The Cardinals have already doled out a franchise-record contract to their first pick in the 2019 draft — Kyler Murray — and it would seem the second of Arizona’s picks that year (cornerback Byron Murphy) is on the radar for a new deal. While the team already cut ties with the other second-rounder from Kliff Kingsbury‘s first draft — wideout Andy Isabella — it has highlighted another 2019 draftee for a possible re-up.
Arizona would like to retain Zach Allen on a second contract, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes. The former third-round pick is having his best season and might not make it to free agency. Though, money will be a rather notable notable part of that timeline.
A defensive end in Vance Joseph‘s 3-4 scheme, Allen has already matched his career-best mark for quarterback hits (14) through 11 games. Teaming with a healthy J.J. Watt, Allen has recorded 3.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss. Allen’s six pass deflections — also a career-high number — lead all defensive linemen this season. Pro Football Focus rates Allen 23rd among interior D-linemen.
While it is uncertain how the Cardinals will proceed with Watt, whose $28MM contract expires at season’s end, Allen is a logical candidate to retain due to his age (25) and improved production. If Watt’s deal comes off the books, the Cardinals will not have any notable payments due to defensive linemen come 2023.
It will be interesting to see how the Kingsbury’s status plays into the Arizona futures of Allen and Murphy. While GM Steve Keim has not come up in firing rumors, his standing would also affect how the Cardinals arrange pieces for the future as well. Kingsbury being canned would also stand to impact the Cardinals’ defensive scheme, with Joseph tied to the fourth-year HC. Without factoring these issues into the equation, the Cards have Allen identified as a cornerstone player.
The Cardinals have Allen, Murphy and Watt as high-profile free agents in 2023. While Watt is a future first-ballot Hall of Famer, he has encountered steady health issues during the second half of his career. Watt remaining healthy this season also figures to create a nice market for a fourth contract come March, even though the three-time Defensive Player of the Year will be 34 next season. The Cards also have three offensive line starters whose contracts are up after 2022.