These simply ARE NOT your typical Cardinals.
Day by day in free agency, Cardinals GM Steve Keim has been doubling down at positions of need and in protecting most of the team’s two-year investments.
It feels like Steve Keim has rolled a proverbial ark in with the grass at State Farms Stadium and filled it two-by-two and sometimes three at every position on the roster.
Not only has Keim added such talents to the starting lineups as All Pro WR DeAndre Hopkins, DT Jordan Phillips (9 1⁄2 sacks in 2019), OLB/DE Devon Kennard (58 tackles, 7 sacks as captain of the Lions’ defense), ILB De’Vondre Campbell (129 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 ints. in 2019) and added depth with DT Trevon Coley (6 tackles for Colts in 2019 after recording 39 tackles and 1⁄2 a sack for the Browns in 2018)—-thereby loading a a steer, a buffalo, a lion, falcon and colt into the Arizona Ark—-Keim has deftly managed to re-sign 11 of the team’s own free agents (to add to previously re-signed TE Maxx Williams and WR Larry Fitzgerald—-and on top of acquiring QB/RB/WC Chris Streveler of the CFL):
LT D.J. Humphries—-became the very 1st of Keim’s 1st round picks to be awarded a multi-year second contract—-and the 3rd of Keim’s picks to receive lucrative multi-year 2nd contracts (Mathieu and Johnson).
RB Kenyan Drake—-re-signed at the transition tag $8.4M salary gives the Cardinals more bang for their 5th round investment in 2019.
RB D.J. Foster—-was solid on STs in 2019 until season-ending injury—-and gets a chance to resume his role.
G/C Max Garcia—-was given a $2M free agent salary last year despite coming back late in the season from an ACL injury. Keim protected his and Sean Kugler’s investment in Garcia, by bringing him back.
T Marcus Gilbert (pictured above)—-acquired in 2019 for a 2020 6th round pick, but lost for the season to injury, Gilbert gets another chance to have a big year at RT.
T Justin Murray—-claimed off waivers last September and thrown right into the lineup, was tendered and re-signed as exclusive rights free agent who has a chance to retain his starting job at RT or become the team's swing tackle.
QB Brett Hundley—-valuable QB2 and 2019 UFA re-signed.
DT Jonathan Bullard—-waiver wire claim who played well versus the run in 2019.
CB Charles Washington—-very good gunner and 2nd leading tackler (tied) on STs retained.
S Chris Banjo—-the 2nd highest graded ST player (behind Dennis Gardeck) retained.
K Zane Gonzalez—-given a 2nd round tender as a RFA and will make $3.3M this season.
53 Man Roster Prediction (as of today)
QB (2): Murray, Hundley
RB (4): Drake, Edmonds, Streveler, Foster*
TE (3): Williams, Arnold, Daniels*
WR (7): Fitzgerald, Hopkins, Kirk, Isabella, Butler, Johnson, Sherfield*
OL (9): Humphries, Pugh, Cole, Sweezy, Murray, Gilbert, Galliard, Garcia, Miles*/Toth*
DL (7): Allen, Peters, Phillips, Bullard, Brown*, Dogbe, Coley*
ILB (5): Hicks, Campbell, Gardeck, Vallejo*, Turner*
OLB (4): Kennard, Jones, Reddick, Fitts*/Dora*
CB (4): Peterson, Alford, Murphy, Jones
S (5): Baker, J. Thompson, D. Thompson, Banjo*, Washington*
ST (3): Gonzalez, Lee, Brewer
Bubble—-denoted by *
2020 Draft Prospects:
- It would appear that because of the volume and positional depth of Keim’s signings, all options are open for the Cardinals at #8.
- The odds seem high that the Cardinals will want to trade down in order to acquire another Day 2 pick, that is, unless one of the top 5 players on the board is available at #8. But, if the Cardinals have equal grades on 6-12 players available at #8, this would allow them to feel comfortable moving down. Plus, any potential trade depends on what kind of trade offers they receive.
- In looking at the bubble players (that appear as such to me, you could make a case for a few others, and please do)—-it looks to me like the Cardinals are most likely to draft a RB, WR, T, DT, ILB, OLB, S. Right now the Cardinals’ draft board looks like this:
R2-WR DeAndre Hopkins (from HOU)
R4-(#131, from HOU)
R5-RB Kenyan Drake (from MIA)
R5-S Jalen Thompson (2019 Supplemental Draft)
R6-T Marcus Gilbert (from PIT)
R6-(#202 from NE)
- Therefore, in order to draft a RB, WR, T, DT, ILB, OLB and S, the Cardinals need to acquire one more pick. If the Cardinals stick with their 6 picks, the positions that, imo, are least in immediate need are WR, T and ILB. I think we can pretty much count on the Cardinals drafting a RB, DT, OLB and S. That is, if no other free agent signings or trades are made between now and the draft—-which for the Cardinals—-will likely take place in the cozy confines of Michael Bidwill’s home.
The Cardinals are very happy with their relatively new modus operandi and are pleased with the vast majority of decisions they have made over the past year and a half. They are sticking with their decisions and doubling down on their investments. These investments also include the retaining of G J.R. Sweezy, and CB Robert Alford (both of whom the Cardinals could have traded or cut in order to save a few millions in cap space).
Furthermore, the Cardinals have remained steadfast in their determination to hold on to CB Patrick Peterson with the faith that he will build off of his strong three weeks of play at the end of the 2019 season. Keim’s creativity in making full use of the available cap space through crafty contract structuring and his loyalty to his own players has been impressive.
While we can argue with some of the moves Keim’s made and some of the few salaries that on the surface appear to be a little excessive, the off-season plan that he was so excited about at the end of last season has generated a great deal of excitement for the team and its fans.
So, like my coaching mentor, the legendary Miles Hubbard of Trinity-Pawling School (Pawling, NY), loved to say, ‘There is nothing wrong...with getting a little excited.”