Cardinals’ stars need to justify lack of offseason spending on defense
The Arizona Cardinals are carrying some luggage, baggage and a lot of question marks into the 2022 season. At least they will have plenty of room in the overhead bins.
The upcoming season marks the first full campaign with the new team plane, a 2002 Boeing 777 that features 28 first-class seats, 48 business class seats and accommodates 288 people at capacity. New models cost $300 million. A 20-year-old plane appears to run between $10-20 million.
Dating back to last December, it is one of Michael Bidwill’s pricier acquisitions.
Don’t fret just yet. The team has talent, especially on offense. Their kickers are weapons. Russell Wilson is gone, Matthew Stafford has lingering elbow issues and the NFC West has gotten significantly worse. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury seems looser and more in command at the same time. And when he’s right, Kyler Murray gives the Cardinals a chance to win every game they play.
When he’s right, Murray solves every issue on the roster.
He also appears to have enjoyed a growth spurt in the offseason, at least between the ears. His defiant press conference was proof. So are the lengthy autograph sessions in Glendale and how hard he’s trying to connect with fans.
But the defense looks terribly underfunded.
The departure of Chandler Jones is a big issue. Even on days when sacks were elusive, his speed off the edge generated plenty of anxiety in the opposing team’s backfield. He guaranteed opposing quarterbacks were not holding on to the football for long. Even if he didn’t produce strip sacks or quarterback hurries, Jones always generated fear. That was constant.
For now, that fear is missing. Compounding the issue, the Cardinals are extremely thin at cornerback. And the last thing we need is confident quarterbacks feeling little pressure, taking their time to dissect Arizona’s secondary.
Years of draft malfeasance have taken their toll. When it comes to the Cardinals roster, there has been far too much hoping and praying as of late. Too many absurd expectations, too much given to young players too soon. Too much banking on production from those who have never done anything before. Starting Isaiah Simmons in Week 1 as a rookie and expecting Zaven Collins to lead a defensive huddle as a rookie … those are the silent cries of desperation.
The Cardinals defense needs J.J. Watt to stay healthy, a big ask for a man with a glorious battle history. They need Simmons to be a star, which is very possible. They are heavily relying on the creativity of Vance Joseph and they are clearly challenging Collins and Marco Wilson by making them perform in the first exhibition game of the season, generally off-limits for important starters.
The team is also a reported $17 million under the salary cap. Which is a much different number than money in the bank or franchise liquidity, and the Cardinals must now park nine figures of guaranteed money owed to Murray into an escrow account. Given the time required to contractually reward their franchise quarterback, along with the sticker-shock anxiety that somehow spawned the ridiculous Independent Study addendum, this franchise seems strangely wobbly and frugal.
This cuts too close to the old Cardinals, and at one point, Murray’s contract made our franchise the laughingstock of the NFL, a reputation and a stigma Michael Bidwill fought so hard to overcome.
But it’s early, and the Cardinals have yet to make their first impression. That comes Friday against the backup Bengals. Let’s hope it goes well and that the luxurious flight home doesn’t require additional space for red flags.
Reach Bickley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.