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Press Box: Arizona Cardinals show just how quickly things can go wrong

by Trevor Hahn | May 28, 2023 at 12:42 a.m.
In this Dec. 18, 2022, file photo, Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins celebrates during a game against the Broncos in Denver. (Associated Press)

Life comes at you fast in the NFL, just ask the Arizona Cardinals.

In October 2021, the Cardinals held a 7-0 record and were a young team filled with talent that looked to be on an upward trajectory to be good for many years to come.

Fast forward 19 months to Friday and Arizona released its five-time All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and now have possibly the lowest expectations of any team in the league heading into the season.

Arizona was not going to be a playoff team this season regardless of keeping Hopkins or not with Kyler Murray set to miss at least half the season with a torn ACL, but it is fair to ask the question of how a team lets a talent as good as Hopkins walk for absolutely nothing when he is under contract for two more seasons.

Yes, Hopkins was set to have a $30-million cap hit this year and that’s not a good idea when there’s no QB to throw him the ball for at least 25 percent of that time. And yes, Hopkins made it abundantly clear he wanted out.

But it’s difficult to think a team wasn’t willing to give up a late-round draft pick to trade for a guy who is 31 years old and has shown little signs of regression.

There is no chance Arizona would have released Hopkins to the open market if the events during the past 1½ years did not happen.

The narrative around Murray — who looked like he could be one of the top, young quarterbacks in the NFL in 2021 — has now flipped.

Questions around his work ethic became a hot topic last offseason after he agreed to a five-year, $230.5-million extension due to a clause in the contract that required Murray to study at least four hours of film on his own outside of team activities.

This was unheard of for a guy who was supposed to be a franchise quarterback. Football fans and media alike immediately started connecting dots from Murray’s video game habits — he has been partnered with a professional eSports team since 2021 — to his football habits and began asking the question if video games were affecting his on-field play.

The speculation forced the Cardinals to take the clause out of the contract, but the speculations has only grown since.

Murray’s play on the field last year wasn’t up to standards, to put it kindly. He finished with career-lows in games played (11), passing yards per game (215.3), QB rating (87.2), rushing yards (418) and rushing touchdowns (three).

And to go with it, there were multiple examples of Murray getting into verbal altercations with teammates and coaches.

This all added up to a 4-13 season and the firings of head coach Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim.

With the trading of Hopkins and the absence of Murray, the direction for the future is a huge question mark in Arizona.

The team has as good of a chance as any in the league to end up with the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft.

If nothing turns for the better with the team or with Murray in the next 10 months, will it be too hard for the Cardinals to pass on a top-heavy quarterback class with USC’s Caleb Williams and North Carolina’s Drake Maye and try to find a trade partner for Murray?

As Jonathan Gannon enters as coach and Monti Ossenfort begins his tenure as GM, do they see a different direction for the team than the previous regime?

This is all speculation at this point, but it is safe to say that Cardinal fans did not see the 180-degree turn in direction the team experienced during and after the 2022-23 season.

Could everything still work out for Arizona and Murray return from injury, look like his former-self and lead the team back to where it was in 2021?


But at this moment, all signs are pointing to a complete rebuild for a team that looked so promising not too long ago.


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