The Arizona Cardinals' moves this offseason suggest the team is pushing all its chips in the middle. Selling out for 2021.
The Cards shelled out cash for veterans J.J. Watt, A.J. Green, Malcolm Butler and James Conner, traded for Rodney Hudson to upgrade the O-line, and drafted first-round linebacker Zaven Collins, who is expected to start from the jump.
In Kliff Kingsbury's and Kyler Murray's third season together, the expectation is that the Cardinals should compete for a division title and a playoff spot this season. If not, things could get exceedingly hot for Kingsbury in the desert.
Receiver Christian Kirk noted during an interview on NFL Network's Good Morning Football that the urgency is clear.
"I think it's now or never for us," Kirk said Wednesday. "That's the attitude in the locker room. We finally feel like we have all the pieces to put it together and really make a push for the playoffs and for a championship. I know guys in the locker aren't expecting anything less than that. We know what opportunity we have at hand, and then we know we have to be better. ... Since coach Kingsbury's been there, we have gotten better every year. Now it's the year where we've got a young group of core guys that have been through a lot, all the ups and downs. We know the opportunity is here, and we have to rise to the occasion, and we have the right guys and the right leadership to do it."
In Kingsbury's two seasons, the Cards finished with a 5-10-1 record in 2019 and an 8-8 record last season -- sputtering down the stretch finishing 2-5 in its final seven games.
Kirk enters the final year of his contract in Arizona, underscoring his need for urgency in 2021. A dynamic deep threat, Kirk is often underutilized in the Cards offense. He generated 621 yards on 48 catches with 6 touchdowns last season.
Playing out the final year of his rookie deal, the 24-year-old highlighted the earnestness with which he approaches this season.
"I think there's no lack of motivation whatsoever from me," he said. "I know I have to come out and play my best football. I know there's some doubters and people kind of counting me out, but I'm just ready to get out there and let my play speak for itself. I put all the work in that needs to be put in up to this point and, like I said, just ready to get out there and have my best season yet."
The addition of Green has gotten the headlines this summer, but Kirk's play will be vital to the Cards leaping from offseason novelty to an actual contender. With a big season, Kirk could set himself up nicely for a payday in 2022.