What does Kyler Murray's ACL tear mean for the Cardinals' future?

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals had their worst fears confirmed on Tuesday: Quarterback Kyler Murray suffered a season-ending torn ACL in Monday night's game against the New England Patriots, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter on Tuesday.

Murray was carted off the field with the noncontact injury to his knee less than 90 seconds into the game, which the Cardinals lost 27-13 to fall to 4-9.

Murray went down after a 3-yard run on the third play of the game.

"Obviously, it didn't look good," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "I've never seen him in that type of shape, so I assumed it wasn't good."

What does Murray's injury mean for the 2022 Cardinals?

This was the icing on the cake for what has been a long, chaotic year -- not season, year. It started in February, when Murray scrubbed his Instagram page of all Cardinals-related posts, and it ended Monday night on national TV, when he was lost for the season.

Murray's injury changes the entire complexion of the offense and, in a lot of ways, the team.

Murray was just starting to come into his own as a team leader and the face of the franchise. Murray's growth and maturity were evident. After receiving his massive $230 million extension in late July, Murray appeared humbled and embraced his role more than ever. How he approaches his rehab -- and namely where he does it -- could signal where he stands as the franchise leader.

But whatever air was left in this year's Cardinals was let out. Having Murray on the field always gave the Cardinals hope, as they saw in a wild comeback in Las Vegas in Week 2. Losing him to injury leaves the Cardinals without arguably their top playmaker.

What does Colt McCoy bring to the team, and how will the offense be different?

McCoy is a vastly different quarterback than Murray, both physically and in how he plays the game. McCoy is 3 inches taller and more of a traditional pocket passer than Murray. Murray could be used as a pocket passer as well as any quarterback in the NFL, but Kingsbury knows Murray's ability to make plays with his feet can change a game's dynamic.

McCoy can fall back on 13 years of NFL experience, which shapes his approach on the field and leadership style. Kingsbury has said throughout the season, including Monday night, that McCoy excels at pre-snap reads, a trait that'll pay off without a veteran center in front of him. McCoy is able to run an offense on short-yardage throws, so the expectation is the Cardinals will be a dink-and-dunk offense going forward. Should McCoy start the remaining four games to finish the season, he'll end the year with the third-most starts of his career. McCoy has started five games Murray has missed, going 3-2, including 1-1 this season.

While the Cardinals' offense was up-tempo at times with Murray, it'll be quick with McCoy. There's a difference. McCoy gets the ball out very quickly -- call him Lightning McCoy. His release time is 2.25 seconds, the fastest among quarterbacks with at least 50 attempts, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Murray's average was 2.65. The league mean is 2.77 seconds.

What should the Cardinals do at quarterback for 2023 if Murray is forced to miss several games?

Depending on the severity of the knee injury and how Murray tackles his rehab, he could, in theory, return in anywhere from six to eight months. That could put him in line to start Week 1 of 2023.

However, if Murray does have to miss games, it'll also matter how many. One, two or three, then it's likely the Cardinals stick with McCoy. The final four games in the 2022 season will be important for McCoy. If he can prove himself to owner Michael Bidwill, the job may be his no matter what.

Kingsbury is a big fan of McCoy, so it's hard to see the coach going with someone else...unless, and hear me out, Baker Mayfield becomes an option.

If, for some reason, it's anticipated that Murray won't be back by the end of the first quarter of the season, the Cardinals could go with someone like Mayfield, who Kingsbury - and Murray -- have a relationship with and who understands the system. If a move like that were to happen, Kingsbury would likely keep McCoy, who's signed through 2023, on the roster as a mentor and a backup.

What does Murray's injury mean for Kingsbury?

All of this depends on whether Kingsbury keeps his job after the season, which, at this point, is unclear. The Cardinals have been disappointing all season long after two seasons in which they experienced late-season slides. The Cardinals are 5-12 in their last 17 and 1-11 at State Farm Stadium in their last 12.

From a statistical standpoint, Kingsbury's future doesn't look bright in Arizona. However, Murray's injury could impact his job security. Bidwill could look at the situation from this standpoint: Kingsbury didn't have DeAndre Hopkins for the first six games and didn't have Kyler Murray for the last five. That could be enough to earn Kingsbury another year.

However, when he had both, Arizona was 2-4.

If Kingsbury can win a couple of games with McCoy, he could save his job. However, with how poorly Arizona played this season, it may not be enough.

How could Murray's injury affect the Cardinals' salary cap in 2023?

It really won't. Murray's cap hit next season is $16 million -- the fourth highest on the team. His $39 million salary in 2023 is fully guaranteed, so that won't change.

From a financial standpoint, the injury doesn't have a bearing on the Cardinals for next season.

However, starting in 2024, his numbers skyrocket. That's when his cap number swells to $51.857 million.