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Stars Aligning for Cardinals’ K Raid

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NFL: Arizona Cardinals- Kliff Kingsbury Press Conference Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past several weeks, three significant developments have manifested for the Arizona Cardinals:

  1. They hired Kliff Kingsbury as head coach.
  2. Kyler Murray announced his full commitment to playing in the NFL.
  3. The Denver Broncos traded for QB Joe Flacco.

While Cardinals’ GM Steve Keim said at the Combine that Josh Rosen “is our QB right now, for sure”—-it very likely won’t be too much longer before the Cardinals have coordinated a complete reshuffling of the deck at QB.

It’s not that the Cardinals do not like Josh Rosen, they do—-it’s just that they have a plan that caters more specifically to the Cardinals’ new K Raid offense.

What casual NFL fans may not realize is that Kyler Murray is a legend in the state of Texas and that Kliff Kingsbury attended many of Murray’s games at Allen High School where Murray led his teams to a 43-0 record and 3 state championships.

During that time, while trying like mad to recruit Murray to Texas Tech, Kingsbury developed a strong rapport with Murray and his father, Kevin, who is well known high school football coach and QB Camp director.

Ultimately, Murray decided to accept a full scholarship at Texas A&M, where his father played QB. Ironically, had Kliff Kingsbury stayed on as Texas A&M’s OC, not only would Kingsbury’s hope of coaching Murray have come true, but one would imagine that Murray’s tenure with the Aggies would have been much more fruitful.

In 2015, there was so much dysfunction on Kevin Sumlin’s coaching staff that both of their 5 star QB recruits, Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen decided to transfer, simply because neither one of them liked the way they were being treated. The players cited a lack of communication as the main reason for their departures.

With Murray and Allen gone in 2016, the Aggies turned to Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight at QB. Knight, as seen by Cardinals’ fans when he signed as a UCFA in 2017, was no Kyler Murray. Not even close.

So, on the flip side, Murray transferred to Oklahoma where he had to patiently wait his turn behind former Red Raider walk-on, Baker Mayfield.

If anyone still questions Kyler Murray’s love of football and his commitment to the game, just think of how easy it would have been for Murray, who had sat behind Mayfield for two years, to leave the Sooners the minute the Oakland A’s drafted him at #9 in the 2018 MLB draft. Not only did Murray have $5M reasons to skedaddle out of Norman, he could have said goodbye to having to go to school and all of the commitments that attending classes and playing major college football entail.

It was a perfect storm—-Murray struck an agreement with the A’s that he would play football for one more year at Oklahoma. At that time Murray, his father and Lincoln Riley were just about the only ones who clung to a a dream of a stellar 2018 season—-let alone the dream of a trip to New York for the 2018 Heisman Trophy Award ceremony.

The travesty is that America was deprived of watching Kyler Murray display his extraordinary talents on the gridiron for the better part of three long years.

The other aspect of this perfect storm of sort was the fact that transferring to Texas Tech in 2016 was not a convenient option for Murray because of a dazzling young Red Raider QB named Patrick Mahomes.

Thus, the three QBs (Patrick Mahomes, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray) who in some ways are all tied to Kliff Kinsgbury (and two of which tied to Kingsbury’s close friend and fellow Red Raider teammate, Lincoln Riley) are now the new age buzz of the NFL.

A couple of days ago Kingsbury described Patrick Mahomes’ meteoric ascension to NFL MVP in yet his 1st season as the starter in Kansas City as another perfect storm in that Mahomes was paired with QB guru Andy Reid and that Mahomes had the luxury of being able to sit for a year behind Alex Smith while learning the nuances of Reid’s offense.

Ideally, in part, this is what Kliff Kinsgbury would like to have happen for Kyler Murray with the Cardinals—-which is why the Broncos’ trade for QB Joe Flacco is so significant. The Broncos want Case Keenum to take a pay cut of his 2019 $18M base salary into the $7M range, to be Flacco’s backup.

That’s not going to happen because Keenum at a one-year salary in the neighborhood of $7M would be the perfect bridge for Kyler Murray in Arizona. It would be especially attractive for Keenum to be reunited with his college OC because he can go back to playing in a system that he thrived in at the University of Houston and, with a highly productive season with the Cardinals, it could potentially set up Keenum for another big pay day with another team in 2020, perhaps as it did for Alex Smith.

If the Cardinals get Keenum on board, that doesn’t mean Kyler Murray will be completely relegated to the sidelines. Kingsbury is likely to have a comfortable package for Murray and will trot him out there in certain situations. The point is to ease Murray onto the field. It will give Kingsbury and Murray the time to know when it is right and best to start him.

As for Josh Rosen, there should be some strong interest in him from a few QB needy teams such as the Giants, Jaguars if they don’t sign Nick Foles), Dolphins, Redskins and Patriots. In a poll of Dolphins’ fans yesterday, 63% of them voted yes to offering the #13 pick to the Cardinals for Rosen. The Dolphins intend to use a Patriots’ style of offense with former Patriots Brian Flores as head coach and Chad O’Shea as OC. Rosen’s skill set is best suited for a strong power running game and pass heavily between the seams style of offense.

Word in New England is that they have interest in Rosen if he becomes available via a trade. One would imagine that Flores and O’Shea are very well aware of that interest.

With the start of free agency and the trading season 11 days away, it would be wise for the Cardinals to put Rosen on the market early on rather than later. That is, if they want to get picks in this year’s draft for him.

If the Cardinals think they can wait until draft day—-by then teams are excited to use their picks and may be less inclined to make a draft day deal.

Secondly, it would be very awkward for Rosen to start learning Kingsbury’s offense in early April, unless the Cardinals think it would be best to keep Rosen and have him compete with Murray.

The Cardinals have been refreshingly decisive this off-season. They should stay on that track.

For anyone who still may have doubts of Kyler Murray’s stock and the Cardinals’ interest in Murray, listen to what Saints’ HC Sean Payton said to Rich Eisen and Daniel Jeremiah yesterday at the Combine:

“Having seen 4 of Murray’s games now, I don’t feel like his height is a deficiency. Man, he’s explosive. It’s so hard to rush him because he can flush to his right and make plays to his left and with the poise that he plays with. His hand span measure was 9 12 and that’s significant. If it was in the 8s that might have a been a little concerning. 9 is kind of the threshold for us and his height measure was 5-10 and change—-his film was too good—-ultimately when I say it was too good—-I like him.”

When Daniel Jeremiah asked Payton whether Murray would be a player Payton would like to avoid having to play and having to prepare for—-Payton quipped, “I think playing baseball would be a good starting point.”

“He’s going to be comfortable and playing quickly at this level and deservedly so,” Payton concluded.

Murray, when asked what it would be like to play for Kliff Kinsgbury, said that he is already comfortable with that system having played in a version of it under Lincoln Riley.

Murray already has the Kliff’s Notes to the offense.

It might be tempting for the Cardinals to keep building the drama up right until they are on the clock at the draft, but, there is too much to accomplish in the interim between adding a veteran K Raid QB in Case Keenum and in trying to get the maximum value in a trade for Rosen prior to the draft, rather than during it. If they are going to get a draft pick or picks for Rosen, it would be best to know in advance where those picks are.