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Keim on a Comp Romp?

NFL: NFC Wild Card Playoffs-Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

As Arizona Cardinals’ fans we are rowing through unchartered waters these days. Nearly 10 days into the free agent signing period, for the first time ever, we have not seen the Cardinals sign one veteran free agent from another team.

Why?

This is all I could think of:

Frustration among Cardinals’ fans is growing to an epic high:

Kyle Odegard wrote an excellent piece on compare.bet yesterday about Steve Keim’s lack of urgency.

Meanwhile, yesterday, the Cowboys, who are deeper at pass rushers and wide receivers than the Cardinals signed DE Dante Fowler and WR James Washington (a player we have discussed).

At the same time, Kyler Murray’s situation remains tenuous, at best. The uncertainty of the contract demands remains a discussion point and topic of interest in the national and local media.

Important Dates in the NFL:

  • Super Bowl Week: Kyler’s scrubs his socials
  • NFL Combine: Burkhardt issues public ransom note with ultimatums.
  • Eve of Free Agency: Burkhardt gives Cardinals until the NFL Draft to agree to a new contract for Kyler...or....
  • First Week of Free Agency: Burkhardt publicly accuses Cardinals of being cheap and not wanting to win.
  • NFL Draft: ?

If Burkhardt demands a trade on the eve of the NFL draft, the questions then would become:

  • What teams could be interested?
  • How have Kyler’s struggles down the stretch and his agent’s public demands affected his market value?
  • Does Kyler, at this point, deserve to be paid as a top 5 QB and on a par with Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen?

I have posed these questions to a number of outsiders whom I value as consultants and all of them have more questions about Kyler and his agent, than answers, at this point.

Here is one pundit’s take :

The question that keeps pestering me is whether we can trust Kyler’s decision making on the field, on the sidelines and off the field. If I am being honest, my answers right now are: not yet, not yet and not yet. Therefore, in my way of thinking and what I feel about trust is —- that making a blind commitment without a compelling sense of trust is a precarious and often ill-advised gamble.

I feel far more trust in this guy:

Stafford is much like Kurt Warner —- he works his tail off to form a tightly-knit chemistry with his receivers, offensive line and running backs. But, Stafford has been around the block enough times to know exactly what it takes to develop chemistry.

Kyler is not nearly at that point yet, but the early signs are that he has been struggling to create chemistry and level of trust with virtually all of his receivers not named DeAndre Hopkins.

The fact that no free agent WR has signed with the Cardinals thus far is of concern, at least to this fan. One would think that by now WRs would be lined up to play with Kyler and that Kyler would have some sway in which ones he wants on his team.

Of course, it’s more difficult for any of this to happen when the QB’s situation with the team is up in the air.

This brings us to the third explanation —- that Steve Keim has made compensatory draft picks his number one priority.

Before we dive a little deeper into the compensatory pick consideration, a question that might be a factor here is whether Michael Bidwill has put the kibosh on outside free agent signings. I have been asking around as to whether Bidwill is having some financial issues these days and the people I have been talking to have been wondering the same thing.

So, as we proceed, it might be significant to consider that Steve Keim could be following the owner’s orders.

Over the past few years, we are seeing a pattern of the Cardinals holding on to veterans in the final year of their second contracts when those contracts were designed to give the team an easy out clause in the final year (when the guaranteed money is all but gone) because of the substantial money they could save on the cap if the veterans were traded or released.

  • 2020: trading or releasing Patrick Peterson could have added $12.5M to the cap.
  • 2021: trading or releasing Chandler Jones could have added $15.5M to the cap.
  • 2022: trading or releasing D.J. Humphries could add $14M to the cap.

For a team that has a number of clear needs, the thought of being able to add 3-4 players to the roster instead of keeping one player as a lame duck, is very attractive.

In retrospect, did Peterson and Jones have strong enough years to warrant keeping them over 3-4 solid players?

Yet, in light of no action in signing outside free agents this year, the question arises as to whether the Cardinals have been holding on to these veteran players in order to cash in on compensatory picks a year later?

The Peterson example is a dubious one —- the Cardinals turned down a 1st round pick and WR Nelson Agholor from the Eagles at the 2019 trading deadline of Peterson’s suspension year. If there was ever a time to get maximum value for Peterson, that was it.

However, despite claiming (as they did this year with Chandler Jones) that the team “would love to re-sign” Patrick Peterson, the Cardinals never even called Peterson with an offer and all that they were able to recover when Peterson signed with the Vikings was a 2022 6th round pick.

This just in: 1st round pick + WR Nelson Agholor >>>> 6th round compensatory pick.

Now, with Christian Kirk, his signing with the Jaguars should yield a 3rd rounder. Chandler Jones’ signing with the Raiders could garner a 4th. And Chase Edmonds’ signing with the Dolphins might turn out to be a 7th.

That’s all well and good, but in the short-term what are the Cardinals sacrificing? Look at what they sacrificed by choosing not to trade for a CB and a DT at the trading deadline last season. Two aggressive moves there could likely have helped the Cardinals at least win the NFC West, securing a home game in the Wild Card round and a stronger chance to succeed in the playoffs. . Instead , without reinforcements, giving up nearly an average of 30 points per game, the Cardinals lost 5 of their last 6 despite having been favored to win 5 of those 6 games.

Then, there is the question of just how well the Cardinals have done with their compensatory picks during Steve Keim’s tenure. Judge for yourself:

  • 2015: #256 (R7) TE Gerald Christian
  • 2016: #170 (R5) T/G Cole Toner
  • 2017: #93 (R3) WR Chad Williams
  • 2017: #179 (R5) RB T.J. Logan
  • 2018: #97 (R3) C Mason Cole
  • 2018: #134 (R4) RB Chase Edmonds
  • 2018: #254 (R7) T Korey Cunningham
  • 2019: #248 (R7) T Joshua Miles
  • 2019: #249 (R7) DE Michael Dogbe
  • 2021: #223 (R6) CB Tay Gowan

Results thus far:

  • 1 year starters: Mason Cole and Chase Edmonds
  • 3 trade pieces: Mason Cole, Korey Cunningham and Tay Gowan
  • 1 four year player: Chase Edmonds
  • 4 early cuts: Gerald Christian, Cole Toner, Chad Williams, T.J. Logan

What these results indicate is that comp picks can help the team’s depth, but in the case of the Cardinals, none of their comp picks have turned out to be multiple year starters or players who were signed to second contracts.

Therefore, is it worth sacrificing in the short-term to make it a priority to accumulate future compensatory picks?

Now, one clear advantage of having compensatory picks is the flexibility it can give the team in being able to move up and back in the draft. But, again, does this flexibility make sacrificing the short-term worthwhile?

Kyle Odegard makes a superb argument in the form a question —- with Kyler Murray still on his rookie deal, shouldn’t the Cardinals be approaching free agency with a great sense of urgency?

I am in the midst of teaching a Tuesday evening adult-ed poetry and song lyrics writing class. I have a highly spirited group of poets and songwriters who share their original poems and songs each week. Thus, I thought you might get a kick out of the newly written original poem I shared last week, because, now that I think of it, the poem actually has a degree of relevance to this discussion.

Cashew Later

I

Beneath the gray oak, by the lakeside porch, I spot a squirrel

She digs ever frantically for the acorn she had buried in July

While the orange sun plummets beneath the pink horizon

She burrows and lowers her nose into darker shadows

II

I feel her panic of night falling fast with darkening urgency

So I remove a cashew from its tin and open the porch door

At the squeak, she scurries like a banshee into the woods

But, undeterred, I drop the cashew into her burrowed hole

III

So at the kitchen windowsill I watch for her sweet surprise

Alas, she does not reappear and I finally give up my watch

Oh well, I tell myself, the surprise will keep until morning

When I resume the vigil while coffee crystals bubble to a boil

IV

Though, later on in the evening, before heading off to bed

I go out to take my goodnight gaze at the starry ocean above

And, lo and behold, at the spot where I had dropped the cashew

There camps the skunk that likes to hide under the porch

V

I yell over to shoo him away from the cashew not meant for him

But chomping, he hunkers down and acts unsurprisingly deaf.

Walter Mitchell

March 2022

The moral of the story:

The Cardinals are saving acorns and running scared, while the Rams are finding the nuts and hunkering down.

Question of the day: Are the Cardinals really going to do the same thing with D.J.’s contract as they did with Pat’s and Chandler’s? What, for the sake of a potential 2024 comp pick? Given the Cardinals’ needs, wouldn’t it be wise for the Cardinals to either extend, trade or release D.J. in order to free up $14M?