Why Cardinals aren’t fooling anyone about No. 1 pick, the ineptitude of so many recent QB moves and more

In this league, and especially this time of year, there tends to be a ridiculous amount of smoke. And, sometimes, well, all it amounts to – “it” being a steadily-building cacophony of whispers and tweets and texts and, eventually, outright screams about a particular rumor – is smoke. And sometimes, well, what we are obsessing about is in fact just the worst kept secret in the history of the world.

In the case of Kyler Murray to the Cardinals with the first-overall pick, it is decidedly the latter. Something that steadily built and then caught fire at the combine last week refuses to go away. And that is because it is going to happen. Every conversation I have had since getting back from Indianapolis – including several with people who would have first-hand knowledge of such an arrangement between said player and team – has led me to believe, thoroughly and completely, that this is going to happen.

The Cardinals ownership knows it. Kliff Kingsbury knows it. Kyler Murray knows it. It is happening.

It’s been in the works since the Cardinals decided to take a leap on the offensive-minded head coach who just got fired in the Big 12 with a losing record and who had just been brought on as an offensive coordinator at USC. This is Kingsbury’s quarterback, and, by virtue of their lost season and 3-13 record, the Cardinals have the first selection in the draft, and so it’s case closed. Done deal.

Whereas a week ago I would have told you Murray is definitely going top five, and whereas three days ago I would have told you Murray is going first overall – but perhaps not to Arizona if someone blew them away with a trade offer – I am now thoroughly convinced that this is the surest first-overall-QB lock in March since Andrew Luck. And, trust me, by this point Josh Rosen, the kid the Cardinals traded up to select 10th overall less than a year ago, absolutely, positively must know it as well. How can he not?

(Brief aside: Waste not any more breath or time or brain power on the report about Murray’s lack of leadership and ability to lead and, apparently, make a half-decent impression on NFL teams. He is going first overall. None of that matters even if true – it’s not – and let’s try not to reach peak Silly Season less than a week after the combine, okay? There are still, like, seven weeks until the draft. Let’s pace ourselves).

Of course, the Cardinals won’t proclaim it now. It serves them no purpose to do so. They have already devalued Rosen exponentially on their own. No reason to further crush their own limited trade market by announcing their intent. And a lot could happen, in theory, between now and late April, when they actually turn in the card with Murray’s name on it.

But they also aren’t fooling anyone, either. And it would behoove them to go ahead and deal Rosen now, lest some college quarterbacks boost their stock at their pro days or on their personal visits. No reason to let Rosen dangle; he didn’t ask for any of this and doesn’t deserve any of this, and he’s not the guy who spent last training camp suspended, and he didn’t hire Steve Wilks only to fire him like 10 months later and he didn’t give Sam Bradford $15M to start games and fire offensive coordinator Mike McCoy in October.

Yet it is very much he who got pummeled behind a faux offensive line and had no talent and little scheme around him to boost him up and it is he who, probably, lost confidence with an entire organization now caught up very publicly in this Murray escapade. It is he who must be wondering if the Cardinals would have simply traded up to 10th overall (it was clear by this time a year ago the Raiders were incredibly motivated to trade out of that pick and were shopping it all over) for whomever the fourth QB off the board in the 2018 draft was going to be. If/when the Cards draft Murray how could you presume anything but that?

And, sadly for Rosen, it is he who is still probably headed to Washington – where quarterbacks go to get broken, and where no one who has followed this sport for any amount of time could expect him to succeed. This Case Keenum trade changes nothing and, if anything, gives the Skins a little more cover to offer no more than a third-round pick for Rosen.

Where else is he going?

Washington still needs a young potential starter and is hampered by Alex Smith‘s injury guarantees, limiting them to cheap options like Rosen (and at 15th overall they are in no-man’s land for QBs in this draft). Miami might make some sense … but they may have eyes on Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert in 2020. Otherwise, what am I missing? Jacksonville is in win-now mode when it should be rebuilding, and Nick Foles makes the most sense for them (at, say $15M per year). Some have suggested New England – newsflash: if Brady goes down they ain’t winning anything with Rosen and they could sign Jacoby Brissett as a UFA a year from now to be Brady’s heir, again.

Are you following all of this? We are now at a point where the following have taken place in less than a year:

The Broncos gave Case Keenum $25M fully guaranteed over two years at a point in free agency in which they had little competition for his services, with at least some eye toward Gary Kubiak being his OC by 2019. Kubiak and John Elway had another falling out. Kubiak left for Minnesota, where Keenum had his breakthrough 2017 season, and Elway traded a fourth-round pick for a quarterback making $18M who has a worse QB rating than Case Keenum since 2012 (Joe Flacco) at a time when the Ravens had no other real trade options for Flacco, who they would have cut had Denver not dealt for him given his $26M cap charge.

The Skins paid Alex Smith $54M guaranteed in future years when they could have rented Smith for one year at $17M and then franchised him twice in a row for less money than what they gave him at the time of the trade (oh, and they traded a starting slot corner as well). So when Smith gets hurt – career-ending, in all likelihood – they now take Keenum off Elway’s hands, even though Denver would have had to merely cut him shortly because it couldn’t carry Flacco and Keenum at $18M each and still rebuild a roster.

And, with Keenum and Colt McCoy “competing” for a starting job, they still need a young QB of any stature, so they are the best bet to trade for Rosen, who the Cardinals moved up to draft 10th overall, just, like, 10 months ago, and are now primed to take yet another quarterback first-overall.

Somewhere in New England, Bill Belichick is laughing himself silly. No need to wonder why certain teams compete with regularity and others constantly flail. No mystery as to why inefficiency plagues this league despite every part of the NFL‘s structure built to ensure parity and corporate welfare for billionaires. And the league year hasn’t even officially opened yet.

Categories: National Sports

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