The Cardinals' new regime may have a vision centered around quarterback Kyler Murray, but that doesn't mean it'll be apparent anytime soon. Murray suffered an ACL tear in December, and team owner Michael Bidwill said on an upcoming "Dave Pasch Podcast" appearance that Arizona can only hope the QB will return before midseason in 2023. In the meantime, the team might also be without backup Colt McCoy, with Bidwill revealing the veteran No. 2 is recovering from his own injury.
"Colt is coming back from an injury that is going to limit him in the offseason," Bidwill said, per the Cardinals' official website. "It's another set of dynamics that (the coaching staff has) to work through, and (general manager) Monti (Ossenfort). We'll see what exactly the plan is. ... That's for those guys to figure out."
Besides Murray and McCoy, who will be 37 at the start of next season, the Cardinals don't have another QB under contract for 2023. Emergency fill-ins David Blough and Trace McSorley are both pending free agents, though the former is restricted, meaning Arizona could more easily retain him with a tender.
Who, then, will be under center when the Cardinals take the field to open the 2023 campaign? Here are five logical candidates:
The Raiders probably fancy him more than anyone after his short but promising stint as Derek Carr's successor. But Las Vegas is primed to explore more experienced options after Carr's release. He's got just two career starts, but at 26, he's also a reasonable low-risk, high-upside bet for the longer term. GM Monti Ossenfort was also the Patriots' director of college scouting when New England made Stidham a fourth-round draft pick in 2019.
4. Case Keenum
At 35, fresh off his first year with his seventh different team, Keenum knows his role at this point, which makes him an ideal placeholder and/or future mentor. He's made just two starts the past three years, but he's got 64 career starts on his resume, including 14 as a surprise star for the 2017 Vikings, who happened to employ new Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon. Keenum also has ties to Arizona's offensive coordinator, Drew Petzing, who was an assistant for the Browns while Keenum served as Baker Mayfield's backup from 2020-21.
Probably the most intriguing of the bunch, Minshew has flashed starting-level moxie but failed to hold down a steady job. Going on 27, with reasonably effective numbers as a 24-game starter, he's precisely the kind of younger veteran you'd want in a QB room on a rebuilding team. A locker-room favorite, he's also got an obvious connection to Gannon, having spent the past two seasons in Philadelphia as Jalen Hurts' No. 2.
He should have a few legitimate suitors -- perhaps in Denver, where old friend Sean Payton could use some insurance for Russell Wilson; or New Orleans, where the Saints are set to start over at QB and could be interested in a reunion. But Arizona would likely offer one of his clearest paths to a guaranteed starting stretch. Both Gannon and Petzing, the Cardinals' new OC, also overlapped with Bridgewater in Minnesota; Petzing was a Vikings assistant when Bridgewater entered as a first-rounder in 2014.
What better candidate to hold down the fort as a guaranteed short-term starter than the guy who mastered the job in 2022? Brissett was serviceable as an 11-game QB1 for the Browns last year, and he's made a living as an emergency fill-in. More than that, he's got some of the strongest ties to this regime than any other free agent: Petzing was his QBs coach in Cleveland, Gannon was on the Colts' staff from 2018-20 when he served as a starter, and Ossenfort helped draft him with the Patriots back in 2016, when the Cardinals GM was New England's director of college scouting.