – A+ Grade

Finally. Christian Jones was expected to go in the third round, but he inexplicably fell to the bottom of the fifth. Christian Jones blasted open big lanes for Bijan Robinson and can be a terrific run blocker in the NFL. Jones, who can play right tackle or guard, should provide Arizona with solid blocking depth to begin his career, and he could eventually emerge as a starter.


191. Tejhaun Palmer, WR, UAB – C Grade

Tejhaun Palmer was a productive player at UAB, but he wasn’t predicted to be a drafted player by us or any publication I’ve seen. This is a reach, but we’re in the sixth round, so that’s no a big deal anymore.


226. Jaden Davis, CB, Miami – C Grade

We didn’t have Jaden Davis as a draftable prospect, but reaches don’t really exist in the seventh round. Davis is a nickel cornerback who will have to make the roster on special teams.



Season Summary:
The Cardinals effectively had a year off from competing because Baker Mayfield tore his ACL during the prior December. This past season was all about developing young players, and now the Cardinals can bolster their roster with two first-round picks.






Offseason Moves:
  • Cardinals acquire QB Desmond Ridder from Falcons for WR Rondale Moore






    Team Needs:
    1. Wide Receiver: The Cardinals have a bunch of solid receivers, but they don’t have a No. 1 option at the position. Marvin Harrison Jr. at No. 4 will help solve that.

    2. Three Cornerbacks: It was extremely easy for teams to pass on the Cardinals last year, as the team had the worst group of cornerbacks in the NFL. Signed Sean Murphy-Bunting

    3. Defensive Tackle: Arizona had one of the worst run defenses in the NFL this past season, so adding a monstrous body in the trenches is a must. Signed Bilal Nichols and Justin Jones

    4. Defensive End: The Cardinals were able to generate more pressure than expected last year, but they could still use a dynamic threat on the edge.

    5. Guard: Arizona has a solid offensive line, but there’s a weakness at one of the guard spots.

    6. Linebacker: There are some impending free agents at linebacker that’ll need to be replaced.

    7. Backup Quarterback: Kyler Murray has yet to play a full season, so Arizona needs a viable insurance policy. Traded for Desmond Ridder

    8. Running Back: Arizona’s offense took a huge hit last year when James Conner was injured.




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    2024 NFL Free Agent Signings:





    Arizona Cardinals Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.




    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
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