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What happens if the Arizona Cardinals do draft Kyler Murray at #1 overall?

Seven reasons as to why the rumors of pairing Kliff with Kyler aren’t as realistic as national media might have you believe...or is it?

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff Semifinal-Orange Bowl-Alabama vs Oklahoma Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

After the Cardinals traded a 3rd and 5th round pick to move up to the 10th overall pick in the NFL draft to select Josh Rosen, most Cardinals fans believed that would be the end of the questions and conversation about the “quarterback of the future” or at least of teams giving them one in the many mock drafts around the web.

Guess again.

After a 3-13 season in which Rosen started perhaps a bit too early before he was ready and saw the entire Cardinals team last in the league in offense in multiple categories, and ended up with the #1 overall pick, it seems as though that problem hasn’t gone away.

What if the Cardinals not only determine that Kyler Murray might be a better fit for their system in Kliff Kingsbury but has a better upside that they can’t afford to pass on, even with committing a ton of resources and moving on from a defensive head coach to an offensive one because of Rosen?

Here’s the fallout that would happen if the Cardinals DID decide to take Murray at #1 overall.

And some of them are doozies:

#1. The Cap Room Conundrum at the QB position

Currently the Cardinals are paying Josh Rosen a $17 million, 4 year contract. Like all rookie contracts it’s a fully guaranteed deal. He’s so far only $3 million through that 4 year deal (with a 5th year option) given that he’s a 2nd year player.

The Cardinals will add, if they stay at #1, a player who has a deal comparable to around 4 years and $31 million, given that the last two #1 picks in Myles Garrett and Baker Mayfield received $30 million and $32 million, respectfully. Going off of Mayfield’s cap hit, that would be around $6 million needed for space for the #1 pick.

If Nick Bosa or Quinnen Williams is the #1 pick, that’ll be added to what you’re spending on the defensive line. But if it’s on Kyler Murray, the quarterback room suddenly turns upside down...

The Cardinals, undoubtedly, will not want to keep two rookie 1st round picks on the same roster given that they simply can’t devote those resources to the position, can’t keep paying a QB not to start...they’d have to get something for Josh Rosen. Each year Rosen is on the roster, the guaranteed $ AZ has to pay goes down because, well, they’ve already paid it.

Trading Rosen this year would result in an immediate $8 million cap hit this year.


There’s space, sure, but that’s a big hit for a team working toward rebuilding their team where that money could go toward paying a left guard $8 million/year or extending a superstar like Patrick Peterson.

It also doesn’t factor in the other quarterbacks on the team: Mike Glennon and Sam Bradford’s dead $$$.

Bradford’s $5 million in dead money got pushed back from 2018 to 2019 (that deal wasn’t great, obviously for 3 games) and they also have to deal with Mike Glennon as a backup, cause you need a backup.

Glennon’s due around $3 million this year if he’s on the roster after the 5th day of the league year, but he only has $4 million total of his $8 million contract as guaranteed, and that’s paid for already.

So Glennon COULD potentially be cut or the Cardinals could move on from him. There’s been chatter about Case Keenum reuniting with Kliff Kingsbury but that deal would potentially add more to the room.

Finally, you’d be adding $6 million by drafting Kyler Murray to the room, meaning you’d have the following allocated:


QB Room Cap Used
QB Room Cap Used
Kyler Murray $6,000,000
Josh Rosen (dead) $8,000,000
Sam Bradford $5,000,000
Mike Glennon $3,000,000
2019 QB Cap Room Allottment:

For this year, the cap room, essentially would be between $22-23 million dollars. To compare to the rest of the NFL, it would be close to top 10 in terms of cap allotted to the quarterback position, right after Brees, Rodgers, Luck, Brady and just ahead of the Panthers, Steelers, Chargers and Falcons.

All elite quarterbacks who’ve been paid. Now sure, it’s only 1 year of it for Arizona, but it’s still a hefty price to pay as the current amount Arizona is allotting to the QB position is only around $6.5 million dollars for Rosen and Glennon, among the cheapest in the league and allowing Arizona a LOT of space to spend on other areas.

Soon as AZ drafts Murray, that space is gone given that they have to move on from Rosen.

Speaking of which...

2. The Cardinals will be forced to pay pennies on the dollar for Josh Rosen

This isn’t too hard to figure out, either.

Arizona can’t keep the two quarterbacks on the roster the whole year long given that they need to acquire resources at other positions around Kyler Murray. They’d be looking to deal Rosen to another team who liked him or is in need of a quarterback.

But given Rosen’s struggles and the fact a team is indeed giving up on him after 1 year AND is essentially pushed into a corner to deal him...they won’t be getting a lot back.

Rosen was worth a top 10 pick to Arizona last year...but not to 9 other teams. The Cardinals are unlikely to land another top 10 pick. It’s also doubtful that they’d land a high 2nd round pick for him as well, in my opinion.


Because other teams won’t be as desperate FOR Josh Rosen as the Cardinals will have to be to get something back in return for him given that they’ve moved on. And it’s likeliest that teams can then hold this over Arizona because, really, there’s not too many teams who will be:

  1. Interested in Rosen
  2. Need a young QB
  3. Would give up picks for said QB

Being honest, most teams drafted QB’s in the last 2 years who needed them...we’ve seen 8 1st round QB’s in the last 2 years alone and that’s like 14 of the league.

Some teams like the Dolphins (who AZ traded up in front of) Jaguars, Redskins, Chargers and Giants might have interest but you won’t be getting back a 1st as they’ll likely be content to sit and hold out knowing that they can make a move on draft day, and the Cardinals by moving on from him, essentially, already devalues him.

Maybe you could get a 2nd but it’d likely be a 3rd. You’d be taking on a sunk loss from Rosen, which is fine, but it’s still a tough pill to swallow to eat $8 million in cap AND only get a 3rd round pick back in return. Perhaps some teams will pay more and start a bidding cycle given just how cheap he’d be but it’s unlikely. In short, Rosen’s value to the Cardinals is MUCH higher than it might be to another team in terms of what they would GET for him and, in addition, Rosen’s value to another team is much more valuable than the cost AZ incurs and reward they’d get.

It benefits the team you trade Rosen to...not yourself, plain and simple.

3. Arizona would set any sort of competing or playoff hopes essentially back to Ground Zero

Rosen, for all the lumps he took, is now an NFL veteran, officially. He’s got experience and multiple starts under his belt and we’ve seen him take lumps but also show some good throws. Players like Jared Goff, Russell Wilson, Mitch Trubisky and more all took big steps in their 2nd year in the league, and AZ would essentially be punting on that possibility and starting over.

And that’s not what Michael Bidwill wanted at all.

Otherwise, he’d have felt more content to give Steve Wilks a 2nd year in building the team in his image, but it’s clear he wants to win and felt that started at the QB position. It’s why he hired Kliff.


Maybe Kyler Murray would be better or fit more with Kliff but there will still be rookie struggles and mistakes in development that can only come from reps. Arizona, essentially, would be throwing hopes of a quick turnaround from the microwave into the oven and would need to take a lot more time to build around their young quarterback...

It goes without saying that just one bad year can cost you (look at Wilks) and while the front office might be more patient, it essentially resets your timeline for competing.

4. The law of opportunity cost would hurt the rest of the team by passing on Bosa/Williams or a tradedown

If Arizona drafts a QB at #1, they can’t draft a defensive lineman like Nick Bosa or Quinnen Williams.

This is just basic logic, now, here. If you invest into one position that you COULD have invested into another, it’s a cost of the opportunity of strengthening that area.

It’s why NFL teams don’t spend 7 picks on quarterbacks, obviously. And in this draft Arizona could take a dominant player on the defensive side if picking at #1, or even (if they wanted) an offensive line or wide receiver prospect or picks from trading back.

By taking Kyler at #1, they’d be unable to address any of those needs until pick #33 and they DO have a need on the defensive line. If Arizona drafts Nick Bosa to pair with Chandler Jones, it helps the team as a whole by giving a more dominant pass rush and helping in defending the run to not push Rosen into difficult situations where he’s down by 21 points at the half.

It’s why football is a team sport.

(I’d hope that’d be obvious)

The Cardinals are in prime position to add a difference maker and if they do go back to the well at Quarterback it’d have to be that Rosen was THAT bad or Murray was THAT good. The Browns essentially decided that about Baker Mayfield despite having taken Deshone Kizer and....let’s be honest, they so far were right. But they also didn’t spend much to acquire Kizer with a 2nd round pick vs. #1 overall. The Browns had to pass on a talent like Saquon Barkley in order to draft Mayfield.

Arizona going back to the QB position would mean taking that piece away from their defense.

5. It would be a word of caution as to if Kliff Kingsbury can really adjust his scheme and be different from McCoy and Wilks

Most national pundits call for Murray and to trade Rosen as they see Murray as a “perfect fit” and Rosen as more of a “typical QB” who “doesn’t fit” which, is...interesting as that appears to be 100% false.

If Kliff wanted to utilize a large number of draw or rushing plays with Davis Webb at the helm, he could have and it wouldn’t have worked out well at would likely have flopped.

NFL analysts are talking about Colin Kaepernick using the pistol formation and running for yards but never mention that the same formation led to a 50 TD season from Peyton Manning who was about as mobile as a turtle wading through wet cement during his time in the NFL in his late 30’s.

Kliff’s perception is that he adjusts his scheme and plays to his QB, not vice versa. That’s why Arizona hired him. For him to essentially confirm “Yeah, my system doesn’t work without an athletic running QB” it means that he’s not as good of a coach as he was made out to be as top coaches adjust to their talent to make them better. It’d be a big question mark for fans who already saw Mike McCoy say “I’m a flexible guy on offense” only to see him jam players into his scheme and have zero identity.

Having more of the same would be seen as worrisome.

6. The Cardinals would be trusting a 5’9, 185 lb. Heisman winning QB to their future who is, obviously, still a complete unknown.

There’s plenty of questions about Kyler as well as he’s a great athlete but at his size (very small for a QB) plus schematic questions (he threw a ton in the pocket but saw only 3 rushers 30% of the time given the spread offense) and one year of production it’s a difficult question of pouring all the eggs into that one basket given that Kyler is an outlier.

It goes without saying that Josh Rosen might be better than Kyler Murray. Or that Murray might be a better option than Rosen. Or that both might succeed or fail.

We don’t know at this point.

We know at least a bit more about Rosen and his play in the league after one year: the criticisms of him not caring about the game, not being durable and leadership skills were address, but other aspects were not.

Murray has a great deal of questions as well in many of the same areas given his size, lack of true commitment to the NFL and some interesting interviews.

Overall, people seem to think Murray’s upside is higher...but he’s still an outlier and “upside” just means “bigger arm” or “quicker release” (debatable) and “athleticism” (often running ability and 40 time from film or combine).

Some outliers perform and produce very well like Russell Wilson. But most all of them had multiple years of high end production and had a thick frame in addition to their athleticism.

I don’t know if it’s even a worthy question, now. It might be that the hits or athleticism mean that Murray’s size don’t matter and Rosen can’t escape and takes hits. Or, it’s the opposite and Kyler ends up being more fragile and Rosen’s prototypical frame is better equipped for life in the NFL.

Either way, it’s arguably a bigger risk to move on to Kyler than it is to stay with Rosen.

7. It’s ultimately a sign of an unstable and emotional organization that can’t commit

If Arizona drafts Murray at #1 overall it would mean the following happened in this offseason:

  • Mike Bidwill fired Mike McCoy and Steve Wilks for not addressing both sides of the ball with quality coaching and he needed to find someone to develop his QB as other NFL teams did
  • He kept Steve Keim, the GM who traded up last year for Rosen (even if he wasn’t his #1 QB on the board) as the general manager
  • Keim and Bidwill went outside the box to hire a known QB guru to help turn the offense around
  • Kingsbury sold Keim and Bidwill on his QB tutelage and ability to be a playcaller and fix their QB.
  • And then—they completely abandon all of that for a player that Kingsbury liked a lot and had a personal relationship with, take on a large cap hit and essentially hit the reset button and give up on Josh Rosen.

That or, when they do, they move on immediately if the problems aren’t fixed rather than look at the issues around them.

I don’t think that is the case with Arizona but it’s worth noting that if they do take Kyler, it’d be a major concern to miss that badly on Rosen and there’d be a lot of questions about what happens if Kyler Murray flops again...would they try to move on from Kyler after a year?

All of these are outcomes that WILL happen if Rosen is drafted, but this last one is less an outcome and more perception-based.

The above reasons are why it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Cardinals to essentially make themselves a worse team by draining cap resources and #1 draft picks if they do still like and believe in their quarterback that they certainly did just under 12 months ago.

And in that sense, I do think it’s foolhardy to not only think that Arizona will make this move but even to advocate for it given the team’s current standing. The rumors, undoubtedly, are coming from seeing the connections and even possible as a misdirection from the team itself.

It’s likely only a matter of time, of course, before some big analyst projects Murray to Arizona at #1.

Hopefully when that does happen however, Cardinals fans will be able to look at the bigger picture than a flashy, exciting young unknown product and see through to the real issues.

The issues that Arizona would have that with this move that clearly make it a near-certainty that they will stick with Rosen and not draft Murray.

But if they DO end up selecting Murray, it will not be without a major cost to do so. It’s a cost that I think is prohibitive...but perhaps at the QB position there’s no cost too prohibitive if you think it’s the right guy.

And my opinion that this might be a bad move might not matter, but I’ll continue to believe that until proven otherwise that that is all these unfounded rumors are.

Just rumors.

You can follow @blakemurphy7 on Twitter.