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With Quarterback In Place, Cardinals Have Different Approach

Kyler Murray's bright future allows team not to worry about important position

Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury (right) is counting on long-term success with quarterback Kyler Murray (1).
Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury (right) is counting on long-term success with quarterback Kyler Murray (1).

INDIANAPOLIS – The search for a long-term quarterback, Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim once acknowledged, caused him to lose sleep.

Now that the Cards feel certain they have that QB, life is different.

"As an organization, it sort of gives you an at-ease feeling to some degree," Keim said.

The Cardinals will still do their due diligence on quarterbacks, especially those who would fit well in the offense. But compared to last year – when the Kliff Kingsbury hire made for an early and obvious link to Kyler Murray, making the Cardinals the center of attention here in Indy – or even the year before, when the Cards were certainly in the market for a QB after Carson Palmer's retirement, the flexibility and freedom already having a quarterback is immeasurable.

In terms of a long-term answer at the position, it's arguable the Cards have only three times been in a spot where they felt they were set heading into a draft, given the stages of career both Kurt Warner and Palmer were in when they came to Arizona: the early part of Timm Rosenbach's and Matt Leinart's tenures, and Jake Plummer's arrival.

"That's what all 32 teams are always going to be looking for," Kingsbury said. "A guy who they feel like can take them all the way at that position. That's what makes this league go. To feel like you have your guy definitely helps, and we just have to build around him."

And that is the crucial next step.

Even with a QB, "at the same time there is a tremendous amount of pressure to surround that player with the right type of player," Keim said. "You have to view this as a window in time that you have the opportunity to go out and put pieces of the puzzle around him."

The rookie contract Murray is under gives the Cardinals flexibility, Keim acknowledged, in using available dollars in other spots. Murray also serves as a draw for prospective free agents, knowing his arrow is pointed up in a league that craves certainty at the position.

Having a quarterback also will help on draft day. Keim said the Cardinals are certainly open to trading back in the first round and pick up draft capital, much easier to do when you aren't chasing a quarterback. It also puts the Cards in a good position if there is a third quarterback, beyond Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa, for whom teams might want to trade up.

The quarterback knowing he is the guy – and the confidence that comes with – filters through the team as well.

"The natural growth of seeing the field for me and getting game reps against some of the best defenses in the league helped me out tremendously," Murray said. "Coming back next year, I plan on having a good season, to say the least."

Murray isn't a finished product, something both he and Kingsbury readily admit. Kingsbury said he wants Murray to improve on working through his progressions, getting even more comfortable in the pocket and within the system.

The Cardinals are asking that of a player for whom they have limitless optimism. That's new.

"I expect him to make a big jump this season," Kingsbury said. "His skillset is through the roof. We just have to work hard to get better."

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