Cardinals general manager Steve Keim didn’t know what Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald were thinking over the nearly six weeks since their season ended.
But like many Cardinals fans, he had a feeling they had unfinished business.
Palmer announced Thursday he would reunite with Fitzgerald for at least one more season. Keim, who appeared on the Cardinals’ Big Red Rage show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, wasn’t surprised by the decision.
He’s happy about it, however.
“I know what kind of competitor Carson is,” Keim said. “Certainly, in my opinion, the way he finished the season — and I thought he put together a string of several very, very good games — knowing at his age he can still, again in my opinion, spin the football as good as many in the league, I certainly think there’s enough left in the tank. We’re very, very excited he’s coming back.”
A report surfaced in late January that Palmer was debating his return after one of the most physically taxing seasons in his NFL career. At the same time, Palmer’s production was in line with his career average (his 87.2 quarterback rating was just off his career average of 88).
Bruce Arians later said that it was on him as a coach to make sure Arizona protects Palmer, if the quarterback was indeed returning.
Keim said that’s only half of the challenge. The other half is on him to build the roster just for that.
“There’s a schematical side and there’s a personnel side. Nobody could have forecasted at the end of the year that’d we’d have three offensive linemen on the IR,” Keim said. “That’s a job I got to do better, supplying our coaches with better talent, deeper talent. I’m sure coach will challenge himself schematically, whether it’s keeping people in to chip or protect or tight ends, and doing what Carson does best.”
As for Fitzgerald, Keim said he predicted the receiver would return based on his production — Fitzgerald led the NFL with 107 total receptions last season.
But surprisingly, the general manager didn’t see Fitzgerald’s and Palmer’s decisions as intertwined.
“I thought both those guys would make those individual decisions,” he said. “They’re both rare competitors and I think, to some degree, I think in the NFL when you retire, you just know. And I just feel like, knowing both those guys, I think there was enough doubt where they felt like, ‘you know what, I think there’s something left not only from a team standpoint but a personal standpoint.’ ”
BADGER BUILDING BODY
Arizona hopes to see a different Tyrann Mathieu in 2017.
For one, the Cardinals want their star defensive back healthy. But Keim also predicts he might look a little bit different as a player.
“I’ve seen him in the weight room every day. He hasn’t missed a morning,” Keim said of Mathieu, whose season was bogged down by his year-old knee injury and ended with a shoulder problem. “Not only is he continuing the strengthening of his knee but he has got so much stronger, so much thicker up top through his chest and his shoulders, which to me will not only help his game but will help continue to keep him healthy.”
Running back David Johnson looks mighty healthy of late, but Keim recalled watching his Jan. 1 knee injury that, when it happened, look much worse than an MCL sprain.
“That was the biggest move of our offseason, the fact that it was a six-week recovery, not nine months,” he said.
DRAFTING ON INTELLIGENCE
What philosophy will the Cardinals take in the 2017 NFL Draft?
Without talking about need by position or showing his cards — there’s still preparation to be done, anyhow — Keim said Arizona will emphasize drafting smart football players.
“We know that consistency was an issue last year and it was the attention to detail,” he said. “I think we need to address some things from a football intelligence standpoint.
“We have enough guys in there who love the game,” Keim added, “but there also is that mental side to it. The playbooks are getting bigger and bigger. It’s about understanding and being able to process quickly.”
- Dealing Cards: Players are bored, and D.J. Humphries returns
- Cardinals’ Mathieu looking to lead revamped defense
- Carson Chats: Gloved Palmer feels the length of Cardinals camp
- All-Access with Cole Toner — Aug. 16: Avoiding the accountability board
- Cardinals RB David Johnson starts for ESPN’s ‘perfect NFL roster’