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Reaction to Burns and Gambo’s Points

Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Yesterday, on the Burns and Gambo Show (Arizona Sports Radio 98.7 FM), they discussed the central argument of my article “Why The Cardinals Could Move Down.” It was that Steve Keim and the Cardinals should move on from LT D.J. Humphries because he has missed 18 games over the past two seasons (and has played in only 28 games in 4 years) and he has yet to play a full season.

A few weeks ago Steve Keim informed Doug and Wolf of his intention of remaining firm in his decision to pick up Humphries’ 5th year option at a cap hit of $9.6M—-and that during his “exit interview” with Humphries, Keim spoke to him about the importance of “availability.”

My suggestion was for Keim to cut his losses by allowing Humphries to become an unrestricted free agent and to use the $9.6M on signing the Rams’ UFA G Rodger Saffold (who blocks Aaron Donald every day in practice and was ranked the #7 G by PFF with a 73.8 grade) or Mark Glowinski (Colts, #17 G with a 68.9 grade), and then trade down from the #1 pick to acquire added picks so that the Cardinals could be in a good position to draft one of the top tackles this April, either in the 1st round or early 2nd.

There is one left tackle in this draft who excelled in the Air Raid offense at Washington St. His name is Andre Dillard. But there are other good options, such as Alabama’s Jonah Williams and Mississippi’s Greg Little.

Gambo’s reaction was that it was an interesting idea, but it isn’t going to happen.

Gambo, I agree. It isn’t going to happen, because Steve Keim wishes to remain committed, at least for another year, to D.J. Humphries, just as Keim wanted to remain committed to Deone Bucannan at $8.7M last year.

Bucannon was coming off two injury-marred seasons (ankle surgery, foot issues) and since 2015 his PFF grades have plummeted from 61.8 in 2015 into the 40s in 2016 and 2017, where it remained in 2018 with a final grade of 45.3 (#86 LB).

While Bucannon grades well in pass coverage, his issue has been tackling in the run game, where even in 2015 when he was still being protected by oft-double teamed DE Calais Campbell, his run grade was 50.6, ranking him 62nd of 94 LBs. In 2016, his run grade dropped to 40,7 (82/88) and has remained there ever since.

Last year—-it made virtually no sense to pay Deone Bucannon $8.7M. Imagine what the Cardinals could have done with an extra $8.7M in free agency.

This year—-it makes no sense to keep D.J. Humphries at $9.6M.

Bucannon missed 11 games in his 3rd and 4th years—-and Humphries has missed 18.

As they saying goes, “you can’t help the club from the tub.”

I understand Dave Burns’ sentiment that he wants to “see how the movie ends” with D.J., after all of these years of investment.

And while Gambo would like to see the same, he conceded that there is little chance, no matter what happens in 2019, that the Cardinals are going to re-sign Humphries to a lucrative multi-year 2nd contract.

I think Gambo is 100% correct.

Thus—-why not move on now and get his replacement at LT in place for the next 4-5 years?

Why waste another year and 1/18th of the team’s salary cap on what amounts to a precarious one-year gamble?

What I want to know regarding Steve Keim as GM is when the injury madness is going to end?

Under Keim, he has seemingly been snowed over by what one could call an injury avalanche.

When one looks at the preponderance of Keim’s key signings—-the alarming common denominator is—-Keim has been throwing big money at players coming off of injury-riddled seasons.

Cases in point: Tyrann Mathieu, Evan Mathis, Mike Iupati, Justin Pugh, Sam Bradford, Deone Bucannon, David Johnson.

If you add up Keim’s contracts to lost, injured or ineffective players in 2018—-Bradford ($15.9M), Mathieu ($9.3M dead cap), Bucannon ($8.7M), Gresham ($7.2M), Palmer ($6.6M dead cap), Iupati ($4.7M + 2019 dead cap of $3.7M), Dawson ($3.5M), Veldheer ($3.3M dead cap), Andre Smith ($2.5M + 2019 dead cap $1.3M), J.J. Nelson ($1.9M) and Jamar Taylor ($1.1M)—-that’s a whopping figure of over $60M that is close to 40% of the team’s entire cap space—-for 8 unproductive players who made the 2018 roster.

The irony is—-if you were Michael Bidwill, the one who signs all of these hefty paychecks—-and the fans are so upset that they are booing before the first half of the very first game—-one would think he would question the decision making behind these contracts.

And yet, when Bidwill finally broke his season long silence to inform the media and fans that he has fired Steve Wilks, Bidwill doubles down on his commitment to Steve Keim as “one of the top GMs in the NFL.”

Not only that—-Bidwill then gives Keim the autonomy to hire Kliff Kingsbury as the new head coach knowing that because Kingsbury does not have the kind of NFL coaching connections in order to hire his own staff—something that Kingsbury, to his credit, readily admitted. So Kingsbury has deferred the staff decisions to Keim, whom the new coach went out of his way three times to describe as “one of the top GMs in the NFL.”

Steve Keim certainly deserved his fair share of the credit for the run to the NFC Championship game in 2015, but he also deserves much of the blame for what was the worst season in the history of the Arizona Cardinals—-one where Keim missed 5 weeks of training camp while his new head coach was trying to install new schemes while getting to know his new personnel.

However, amidst speculation that Keim could be on his way out the door with Wilks, Keim not only retained his job—-he expanded it to include typical head coaching responsibilities, vis-a-vis staff hirings and roster autonomy.

Now—-all of this could be sheer madness on Michael Bidwill’s behalf—-

Or it could be genius.

Few GMs in the NFL have the kind of power and say over the head coach and the coaching staff in the manner that Keim now does.

Keim’s hires of Kinsgbury, Tom Clement and Vance Joseph while holding on to STC Jeff Rodgers thus far seem to be very good.

But—-isn’t it time for Keim to build a roster that doesn’t come tumbling down like a house of cards due to injuries or lackluster play from over-paid veterans?

How is it that the both the Patriots and the Rams offensive lines are fully intact heading into the Super Bowl and the Cardinals’ offensive line went through over 10 different starters due to injuries?

One of the answers is—-would the Patriots have held on to D,J, Humphries this long? Would they award him $9.6M on a 5th year tender after he missed 18 games the last two seasons? Would they have stuck with Mike Iupati after he missed 19 games due to injury the previous 3 years? Would they have signed Justin Pugh coming off the IR with a back injury to a $9M a year contract? Would they have invested $4M a year in 31 year old RT Andre Smith, who was relegated to backup guard in Cincinnati?

And one of the greatest ironies about the Cardinals having the 1st pick in the 2019 NFL Draft is that pretty much all of the pundits have the Cardinals taking DE Nick Bosa, who has been out since early October rehabbing from bilateral abdominal surgery.

If the Cardinals select Bosa and like his brother Joey, Nick misses 15 games in 3 years, Nick can fall right in line with Keim’s first 4 1st rounders: G Jonathan Cooper, LB Deone Bucannon, T D.J. Humphries and DT Robert Nkemdiche whose young careers have been marred by injuries.

A number of these injuries were just plain Russian Roulette kind of bad luck...while teams like the Patriots and Rams this year have been adroitly dodging those bullets.

Perhaps the Cardinals need a fresh approach as to how they go about the business of strength and conditioning.

But, there is hope...

That is, if Steve Keim can find more Mason Coles on draft day.

Rookie starting center Mason Cole of Michigan, who hasn’t missed a game in his entire football career——just so happened to be the last Cardinals’ lineman standing in Week 17 of the worst Arizona Cardinals’ season.

Yet, before I wrap this up—-I would like to ask Burns and Gambo and all the Cardinals’ fans here at ROTB a question—-

If Josh Rosen struggles in Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid—-who is the first to go—-Rosen or Kingsbury? In other words, who will Steve Keim (and therefore Michael Bidwill) be more committed to? The QBOF or the head coach?

I hope the answer is Kingsbury, but—-as we have been discussing, Steve Keim likes to hang on to his high draft picks to the bitter end.

By the way, for those of you looking ahead—-Josh Rosen’s 5th year option as a QB (top 10 pick) projects somewhere around $22.6M.