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Keim: No Corner on Market

Arizona Cardinals v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Dan Kubus/Getty Images

As the NFL heads into Day 6 of the free agency period, a hefty number of Cardinals’ fans are growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of action from the team’s GM Steve Keim.

Sure, the trade for All Pro C Rodney Hudson appears to be another slam dunk, especially after the Cardinals were outbid by the Chargers for All Pro C Corey Linsley. But, the Cardinals had to give up their 3rd round pick and like the bartender in Billy Joel’s Piano Man “there’s someplace that he’d (Hudson) rather be.”

At his brief press conference yesterday, Rodney Hudson made it clear that “what happened in Vegas, stays in Vegas” where things got particularly ugly for Hudson and now, rather than being free to re-sign with the Chiefs as he intended, he finds himself coping with another end of the ugly business of the NFL for being jettisoned off, in a trade, to another team.

Now, Hudson said he’s excited to bond with his new teammates and the hope is that once Hudson finds a way to put his grievances toward the the ugly business of the NFL aside, and once he finds out that the offensive line room under Sean Kugler is the most popular room in the building, there are strong reasons to believe that Hudson may eventually see his trade to the Cardinals as a blessing.

Rodney Hudson and Kyler Murray have already started up a good dialogue via texts. What Hudson, JJ Watt and Murray have very much in common is they want to win.

But, in order for the Cardinals to win this year, Steve Keim has to finish making a series of astute moves in order to fill the current voids at CB, RB, SAM OLB, WR and TE.

It’s hard to imagine that 6 days into free agency that Steve Keim has yet to sign a free agent CB or make a trade for one. Patrick Peterson has moved on and will be playing for the Vikings this season on a one year deal worth up to $10M.

Peterson’s defection must have been difficult in many ways for Steve Keim, because Keim never wavered in his faith that Pat P. is one of the “elite CBs in the NFL”. But, truth be told, these past three years, Keim got played by Peterson. Keim said in 2019 that he would go a “pick Patrick Peterson up at midnight” when his 6 game PED/coverup suspension was officially over. The problem was, no one answered the door. Peterson not only came back in golf shape and poor form, he claimed he hadn’t had enough time yet to learn Vance Joseph’s defense. Words uttered from a guy who deliberately and spitefully chose to skip OTAs because the “snakes in the grass” wouldn’t pay him during his suspension weeks.

The fact that Keim turned down a 1st round pick and WR Nelson Agholor for Peterson at the 2019 trading deadline when the Cardinals were not in playoff contention looms as one of the worst decisions of Keim’s tenure.

Now it’s time for Steve Keim and Vance Jospeh to re-define the CB positions. Last season the Cardinals defense featured two of the more reluctant tacklers and most penalized pass coverage tandem in the NFL. In today’s NFL, tackling from the CB position matters and it matter a lot. Obviously, so does good, sticky, penalty-free pass coverage.

Football is the ultimate game of sacrifices. When some players are not making the sacrifices that others are making, the fabric and morale of the team gets shredded.

Just take a good look at LB Darius Leonard’s message to the 2021 free agents interested in the Colts: @dsleon45

Free agents!! If y’all are thinking about coming to the Colts and play defense just know that we don’t want you if you don’t play hard, run to the ball, make plays or not willing to sacrifice yourself for ya teammate to make the play! Don’t care how big or little ya name is!

In Patrick Peterson’s 9 years in Arizona, the Cardinals made the playoffs only 2 years and they were 1-2 in those games. In the 2015 NFC Championship game, the tremendous irony is that just when the Cardinals were creating some momentum (had scored a TD on its previous possession and gotten a 3 and out on the Panthers on defense) and now had a chance to get back into the game after a tough start, Patrick Peterson muffed a punt and turned the ball back to the Panthers, who then went on to win 49-15.

When you really don’t put your heart into something, but others are relying on you, but you never really embrace it, it sure has a way of coming back to bite you (and subsequently the others) in the butt, doesn’t it?

For all of Steve Keim’s 7 years as GM, he was under the illusion that the CB situation was well taken care of because the team had Patrick Peterson on one side. What Keim never was able to do was find a steady CB2 to pair with Peterson. The CB2 spot became a yearly revolving door of temporary fill-ins.

During that interim Steve Keim used a 3rd round pick on Brandon Williams of Texas A&M, a converted RB who had only played one year of CB in college. We know how that gamble turned out. There were other Day 3 draft picks who were tried at CB, such as Tyrann Mathieu, Harlan Miller and Rudy Ford, but all three were moved over to safety. And then there was Christian Campbell of Penn St. who never made the roster.

Keim drafted Byron Murphy with pick #33 in the 2019 draft. Oddly, right from the get-go Vance Joseph determined that Murphy is best suited to play the slot. Well, that ain’t CB2 now, is it? And, like many of you, I don’t buy the argument that Murphy is only suited to play slot CB. Just go and watch his tape playing the boundary at Washington. It’s a clinic and the very reason why he was rated by many as the #1 CB in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Keim made a solid trade for Marcus Cooper —- but Cooper sped away from Winslow in his Mini Cooper as soon as he could for Chicago. Keim also traded for Jamar Taylor, but Taylor never jived with Steve Wilks and was cut after losing his job to Bene Benwickere.

The most superb CB2 that Steve Keim acquired was Tramon Williams in 2017 who had the best season, grade-wise of his career (81.5), which that year was significantly higher than Patrick Peterson’s (69.2). Yet, Keim sat by and watched as Williams bolted back to Green Bay on a 2 year deal with a mere $3.25M guaranteed.

Therefore, it’s not as if Steve Keim failed at every CB2 addition he made —- the problem was he never found CB2 to lock down the job for more than one season.

This off-season, Steve Keim needs to acquire and lock down a CB1 and a CB2.

Many pundits are predicting that the Cardinals will select a CB at #16 in this year’s draft. That may be the case, but would that player even start as a rookie? Which is a legitimate question in light of how little the Cardinals played the nation’s consensus 1st Team All-America LB and 2019 Dick Butkus Award winner, Isaiah Simmons, as a rookie.

Thus, for Cardinals fans who have been checking Twitter four times an hour hoping to see Steve Keim sign two veteran CBs, John Gambadoro’s recent report that Keim “doesn’t like the CB market and intends (at some point) to sign two UFA CBs at the veteran minimum” felt like a sucker punch.

Moments after Gambo enlightened us with his news, the Browns signed the Rams’ CB Troy Hill to a 4 year $24M contract which is less per year than the $8M Keim gave to WR A.J. Green whose 2020 game tapes were cringe worthy and on a par with Terrell Suggs’ efforts while he was “stealing” from the Cardinals.

Troy Hill has always played well versus the Cardinals and in fact, if Keim needed extra proof of that, all he needed to do was go back and watch Hill’s pick six at the end of the first half in Week 17.

What may really be going on with Steve Keim is now suddenly in light of the Patrick Peterson, Haason Reddick, Kenyan Drake, Angelo Blackson and Dan Arnold deals, there’s talk that the Cardinals should be able to get a 2022 4th round compensatory pick if they merely sign free agents at the vet minimum from here on out.

Whoa —- now wait a cotton-picking minute.

You don’t go and sign JJ Watt for 2 years, trade a 3rd rounder for Rodney Hudson (who has 2 years left on his contract), sign A.J. Green for 1 year, re-sign Kelvin Beachum and Markus Golden for 2 years to create a 2 year “win now” window while Kyler Murray is still on his rookie contract, to then shift the focus of the 2021 free agency to ensuring compensatory draft picks in 2022. It makes no sense whatsoever.

Thank about this —- here Steve Keim has former DBs Quentin Harris and Adrian Wilson as his college and pro personnel guys —- plus Vance Joseph who cut his teeth in the NFL as DB coach and they can’t narrow in on the right personnel fits at CB?

Then go and look at Steve Keim’s history of compensatory picks:

2015: TE Gerald Christian (R7)

2016: OL Cole Toner (R5)

2017: WR Chad Williams (R3); RB T.J. Logan (R5)

2018: OL Mason Cole (R3); RB Chase Edmonds (R4); OL Korey Cunningham (R7)

2019: OL Joshua Miles (R7); DL Michael Dogbe (R7); TE Caleb Wilson (R7)

Note: 10 comp. picks and, as of right now, the only one that appears to be a successful choice is Chase Edmonds, and yet even he has never been a RB1. Mason Cole has been a C1 two-year starter (with an ill-advised gap year in between), but now he’s going to have to try to win the RG1 job over Justin Murray and Josh Jones, that is if Keim doesn’t cut or trade Cole to regain a little over $2M on the cap.

The irony is that because of Mason Cole’ s recent struggles (Cole is the 3rd round pick that the Cardinals were awarded because of Calais Campbell’s defection) Steve Keim and the Cardinals felt compelled to give up their 2021 3rd round pick to acquire Rodney Hudson.

Therefore, Steve Keim turning his attention to 2020 comp. picks is like Eminem turning his attention to soft rock.

This is what Steve Keim does —- he makes a splash move or two and then retreats into his man cave —-

Where was Steve Keim at the trading deadline last year when the team was struggling so clearly at CB, DT, WR, K and RB (Drake was banged up then)? Trading for Markus Golden was a plus, but, at the time, Dennis Gardeck was showing stunning edge rushing ability and, wouldn’t you just know it, Golden comes in and Gardeck is relegated to being an inside nickel rusher (which to The Barbarian’s credit he aced as well, but no one showed the quickness and burst on the edge better than Gardeck and that’s high praise because Haason Reddick was every impressive in terms of his quickness and technique).

The Cardinals were 6-3 at the time with a decent chance to win the NFC West.

Keim’s lack of urgency at the trading deadline was arguably one of the main reasons why the Cardinals lost 5 of their last 7 games and did not make the playoffs.

But, if Keim is ever going to show a sense of urgency like the Patriots and Bucs have been doing this past week —-that time is now.

There are a host of good UFA CBs available:

Adoree’ Jackson

Kyle Fuller

Brian Poole

Richard Sherman

Malcolm Butler

Xavier Rhodes

Bashaud Breeland

Gareon Conley

Casey Hayward

Mackensie Alexander

  • The Cardinals need two of these guys. Strong cases can be made for each of them.

I would love to see Malcolm Butler (and his Glendale magic) start at LCB with Brian Poole to interchange with Byron Murphy at RCB and slot CB depending on the week’s matchups.

  • Or —- Keim should turn to what he does best:

It is time for Steve Keim to literally and figuratively turn the corner on what has been his perennial blind spot. Last year Cardinals fans had to endure an incredibly frustrating study in futility at the starting CB positions, as Patrick Peterson, Dre Kirkpatrick and Kevin Peterson combined for 25 holding/pass interference penalties (12, 9, 4 respectively) and unacceptable pass coverage grades of 53.1, 46.1, 35.1 respectively —- despite the fact that the Cardinals’ pass rush was one of the league’s best.

Is this what the Cardinals’ fans are going to watch again this year? One of the league’s top pass rushing teams being thwarted by high cushion, other-wise flag magnets and disinterested tacklers at the CB positions?

You can’t have it both ways, Steve Keim. You can’t try to build a championship caliber team in a two year window and also try to pave the way for 2022 compensatory picks.

This year the Patriots and the Bucs aren’t thinking about 2022 compensatory picks. They are all-in. The Cardinals need you to be all-in, Steve Keim.

Like Kyler Murray and JJ Watt have both said, “we’re not trying to be Super Bowl contenders 5 or 6 years from now.”

Like Kyler tweeted to JJ when the Cardinals signed him: “Let’s get it.”

Steve Keim, the Cardinals need you, now more than ever, to fully “get it.”

Let’s goooooo Keim. Come on, man! Be like Domino’s Pizza and deliver.