Cardinals will feel impact of keeping left tackle D.J. Humphries immediately

Having D.J. Humphries locked up at left tackle will give the Cardinals more flexibility with their first-round draft pick. Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals' decision to re-sign left tackle D.J. Humphries this week for another three seasons will have an instant trickle-down effect on the organization.

For starters, the Cardinals can approach this year's draft class with more focus on finding the necessary skill players to complement quarterback Kyler Murray and the offense. Instead of having to consider drafting a tackle at No. 8, Arizona can shift its gaze to wide receiver -- possibly Alabama's Jerry Jeudy or Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb -- or even a defensive presence up front. It'll all depend on how the first seven picks fall.

Before keeping Humphries off the market with a three-year deal worth up to $45 million and $29 million guaranteed, the Cardinals needed to consider drafting a tackle at No. 8. They might still be in the market for one if they don't re-sign right tackle Marcus Gilbert, who's scheduled to be a free agent in March, but it won't be as high of a priority in April's draft.

Humphries' return in 2020 and beyond also gives the Cardinals an opportunity to keep a majority of their offensive line intact. The Cardinals had their best rushing season in team history, averaging a team-high 5.03 yards per carry, due in large part to the offensive line. Humphries, specifically, had a major impact on Arizona's rushing game.

Of the Cardinals' 1,990 rushing yards, 610 were gained rushing outside of left tackle, second most in the NFL last season. Arizona averaged 6.85 yards per carry and scored six touchdowns in the direction of Humphries, ranking third and second in the NFL, respectively, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

With the commitment that coach Kliff Kingsbury has made to the rushing game, keeping Humphries around will bolster Arizona's ground attack.

Arizona already had left guard Justin Pugh and right guard J.R. Sweezy under contract for 2020, so keeping Humphries gives them a stable foundation going forward. Besides right tackle, the only other offensive line position that Arizona needs to address is center, where incumbent starter A.Q. Shipley is scheduled to be a free agent.

So far, Kingsbury's offense appears to be offensive-line-friendly. Before 2019, Humphries never played in all 16 games, but he was able to do so while playing in Kingsbury's up-tempo offense. He played double-digit games in just one other season, in 2016.

Murray averaged 2.39 seconds in the pocket in 2019, the fourth-lowest time in the NFL, and threw the ball in 2.73 seconds, which was 11th-lowest. Fewer seconds in the pocket mean less blocking time for the line, which gives the line a smaller chance of getting hurt from contact. Four of the five offensive linemen last season started all 16 games.

Whether Humphries can stay healthy in the future is yet to be seen, but he has raised the expectations for himself in 2020 while giving the Cardinals comfort at a key position.