When Patrick Peterson’s six-game PED suspension to begin the season was first reported Thursday by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, our initial response was that there simply hasn’t been a dull offseason moment for the Arizona Cardinals.
From their out-of-leftfield hire of Kliff Kingsbury and being the most active shoppers in free agency to their swapping out starting quarterbacks — last year’s No. 10 overall pick Josh Rosen for Kyler Murray, chosen first overall last month — and Rosen confirming he hadn’t spoken with GM Steve Keim in the months leading up to or since being traded to Miami, the Cardinals have remained at the forefront of the NFL’s news cycle.
But perhaps for the first time Thursday during months of nonstop news making since the conclusion of its disastrous 3-13 season, Arizona could have a difficult time spinning something positive from the suspension of its best defender. Lest we forget, Peterson, who has been to eight Pro Bowls in eight NFL seasons, has also been a regularly rumored trade chip for some time now, and if the Cardinals ever actually considered it, their leverage likely just went in the tank.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because the Cardinals just completed the poorest possible handling of Rosen’s ouster, which fetched them only a late second- and fifth-rounder one year after spending a first-, a third- and a fifth-round pick to trade up and select him with the 10th overall pick.
Perhaps, then, now being forced to put out the Peterson fire is the karma the Cardinals deserve? Rosen took the high road in the ugly one-and-done divorce — Arizona's second of late, we should add, after dumping Steve Wilks in January immediately following his maiden head-coaching voyage — while the Cardinals treated him as nothing more than collateral damage.
Meantime, the Cardinals maintained publicly since last year that Peterson would be a Cardinal for life, but that doesn't carry a lot of weight if we're being realistic in light of the lack of other loyalty they've shown. Obviously, Peterson has built up a lot more good will with the organization than Rosen or Wilks, but it's been clear for a while that the relationship wasn't in the best place prior to Thursday, when the situation officially turned ugly.
Being without Peterson to begin this season will mark uncharted waters for the franchise that has had him on the field and starting for every one of a possible 131 games since selecting him fifth overall in the 2011 draft. Being suspended will also be unfamiliar for Peterson, not only because he's been so reliable but almost unassailable as a player. It's yet to be confirmed, but the severity of Peterson's suspension for a first offense seemingly indicates his failed test not only revealed a banned performance-enhancing dug but a masking agent, too. Peterson quickly dropping his appeal, per Schefter, further indicates he's admitting guilt.
It doesn't mean Peterson's mistake tarnishes his potential Hall of Fame legacy or even completely eliminates the possibility of him being traded, but it certainly complicates both.
If there is any silver lining here for the Cardinals, it might be that their first six games — vs. the Detroit Lions, at Baltimore, vs. Carolina Panthers, vs. Seattle Seahawks, at Cincinnati and vs. the Atlanta Falcons — include four against bottom-half passing offenses in 2018. But without Peterson, Kingsbury's job becomes harder, as does Murray's, and it's the success or failure of that duo that ultimately will define Arizona's explosive offseason.