We’re only about a month into the offseason—pre-draft, pre-free agency—and it’s already been a busy one for the Arizona Cardinals. Kyler’s social media drama. Extensions for Kliff and Keim. Kyler’s agent and contract drama. Lots going on. Almost none of it good, truth be told.
It’s also been busy for our NFC West division rivals. And it’s almost all good news for the Cardinals. At least so far. The Cardinals may have their own issues, but so do the rest of the teams in their division. Let’s take a quick look at our rivals and see why the NFC West might be the Cardinals’ for the taking in 2022.
Rams Possible Super Bowl Hangover
The Rams will not only be trying to defend their NFC West title this season, but their Super Bowl title as well. Everyone knows that repeating is tough, though, and there are already some red flags coming out of Rams headquarters. First, there was Sean McVay’s flirtation with retiring and heading to the broadcast booth. He ultimately came back, but that specter could hang over the season—especially if the team hits a rough patch or two. They also lost their OC, Kevin O’Connell, who left to become the new Vikings head coach. Then they have a number of key free agent decisions to make and some potential salary cap issues. And now Von Miller is hinting at a return to Denver. Plus the usual lack of draft capital. Add it all up and the Super Bowl hangover is easy to see coming. They should still be a playoff team, but they could be more like 10-7 or 11-6 instead of 12+ wins, leaving the door open for the Cardinals to do what they couldn’t do this past season.
Niners Breaking in a New Starting QB
Heading north geographically but south, standings-wise, the main story around the 49ers is who will be starting at QB in 2022. It seems all but certain that they will move on from Jimmy Garoppolo and hand the reins to 2nd-year QB Trey Lance. Jimmy G isn’t anywhere near the athlete Lance is, and he’s no one’s idea of elite, but he’s also 33-14 as a starter in the NFL, a solid starter. Lance is mostly an unknown—albeit a highly drafted one—after going just 1-1 as a rookie, including a loss to the Cardinals. And remember that the Niners will be breaking in a new OC as well, after Mike McDaniel was hired for the Dolphins HC opening. There is a huge range of possible outcomes here. Could Lance live up to his draft status and play like an elite QB, leading the Niners to the division crown? Sure. Could he struggle and fail to lead the Niners back to the playoffs? Yep. Or any number of scenarios in between. This team is tough to predict, but I don’t think the Cardinals are sweating the switch to Lance right now. He has to prove himself first—although Kyle Shanahan has worked plenty of magic with QBs before
New Era for the Seahawks
Finally, the big news dropped today with the Russell Wilson trade to Denver. The divorce between Wilson and Pete Carroll was a long time coming, but this was still somewhat shocking. The Seahawks did get back a pretty nice haul, including two 1sts, two 2nds, and three players. But remember that the Hawks gave up two 1sts in the Jamal Adams trade, so they’re merely recouping some lost draft capital rather than stocking up a war chest. Their QB room is also now arguably the worst in the league with Geno Smith and Drew Lock. Plus you can’t imagine Seattle fans are happy about this. It’s potentially shaping up to be a rebuilding season in the PNW… although you can be sure Carroll and Co. will be adding to that QB room in some way, shape, or form. But it figures to be a long road out of the NFC West basement for this once-dominant franchise. Cardinals fans couldn’t be happier.
It’s Now Up to the Cardinals
Granted it’s incredibly early in the offseason, and these teams will all likely look much different in September than they do now, but if you squint just right, things are shaping up nicely for the Cardinals heading into the 2022 season.
Of course, they have their own offseason turmoil to navigate, starting with resolving Kyler’s contract situation. Which might not happen anytime soon—or even this season, potentially. And then there’s the WR room to fix. And both lines. And the CBs. And Keim needs to draft better and be smarter about free agents. And Kliff needs to prevent this team from collapsing down the stretch… again. Etc., etc.
So yeah. A LOT can happen in the next five months. But the way the winds of change are blowing in the NFC West, things are trending in the Cardinals’ direction.
They just have to get out of their own way first.