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Cardinals’ Keim looking for perfect fit, could trade up for quarterback

TEMPE, Ariz. — The NFL Draft is less than a week away and front offices and coaches are finishing up preparations for draft night. All 32 teams hope to land a Day One difference-maker in the first round and one or two diamonds in the rough in the later rounds.

For the Arizona Cardinals, who own the 15th overall pick in the draft, no position is completely set. General manager Steve Keim believes the team will take a “best player available” route in the draft based on how different the roster can look a week before the draft when compared to the middle of the season.

“Our needs in April or May are never the same as they are in October,” Keim said. “Needs are always changing and you can never have enough good players.”

After entering the offseason without a quarterback on the roster, the Cardinals quickly made a move to address the position in free agency. After handed quarterback Sam Bradford a one-year, $20 million deal with a $5 million signing bonus, Keim decided to make a move to sign journeyman backup Mike Glennon to a two-year pact worth $8 million. After using up almost $13 million in cap space for this season on those two quarterbacks, Keim still did not rule out the possibility of drafting, or even trading up for, a quarterback early in the draft.

“I don’t think it’s any secret,” Keim said. “The biggest issue comes with the supply and demand at the position. Where is a franchise quarterback going to be available? If you’re willing to trade, what’s the compensation for it? At the end of the day, it’s no secret, but are you willing to put the franchise in a position to be setback for years if you’re not right.”

There is a four-man top-tier of quarterbacks that will be selected early in the draft that includes Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold. In order for the Cardinals to select one of those potential franchise cornerstones, they likely would need to give up significant future draft capital. Although a trade up in the draft would be exciting for the team’s fans, it is important to recognize that those situations don’t always work out and could put the franchise years behind if the draft pick does not work out as expected.

In 2012, the Washington Redskins traded away three first rounders and a second rounder to the Rams to move up to No. 2 overall to take Robert Griffin III. After a stellar rookie season, Griffin III tore his ACL and LCL in the wild card round of the playoffs and was never the same. While Washington still ended up with Kirk Cousins leading the team, the Rams turned those draft picks into solid players such as linebacker Alec Ogletree and All-Pro cornerback Janoris Jenkins, among others.

Although it will be interesting to see what the Cardinals do on draft day, it takes another team willing to trade down and also must be a perfect fit for Keim and coach Steve Wilks to pull the trigger on a trade. On the day that Mayfield was visiting the team on a pre-draft visit, Keim listed the traits he wants in whatever player comes to play for the Cardinals.

“Smarts, toughness, competitiveness, passion, all of those things that we’re looking for in the DNA of a first-round draft pick,” Keim said.

With the draft approaching quickly, the Cardinals are one of the teams to watch for a draft night trade. If there is a team willing to trade down and the fit is perfect, there could be a third new quarterback holding up a Cardinals jersey by the end of Thursday night.

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