The more and more we watch the Cardinals’ K-Raid evolve under the leadership of head coach Kliff Kingsbury, we are starting to get a clearer understanding of the kind of personnel it requires to make it effective and perhaps, at some point, even dominant.
In analyzing the offense, it has become increasingly apparent to me that some positions are of higher priority than others—-thus, some of this analysis comes as a bit of a surprise, because, at the outset many of believed the offense was designed to be heavily WR centric. But, in many ways, it is not.
The Cardinals have a potential superstar in Kyler Murray. While Murray has a good deal of maturing and catching up to do in order to be talked about in the same breath as Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, aside from having quicker feet than all of them, save Jackson, it’s not a stretch to believe that Murray is on a par with all of them in terms of throwing accuracy—-and only Mahomes possesses a stronger arm.
It’s possible that in a year or two, we will be believing that we have a top 3 caliber QB in Murray.
If the Cardinals had to accomplish anything this year from an offensive personnel standpoint—-it was acquiring their franchise QB.
While acquiring QB Kyler Murray was the top priority of year one, do not be surprised if one of the top priorities in year two is pairing Murray with as dynamic a RB as they can find.
During free agency and the draft a few months back, K2 talked a good deal about building the offense around Murray. In recent weeks, K2 has now been talking about finding a RB that he can build the offense around.
In the K-Raid, the player who gets the most touches a game other than Murray is the RB. And K2 likes to keep his feature RB in the game as much as he can.
K2 originally thought that he could build the offense around David Johnson, but Johnson appears to be a better fit as a receiver than runner as playing K-Raid RB1 has everything to do with hitting holes with speed and explosiveness.
While K2 likes Drake, Johnson and Chase Edmonds—-it feels like he is not entirely smitten yet. Therefore, it’s highly probable that K2 is looking to free agency and/or the 2020 NFL Draft with the purpose of acquiring the feature RB that could make the offense dominant.
The one stud at RB in 2020 free agency is the Titans’ Derrick Henry. But, it would seem to be a no-brainer for the Titans to at the very least slap the franchise tag on Henry, that is if they can re-sign QB Ryan Tannehill before free agency. Some pundits believe that Henry could “reset” the RB market. Sportrac currently has a market value on Henry at $11.8M a year, which in light of David Johnson’s contract, would seem untenable for the Cardinals.
Thus, expect the Cardinals to be very active at RB in the 2020 NFL Draft. It’s quite possible that one of the top 5 RBs in the draft could be available in the early portion of the 2nd round: (1) Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin; (2) D’Andre Swift, Georgia; (3) Travis Etienne, Clemson; (4) Cam Akers, Florida St.; (5) J.K. Dobbins, Ohio St.
So much of the K-Raid offense is dictated by the center—-not only in coordinating the pass protection, but especially in being the linchpin in the wheel of the running game, both in delivering quick traps up the middle and in executing an athletic variety of pulls on counters, sweeps and screens. Moreover, shotgun snap accuracy in the K-Raid is of paramount importance.
Sean Kugler seems to prefer Mason Cole at guard and A.Q. Shipley, who has been holding up admirably, is hitting his mid 30s.
The two 2020 UFA centers who make the most sense are the Broncos’ Connor McGovern and the Bengals’ Trey Hopkins. Kugler helped to develop McGovern, so that acquisition feels made to order, if the Broncos don’t place the f-tag on him—-which right now they would probably put the f-tag, if need be, on S Justin Simmons.
The stud center in the draft is Wisconsin’s All-American Tyler Biadasz. Biadasz is projected to go in the top half of the 2nd round. If the Cardinals acquire an extra 2nd round pick as they did last year, it could be used to take a center. Word had it that they wanted to take Texas A&M C Erik McCoy with the 2nd rounder they received from the Dolphins, but that possibility was scratched when the Dolphins traded back from #48 in the 2nd round to pick #62. Maybe the Saints sensed the Cardinals’ plan, because McCoy was taken at #48 by the Saints.
The center position in the K-Raid is more nuanced than the tackle positions, but there is no question that the LT spot is a high priority.
The Cardinals have been trying to re-sign D.J. Humphries, who has stayed healthy thus far this season and has been solid, albeit penalty prone.
The stud LT in free agency is the Colts’ 31 year old Anthony Castonzo who likely has 3-4 more good years on his tires. Castonzo could be an ideal fit and very much worth the investment.
There may be a chance to roll the dice on the Redskins’ Trey Williams if a trade can be arranged. But, it is difficult to know what kind of shape Williams is in, physically and mentally.
There are a number of good tackle prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft. If the Cardinals have not signed a free agent LT before the draft, then taking a LT with their 1st round pick would appear to be a lock. The talented tackle class is headed by Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, Iowa’s Tristan Wirts and Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, Jr. For the K-Raid, Wirts looks like the most natural fit.
In many ways, adding a big-time receiving threat at TE could make the K-Raid special. Kyler Murray loved hitting his TEs over the middle and up the seams at Oklahoma. Attacking the defenses up and between the seams is going to keep the safeties and linebackers in check and thereby gives the team better opportunities on the perimeter.
In essence, the Cardinals’ leading receiver this year, Larry Fitzgerald, is the team’s current TE threat. If Fitz returns, then adding a big-time TE this year is not as imminent decision and it could give the Cardinals more time to develop newly acquired Dan Arnold and 2019 7th round pick Caleb Wilson.
The Cardinals have already locked up TE Maxx Williams for the next two years as the team’s stud blocker. Williams has some upside as a receiver, particularly in the red zone, if K2 and K1 start keying on him more.
Now—-all of this said—-if in free agency, the Cardinals address the top defensive needs and make key signings at the priority offensive positions on the offensive line, then it could pave the way for them drafting WR CeeDee Lamb in Round 1.
The Cardinals have the cap space to be big players in free agency—-and what they are able to accomplish in March should dictate what they will be able to do come April.