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And Another Draft Bites the Dust (Cardinals Running Out of Keim)

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NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Minnesota Vikings Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, I offered praise to Steve Keim for his 2019 off-season moves to date. I believe he deserves credit for the deals he’s made thus far.

Yesterday’s thread was about the present.

However, it still is very difficult to ignore Steve Keim’s past failures in the draft and his repeated struggles to maintain an acceptable modicum of roster continuity via re-signing his draft picks to second contracts.

In Steve Keim’s 6 plus years as the Cardinals’ GM, he has only re-signed two draft picks (Tyrann Mathieu and David Johnson) to multi-year second contracts, and both of those over-inflated top dollar contracts were awarded a year before the player’s 4th year and each on the heels of a season ending injury.

Mind you—-not one offensive or defensive lineman whom Keim has drafted in his 6+ year tenure has been re-signed.

This reality was made all the more painful by the news that James Bettcher and the New York Giants have signed DE Markus Golden and DT Olsen Pierre (not a draftee but should be considered one—-I will soon explain why).

If you watched this week’s episode of the Cardinals’ “Flight Plan,” Steve Keim preached to his coaches and scouts that the NFL Draft is all about finding players “who love the game” and “players who will give you everything they’ve got on Sundays”...Keim stressed that the two most important things to judge in a player is “his heart and his mind.”

Let me ask the Cardinals’ fans this: have you ever questioned Markus Golden’s heart or his mind?

Markus Golden was part of one of the Cardinals’ rare feel-good stories in the NFL Draft. He was the player the Cardinals turned to after the Lions snagged RB Ameer Abdullah—-all of this captured in the “All or Nothing” documentary. We saw and heard how the Golden pick went down and then we saw and heard how the Cardinals drafted David Johnson one round later. The Golden/Johnson combo was on fire in 2016—-Golden recording a stunning 12.5 sacks and Johnson recording over 2,000 yards and 20 TDs rushing and receiving.

Alas, in 2017, Johnson would break his wrist in week one and less than a month later Golden would tear his ACL.

Last year, Johnson held out and refused to attend the team’s mini-camp, while Golden was still in the facility rehabbing very day and working like a dog.

Johnson got the fat contract—-which he wouldn’t have gotten in light of the lackluster way in which he played in 2018. Meanwhile, Golden managed to complete his rehab ahead of schedule and returned to the field where he tried to replicate the quick-twitch combativeness he displayed in 2016.

Toward the end of the season, we were getting glimpses of the 2016 Golden.

By Keim’s own criteria, Markus Golden should still be an Arizona Cardinal.

As much as it’s nice to have another Hall of Fame persona in the building in Terrell Suggs, Markus Golden should still be here with Suggs or without Suggs.

Why?

Because Markus Golden epitomizes everything Steve Keim preached about to his coaches and scouts.

When 100% effort players like Markus Golden leave the building, it leaves a poor message to the ones remaining.

As for Olsen Pierre, his curious saga with the Cardinals just came to quite an unceremonious end. If you recall, Bruce Arians kept 9 defensive linemen on the the roster in 2016 because he didn’t want to expose Olsen Pierre to waivers.

Olsen Pierre did not take one snap in 2016. Not one. Yet, he was more valuable to BA and the Cardinals than 5th round draft pick S Marqui Christian whom the Cardinals waived in order to keep two punters on the roster for one week. Of course, we know the Rams scooped up Christian and he has been a solid role player for them since.

However, in 2017, Pierre showed Cardinals’ fans why the coaches were so high on him. He registered 30 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble. His strong showing (84.3 PFF grade) in the last game win versus the Seahawks, was an nice exclamation point on his season.

The Cardinals switched defenses in 2018, they had a new head coach and suddenly Pierre wasn’t playing much, and when he did, he didn’t look like the confident player he was in 2017. He subsequently earned a paltry 45.4 PFF grade for a 12 tackle, 0 sack season.

With the Cardinals returning to the 34, why in the world wasn’t Olsen Pierre at least tendered as a RFA? The Cardinals invested all of this time in Pierre and woosh, just like that, he’s gone?

Even worse, the Cardinals right now would have Daniel Munyer starting on the defensive line—-as he put in more snaps on the d-line last year than any other healthy DT on the roster other than Corey Peters.

The question is this—-how does Steve Keim invest so much in players like Golden and Pierre and then just let them off the hook like puny fish?

What about Rodney Gunter? Remember how high the Cardinals have been on him? How they moved up in the 4th round of the 2015 draft to snag him in front of the 49ers? And now he is coming off his best season as Cardinal, all at the right time, and should be re-signed by now, except that he isn’t.

Rodney Gunter could be the FIRST lineman on either side of the ball whom Steve Keim has signed to a second contract.

When one looks as the 2016 NFL Draft—-rumors are swirling that the Cardinals want to get rid of DT Robert Nkemdiche. 3rd round pick Brandon Williams has been a bust at CB thus far. 4th round pick C Evan Boehm wasn’t even used at center for the Cardinals, but he got picked up on waivers by the Colts, he played well when Ryan Kelly got injured and this week he was given a 2nd round tender by the Colts. Both the Cardinals’ 2016 5th round picks S Marqui Christian and G Cole Toner are long gone, as is 6th round pick S Harlan Miller.

In recent years, with the copious number of defections from draft picks and other acquisitions, Steve Keim has been focused on accruing compensatory draft picks, which is all fine and good if somewhere along the way Keim rewards former draft picks with second contracts.

The organization that sets the golden standard for this is the New England Patriots—-they adeptly manage to accrue comp picks every year, but they also re-sign their own core draft picks, such as QB Tom Brady, RB James White, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Julian Edelman, G Shaq Mason, T Marcus Cannon, LB Dante Hightower, S Patrick Chung, S Devin McCourty, S Damon Harmon, and K Stephen Gostkowski. Moreover, they put a premium on re-signing their key STs players such as WR STs captain Matthew Slater, FB James Develin (whom the coaches gave a game ball to in the Super Bowl for his jarring, hole widening isolation blocks) and RB Brandon Bolden.

To this day, the only Cardinals’ home grown draft picks on the current roster who were re-signed to second (or more for Fitz) contracts are WR Larry Fitzgerald (2004), CB Patrick Peterson (2011) and RB David Johnson (2015).

That, my fellow Cardinals’ fans, has to change...

That is, if the Cardinals ever intend to sustain a level of year-to-year success.