Photo courtesy of Arizona Cardinals.
Chances of an Arizona Cardinals hometown Super Bowl in 2023?
In 2021, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers became the first team to host the Super Bowl at their home stadium. Tom Brady and company took it to Patrick Mahomes and the visiting Kansas City Chiefs on their way to becoming the first NFL team to win a Super Bowl on their own home turf, as well.
So, as the football calendar flips, and everyone gets their sights set on a new season, it seems like a good time to look forward to the next Super Bowl to be hosted in our great state of Arizona. The “Big Game” will be played for the third time at State Farm Stadium (formerly University of Phoenix Stadium) in Glendale in 2023.
Former Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians returned from retirement in 2020 to lead the Bucs to a win in Super Bowl 55, his first as a head coach. Todd Bowles, Byron Leftwich, the list goes on and on. The connections between this Tampa Bay team and the Cardinals seem endless, so is it too early to assess whether Kliff Kingsbury can follow suit and lead the Red Sea to a hometown Super Bowl in 2023?
Following Arizona’s magical run to the NFC Championship under Arians’ stewardship, this team has had very little to be excited about on the field. Fans had to watch Carson Palmer retire, Arians retire, stars like Calais Campbell and Tyrann Mathieu exit, a one-year tenure by former head coach Steve Wilks, and a one-year tenure by former top-10 pick Josh Rosen.
Nevertheless, GM Steve Keim and President Michael Bidwell have found a way to piece together a competitive roster. They dipped into the college football talent pool to hire former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Then, they immediately turned around and utilized the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft to select former Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray to be the new face of the franchise.
In addition, they went out and practically robbed the Houston Texans by acquiring All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins in a trade that included former Cardinals breakout star David Johnson.
On the defensive side of the ball, Arizona was able to draft budding superstars Budda Baker and Haason Reddick to join perennial Pro Bowler Chandler Jones. While Baker is locked up until 2025, Keim will have a few difficult decisions to make on defense this offseason. Jones is only under contract until 2022, so Keim will need to decide whether it is worth it to sign the 30-year-old pass rusher to a long-term deal or let him test free agency. Furthermore, after a few lackluster seasons to begin his career, the Cardinals decided not to pick up Reddick’s fifth-year option last offseason. Reddick ended up having a breakout season with 12.5 sacks and six forced fumbles, making life even tougher on Arizona’s GM.
On offense, the Cardinals have Murray under contract until 2024 and Hopkins until 2025. With that being said, there are a ton of core players with expiring contracts on this side of the ball. Star left tackle D.J. Humphries is only signed through 2023. Wide receiver Christian Kirk is only signed through 2022, while Larry Fitzgerald contemplates retirement yet again this offseason. Finally, running back Kenyan Drake is scheduled to become a free agent, while his backfield mate Chase Edmonds is only under contract through next season.
Needless to say, there are a lot of decisions that need to be made prior to a run at Super Bowl 57; however, the foundation is set in the desert. Now, let’s take a look at their potential path to a hometown title shot.
NFC West title hopes
First and foremost, the Cardinals will need to get through the NFC West before making a run at the Super Bowl. It was arguably the toughest division in football last season, so it will not be easy to overcome. Let’s take a look at each of Arizona’s three division rivals and how they might look during the 2022-23 season.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams went from being the most explosive offense in the NFL under phenom head coach Sean McVay to a dominant defensive presence led by three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald. L.A. did not waste any time this offseason, as they made a blockbuster trade to acquire Matthew Stafford from the Detroit Lions. While they traded away a huge chunk of their future, the move clearly indicates that the Rams are ready to make an immediate run at a title.
The core of this team will be around for the foreseeable future, so Los Angeles might just be the Cardinals ’ biggest test out West. Stafford is under contract until 2023, and Donald is locked up until 2025. Superstar cornerback Jalen Ramsey is signed through 2027, and stud wideouts Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are under contract through 2026 and 2024, respectively.
The Rams are certainly in win now-mode, so if the Cards want to ascend to the top of the division, they’ll likely have to go through Hollywood in order to do so.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have the biggest question mark within the division, and that’s simply because they are undecided about the future of the quarterback position. Head coach Kyle Shanahan has already proven to be an elite play-caller at the pro level, but Jimmy Garoppolo has not lived up to the hype since taking over under center in the Bay.
With that being said, San Francisco does have plenty of talent under contract through the 2023 season. Arik Armstead, Dee Ford, George Kittle, Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel are all signed through at least 2023, to name a few. If they can get their QB issues figured out, then San Fran will be a force to be reckoned with.
At 32 years old, Russell Wilson has put together one of the most impressive resumes in NFL history to this point in his career. With that being said, the Seahawks had to leverage a lot to be able to sign him long term. As a result, Wilson has been doing a lot of the heavy lifting over the last few seasons. Nevertheless, he’s been able to find ways to keep on winning, as Seattle finished the season as the NFC West champs before falling to the Rams in the postseason.
Wilson is under contract through 2024; however, many of their star players are approaching free agency, which means that Pete Carroll and company will have their work cut on for them if they want to remain competitive within this division. All Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner and Pro Bowl wideout D.K. Metcalf are signed through 2023; however, guys like Jamal Adams, Carlos Dunlap, Duane Brown, Tyler Lockett, Quandre Diggs and Jarran Reed all have expiring contracts.
NFC title hopes
One thing to consider about the NFC is that the teams that are currently at the top of the conference are primarily led by aging quarterbacks. Stafford and Wilson fall into that category. Aaron Rodgers is 36, Tom Brady is 43 and Drew Brees is expected to retire at age 41. With Murray at the helm, the Cardinals have their future in place without concern about retirement influencing the roster.
Furthermore, there are a plethora of NFC teams that need to address their quarterback situations. In addition to the Niners, Carolina, Chicago, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Washington all have questions about the direction they’re headed in. Dak Prescott is coming off of a serious injury in Dallas, Kirk Cousins has dramatically underachieved in Minnesota and who knows how the trade will affect Jared Goff in Detroit.
In other words, it might be the perfect opportunity for the Cardinals to make a run in the NFC. And who knows… maybe we’ll be watching them run out of the tunnel at State Farm Stadium in February 2023.