The Arizona Cardinals began their offseason transformation on Monday when they agreed to hire Titans director of player personnel Monti Ossenfort as their new general manager. Given that former GM Steve Keim had been in place for a decade, Ossenfort will need to revamp a front office used to doing things a certain way.
Ossenfort’s job won’t be easy, and the process of fixing the Cardinals will be a multi-year effort. Let’s run through three crucial challenges Ossenfort will face in his new role.
3 To-Do Items for New Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort
Hire a New Head Coach
This one is obvious. Not only did the Cardinals part ways with Keim this offseason, but they also fired head coach Kliff Kingsbury after four seasons. With Kingsbury using his fresh extension money for a one-way ticket to Thailand, Ossenfort needs to find a new head coach.
Thus far, Arizona has only been linked to four candidates: former Saints head coach Sean Payton, former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, 49ers defensive coordinator Demeco Ryans, and incumbent DC Vance Joseph.
Now that Ossenfort is on board, the Cardinals’ search may expand. Ossenfort will clearly have an impact on the candidate list, and Arizona could look at coaches with a link to their new general manager. That could include Titans DC Shane Bowen, but Flores — who worked with Ossenfort in New England — could also get a bump in interest.
Get on the Same Page with Kyler Murray
Kyler Murray regressed last season before tearing his ACL, and he also had relational issues with Kingsbury. Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill told reporters earlier this month that Murray would have input on the club’s head coaching search.
Murray is a 25-year-old former No. 1 overall pick who’s displayed moments of brilliance on the field. He’s also under contract — a massive $230 million deal — through the 2028 campaign. Murray isn’t going anywhere, and Ossenfort must work to find a coach who can work his star quarterback.
Ossenfort needs to identify a coach who can mesh with Murray on a personal level. But the Cardinals’ offensive scheme also needs to do a better job creating opportunities for Murray to shine.
Under Kingsbury, Arizona’s stagnant offensive approach seemed to rely far too often on Murray creating out-of-structure plays. Those second-reaction plays can lead to outstanding outcomes, but they can’t be the basis of an offense.
Build a Younger Roster
Keim consistently whiffed on draft picks — or used them on non-premium positions — leading the Cardinals’ roster into a state of disrepair. Arizona has one of the oldest rosters in the league, so Ossenfort needs to make an active effort to get younger.
That process will start in the draft. At present, the Cardinals only have five picks in the 2023 draft, but they should acquire three more — including one in the third round — via the NFL’s compensatory system. Ossenfort needs to use those selections at critical positions like offensive tackle, edge rusher, and corner to fortify Arizona’s aging roster.
Ossenfort also needs to look into trading 30-year-old wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The longer the Cardinals hold onto Hopkins, the older he gets and the less value they’ll receive in exchange. A rebuilding club like Arizona doesn’t need to hold onto a veteran wideout like Hopkins. Ossenfort could use any draft capital acquired in a Hopkins trade to find a younger receiver for Murray.