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Are the Arizona Cardinals moving backward?

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Has the offseason changed the way you perceive the Arizona Cardinals?

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday when I heard that CB Tramon Williams signed a 2-year deal with the Packers, I went out to my back porch and found myself ranting so loudly that the birds in my neighbor’s yard fled the scene.

From day one of free agency, we have been told that the three in-house UFAs that Keim wanted to re-sign were CB Tramon Williams, DE Kareem Martin and LB Josh Bynes. At the top of that list, at least in my way of thinking was Tramon Williams, who was the best all-around CB on the team last year. He excelled in both man and zone and, unlike some other defensive backs on the team; he hit people, sometimes with a bang.

Over the past week, MJ and Gambo have been reporting that the Cardinals and Williams were $1M apart---that Williams wanted $3M and the Cardinals had offered $2M. If this is true, then shame on Steve Keim and the Cardinals. They can pay a backup QB and RT who have yet to ever play for the Cardinals $4M a year and they can’t close a deal with their starting RCB where all it would take is a similar salary?

What’s so annoying about Keim is how he lowballs players to the point where they feel sucker punched. What’s the point of giving veteran players 1 year prove it deals and then when they prove it in spades like Tramon Williams and Dwight Freeney did---all Keim can offer is the same lowball salary they signed for in the first place?

It’s bad business that thwarts valuable momentum---and that’s why the Cardinals are not a team that free agents gravitate towards---only desperate free agents whom Keim preys on and then doesn’t reward.

Players around the league talk. They know what’s going on in Arizona. Why do you think Ravens’ safety Eric Weddle got so incensed over the Cardinals paying oft-injured QB Sam Bradford $20M? Weddle knows how the Cardinals treated his buddy Tony Jefferson. As an undrafted college free agent, Jefferson not only made the team, he emerged as a star and the team’s best and most reliable tackler. His 14 tackles in the NFC Championship game debacle at Carolina was one of the only bright spots in that miserable game. Jefferson came to play, as he had done all season.

Steve Keim’s reward to Jefferson for his stellar 2015 performance was to give him the lowest RFA tender. Jefferson was understandably miffed and irate. That was the perfect time to sign Jefferson to a multi-year extension, rather than to sucker punch him with the lowest tender.

So, Jefferson used this as added motivation and went and stacked yet another outstanding season in 2016, which propelled him into the top ten of the 2017 free agent most wanted list. At that point, Steve Keim was already resigned to losing Jefferson in free agency, but made a half-assed attempt to make it look like the Cardinals made a pitch to re-sign Jefferson, just so the fans can think Keim and the Cardinals are trying---but the Ravens swooped in and signed him to a 4-year $34M contract with $19M guaranteed.

What’s even worse about how the whole episode with Tony Jefferson played out was that when Bruce Arians was asked about Jefferson’s deal with the Ravens, Arians had the audacity to say, “Well, let’s see how Tony plays now that he has the money.”

This is why Eric Weddle and numerous other players around the league think the Cardinals are a joke.

Look at how Keim handled the Tyrann Mathieu situation. Sure, everyone close to the situation knew that something had to be done about Mathieu’s impending $14M cap figure---but---to ask a Mathieu a week before free agency began to accept a $6M a year offer (which nearly cut his salary in half) is a sucker punch the kind of which a man does not get back up off the pavement from.

How is a competitive, prideful player like Mathieu supposed to react to an offer like that?

When Mathieu understandably turned that offer down, Keim countered with an offer of $8M a year---but--by then---the damage was already done.

After Mathieu bolted to the Texans for a $7M one year deal, Keim issued a statement about how close Mathieu will always be to his heart and how this is the ugly side of business in the NFL. By this time, Steve Keim, your words are pathetically maudlin. The ugliness was your $6M offer in the first place and your obtuse lack of understanding of how prideful a player like Mathieu is.

Keim, you made the contract to Mathieu untenable. You bet that Mathieu was going to be the face of the franchise after Larry Fitzgerald moved on. Clearly, over the past two seasons Mathieu did not return to his Honey Badger form. When this had become clear---for whatever the reasons---his knees---or the gradual erosion of his spirit---or the lack of accountability the Cardinals had for some of BA’s pet players---the honorable thing to do was to let Mathieu go and not insult him by trying to cut his salary in half.

In retrospect, I was wrong about Mathieu being the Money Badger---had I known of Keim’s original $6M a year offer---I would have completely understood why Mathieu turned away from the Cardinals for good at that time. I too fell into Keim’s little snare to put the onus of the divorce on the Honey Badger.

So now---in the past week---the Cardinals have lost Tyrann Mathieu and Tramon Williams---and reports are that their replacements are likely to be slot CB Robert McClain and former Cardinals’ CB Marcus Cooper. While McClain might adequately fit the bill as the slot CB…not nearly as well as a healthy and high-spirited Honey Badger mind you, with regard to Marcus Cooper, he is nowhere close to being the baller Tramon Williams is. E.J. Gaines is a baller---and he’s 7 years younger than Williams---but---while Keim has neglected to address the Bucannon and Veldheer contracts, which right now would count $19M versus the 2018 cap, a valuable, younger, far more talented addition at RCB is slipping through his and the team’s fingers.

For Keim now three weeks into the 2018 free agency, to still be adding further confusion to RCB situation after 5 years of repeated uncertainty and turnover at that vulnerable spot resonates about as alarmingly as Keim being handed a 4 year contract extension this off-season as a reward for the Cardinals reverting back to being one of the perennial jokes of the league.