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Arizona Cardinals could contend sooner than people expect in the NFC West

Nothing moves the needle on a team’s prospects further and faster than finding a new quarterback, and the Arizona Cardinals did that a season ago when they drafted Kyler Murray No. 1 overall. Murray's rookie season was proof that the Cardinals made the right call, so this offseason became all about surrounding him with help. That project has been so successful that the Cardinals could be looking to make some noise in the NFC West way sooner than people might expect.

[Editor’s note: Click this link to see PFF’s 2020 NFL Draft grades for all 32 teams. And if you haven’t already, be sure to pick up a copy of PFF’s 2020 NFL Draft Guide by subscribing to PFF EDGE or ELITE.]

Arizona's win total betting line jumped to 7.5 wins, and it wouldn’t take a huge regression from the San Francisco 49ers to suddenly see the Cardinals thrust into a four-way race for the division in 2020.

General manager Steve Keim pulled off one of the most lopsided trades in NFL history — probably the most lopsided since the Ricky Williams trade — when he acquired DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans without giving up a first-round pick in the draft. Without that move, Arizona was going to have to aggressively chase plus-play at the wide receiver position, possibly at the cost of maximizing value in the draft in other spots. But snagging Hopkins — one of the game’s best receivers — allowed them the flexibility to play the offseason honestly in all other areas. They were able to concentrate on pursuing the best players available and dial in on other areas that needed improvement.

What propelled the trade into another stratosphere when it comes to value is that the team was able to use David Johnson as a makeweight. Johnson was at one point seen as the next great every-down running back in the NFL, but almost as soon as the Cardinals made him one of the best-paid running backs in the league, injuries took hold and the unsustainably good play stopped being sustained. The collapse in his game was already causing the team to have buyer’s remorse and look for ways to offload the contract from their salary cap. To achieve that and have it carry significant weight in a trade for one of the game’s best wide receivers at a time where you desperately need receiver help? Inconceivable.

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