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3 reasons Kyler Murray to the Cardinals isn’t the slam dunk everyone thinks it is

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Let’s pump the brakes a bit. There’s still a chance the Cardinals will stick with Josh Rosen at quarterback.

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NCAA Football: College Football Playoff Semifinal-Orange Bowl-Alabama vs Oklahoma Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t long ago Ohio State edge rusher Nick Bosa was the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Then the NFL Combine came and the tide turned.

Now, it’s actually difficult to find a mock draft that doesn’t have the Arizona Cardinals taking Oklahoma’s Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Kyler Murray with the first pick.

What changed? Not a whole lot, really.

The Cardinals haven’t outright denied Murray as a possibility, and reporters at the combine said other teams believe the quarterback will be the No. 1 pick. That was all it took to shift mock drafts from Bosa dominating the top spot in February to Murray in March.

With the Cardinals on the clock in four weeks, Murray is close to being considered a lock. That feels premature, though. There’s little evidence at this point to believe the first pick is a done deal.

Here are three reasons why it’s too early to assume Murray’s headed to the Cardinals:

Trading Josh Rosen is a tough pill to swallow

When Rosen, the standout UCLA quarterback, dropped to No. 10 in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Cardinals didn’t hesitate to swoop in and end his slide. Arizona sent third- and fifth-round selections to the Raiders to jump up five spots in the first round and snag him.

“It was an indication of how we felt about Josh Rosen, trading from 15 to 10, and, in our opinion, grabbing one of the best players in this draft,” Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said hours after making the trade, “A guy who has got great intangibles, a three-year starter, a two-time captain and, in my opinion, one of the most mechanically sound quarterbacks to come out in quite time.”

Then 2018 happened and Rosen labored through a rough rookie season. He finished the year with 11 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, and an NFL-worst 66.7 passer rating.

It’s not hard to find logic in the idea of ditching Rosen and trying again with a dynamic new option in Murray. But that’d be quite the admission of failure by Keim, who just barely escaped the 2018 season with his job after a 3-13 season. It’d also seemingly pin the blame for Rosen’s struggles squarely on Rosen.

He wasn’t the only one who had a tough year. Sam Bradford had a 62.5 passer rating in his three starts in Arizona and running back David Johnson managed only 3.6 yards per carry. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was fired less than halfway through the season, and the offensive line didn’t give Rosen much protection at all.

The easiest parallel to draw for Rosen is to Jared Goff in 2016. He finished his rookie with the Rams with five touchdowns, seven interceptions, and a 63.6 passer rating. The offense was so bad that even Todd Gurley was kept to 3.2 yards per carry.

So the Rams hired Sean McVay, a young offensive-minded head coach, to get the team back on track. Los Angeles surrounded Goff with weapons like Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp and saw results. It helped too that the Rams added Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan to the offensive line.

It looks like the Cardinals are following a similar blueprint with the hire of Kliff Kingsbury. They also tried bolstering the offensive line by trading for Marcus Gilbert and signing J.R. Sweezy and Max Garcia.

Rosen may never make the same kind of turnaround, but trading him allows another team to find out if he can be developed. And the Cardinals will probably get little return. A general manager told NBC’s Peter King that Arizona should probably only expect a third-round pick if it chooses to shop Rosen. Yikes.

There’s not much indication Rosen will actually be traded

If the Cardinals decide Murray will be the pick, it’d be in their best interest to trade Rosen sooner rather than later. The passer’s value is only going to plummet if Arizona adds another quarterback to the roster.

It’d be a whole lot harder to convince a team to give up much of anything for a player that the Cardinals don’t even want — especially after every team in the NFL finalizes its plans at the position in April.

But to this point, Arizona hasn’t reportedly shopped their second-year quarterback.

Washington was one of the teams openly interested in acquiring Rosen during the NFL Combine:

About a week later, Washington seemingly moved on from the idea by trading for Case Keenum.

There are still plenty of potential landing spots for Rosen. The Bengals, Broncos, Dolphins, Giants, Chargers, and Patriots are just a handful of the teams that could stand to add a young passer. Even Washington still makes some sense.

The Giants have reportedly entertained the idea of trading for Rosen if the Cardinals go with Murray. They just don’t know yet if that’s what Arizona plans to do. Via Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv:

The Giants are planning to investigate every possible option when it comes to finding their Quarterback of the Future, and that includes a potential trade for Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen.

But here’s the thing: At the moment they have no idea if Rosen is, or ever will be, available.

And nothing that happened at the NFL owners meetings this week has cleared that mystery up.

Arizona could keep both of the young passers for themselves, but that doesn’t seem like a scenario that works well for all parties.

So the Cardinals are running out of time to make a deal happen before those teams start parsing through the quarterbacks in the 2019 draft class. As of now, they haven’t seemed too interested in getting a trade done.

The Cardinals can benefit from acting like they want Kyler Murray

Leading up to the draft, the team has been purposefully vague about its plans with the top pick.

“I think everything’s on the table,” Kingsbury said over the weekend. “When you have that first pick, you’ve gotta turn over every stone and look at every scenario that’s out there, and so we’re definitely doing that.”

In October, Kingsbury — who was still the coach at Texas Tech at the time — said he’d take Murray with the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft if he could. So just leaving the door open for that scenario to come to fruition fanned the flames. He gushed about Murray again at the NFL Annual Meeting near the end of March too.

It isn’t the greatest show of confidence in Rosen to be entertaining the possibility of picking Murray. But Kingsbury has praised the 2018 first-round pick, too. He’s even talked about how well Rosen fits into the offensive system he’ll run in Arizona.

“I always thought watching him at UCLA that he played his best football in a spread system, which has some similarities to what we do,” Kingsbury said. “He’s a tremendous thinker. He’s very cerebral and can throw it with anybody. We take a lot of pride in building a system around the quarterback, so for someone to say that he doesn’t fit our system just doesn’t make sense.”

So why continue to leave the door open for Murray? Maybe because the soaring draft stock of the Oklahoma Heisman winner could help the Cardinals sell the top pick for a king’s ransom.

Via Jay Glazer of The Athletic:

The Cardinals went out Tuesday to go meet with Murray privately. Going into last week, when everyone already thought they were in on him, they still hadn’t seen him throw in person yet. They hadn’t fully sat and met with him. To be honest with you, I think it’s on Murray to not tank this. He is extremely dynamic. He could change a franchise. If he doesn’t completely botch and tank his personal visit with the team, then yes, I absolutely see them doing this.

Now, if they don’t do it, and he’s still there at No. 2, I see an absolute feeding frenzy from teams looking to trade all the way up for Murray. I just don’t see him dropping past that. But man, if the Cards don’t take him, that No. 2 slot that the 49ers own would probably be the most sought-after slot in a long time. If I’m the 49ers, I start calling my friends over at the Cardinals and start doing whatever I can to get them not to take Murray. Kyle Shanahan should call Kliff Kingsbury at 9 a.m. every day with some kind of made-up crap that gets them to jump ship (I’m kidding … kind of).

According to Glazer, there’s a brewing feeding frenzy for the second pick that stems from the Cardinals’ interest in Murray. If a team wanted to avoid the bidding war the 49ers could be fielding, the logical way around it would be to call the Cardinals for the No. 1 pick.

And that could ultimately be the plan here for Arizona. To drum up a market for the top selection and trade it away.

Or maybe the plan is to take Murray and ditch Rosen. Or maybe the Cardinals will do neither and add Quinnen Williams or Nick Bosa — players Kingsbury called “can’t-miss prospects” — to their defensive line.

Regardless, it’s a little early for fans in the Sonoran Desert to order their Murray jerseys. A year ago, the Browns’ selection of Baker Mayfield was something mock drafts didn’t see coming until hours before the first round began. Don’t be surprised if the Cardinals follow their lead and hit you with draft plans that you didn’t quite see coming.