Welcome to 32 teams in 32 days. To get us through the offseason, we’ll be taking a closer look at every team in the league, in order of projected 2023 win totals. Up first: the Cardinals.
The Cardinals have begun the first stages of their latest rebuild project with the arrivals of GM Monti Ossenfort and coach Jonathan Gannon.
There’s a sense of hope for the organization with new decision-makers, but patience will be required in 2023 with the Cardinals having glaring holes across the roster and possibly not having franchise quarterback Kyler Murray for the start of the season due to the ACL tear he sustained in December.
Murray might not be around, but the offense is in better shape than the defense. The Cardinals still have wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and tight end Zach Ertz, who’s recovering from a torn ACL. They also might have building blocks with other young wide receivers and on the offensive line, especially at tackle.
Gannon, however, will have his hands full with a defense that lacks talent. The unit could take another hit if the team honors safety Budda Baker’s trade request.
Baker, a two-time first-team All-Pro, has seen plenty of losing the past six seasons in Arizona and probably won’t see wins this year if he sticks around.
Results will be hard to find in 2023, but the Cardinals might be more focused on the ’24 draft, as they already have an extra first-round pick after a draft-day trade with the Texans in April.
Biggest gamble this offseason: Not adding competition for Colt McCoy
Let’s pretend the Cardinals don’t have plans to tank for Caleb Williams this season—at least not at the start of the season. They took a huge risk by not adding another quality free-agent quarterback to compete with McCoy during training camp, knowing that Murray likely won’t be available for the start of the season. Arizona appeared content with McCoy, as the team watched Baker Mayfield, Taylor Heinicke, Jacoby Brissett and many other available quarterbacks sign elsewhere during free agency. McCoy, who’s entering his 14th NFL season, suffered a concussion and a neck injury last year and missed the final three games of the 2022 season with Murray sidelined. Backup quarterbacks Clayton Tune and David Blough will probably be needed this season.
Toughest stretch of the season: Weeks 1 to 5
The Cardinals open the season with a five-game gantlet, starting against the Commanders on the road, followed by home games against the Giants and Cowboys, a matchup in San Francisco and at home against Cincinnati. With four games against playoff teams from last season and a tough Week 1 road battle in Washington, the Cardinals might be staring at an 0–5 record, which might make them truly tank for the rest of the season. But Arizona does have a winnable Week 6 game against the rebuilding Rams in Los Angeles.
Breakout player to watch: WR Greg Dortch
Dortch made the most of his opportunity last season while filling in for DeAndre Hopkins, who was suspended the first six games for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. He might not be in the mix for a permanent starting role after the team released Hopkins. Dortch, who had 52 receptions for 467 yards and two touchdowns last season, will probably have to prove himself again to a new coaching staff, but it might not take long for the versatile slot receiver and special teams returner. Look for Dortch to continue making downfield plays for Arizona in 2023.
Position of strength: Offensive tackle
The Cardinals created a unique situation after drafting Paris Johnson Jr. with the No. 6 pick in April’s draft. Johnson was viewed by many as the best tackle prospect, but he might start the season at guard because the Cardinals already have quality bookend tackles in D.J. Humphries and Kelvin Beachum. While most teams struggle to find two reliable tackles, the Cardinals have a good problem at the position.
Position of weakness: Defensive line
The Cardinals might have the worst defensive front in the league with a lack of playmakers at edge rusher and interior defensive line. Arizona could be flirting with the idea of moving Zaven Collins, a 2021 first-round pick, from inside linebacker to helping on the outside. Perhaps the team gets an immediate impact from edge rusher BJ Ojulari, this year’s second-round pick. But the Cardinals might not have answers at interior defensive line after neglecting the position this offseason.
X-factor: LB Isaiah Simmons
It’s now or never for Simmons, the 2020 first-round pick who had his fifth-year option declined. Perhaps Simmons finds consistency during a contract season while also looking to impress the new coaching staff and front office. Simmons has flashed at times as a Swiss Army knife, and his versatility would be welcomed with various holes on the defense. Gannon, the former defensive coordinator of the Eagles, might be the right coach to help Simmons reach his potential.
Sleeper fantasy pick: Rondale Moore
Moore is small at 5'7", 180 pounds, and it can be challenging for such receivers to make an impact. Still, the release of Hopkins opens a ton of opportunities for Brown and Moore. Moore might not be a weekly fantasy starter, but he can be a useful matchup-based flex option.
Over/under: With Hopkins out of the picture, Brown should step into the WR1 role for a team that will likely be playing from behind often. He’ll probably get half a season with his college QB, Kyler Murray. When his futures come out, consider taking the over.
Predicted final record: 3–14, fourth in NFC West