Not a Buffalo Bill or a Green Bay Packer or a Cleveland Brown...but a Cardinal.
The deal JJ Watt signed with the Cardinals was NOT the most he was offered. The Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts each offered more money. Tennessee's offer was very similar.— John Gambadoro (@Gambo987) March 1, 2021
That fact is a reality today because, in part, of the aggressive work done by GM Steve Keim. A common theme of this offseason has and will be the aggressive approach conducted by the nine year Cardinal executive. That’s what happens when your team inexplicably collapses over the final seven games of the 2020 NFL season (2-5).
Keim knows that under his watch, the Arizona Cardinals have not reached the post season since 2015.
During that drought, this franchise has been littered with coaching changes, bust free agent additions and poor drafting alike. All of which were orchestrated, in some fashion, by Keim.
Through 2013-2015, Keim amassed a sparkling record of 34-14, which included two playoff births and a NFC West division title (2015). Since then, however, Keim’s Cardinals are a meager 31-47 (2016-2020). Rather than contending for the division, they routinely finish 3rd or 4th in the NFC West.
Meanwhile, all of the Cardinals NFC West counterparts have each secured at least one post season victory in the last 15 months. Arizona’s last playoff win was on January 16, 2016.
Oh and lastly, former Cardinal exec Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians won the Super Bowl last month.
So as we sit here just one week out of the start of free agency, the tab has come due for Steve Keim and he knows it.
That’s why owner Michael Bidwill released this video last month.
That’s why J.J. Watt is an Arizona Cardinal.
Keim, rightfully so, made the aggressive, “win now” move that undoubtedly makes the Cardinals better in 2021. Via multiple sources, Keim and Bidwill began heavily recruiting Watt and his family since his release back on February 12. They did more with their actions outside of just offering big dollars.
Cardinals used Frank Caliendo, Blake Shelton to recruit J.J. Watt. https://t.co/28JbWAUfjB— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) March 3, 2021
With Watt now in the fold, Keim has a leap-step on what will mark his most important offseason to date. While the Cardinals remain somewhat limited in cap space, expect the team to continue their aggressive approach through free agency toward next month’s NFL Draft.
Expect a multitude of big name additions and perhaps another “Hopkins-eque” blockbuster trade.
Prepare yourselves for a splash Cardinal offseason.— Johnny Venerable (@JohnnyVenerable) February 18, 2021
Again, it doesn’t assure the team of more wins next fall but they clearly understand the heat is on.
Keim and head coach Kliff Kingsbury alike understand what’s at stake if they aren’t able to pull off a playoff birth in 2021. Which is why their roster needs to be as formidable as possible, if only for a season. They must buy time (and breathing room) while potentially sacrificing long term success in the process.
The addition of Watt could mark the end for Haason Reddick as an Arizona Cardinal. No one is doubting Watt’s impact for 2021 compared to that of Reddick but their difference in age could be somewhat telling. Watt is on the back end of his eventual Hall of Fame career while Reddick is theoritically entering his prime.
What happens if Reddick puts up consistent numbers for a new team for the next 4-5 years? Could this be simliar to that of Calvin Pace over a decade ago? That’s a gamble Keim is currently weighing while being so focused on the 2021 season.
Then again, Reddick could still end up back with the team that drafted him should the Cardinals opt to place the transition/franchise tag on him in the next 24 hours.
The bottomline is, if you are attempting to project what and who the Cardinals will target in the coming weeks, I have two words for you:
I think this is Arizona’s next move, fwiw. https://t.co/eiRUwn8Mca— Johnny Venerable (@JohnnyVenerable) March 8, 2021
Because for the 2021 NFL season, Steve Keim is all in.
He has to be.