The season ended in disappointment and controversy for the Arizona Cardinals. They began their Week 11 Monday night game against the Rams poised to put the NFC West on ice and ended it by starting their spiral into the Wild Card round and losing receiver DeAndre Hopkins for the rest of the season.
Then came a quick playoff loss and the Kyler Murray social media scrub and it appears things are rapidly deteriorating in Arizona.
This should be informing the decision-making process of free agent wide receiver Christian Kirk, who becomes an unrestricted free agent in March as his rookie deal expires. Kirk is from Scottsdale, so his heart will always be in the Valley. But with a chance to make a splash on the open market and the uncertainty with his current team, will the familiar setting be enough to keep him home?
Here are the top options for Kirk entering the free agency period March 16:
Spotrac.com projects Kirk to net a four-year, $50 deal. The Cardinals are about $800,000 over the salary cap, but will improve their position by releasing some players and restructuring the deals of others. That should allow them the flexibility to sign Kirk, and maybe try to go for the true hometown discount. Kirk expressed his preference to stay in Arizona while at the PGA tour stop in Phoenix two weeks ago.
“I always want to be a part of the Valley and I always will be,” Kirk said at the WM Phoenix Open golf tournament before the Super Bowl. “You know, hopefully, it’s another couple years with the Arizona Cardinals, but if it isn’t, you know, I’ll always be here, I’ll always live here and I’m so prideful to be a part of such a great state and community that I’m never leaving no matter what.”
Kirk may want to see how the Murray situation shakes out. Kirk played with Murray at Texas A&M and that familiarity showed itself after Hopkins went down with his injury.
“Anytime you get to play with a quarterback like Kyler, you want to be a part of it,” Kirk said. “My thing is always whenever I’m out there, I want to be the best that I can to help him along. He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league and that’s the facts. And so, like I said, anytime you get an opportunity to play with a guy like that, you’re going to want to. It’ll definitely have a deciding factor.”
The Lions have plenty of cap room to make a move, sitting at about $29 million. The Lions need another wide receiver to complement their late-season breakout star Amon-Ra St. Brown. Pairing Kirk with St. Brown would be a huge boost for Jared Goff, who took the Rams to the Super Bowl just three years ago with a roster of talented wide receivers.
The Lions would probably not want to use the No. 2 pick in the draft on a wide receiver, so bringing in Kirk would alleviate a key need, while adding another talented weapon on offense, along with running back D’Andre Swift.
Barring something totally unforeseen, Allen Robinson will be leaving the Bears via free agency, leaving a huge hole at wide receiver, as Darnell Mooney would be the only reliable receiver under contract. In his second season, Justin Fields needs weapons to throw to, and Kirk would be the type of big-play receiver the Bears can build around.
We have seen how successful Kirk can be with a mobile quarterback. The Bears certainly will take notice of the way Kirk stepped up when DeAndre Hopkins went down with an injury and missed the final six weeks of the season. Just through attrition in Chicago, Kirk would again be the de facto No. 1 receiver. He seems to be up to the task.
New England Patriots
At some point, the Patriots have got to do something about their wide receiver situation. The Patriots tried to fix the problem last year in free agency with the likes of Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor, but neither showed the kind of consistency the Patriots needed.
A receiver who can play both in the slot and on the outside like Kirk would be one of the best deep threats the Patriots have had since Randy Moss. But keeping Kirk in the slot is likely where the Patriots would play him, and that would be a huge improvement for Mac Jones to have that caliber of reliable slot receiver.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference