Few players generated as many headlines this offseason as Kyler Murray. The star quarterback made waves when he deleted all references to the Arizona Cardinals from his social-media accounts and, for a time, seemed intent on forcing his way out of the desert. Eventually, his agent released an all-caps statement detailing Murray’s concerns stemming from slow negotiations over a long-term extension. Barring a breakthrough in talks, Murray will play the 2022 season under the terms of his rookie contract.
But Murray also faces major concerns on the field. His top receiver, All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins, will miss six games due to a violation of the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Murray played roughly a third of last season without Hopkins in the lineup, and the results didn’t look promising. Murray will have to prove he can overcome the absence of his No. 1 wideout in order to dispel concerns about his long-term viability.
2021 season statistics & fantasy finish
Passing: 410 completions on 596 attempts (68.8% completion) for 4,449 yards, 37 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions
Rushing: 88 attempts for 423 yards and five touchdowns
Fantasy: 10th among QBs in total scoring (fourth in per-game scoring)
Cardinals’ offseason moves
The Cardinals’ most meaningful acquisition came on Day 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft. The team swapped its first-round pick for Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, the Baltimore Ravens’ top wideout and former college teammate of Murray. Moore’s arrival won’t offset the six-game absence of Hopkins, but he’ll provide another vertical threat to the passing game. Arizona also retained A.J. Green, though he can only handle a complementary role at this stage of his career.
2022 best-case scenario
In each of the past two seasons, Murray has come out of the gates as hot as any signal-caller in the league only to cool down once the calendar turned to November. If the additional investments in the offense and some better adjustments from head coach Kliff Kingsbury can prevent a similar downturn in 2022, Murray can legitimately contend for league MVP honors while helping the Cardinals compete for the NFC West crown.
2022 worst-case scenario
The absence of Hopkins doesn’t bode well for Murray and the Cardinals offense. By the time the veteran wideout returns, Murray might have already begun his annual midseason decline. Worse, he might not reach the highs of the past two seasons, leaving Arizona well behind the rest of the division and on the fringe of the NFC playoff field.
Murray’s play without Hopkins as well as his seemingly annual decline seem like too much to overcome for an offense that, while not without talent, doesn’t have another field-tilting weapon. Murray should still produce viable fantasy numbers while healthy, but a finish outside the top five quarterbacks seems inevitable given the challenges ahead.