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Kyler Murray as the Arizona Cardinals franchise QB? Not so fast

Vincent Frank

Following yet another late-season meltdown, Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals are headed home for the winter.

Losers of four out of five heading into Monday night’s NFC Wild Card Playoff Game against the Los Angeles Rams, the Cardinals were absolutely embarrassed on the road.

Arizona found itself down 21-0 at the halftime by virtue of an ugly Murray pick-six in the second quarter. It did not get any better from there with the Rams opening up the third quarter with a 75-yard touchdown-scoring drive en route to winning by the score of 34-11.

As much as we want to talk about Kliff Kingsbury’s performance as the Arizona Cardinals head coach, Murray has not done himself any favors. There’s now a legit question whether he can be seen as the Cards’ franchise quarterback moving forward.

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Kyler Murray regressed as a third-year player

arizona cardinals' quarterback kyler murray
Jan 17, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) throws the ball against the Los Angeles Ramsduring the first half of an NFC Wild Card playoff football game at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s actually pretty interesting to look at. Murray was getting some early-season NFL MVP hype after putting up nine total touchdowns in his first two games.

All said, Arizona started out 7-0 while averaging 35.1 points per game. It’s been completely downhill since with Murray tallying nine total touchdowns compared to seven interceptions in the Cardinals’ final eight games, Monday’s playoff loss included. In fact, Murray was much better as a sophomore in 2020 than he was this past season.

The one good thing here is a lack of giveaways from Murray prior to Monday’s two-interception performance. However, he was not anywhere near as electric in 2021 as we saw back in 2020. The loss of DeAndre Hopkins to a season-ending injury also impacted Murray big time.

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Arizona Cardinals and Kyler Murray contract situation

Dec 5, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) warms up before the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 5, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) warms up before the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Wrapping up his third season in the NFL, Murray will be eligible to sign a contract extension once March comes calling. On the surface, the belief is that Arizona should wrap up an extension rather soon. That’s especially true given how the quarterback market has played out over the years.

The question here is value and what Murray might demand. He’s obviously seen as a step below recently-extended quarterbacks such as Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Dak Prescott. That’s not even in question right now.

It’s also highly unlikely that the Cardinals will offer up the $39 million Deshaun Watson is making annually on his deal with the Houston Texans.

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So, what is the middle ground here? It’s complicated.

Perhaps, the $33.5 million Aaron Rodgers and Jared Goff are earning annually with their teams could make sense. Kirk Cousins at $33 million with the Minnesota Vikings is also an option.

However, it’s all about how general manager Steve Keim views Murray moving forward. There’s been a major disconnect between the front office and head coach Kliff Kingsbury when it comes to roster building. That could lead to Kingsbury being a surprise fire. If so, Murray’s future with the Cardinals becomes less etched in stone.

What we do know is that these Cardinals are a second-tier team in the NFC West behind two teams in the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers who are playing in the NFL Divisional Playoffs.

Some of the blame should be placed on Kyler Murray.

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