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Cardinals Quarterback Outlook: Who will start in place of injured Kyler Murray?

Jacoby Brissett will be the top backup quarterback option in free agency

Arizona Cardinals v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Monti Ossenfort, the Arizona Cardinals’ first-year general manager, will be able to shape the roster the way he sees fit at the start of free agency on March 15.

And it starts with the quarterback position.

The Cardinals have their franchise quarterback in place in Kyler Murray, the 2019 No. 1 overall pick who signed a five-year $230.5 million contract last offseason. Their new head coach Jonathan Gannon told Pro Football Talk’s Peter King that “if Kyler Murray isn’t here, I don’t take this job.” That tells you pretty much everything you need to know on how highly Gannon thinks of him

Unfortunately for Murray and the team, he suffered a torn ACL on December 12 against the New England Patriots and the expectations as of now is that he will not be ready to play by week one.

New England Patriots v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Now the question becomes who will start for the Cardinals at the start of the 2023 regular season?

Backup quarterback Colt McCoy will be limited during the offseason due to an unspecified injury. He suffered a concussion and a neck injury late last season. McCoy finished the year with 780 passing yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions, 68.2 percent of his passes completed, and going 1-2 as a starter.

Last season’s third-string quarterback David Blough went 0-2 in his starts but finished with a 65.5 completion percentage, 420 passing yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Blough is an impending restricted free agent. Their other backup in Trace McSorley, who was demoted as a fourth-stringer, will be an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league year.

Arizona Cardinals v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

With a new general manager and coaching staff in place, it is doubtful for either Blough or McSorley to return. McCoy was the Cardinals’ top choice as backup quarterback in the previous regime the last two seasons but I expect the new management and coaches to go in another direction.

This year’s free agent class has quite a few quality backup quarterbacks up for the taking. The best option among them all is Jacoby Brissett, who made 11 starts for the Browns this past season. He had 2,608 passing yards, 243 rushing yards, 14 total touchdowns, and six interceptions.

And I expect the Cardinals to express interest in Brissett considering the three Cardinals’ connections in place:

  1. GM Monti Ossenfort was the New England Patriots’ Director of College Scouting (2014-19) when his team drafted Brissett in the third-round of the 2016 NFL Draft
  2. Cardinals’ offensive coordinator Drew Petzing was his quarterbacks coach with the Cleveland Browns last season
  3. Cardinals’ quarterbacks coach Israel Woolfork coached Brissett last season when he was a recipient of the Browns’ Bill Willis Coaching Fellowship, which is an opportunity given to a rising minority coach to kickstart their coaching career
Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Other top free agent options include Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota, Gardner Minshew, and more.

Options will be plentiful for the Arizona Cardinals. When Kyler Murray returns to full health, he will be the starter. For now, the Cardinals will need to find an upgrade for the backup quarterback position.