The NFL offseason feels like rolling thunder in Arizona, like a gathering storm, a roiling monsoon. The Cardinals keep saying all the right things. But they’re acting like a team bracing for disaster.
Their commitment to winning has been called into question by Kyler Murray’s agent, and their miserly spending does little to refute the notion. They are included in Brian Flores’ explosive lawsuit against the NFL, accused of racial discrimination by former head coach Steve Wilks.
Much of Wilks’ claims are far-fetched and self-serving. But the team dealt him a terrible hand while covering for the off-field transgressions of their general manager. And the absurd contract extension recently awarded Kliff Kingsbury doesn’t help the perception of cronyism in Arizona.
Along the way, the Cardinals have become deceitful or delusional. They are trying to claim victory for retaining core players from a team that started off 10-2 in 2021, conveniently forgetting the psychological trauma inflicted on the fan base by another horrific late-season collapse.
Besides, they haven’t retained their core. They’ve lost Chandler Jones, Christian Kirk, Chase Edmonds, Jordan Hicks and a big chunk of their on-field production. The re-signing of A.J. Green is the ultimate reveal, a player who seemed to retire on the job in 2021, a former star who was largely diminished in key situations, where a former great was suddenly getting tackled by ghosts.
Without Kyler Murray, the Cardinals will field one of the worst teams in the NFL next season. And yet a happy, healthy Murray can help the Cardinals overcome most anything. Like him or not, he can make that much of a difference on a football field. He can make the Cardinals a playoff team in 2022 despite all the regression.
Yet he’s the guy the Cardinals are refusing to pay?
For all the sticker shock, the never-ending spin and the selective amnesia, the truth is coming. The chains moved a bit on Thursday, when Murray’s contract impasse flared up again, exposing the truth about the alternative reality the Cardinals are trying to sell their fans.
We learned that Murray’s agent pulled his initial offer from the table weeks ago. And why are we hearing of this now, at a time when many assumed the Cardinals and their quarterback might be inching closer together, emotionally and financially?
The message is that Murray’s price tag has only gone up, further taxing the Cardinals for their inactivity. The franchise that could barely stomach Murray’s initial offering will now pay even more because of their doddering. And the longer they wait, the higher the ceiling gets.
This feels like another act of provocation from Erik Burkhardt toward owner Michael Bidwill, effectively bringing negotiations into the national media and the public realm once again. And while Murray’s camp shows no signs of actually requesting a trade, they are putting immense pressure on the Cardinals to pay him now or proactively deal him before the NFL draft.
It’s all extremely unnerving. Kingsbury recently assured Cardinals fans that he and Murray are in a good place, and that Murray was a part of the franchise’s long-term future. He said that Murray will benefit greatly from finally getting a real offseason under his belt, where he will allegedly be mentored on the nuances of leadership and relationship-building.
Yeah, right. That scenario would require an invested quarterback buying into the program completely. And that’s not happening until the Cardinals fully buy into him. Because it’s clear that Murray is not playing another down of football in Arizona until his contract his addressed. Something has to give.
Namely, the Cardinals. In the form of a check. Before the price tag gets worse.