Cardinals GM Steve Keim: Larry Fitzgerald will help QB recruitment

Feb 16, 2018, 9:30 AM | Updated: 10:37 am

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It’s official. Larry Fitzgerald will be in uniform for the Arizona Cardinals in 2018 — his 15th year in the league.

Now what?

The top item on Arizona general manager’s offseason checklist is to find a quarterback. The Cardinals don’t currently have one on the roster thanks to Carson Palmer’s retirement and the pending free agency of Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert and Matt Barkley.

Three avenues to find the next field general for the Cardinals still exist: free agency, trade or the NFL Draft, which gets underway Apr. 26 in Arlington, Tex.

With Fitzgerald back in the fold, Keim is pretty confident that No. 11’s presence will help attract candidates should the Cardinals pursue a quarterback on the open market.

“I don’t think it will impact the search part of it, but I do think it will impact the recruitment part of it if, in fact, it’s through free agency,” Keim told Doug & Wolf Friday morning on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station during Newsmakers Week. “I mean there’s no doubt that Larry Fitzgerald’s name and his reputation carry a lot of weight, so we will certainly — if we go down that path — use Larry and David Johnson and all the other current stars that are on our roster to try to make sure that any potential franchise quarterback understands that this is a special place.”

In terms of how he and his staff will handle the process of finding a quarterback, Keim will follow a natural timeline.

“It’s easy because it’s chronological,” he said. “Free agency comes first. So, to me, the way you have to address it is you have to have plan A, B, C and D.

“A: addressing it with a free agent quarterback. B: a trade option. C: draft, or, all of the above. We will leave no stone unturned, as I’ve talked about. But at the end of the day, you can’t get caught on A because there are different factors that go into decisions by a free agent quarterback or in a trade process that you can’t put your finger on. We just have to be prepared to move on to number-two or number-three and we can’t get caught flat-footed if the first opportunity doesn’t pan out.”

When Keim ascended to the general manager’s post in 2013, he faced a similar situation. The Cardinals, with then-new head coach Bruce Arians in place, had a void at quarterback. Keim attacked it in two steps, bringing in veteran Drew Stanton, an Arians favorite, before parting with two late-round conditional draft picks to acquire Palmer from the Oakland Raiders.

Does Keim’s familiarity with the situation help the process in 2018?

“I would say through experience and self-evaluation, it always feels a little easier and through the experience, you always feel a little more comfortable,” Keim said. “But at the same time, I think back at that time and that was a whirlwind for me. I sat down at my desk the first day and said ‘what do I do now? Is it hire a head coach, find a quarterback, make some other tough decisions?’

“Looking back on it now, Bruce Arians wasn’t a sexy hire, Carson Palmer wasn’t a popular trade. And we had some success with it.”

Of course, Keim can’t discuss individual candidates at this time, but did speak about this year’s group of rookie, free-agent and trade target quarterbacks.

“There are some free agents, in my opinion, that are certainly worthy,” he said. “You know, when you get to the draft process, it’s an inexact science. There’s nobody that can tell you until they step on the field that they’re going to have success in the National Football League — it’s purely projection.

“That’s the hardest part about the draft process. Again, it’s an inexact process and there are times when guys are going in the top ten that are never going to have any success.”

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