Arizona has taken a tumble in power rankings and not “trying” to compete in 2023…meaning a high pick in 2024. Which begs the question of if there’s anyone is worth tanking for?
The 2023 Cardinals have been a sharp departure from the team’s offseasons in the past.
In 2013, the Cards new front office went after Carson Palmer, Rashad Johnson, Jerraud Powers, Karlos Dansby and Rashard Mendenhall and pulled out to a 10-6 record.
They spent the new few offseasons through the 2016 season making major moves each offseason, signing veteran players like Mike Iupati, trading for Chandler Jones, extending their QB and Larry Fitzgerald and even added players in a look of trying to contend in 2017.
When it came to the 2018 season…Arizona still tried to compete with signing Sam Bradford, and then built back with major moves each year until the 2022 season in which the Steve Keim era ended.
Now, the Cardinals are the team with the 3rd most cap space in the NFL and the projected moves for them? Not many.
- trading DeAndre Hopkins
- taking a player at pick 3 or trading down for more picks
- not going after/signing the top available free agent starting Quarterbacks
- no extension for Zach Allen/Byron Murphy
- slow, cheap additions
By all accounts…Arizona’s got the 3rd most cap room and is making the least amount of splashes, which is why many are wondering if they are tanking for the 2023 season.
And what’s more…it might be less intentionally tanking versus recognizing the team has a new offense/defense to be installed, more holes than a piranha-catching net on the roster and not just one but TWO quarterbacks who won’t be eligible for offseason practice.
It’s the worst overall situation for this upcoming season for a team in the NFL, per the latest NFL power rankings which has them at 32nd out of 32.
Here’s what NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus had to say:
The lack of moves in addition has moved Arizona to the bottom nearly universally which…if it happens, means that the team might end up back in the top 3 of the NFL draft next year and it does feel like…that might be the plan.
Saving money, dumping expensive veteran contracts and a lack of impact signings seem to point to that which begs the question…should the Cardinals be trying harder to win in 2023?
Or is tanking part of the plan, and if so, is it a good one? Lotta people accept that tanking happens in the NFL, just not openly.
— Rashard Lawrence (@rashardlawrence) March 15, 2023
The 2019 Dolphins’ fans said “Tank For Tua!” and ended up with a top 5 pick. Granted they DID have some great quarterbacks in that class, it just wasn’t the one they wanted, but rather Joe Burrow at 1 and Justin Herbert at 6.
Things may change, obviously, but let’s follow this train of thought. IF the Cardinals follow up a miserable, disappointing season unintentionally with an intentional, miserable disappointing season, fans want assurances it will have been worth it.
The 2018 Season was rough…but the improvements and a future at the QB position with Kyler Murray made it almost worth it, in hindsight for some.
So let’s take a look at the 2024 NFL Draft Class’s top talents asking the question of if there’s any players that could be worth tanking for.
WR Marvin Harrison Jr.
Ohio State’s biggest part of their pro day didn’t even have their star QB or draft-eligible WR as the most discussed part…
Instead it was the sophomore receiver who is, indeed, the son of a former NFL legend that was turning heads:
This was hilarious. Watch the reaction from Brandon Beane, Joe Schoen, Brian Daboll, and the Buffalo scout after Marvin Harrison Jr runs a route pic.twitter.com/6tU3dDJEn5
— Billy M (@BillyM_91) March 22, 2023
“Like window shopping at a Lamborghini dealership for the model that doesn’t come out until next year.”
Text from an NFL scout at Ohio State pro-day today after watching Marvin Harrison Jr. run routes
— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) March 22, 2023
At this point, the kid could probably announce that he’s not from this world and pro scouts would believe him.
Marvin Harrison Jr. 2024 pro day/combine is going to break football Twitter pic.twitter.com/IaykBOF59o
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) March 22, 2023
With all that hype, does a wide receiver make sense to tank for? At least for the Arizona Cardinals, it could.
With some of those crazy measurables, it makes sense that Harrison Jr. could be the highest receiver drafted since Calvin Johnson or even Arizona’s own Larry Fitzgerald.
Does it make sense from a team-building point, though? Arguably, yes.
If they trade the aging DeAndre Hopkins, they will have one wide receiver under contract for the 2024 season before the draft in Rondale Moore. They don’t have a true X or outside guy or even a playmaker who, that we know of, hasn’t had Moore’s injury issues. And we have seen how young receivers can turn teams around quickly, from Justin Jefferson to Ja’Marr Chase with Joe Burrow. In fact, in 2024 mock drafts it’s already a common theme pairing the Cardinals with Harrison Jr. (and yes, I know it’s too early to focus on that but if this season is lost before it begins, well you gotta make content somehow)
Having a down year and moving on from DeAndre Hopkins in order to add a future stud in a year makes a lot of sense for the Cardinals and might be “worth” tanking for.
Pass Rushers: Dallas Turner or Jared Verse
Sometimes another player that can turn your franchise around quickly can be found with a dynamic pass rusher.
Arizona has the chance this year to select one, potentially, in Alabama’s Will Anderson, but what does next year’s crop look like?
With Will Anderson heading to the NFL, Alabama’s Dallas Turner seems primed to be the next man to explode, with 8 sacks as a freshman and 4 as a sophomore and will move to the primary pass-rush position.
Meanwhile FSU’s Jared Verse was draft eligible this year, but decided to remain in college after a stellar season with 17 tackles for loss and 9 sacks after he transferred from Jr. college.
There’s no defender that makes quite as much of an impact on a team as a dynamic pass rusher, and if the Cardinals’ method of approaching a winning turnaround is similar to teams in having TWO top-notch pass rushers, well, that might be worth it as well.
Corner/Offensive Line: Is either..a need worth tanking for?
I’ll list this as an option because sometimes you don’t know what your needs are (D.J. Humphries and Josh Jones might mean Arizona is set, but you can see a lot of changes any given year). Usually when a team “tanks” or we see highly drafted offensive linemen or corners, they are a nearly generational prospect. Even a Bijian Robinson-caliber prospect wasn’t considered worth “tanking for” and looking at next year’s class, these ones probably aren’t either.
Think your Joe Thomas or a Darrelle Revis/Charles Woodson type player.
Problem is, when it comes to team-building, these aren’t necessarily the “most” impactful players on the field. Even linebackers taken highly like a Micah Parsons and Hassan Reddick showed their ability truly to make an impact wasn’t in being off the ball.
It was as a passer, someone to get the passes and someone to get the passes are arguably the most dynamic positions in the NFL, not spots like cornerback or offensive line, as we’ve seen teams like the Niners or even the 2008 Cardinals be able to make due schematically at those positions.
Which leads us into the most controversial part of this article:
Quarterback: Caleb Williams and/or Drake Maye
After having “survived” the Josh Rosen vs. Kyler Murray wars of 2019’s offseason, I’m not ready for this but it’s already being talked about by both fans and also some NFL fans of other teams taking stock.
If Arizona ends up with a top 3 pick (as they project), should they take a quarterback and move on from Kyler Murray?
Far too early to tell. What we seem to be able to tell right now, however is that there’s a LOT of hype around Heisman winning QB Caleb Williams and UNC’s Drake Maye.
“Caleb Williams and Drake Maye are generational QBs” ~ @ReceDavis#PMSLive pic.twitter.com/pHdYdGC7Eo
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) March 22, 2023
Sure, it’s early but the 2023 season SHOULD have a large impact on the 2024 season. This past year, after all, was bad enough for Arizona to blow it up.
If next year’s is worse, the Cardinals may feel compelled to move on to a new quarterback especially if they are on a cheaper rookie QB deal and are able to rebuild some. It might be the “worst case scenario” for sure, but it does make you wonder if GM Monti Ossenfort’s plan of burning the current Cardinals down to build it back up might include the team’s core players if they feel they’re just THAT far from contending.
It makes no sense to have the 3rd most cap space available and yet not be spending in free agency or trying to win w/ the rookie QB contract unless the intention is…to not spend and not win.
Some have even pointed out a Cardinals’ connection after the team didn’t bring in Jacoby Brissett, Baker Mayfield or another starter but just rolled with the likes of David Blough…because Caleb Williams for one went to the same private school district that Michael Bidwill’s Georgetown prep was in.
I also think Bidwill would love Caleb. There’s some mutual interest through DC private school connections
— Billy M (@BillyM_91) March 15, 2023
Am I saying that the Cardinals are or should blow it all up including Kyler?
No, in fact my hope is the opposite and that the team can improve on last year with a new system, building up the lines and adding receivers the long way.
But there’s teams that have also learned the hard way that when a guy hits the wall, sometimes holding on too long is worse than letting go. The Eagles moved on from Carson Wentz, for example, and made a Super Bowl. The Washington Commanders previously saw RG3 never get back to his old self after a brutal knee injury which was worse than Kyler Murray’s but difficult all the same.
And everyone saw how badly Russell Wilson has dropped off.
More just a spot of knowing that sometimes, in the NFL, you need to have all your bases covered. And if the Cardinals are indeed embracing a down year now for better years to come, you’d think that worse comes to worse and they pick top 3 again, they’ll be ready for it.
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