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GM Steve Keim: Cards drafted future QB without mortgaging future

(Matt Layman/Arizona Sports)
LISTEN: Steve Keim, Cardinals General Manager

Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim’s interest in Josh Rosen isn’t new.

It originated three years ago, when the new Cardinals quarterback was a true freshman at UCLA.

Keim visited a UCLA practice when then-Bruins offensive coordinator, Noel Mazzone, came up to him. The two were friends.

“(Mazzone) ran up to me at practice and said you’ll be back in three years, this guy is special,” Keim said on Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Friday.

“I sort of followed Josh throughout his career, and the rest is history, as they would say. It’s exciting to be able to put ourselves in a situation where we can be aggressive, trade up, get a guy with this skill set.”

On Thursday, the Cardinals traded pick Nos. 15, 79 and 152 of the 2018 NFL Draft to the Oakland Raiders to move up to the No. 10 slot and pick Rosen.

They didn’t want a repeat of last year, when two teams – Kansas City and Houston – moved up to draft two quarterbacks at picks No. 10 and 12. The Cardinals drafted at 13.

“Whether we wanted a quarterback or not (in 2017), that’s beside the point,” Keim said. “It’s the fact that if you want a guy, go get him.”

They went and got him. For much of the NCAA season, Rosen was viewed as one of the two best quarterbacks in the nation. He has an impressive arm, with NFL’s Chad Reuter calling him the “best pure pocket passer in the draft” and  NFL’s Gregg Rosenthal said he’s “perhaps the most pro-ready quarterback in the class.”

Keim said he accomplished two goals in the trade.

“What we accomplished was to try to find a future quarterback, which we did, and more than anything, to do it by not mortgaging the future,” he said.

By managing to hold onto the 2018 second-round pick and the 2019 first-round, the Cardinals were able to draft a player they think will be the future quarterback while still holding onto their second round pick that could fill one of several remaining holes.

“It’s extremely hard to try to go up and get a guy you’re excited about who hasn’t taken an NFL snap yet, and then also mortgage the future where you don’t have the ability to put players around him,” Keim said. “To be able to preserve (the 2018 second- and 2019 first-round picks) was extremely important to me.”

The Cardinals and Raiders had preliminary talks before the draft, Keim said.

He spent the last two weeks on the phone with teams ahead – and behind – the Cardinals in case different scenarios played out through the draft.

“I’ve gone back and forth with (Raiders head coach) Jon Gruden this week quite a bit and (Raiders general manager) Reggie McKenzie and told them that we’d be interested if a certain scenario played out, and it did, and it made the transition pretty easy,” Keim said.

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