Kingsbury: Justin Murray reduced Cardinals’ OT needs in NFL Draft

Feb 25, 2020, 12:31 PM
Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals (C) is helped up by offensive linemen A.Q. Shi...
Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals (C) is helped up by offensive linemen A.Q. Shipley #53 and Justin Murray #71 of the Cardinals after being sacked by the Detroit Lions during the first half of the NFL football game at State Farm Stadium on September 08, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

Justin Murray garnered little attention along an Arizona Cardinals offensive line flush with intriguing storylines last season.

Left tackle D.J. Humphries played out his contract year healthy and productive enough to earn a lucrative new deal. Center A.Q. Shipley returned from an ACL injury to start every game. Justin Pugh and J.R. Sweezy provided one of the NFL’s best rushing offenses with consistency inside at guard.

Meanwhile, Murray quietly received 81% of the available snaps at right tackle, making his first NFL start in Week 1 despite being a waiver pickup at the end of the preseason. And all Murray did was improve from then on.

An exclusive rights free agent this March, it sounds like the Cardinals view him as a no-brainer to return in 2020.

“He certainly showed the ability to play right tackle,” general manager Steve Keim told reporters at the NFL Draft Combine on Tuesday. “Towards the end of the season, I thought he played at a fairly high level and he’s a guy that can play not only right tackle, he can play inside at guard.

“He’s a guy we’re excited to have back. He worked his tail off in the weight room and he did all the things (offensive line coach Sean Kugler) wanted to see in the film room. He is a guy we think can continue to grow and get better.”

Whether Arizona views Murray as a capable starting right tackle next year remains to be seen. But Keim’s response perhaps indicates the Cardinals would feel OK with passing on the top offensive tackles in the draft with their No. 8 overall pick.

As an exclusive rights free agent — someone with two or fewer seasons of service entering free agency — the Cardinals can tender a qualifying offer to Murray that will make him unable to negotiate with other teams. Murray can either sign the tender or sit out 2020.

Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury added that the development of Murray, along with the re-signing of Humphries, takes away pressure for the team to target a tackle high in the draft.

“I think the way Justin Murray played definitely took some pressure off of that,” Kingsbury told reporters in Indianapolis. “We think he will continue to get better. We’re going to look at all of our options but he definitely took some ease off of that pressure, I think.”

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Kingsbury: Justin Murray reduced Cardinals’ OT needs in NFL Draft