Cardinals Designate Kyler Murray, Budda Baker For Return

OCTOBER 20: The Cardinals ruled out Murray for Week 7, a move which comes as little surprise as they continue to proceed with caution with their franchise passer. That means his earliest return could come the following Sunday in a home contest against the Ravens, by which point some or all of his second week of pre-activation practicing will have taken place. Baker, meanwhile, could be in the lineup against the Seahawks in Week 7 since he is listed as questionable.

As ESPN’s Josh Weinfus notes, Arizona now sees Murray as being physically able to play. Signficant rust needs to be shaken off, however, while the former No. 1 pick also needs to acclimate to the team’s new offense led by Drew Petzing. He will have ample time in that regard, and Dobbs could be in line for further starts beyond Week 7. Much of the team’s plans with Murry will depend on the progress he makes in the coming days while he continues his ramp-up period.

OCTOBER 18: Earlier this week, Jonathan Gannon hinted at Kyler Murray returning to the practice field. The Cardinals have operated cautiously with their Pro Bowl quarterback, but they will see him practice again beginning Wednesday.

The Cardinals designated Murray for return from the reserve/PUP list. The team also designated Budda Baker for return; Baker has been on IR since the Monday after Week 2. Both players will have three weeks to be activated, though only Baker’s return designation would count against the eight-activation limit associated with IR. Either player failing to be activated, however, would result a season-ending designation. The Cardinals have used one of their eight allotted IR activations so far this season.

Murray suffered a torn ACL on December 12, 2022 and is well within range of a normal return timetable. Baker sustained a hamstring injury that kept him out for Week 2. While the Cardinals have predictably stumbled out of the starting blocks, sitting 1-5, the undermanned team has shown steady fight in its early-season outings. Murray would certainly stand to improve the Cardinals’ chances of picking up victories, and while rumblings of a potential 2024 separation amid a rebuild have surfaced, Gannon has said consistently Murray is part of the team’s future.

Arizona has used late-summer trade acquisition Josh Dobbs as its starter, scrapping the initial Colt McCoy plan upon making the trade with Cleveland. Dobbs has offered respectable work in his first true go-round as a starter, though he has completed less than 50% of his passes over the past two weeks. With the Cardinals slow-playing Murray’s return, it should probably be expected the journeyman backup/rocket scientist will see a bit more time. Gannon said Murray will need time to ramp up before playing again, pointing to more Dobbs starts during the regular QB1’s PUP-return window.

The Cardinals gave Murray a five-year, $230.5MM extension in July 2022 but saw the dual-threat standout struggle in what became Kliff Kingsbury‘s final season. Clashes between Murray and the coach that brought him to the desert ensued, with a 4-13 season leading to the ousters of Kingsbury and GM Steve Keim. Gannon said Murray was a key reason he took the Cardinals’ job. While the Cardinals hold two first-round picks in 2024, the Texans (3-3) are faring better than expected. Arizona’s shot at the No. 1 pick would more likely come from its own choice. Murray would stand to impede beneath-the-surface organizational aspirations at the top pick, but it certainly looks like the former No. 1 overall draftee will suit up soon.

Murray, 26, ripped off original-ballot Pro Bowl seasons in 2020 and ’21, leading the Cardinals to the playoffs in the latter slate. Murray completed a career-high 69.2% of his passes in 2021, averaging 7.9 yards per attempt. Last season produced a 6.1 Y/A figure, injecting some uncertainty into Murray’s trajectory. Close to completing his rehab journey, Murray is in line to offer an update on his mid-20s form (while debuting in a better Cardinals uniform). Early this offseason, Michael Bidwill projected an early-season return. But reports had pegged a midseason re-emergence as the more likely scenario. Wednesday’s designation puts Murray on track to hit that target.

Bidwill said both Murray and Baker helped the Cardinals choose Gannon, a hire that concluded a meandering search. Baker requested a trade in February; the ask became known in April. Seeking a contract closer to the top of the safety pyramid, Baker begrudgingly returned to the team during minicamp. The sides reached a resolution, but Baker’s 2024 salary is nonguaranteed.

With Baker likely to be healthy before the Oct. 31 trade deadline, he is bound to come up in trade rumors. The Cardinals will be expected to deal some assets soon, as they are rebuilding under first-year GM Monti Ossenfort. The Cards have resisted to take steps on this front, though it will be interesting to see if a notable offer surfaces soon. The perennial Pro Bowler is the Cardinals’ longest-tenured defensive starter.

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