Kyler Murray

Cardinals, Texans Granted Permission To Meet With Sean Payton

TODAY, 7:40pm: Payton’s interview with the Texans took place this evening, according to Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston (on Twitter). The coach still has interviews with the Broncos and Panthers on the docket.

JANUARY 11, 2:30pm: Linked to Sean Payton for a bit now, the Cardinals will explore this path. The Saints granted the Cards permission to speak with Payton, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The Texans are in the mix as well, with NFL.com’s Peter Schrager indicating they have requested permission to speak with Payton. The Saints have also granted this request, Rapoport adds (Twitter links).

Payton, who is set to interview with the Broncos at some point, remains under contract with the Saints through 2024. Compensation will need to be negotiated between the Saints and interested teams, in the event a hire is imminent. The Cardinals are starting their HC-GM search with the GM part, but the team may be willing to make an exception for Payton.

Rumblings about the Cardinals looming as a dark horse for Payton emerged several weeks ago, when the longtime Saints HC had been connected only to the Cowboys, Chargers and Dolphins. None of those teams have vacancies, which could put Payton’s patience to the test. The Cardinals would satisfy Payton’s warm-weather preference, and although Kyler Murray is coming off a down season that ended with an ACL tear, he certainly qualifies as a franchise quarterback.

Payton is a fan of Murray, NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero tweets. If the Cardinals are able to snag Payton, it seems likely he would be a central part of selecting a GM. Arizona has not hired a GM from outside the organization since the 1990s, and the team has internal and external candidates in place. Payton is believed to want to bring personnel people with him wherever he goes. While that could be a complication in Denver, which has a GM (George Paton), it would be less disruptive in Arizona.

Although the Cardinals had success with Bruce Arians and Ken Whisenhunt, the franchise has not employed a coach with this level of prestige since moving to the desert. Payton coached the Saints to nine playoff berths during his time in New Orleans, and all but one of the the playoff wins in franchise history came under Payton. While Drew Brees had a lot to say about that, Payton played the lead role in elevating Brees to the top tier at his position.

The Broncos’ new ownership would present a challenge for the Cardinals, depending on how much money will play into Payton’s thinking. Rob Walton‘s net worth dwarfs every other NFL owner’s, and the Broncos also are positioned to give Payton final say on personnel matters. Murray may be the better draw compared to a 34-year-old Russell Wilson, but the Cardinals’ roster also has several aging pieces. There is also the possibility Payton punts on a landing spot this year and waits for more attractive jobs to open up down the road.

It is tough to see a Payton-Texans partnership coming to fruition. Houston is still early in what has already been a lengthy rebuild process, one that has now featured GM Nick Caserio making back-to-back coaches one-and-dones. Payton, 58, would be given a much longer leash compared to David Culley and Lovie Smith, but this situation would be a strange one for a Payton comeback.

Houston, however, does have draft capital that outflanks both Arizona and Denver. Caserio’s deft maneuvering with Deshaun Watson gave the Texans additional first-round picks from 2022-24. Thanks to a 3-13-1 record this season, Houston holds the No. 2 pick next year. The Browns going 7-10 gave the Texans the No. 12 choice as well. While that presents an interesting opportunity, the state of the Texans’ roster is still fairly bleak. Payton also said last year he would eliminate certain teams based on their reputations.

“It would be the comfort level with ownership and the front office, with the leadership structure, with likeminded thinking,” Payton said of the circumstances describing his preferred destination in November. “Are more of those opportunities out there? I don’t think many. I think there are a lot of dysfunctional teams in our league. There are some places where talent can die. I just want to avoid those places.”

Payton once turned around a Saints team that had one playoff win in 38 years of existence, but he can be choosier about his destination given what he achieved in New Orleans. Both the Cardinals and Texans have experienced their fair share of dysfunction, and while the Broncos have been to eight Super Bowls and won three, they have changed coaches a few times during what is now a seven-season playoff drought. Some pushback on Payton’s Cardinals interest also surfaced last month. It will be interesting to see if Payton interviews with all three teams. He cannot begin interviewing until Jan. 17.

Cardinals Request GM Interviews With Ian Cunningham, Ran Carthon, Adam Peters, Monti Ossenfort

It was announced not long after the Kliff Kingsbury firing that the Cardinals would also be in need of a new general manager. Steve Keim has permanently stepped away from the team due to health-related reasons, meaning Arizona joins Tennessee as the only NFL clubs currently in need of a new leader in their front office.

Keim took an indefinite leave of absence in December, and it was reported days later that he and the team were expected to part ways. With that move now having been made official, the franchise is currently operating with vice president of player personnel Quentin Harris and vice president of pro personnel Adrian Wilson filing in on an interim basis.

Each of them has already been interviewed for the full-time position, though, owner Michael Bidwill said on Monday. He added that his preference would be to have a new GM in place prior to the team’s next head coaching hire, but that the opposite order would also not be an issue (Twitter link via team reporter Darren Urban). External candidates have begun to emerge alongside Harris and Wilson.

One of those is Bears assistant GM Ian Cunningham, who has had received a formal interview request from the Cardinals, per CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones (on Twitter). He has also drawn the attention of the Titans in the early goings of their GM search, a testament to his continued rise through the ranks of various NFL front office positions during his career.

Cunningham began with the Ravens in 2013 as a scout, translating his time there into a move to Philadelphia in 2017. Over the course of his time with the Eagles, he worked his way up to the title of player personnel director. Most recently, he was hired by the Bears last January in another promotion, this time to assistant general manager.

In addition to Cunningham, the Cardinals wish to meet with Ran Carthon and Adam Peters, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets. Those two hold the titles of director of pro personnel and AGM, respectively, with the 49ers. Like Cunningham, they too have caught the eye of the Titans for their general manager vacancy. Carthon, 41, has served in his current role since 2017 after spending time in the front office with the Falcons and Rams.

Monti Ossenfort is also on the Cardinals’ radar, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Ossenfort, a longtime Patriots exec who has been with the Titans since 2020, saw the team elevate Ryan Cowden to its interim GM post in the wake of Jon Robinson‘s firing. Interviewing for GM roles in the past, Ossenfort serves as Tennessee’s director of player personnel. Given the Cowden development and the Titans’ changing of the guard, it will be interesting to see if Ossenfort remains on staff ahead of the 2023 season.

Peters, meanwhile, has been an NFL executive for two decades, beginning with the Patriots and later, the Broncos. He joined the 49ers in 2017, working his way up from VP of player personnel to the assistant GM title last year. He was a finalist for the Giants’ GM job last winter, which ultimately went to Joe Schoen.

Seeking their first GM in a decade, the Cardinals will have plenty of options to consider before making a hire. On the head coach side of the situation, quarterback Kyler Murray will be involved in the search for Kingsbury’s successor (Twitter link via Johnny Venerable of the PHNX Cardinals Podcast). That could add a interesting element to Arizona’s offseason, one which will be busy in light of today’s events.

Latest On Kliff Kingsbury’s Future With Cardinals

The Cardinals are about to miss the playoffs for the third time in four seasons under Kliff Kingsbury, leading to natural questions about the head coach’s future in Arizona. Multiple team sources told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and Josh Weinfuss that they could see a path where owner Michael Bidwill will give his head coach another year at the helm, “due in part to injuries ravaging the roster and a personnel department in flux.”

On the flip side, Fowler and Weinfuss detail an increasingly ugly situation in the locker room, especially between Kingsbury and star quarterback Kyler Murray. While the QB was recently lost for the season with a torn ACL, the relationship between the duo had “grown increasingly distant” throughout the 2022 campaign, with Kingsbury described as “extremely frustrated” with his signal caller. In particular, the HC was wary of Murray’s “negativity” and his ability to influence others in the building.

The Murray-Kingsbury dynamic dates back a decade when the coach tried to recruit the QB out of high school. However, the two have gone periods this season without interaction, with one source saying the relationship seems “particularly bad this year.” As a result, passing game coordinator Cam Turner was forced to serve as a buffer between the two prior to Murray’s injury.

While sources say the relationship between Kingsbury and Bidwill hasn’t been without tension, the owner still may be willing to give his head coach the benefit of the doubt. Sources said Kingsbury hasn’t necessarily been given the resources to succeed, and the constant offensive injuries has left the head coach “miserable” since he can’t run his preferred system.

“He knows that it’s not a situation that lends itself to him being happy and successful and at his best for that organization, which he wants to be,” a source said. “They won’t let him. They won’t let him be great.”

A source told ESPN that Kingsbury wanted to fire offensive line coach/run game coordinator Sean Kugler long before he was dismissed for an incident in Mexico City. While the coach had already “lost opportunities to contribute to offensive planning,” it was believed that Bidwill didn’t want to fire Kugler and eat his contract, with Kingsbury supporters pointing to this anecdote as proof of the coach’s limited control in Arizona.

On the flip side, while the owner still meets with the head coach before and after games, the organization generally holds Kingsbury responsible for the W/L record. Ultimately, the Cardinals are 28-34-1 in Kingsbury’s three-plus seasons with the organization, with only a single playoff loss to show for their efforts. Kingsbury still has five years left on his contract, and the organization inked Murray to a $230MM extension prior to the 2022 campaign.

Cardinals Likely To Part Ways With GM Steve Keim

The Cardinals are expected to part ways with longtime GM Steve Keim this offseason, as Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports reports. Keim recently took an indefinite leave of absence from the team due to an undisclosed health-related matter.

Vice president of player personnel Quentin Harris and vice president of pro personnel Adrian Wilson are presently sharing Keim’s duties on an interim basis, and Jones says both men are legitimate candidates to be promoted to general manager this offseason. Harris enjoyed a six-year playing career that began in Arizona before becoming a Cardinals scout in 2008, and he has been working his way up the personnel ladder ever since. Wilson left more of an on-field legacy, as he played in the NFL for 13 seasons — 12 as a member of the Cardinals — and earned five Pro Bowl nods during that time.

Wilson, 43, was inducted into Arizona’s Ring of Honor in 2015, the same year he began working for the team as a regional scout. His ascent has been more rapid than that of the 45-year-old Harris, though it appears both execs will have a chance to lead a club’s front office sooner rather than later. The Giants interviewed Wilson and Harris during their GM search earlier this year, and it was reported that the Jaguars nearly hired Wilson as general manager.

While Wilson and Harris are well-respected around the league, Jones’ sources wonder if Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill will choose to look outside the organization to replace Keim. Since Buddy Ryan left his post as Arizona’s head coach/general manager in 1995, the club’s next three GMs — Bob Ferguson, Rod Graves, and Keim — have all been promoted from within.

Of course, Bidwill could also be looking for a new head coach this offseason. Kliff Kingsbury, who was hired in 2019, has compiled a 28-33-1 record to date, and a report detailing his uncertain job security surfaced last month. While some of the factors that have played a role in the Cardinals’ 2022 struggles are beyond Kingsbury’s control — WR DeAndre Hopkins‘ six-game PED ban, QB Kyler Murray‘s ACL tear, etc. — his play-calling and game-planning have been frequently criticized. Bidwill would have to eat a great deal of money by cutting ties with Keim and Kingsbury, as he elected to hand both men thru-2027 extensions back in March, but he may feel he has no other choice.

Some good news for Cardinals fans is that Murray’s ACL tear is a clean one, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports. Murray is expected to begin training camp on the PUP list and will have a realistic chance of taking the field for the 2023 regular season opener.

NFC West Notes: Cards, Purdy, Rams, Hawks

The Cardinals will be without their 10th-year GM going forward. Steve Keim stepped away from his post for the time being, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes this health-related matter has been on the radar for months (video link). Keim’s future with the Cardinals is “up in the air,” Rapoport adds. This news comes months after Keim agreed to an extension that runs through 2027. Both Keim and Kliff Kingsbury signed add-ons this offseason, though the latter has also run into some turbulence. With Keim stepping away, Kyler Murray going down with an ACL tear and Kingsbury on the hot seat, this has been one of the more disappointing seasons in recent Cardinals history.

Here is the latest from Arizona and the rest of the NFC West:

  • Brock Purdy was not throwing during the 49ers‘ Tuesday practice, but the new San Francisco starter is expected to play through his rib and oblique injuries against the Seahawks tonight, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Purdy stayed in Sunday’s game despite suffering those injuries. The 49ers, who have lost both Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo to major injuries this season, have journeyman Josh Johnson — recently signed off the Broncos’ practice squad — in place as their backup. Purdy and Johnson are the only two healthy QBs on San Francisco’s 53-man roster. Garoppolo remains on the active roster, for IR-management purposes, but is unlikely to return this season.
  • Shifting back to the Cardinals‘ quarterback situation, Murray is not slated to have surgery until after Christmas, Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com tweets. This is common for ACL surgeries, with the delay helping the swelling subside. Saquon Barkley ended up waiting over a month to have his ACL surgery in 2020 and was ready in time for the 2021 season. Week 1 will obviously be Murray’s goal, but given the through-2028 extension the Cardinals gave Murray this offseason, it would not surprise to see the organization play this cautionsly.
  • Thought to be leaving for Matt Rhule‘s Nebraska staff, Rams assistant Jake Peetz is staying in Los Angeles. Peetz turned down an offer to head to Lincoln, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets. Currently a Rams offensive assistant, Peetz was believed to have been offered the Nebraska quarterbacks coach job. He was the Panthers’ QBs coach under Rhule in 2020 and is a Nebraska native who played for the Cornhuskers during the 2000s. With Rams OC Liam Coen leaving to be Kentucky’s OC soon, it would not surprise to see Peetz rise on Sean McVay‘s staff.
  • The Rams will, however, lose their running backs coach — Ra’Shaad Samples — to the college ranks. Samples is heading to Arizona State to become the Pac-12 program’s wide receivers coach and passing-game coordinator, per Matt Zenitz of On3Sports. This season marked Samples’ first in the NFL. Impressively rising to the level of an NFL position coach at just 27, Samples will return to the college ranks. He was previously SMU’s running backs coach before heading to L.A. Samples also drew coordinator interest at the college level, Zenitz adds.
  • McVay’s staff has seen a run of connections to the college level in recent weeks. Prior to Arizona State and Georgia Tech hiring Kenny Dillingham and Brent Key, respectively, the schools were interested in Rams assistants. Tight ends coach Thomas Brown drew interest from the Sun Devils, according to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler, who adds defensive line coach Eric Henderson was on the Yellowjackets’ radar. A Georgia Tech alum, Henderson, 39, has been with the Rams since 2019. Brown, 36, has been with the team since 2020, joining the Rams after 10 seasons as a college staffer. The latter has generated praise as a rising NFL assistant, so the Rams retaining him is critical.
  • The Rams used their high waiver position to claim former Titans defensive lineman Larrell Murchison, but Field Yates of ESPN.com notes the Seahawks and Lions also made claims (Twitter link). Murchison’s rookie contract runs through the 2023 season; the Rams will have a chance to evaluate the former fifth-round pick.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/14/22

Here are today’s minor transactions from around the league:

Arizona Cardinals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New York Giants

Pittsburgh Steelers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Cardinals QB Kyler Murray Suffers Torn ACL

Kyler Murray‘s MRI confirmed the worst. The Pro Bowl passer suffered a torn ACL during the first quarter of the Cardinals’ loss to the Patriots, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). Kliff Kingsbury confirmed the tear Tuesday afternoon.

This will shut down Arizona’s recently extended quarterback until at least training camp, and given the timing here, a return by Week 1 of next season may not be a guarantee. This is a brutal blow for Murray and the team, coming months after his landmark extension.

Although Murray has missed time as a pro, this will obviously be new rehab territory. The former No. 1 overall pick had been on an upward trajectory since his senior season at Oklahoma produced a Heisman Trophy and convinced him to eschew a baseball career — after being chosen ninth overall in the 2018 MLB draft — for an NFL run. Murray, 25, checked a new box for the modern Cardinals — a homegrown franchise quarterback — and led the team to the playoffs last season, en route to that five-year, $230.5MM extension. Not much has gone smoothly since that through-2028 deal came to pass, however, and this injury will now define Murray’s next offseason.

Monday’s events make Murray’s push for a new contract this past offseason pivotal. While quarterbacks re-establishing their previous form following ACL tears is almost expected at this point, Murray did well to secure $103.3MM fully guaranteed ($160MM in total guarantees) this summer. Rather than going into an uncertain fifth-year option season in 2023, the former two-sport standout parlayed the momentum from his back-to-back Pro Bowls into a windfall. Strong returns did not exactly emerge from the deal in Year 1, but Murray agreeing to terms months after becoming extension-eligible serves as tremendous protection.

The Cardinals will turn to Colt McCoy to close out their disappointing season. McCoy, 36, re-signed on a two-year, $7.5MM accord this offseason. McCoy’s performance last season filling in for Murray, who had sustained a hamstring injury midway through the 2021 campaign, landed him $6MM guaranteed. He will be in position to hold down the fort during OTAs and minicamp — and quite possibly training camp — for a Cardinals team that may be in transition.

Kingsbury advocated for Murray three years ago, pushing GM Steve Keim to draft him despite the team having just used a top-10 pick on a quarterback (Josh Rosen) the year prior. Nick Bosa‘s status notwithstanding, the Cards were right to bail on Rosen so soon. But Kingsbury’s chances of returning in 2023 may have taken a hit after Murray’s injury. Already viewed as uncertain to return, the former Texas Tech HC will not have a chance to oversee a strong Murray finish. It is worth wondering if Kingsbury — his offseason extension aside — will still be calling the shots when Murray is healthy again.

Murray and Kingsbury have clashed this season, and after being an original-ballot Pro Bowler in 2020 and ’21, the former took a step back in 2022. Murray closes the year averaging a career-low 6.1 yards per attempt, leading to a career-worst 51.2 QBR figure. Murray ranks 21st in that metric. Of course, the Cardinals rarely had the chance to deploy their optimal skill-position corps around their starter this season. DeAndre Hopkins missed six games because of a PED suspension, and just as the All-Pro wideout returned, trade acquisition Marquise Brown was suddenly unavailable because of a foot injury. Zach Ertz has missed the past several games, having also suffered a torn ACL.

The Cardinals have Hopkins, Ertz, Brown and James Conner under contract for 2023. Brown will be heading into the final year of his rookie deal. While a chance for that group to play together remains on the table, Murray and Ertz being set for extensive rehab processes stands to cloud Arizona’s immediate future — especially in the wake of the team taking a major step back from a 2021 playoff appearance.

Cardinals QB Kyler Murray Carted Off Field

Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray was carted off the field during Monday night’s game against the Patriots. Murray went down with a non-contact injury during the third offensive play of the game.

Murray went to the ground without getting touched during a standard scramble. The quarterback talked with trainers before getting carted off the field. ESPN’s Lisa Salters reported that Murray was “sobbing” as he was taken into the locker room (via ESPN’s Stephania Bell on Twitter).

The 25-year-old was initially deemed as questionable to return before being listed as out for the game. While it doesn’t come as much of a surprise considering the replays, there’s fear that Murray suffered a “serious knee injury,” sources told NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link). We’ll surely get more clarity following an MRI.

The former first-overall pick has dealt with various leg issues over the past two years. After not missing a game through his first two seasons in the NFL, Murray missed three games in 2021 thanks to an ankle issue and two games earlier this year with a hamstring injury.

After earning two-straight Pro Bowl nods, Murray has struggled a bit during his fourth season in the NFL. His 66.3 completion percentage is his lowest since his rookie campaign, and his yards per attempt and QBR are both career-lows. In his 10 starts, he’s guided Arizona to a 3-7 record while collecting 2,359 yards, 14 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. He’s also added 415 yards and three scores on the ground.

Colt McCoy took over under center for Arizona on Monday night. Following a solid showing in three starts last year, McCoy was serviceable in his two starts this season, completing 50 of his 71 pass attempts for 456 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.

Cardinals Expected To Activate WR Marquise Brown For Sunday

The Cardinals have not yet had the pleasure this season of fielding all of their top wide receivers in the same game, but they are expected to take a step towards that goal by activating wide receiver Marquise Brown off of injured reserve, according to team senior writer Darren Urban. The update comes from head coach Kliff Kingsbury who said that Brown is expected to play this Sunday.

Brown has been on IR since Week 6 recovering from a foot injury that was initially feared to sideline him for the remainder of the season. Days before, Arizona made the move to acquire Panthers wideout Robbie Anderson, who had had a bit of a falling out with his former team. In the immediate aftermath, the move was considered a one-for-one replacement, as many assumed this indicated a long-term absence for Brown. The team had been operating with Brown as their No. 1 receiving option through the first six weeks of the season. The Cardinals’ true No. 1 receiver, DeAndre Hopkins, was serving a suspension and would return just in time for Brown to head to IR.

In the weeks since Brown’s injury, Hopkins has regained his role as the team’s top wideout. Last year’s second-round pick Rondale Moore has been asked to step up in Brown’s absence, as has Greg Dortch during certain moments of the season. Veteran receiver A.J. Green has contributed, as well, but not nearly with the output he has in past years. Anderson’s addition has so far proven joyless, as he’s only been targeted seven times through five games with the Cardinals and totaled a whopping negative-four yards on one reception.

The return of Brown this week helps move Arizona towards a healthy collection of their top wide receivers. Brown should step immediately into a No. 2 role behind Hopkins as Moore sits out with what is expected to be a short-term groin injury and Dortch is considered a gametime decision with a thumb injury. If Dortch is unable to go, Hopkins and Brown will be supplemented by only Green and Anderson.

The passing game should also see a big boost as Kingsbury told the media that it’s looking like quarterback Kyler Murray will be able to start this weekend after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury. Unfortunately, Kingsbury also confirmed that the team will be without starting left tackle D.J. Humphries and starting cornerback Byron Murphy.

Cardinals Expect Kyler Murray To Return In Week 12

The Cardinals suffered a lopsided defeat on Monday, but they could have their starting quarterback available this week when they attempt to get back on track. Signs are pointing towards Kyler Murray returning in Week 12.

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury described Murray on Wednesday as “definitely trending in the right direction” to be available on Sunday. The 25-year-old himself added that he expects to suit up against the Chargers (Twitter links via team reporter Darren Urban). That would mark his first game action since Week 9.

Veteran backup Colt McCoy has filled in for Murray over the past two games, including an impressive win over the Rams and Monday’s blowout loss to the 49ers. It was reported earlier this week that the Cardinals were at least considering keeping Murray sidelined for this week, as it is Arizona’s final game before their bye. Instead, the former No. 1 pick will apparently have the opportunity to test out his hamstring before then.

Murray has had a down year amidst the Cardinals’ continued struggles on offense this season. The Oklahoma product has posted a career-low passer rating of 86.9 while throwing 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. His rushing ability (359 yards and two touchdowns) has been a factor in his play as well, as always, but Murray’s performance has fallen short of expectations to date.

That has taken on added significance given the massive extension he signed this summer, just months after Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim inked long-term deals of their own. With the team being unable to correct the mistakes of years past, and relations with Murray having seemingly taken a downturn, Kingsbury is reportedly under increased danger of being let go no later than the conclusion of this season.

Against that backdrop of potentially added urgency, Murray will look to return to full health and provide a boost to the team’s middling offense. At 4-7, a playoff push may not be entirely out of the question if a winning streak starts soon, including as early as Sunday against the 5-5 Chargers.