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As the 2022 NFL Combine continues to churn on with player workouts hitting their stride, as per every year, it’s the off-the-field drama that dominates the news cycle. For the Arizona Cardinals, it began with the surprise contract extensions for both general manager Steve Keim and coach Kliff Kingsbury. From there, it’s the continuation of the Kyler Murray saga that seemingly has no end.
On Friday afternoon, league insider and Bally Sports writer Mike Silver penned a relatively critical piece on the young Arizona signal caller. Silver, who is typically viewed as a “pro player,” cited sources around the league who continue to support the narrative that Murray himself is immature. In addition, Silver specified that as of Tuesday, March 1, no team in the NFL has reached out to the Cardinals in an attempt to trade for the disgruntled quarterback.
Whether that says more about the likely answer they’d receive or if Murray is now viewed as damaged goods, I’ll leave it up to you to decide.
Not to be outdone in the headlines, Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys made waves Friday morning when it was cited by numerous sources that the team planned to release and/or trade star receiver Amari Cooper. Cooper, who is due $20 million in guarantees this season, will be 28 years old next summer coming off a relatively underwhelming season. Should the Cardinals attempt to get involved, whether via a trade or otherwise, the team would need to do some serious salary cap gymnastics to make it work.
Via the folks at Over The Cap, the Cardinals have just under $1 million in available funds to spend from. That could change in a hurry should Keim and company opt to restructure or potentially move off the likes of Jordan Phillips, Devon Kennard, Jordan Hicks and Justin Pugh. Those moves alone would net the Cardinals upwards of over $30 million in cap space.
From one NFC East team to another, the New York Giants are said to be exploring trade options for a number of their star players, including running back Saquon Barkley. The former second overall pick is due $7 million this season and hasn’t been healthy since his rookie year. The consensus on his value, via The Athletic’s Dan Duggan, appears to be a fourth-round pick. Barkely is a scheduled free agent in 2023, which makes trading for the former Penn State product all the more difficult. The Cardinals are in the market for a running back or two but are more likely to explore a return for Pro Bowler James Conner.
As for those not expected to return, Christian Kirk is rumored to have one of the hotter free-agent markets of any wide receiver. Kirk, who has zero 1,000-yard receiving seasons to his name, is supposedly talking to upwards of eight teams and could net a contract that pays him close to $12 million per season ($47.6 million). That figure would put Kirk within the 20 highest-paid receivers in the NFL. While it’s fair to expect the Cardinals to monitor Kirk’s market, the former second-round pick out of Texas A&M has likely played his last down in the desert.
While a reunion with Kirk may not be in the cards, perhaps Arizona can remedy a past error by engaging with soon-to-be free agent pass rusher Haason Reddick on a new contract. Reddick, who was the team’s 13th overall selection back in 2017, is coming off back-to-back double-digit sack seasons and appears likely to test the market.
Similar to the Cardinals last offseason, Panthers’ brass appears content on allowing the Philly native the opportunity to explore his worth. Per sources, Reddick is aiming for a multiyear deal that pays him upwards of $15 million per season. That figure would put Reddick in the class of Cincinnati’s Trey Hendrickson, New York’s Carl Lawson, and LA’s Leonard Floyd.
With Chandler Jones almost certainly headed elsewhere, bringing back Reddick would be in the Cardinals’ best interest given his familiarity with Vance Joseph’s scheme. Markus Golden alone isn’t enough firepower off the edge for Arizona, while the rest of the free-agent crop of linebackers leaves a lot to be desired. Steve Keim is famous for attempting to fill most every need ahead of the yearly NFL Draft, so expect the Cardinals to shore up that vacant edge presence one way or another.
With NFL free agency just two weeks away, the annual combine acts as the table setter for a large majority of deals. With the Cardinals expected to turn over a healthy portion of their roster, this particular combine could very well set the foundation for the next several seasons of football in the desert.