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Arizona Cardinals: A quiet offseason but maybe for good reason

Contract extensions and tough decisions to be made following the 2022 NFL season

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NFL Pro Bowl Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

While the Arizona Cardinals are overdue for a Keim-time signing, they may have good reasons for their lack of impactful free agent acquisitions this offseason.

In GM Steve Keim’s press conference in April, he brought up some very interesting points in his approach to free agency this year.

“You know what you’re getting in terms of preparation, work ethic, and attention to detail,” said Keim in regards to re-signing their own players.

Former Pro Bowlers in running back James Conner and tight end Zach Ertz both received three-year deals to remain in Arizona.

“[Free agency] is not like college scouting where you get all the background information,” he said. “Unless the coach has coached a player on another team, generally you’re making some big commitments based off of what you see on tape.”

The Cardinals made big commitments in the past by signing Jordan Phillips (3yr $30M) and Devon Kennard (3yr $20M) in 2020 but neither have yielded good results.

And speaking of retaining their own, the Cardinals have a lengthy list of players that are either due for a contract extension or are free agents after the 2022 season. This is possibly the biggest reason why Steve Keim has opted for a quiet offseason and not just because he feels this current roster is plenty talented to compete for a title.

Here are six Arizona Cardinals that are in line for contract extensions:

1. Kyler Murray - Quarterback

NFL Pro Bowl Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

It is not a matter of will Kyler Murray receive a contract but more so a matter of when. The 2019 No. 1 overall pick will be the highest paid player in Arizona Cardinals’ history when a contract extension is agreed upon with the team having already picked up his fifth-year option. In his three years in the NFL, he has thrown for 11,480 passing yards and 70 passing touchdowns while rushing for 1,786 yards and 20 touchdowns. The former Oklahoma Sooner has made considerable strides in each of the last three seasons and even secured a playoff berth for Arizona last year, which was the team’s first since 2015. Pro Football Focus projects Murray to receive a six-year $280 million deal.

Question: When will the Cardinals and Kyler Murray agree to a contract extension?

2. Jalen Thompson - Safety

NFL: OCT 03 Cardinals at Rams Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

While most NFL fans have heard of Budda Baker, Kevin Byard, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Tyrann Mathieu, and all of the other popular top safeties, the one player at that position that has not received much recognition despite quality play is Jalen Thompson. The 2019 fifth-round supplemental draft selection has been a great player for Arizona the last three years. After a 2020 season marred with injuries, Thompson followed that up with a breakout 2021 year with 121 tackles, seven passes defensed, and three interceptions. He is only 23 years old, instinctive, and is among one of the best players on the Cardinals’ defense opposite All-Pro safety Budda Baker. He will be a highly sought-after free agent in 2023 if he does not get re-signed.

Question: Take it however you like but the Cardinals have been working 2020 No. 8 overall pick Isaiah Simmons at safety during this offseason. Could this be a sign of what is to come for Arizona at safety after the 2022 league year?

3. J.J. Watt - Defensive End

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Prior to 2021, the Cardinals have not had a disruptive 3-4 defensive end since 2016 when they still had Pro Bowler Calais Campbell. That changed when the Cardinals started the 2021 league year with a splash by inking J.J. Watt to a two-year $31 million contract. He was a consistent force on the Cardinals’ defensive line, generating 28 pressures as he helped Arizona get off to a hot 7-0 start last year before sustaining an injury that forced him to miss the rest of the regular season. He is a player that should be re-signed as he remains a game changer and leader of the Cardinals’ defense.

Question: Can he stay healthy for a full season?

4. Byron Murphy - Cornerback

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Jacksonville Jaguars Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Through the first 12 games of the regular season, Byron Murphy looked like one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL as he had four interceptions and allowed a passer rating of 70.5 or under when targeted in seven of those games. However after J.J. Watt’s injury and Arizona struggling to pressure the quarterback, Murphy’s production declined with three touchdowns allowed in Weeks 15 through 17. With all things considered, Murphy without a doubt had the best season of his career last season despite inconsistencies in the latter half of the year. At only 24 years old, he will command a lot of money. Steve Keim loves his Arizona natives and being one of his draft selections, Murphy could very well be back on a multi-year deal after the 2022 season.

Question: Is his high level of play strictly dependent on the performance of the pass rush?

5. D.J. Humphries - Offensive Tackle

NFL: Pro Bowl-NFC Practice Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

D.J. Humphries had mixed results in the 2021 season as the blindside left tackle on the Arizona Cardinals. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed seven sacks and 42 pressures last season which were both the second highest of his career since his rookie year in 2015. Landing on the Covid list in Week 17 ended his streak of playing in 47 straight games and surely in played a role in his struggles in the remaining few games of 2021. Humphries was selected to his first Pro Bowl of his NFL career as an alternate last season. If Humphries can reduce his penalties (31 the last three years) and return to his 2020 elite form, he will be back in Arizona for the 2023 season without a doubt.

Question: Could the Cardinals go down the inexpensive route and re-sign Kelvin Beachum or move 2020 third-round pick Josh Jones back to his natural position at left tackle?

6. Markus Golden - Outside Linebacker

Green Bay Packers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Just as Jalen Thompson is the most underrated safety in the NFL, Markus Golden might just be the most underrated pass rusher in the league. After spending a year and a half with the New York Giants, the Cardinals reacquired Golden via trade mid-way through the 2020 season. After re-signing with the team on a bargain two-year $9 million deal, Markus Golden rewarded Arizona with 48 tackles, 11 sacks. 44 pressures, and four forced fumbles. He quickly became a fan favorite on this Cardinals ball club after the team selected him in the second round of the 2015 draft and remains a fan favorite to this day with his non-stop motor and infectious energy.

Question: The Cardinals did draft Cam Thomas and Myjai Sanders in the 2022 draft. Will that impact Golden’s future in Arizona after the 2022 season?

Others:

The Cardinals have a lengthy list of free agents following the 2022 season that also includes:

  1. Zach Allen
  2. Kelvin Beachum
  3. Justin Pugh
  4. Maxx Williams
  5. A.J. Green
  6. Will Hernandez
  7. Matt Prater
  8. Andy Lee
  9. Michael Dogbe
  10. Aaron Brewer

GM Steve Keim will have very difficult decisions to make.