As the Arizona Cardinals get ready to pick near the top of the NFL Draft again, Nick Bosa’s words to then-Cardinals general manager Steve Keim and head coach Kliff Kingsbury from the 2019 pre-draft process seem prophetic.
“I think you guys are going to probably end up taking that little quarterback, and if you do, Steve, I will haunt you for the rest of your career,” Keim recalled recently on “The Herd with Colin Cowherd.”
Sure enough, the Cardinals did take “the little quarterback” — then-reigning Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray — No. 1 overall in the 2019 draft. Bosa went to the San Francisco 49ers with the next pick.
Four years later, Bosa is one of the NFL’s best pass-rushers and the premier player on a 49ers defense widely considered the best in the NFL. The 49ers have reached the NFC Championship Game every year he’s been healthy, and Bosa even won his first career NFL Defensive Player of the Year award after a 2022 season in which he led the NFL with 18.5 sacks.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, have played in one playoff game since drafting Murray, a blowout loss to the Los Angeles Rams in 2021. Murray did win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2019 and made back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2020 and 2021, and the Cardinals gave contract extensions to both Keim and then-head coach Kliff Kingsbury after the 2021 season.
The team then handed Murray a five-year, $230.5 million extension, one of the largest in NFL history, in July 2022.
It’s for that reason that even after remembering Bosa’s words, Keim said in a recent radio interview that he does not regret taking Murray with the first overall pick in 2019.
“Kyler Murray got me an extension,” Keim reasoned. “Nick Bosa probably would’ve gotten me fired.”
Despite the disparate levels of success that the Cardinals and 49ers have had since 2019, Keim probably has a point. The 49ers have quarterback questions of their own but have also built one of the strongest overall rosters in the league, hitting on several late-round draft picks before and after the selection of Bosa.
The Cardinals have not been able to do the same, and Murray’s emergence as a solid starting quarterback at least helped address their biggest roster need — one that general managers get fired for failing to adequately address all the time in the NFL — and one that can help paper over other issues on a team’s depth chart.
But Murray’s own extension did not come without some drama, as the quarterback entered an odd public spat with the team during the 2022 preseason over a clause in his contract centered around film study, which caused Murray to fire back at the team because of public discourse around his work ethic. The team then went 4-13, leading to the departures of Keim and head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Murray, meanwhile, is recovering from a torn ACL suffered in a Week 13 game against the New England Patriots — and still making his voice heard within the team facility, reportedly stating his preference for new general manager Monti Ossenfort and head coach Jonathan Gannon to draft offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr. with the third overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Whether the Cardinals follow his wishes remains to be seen, but Johnson is the new betting favorite to go third overall in Thursday’s draft on several sportsbooks.
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