Owner Says Strong Draft, Veteran Leadership Make Cardinals a Contender

Getty Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwell walks onto the field prior to the NFL game between the Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on October 13, 2019, in Glendale, Arizona.

Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwell isn’t buying preseason predictions that have his team missing the playoffs for the sixth year in a row.

Bidwell says a strong 2021 draft, a pre-draft trade that added Pro Bowl experience to the offensive line, and big-name free-agent signings on both sides of the ball make the Cardinals a contender in the NFC West.

“I think this year could be pretty darn special,” Bidwell said on “The Dave Pasch Podcast” on Monday, September 6.

“I think every year the goal is to win the division and then to stay hot through January and get yourself to the Super Bowl,” he said.

Winning the loaded NFC West would be quite a feat for the Cardinals, whose last division title came in 2015. The prevailing opinion among preseason prognosticators is the Cardinals will win between seven and 10 games this season. PFF is projecting the Cardinals’ win total at 8.5, which would mean a last-place finish in the division behind the Rams (10.5), 49ers (10.5) and Seahawks (10).

But Bidwell says there are several reasons Cardinals fans should be optimistic the playoff drought will come to an end this season.

It started with selecting quarterback Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, and then trading for All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins prior to last season, Bidwell said.

The Cardinals then swapped a third-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to acquire veteran center Rodney Hudson, now in his 11th season, from the Las Vegas Raiders, who also sent a seventh-round pick to Arizona in the deal.

Hudson, 32, at 6-foot-2, 315 pounds, is a “plug-and-play” solution who has “really lifted the performance of that offensive line,” Bidwell said.

The Cardinals owner also is bullish about three players Arizona picked in the first four rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft: linebacker Zaven Collins, selected No. 16 overall; wide receiver Rondale Moore, a second-round pick (49th overall); and cornerback Marco Wilson, a fourth-round selection (136th overall).

“This draft, when you look at it in our history, I think it’s going to be turn out to be a helluva draft,” Bidwell said. “Zaven has hit the ground running, and he’s going to be not just a contributor, but a leader.”

Arizona then made a big splash in free agency by signing three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt to a two-year deal, and seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green was signed to a one-year contract to give Murray another weapon in the passing game.

“We should expect some great things,” Bidwell said. “I couldn’t be more excited about this season.”

Watt Brings the Intensity, Murray Gets Vocal

Watt’s impact in the locker room and on the practice field has been noteworthy, Bidwell said. The 6-foot-5, 288-pound defensive end missed most of training camp and did not play in the preseason due to injury. He joined the Cardinals on the field for the first time August 23, and Bidwell says there was a noticeable increase in the intensity at practice.

“With him being injured through part of camp, he wasn’t on the practice field,” the Cardinals owner said. “But the last week or so, he’s been on the practice field, and you can definitely see the intensity picked up. This is when we need it as we go into Week 1 of the regular season.”

The Cardinals also need Murray to take the next step toward becoming an elite quarterback in the NFL. After winning Rookie of the Year in 2019 and then making his first Pro Bowl in 2020, next on the 24-year-old quarterback’s to-do list is leading the Cardinals to the playoffs.

“We need Kyler to further grow, and he’s shown a lot of leadership through the offseason and training camp,” Bidwell said.

Murray has been a more vocal leader in training camp this season, the owner said, holding his teammates accountable on the practice field.

“You can see it, talking to his receivers, talking to his offensive lineman, talking to his running backs,” Bidwell said.

QB Surprises Owner with Painting

There’s a new painting hanging in the Bidwell family’s suite at State Farm Stadium courtesy of Murray.

As featured on “Cardinals Flight Plan,” Murray delivered the wrapped painting to Bidwell’s office at the start of training camp. The painting features Bidwell’s father, William “Bill” Bidwell, walking out of the tunnel and onto the field alongside 13 of the greatest players in franchise history. The longtime Cardinals owner died at 88 on October 2, 2019.

“It was very touching,” Michael Bidwell said on “The Dave Pasch Podcast.” “I was blown away by it. He had a family friend that painted it. I thought it captured my father’s expression perfectly.”

In the painting, Bill Bidwell is shown smiling and wearing his signature bow tie as Cardinals greats Larry Centers, Dan Dierdorf, Larry Fitzgerald, Roy Green, Jim Hart, Carson Palmer, Patrick Peterson, Pat Tillman, Kurt Warner, Roger Wehrli, Aeneas Williams, Adrian Wilson and Larry Wilson walk onto the field, led by Tillman carrying the American flag.

“It’s hanging up there (in State Farm Stadium) so those players and Dad can be there with us and celebrate all those Cardinals victories,” Michael Bidwell said.

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