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Keim: David Johnson extension continues helpful trend for Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) holds the football during the first day of their NFL football training camp, Saturday, July 28, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

It looked like Cardinals running back David Johnson might enter 2018 in a contract year.

Then, a day before Arizona kicked off the season, Johnson and the team agreed to a three-year extension worth up to $45 million and with $30 million guaranteed. The deal keeps him as the franchise running back through 2021, and it also represented a positive trend for the Cardinals.

Lately, they’ve avoided ugly negotiating periods — Johnson’s minicamp holdout was the worst of it — or losing what Arizona general manager Steve Keim calls core players in free agency.

“It feels good. After we went through that process and we started it back in the spring time and the conversations were, you know, constant, that’s for sure,” Keim said Friday while visiting Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

But beyond this summer, the Cardinals have found success in working ahead with their key players.

In November 2017, the Cardinals agreed with receiver Larry Fitzgerald on a contract extension through this year. In March of 2017, edge rusher Chandler Jones was franchise tagged, but that lasted just more than a week before the team quickly ended the potential for a negotiation stalemate by agreeing to a five-year contract.

Similar routines have taken place regarding past contract extensions involving Patrick Peterson, Carson Palmer and others, and Keim believes that’s a good thing when it comes to team morale — and NFL-wide reputation.

“Yeah, I mean I think it helps in the locker room when you send the message that you reward your players that perform,” the general manager said. “Whether it’s been Chandler Jones or Pat Peterson or Larry Fitzgerald or Carson Palmer. But at the end of the day, it takes two sides. We all know it’s difficult at times. It’s been a great process for us because the one thing that we’ve done, a lot of emphasis on trying to identify our core players.

“That’s the one thing I can point to, is throughout that process … there’s no doubt in my mind that David wanted to remain a Cardinal. That’s the great thing that we’ve developed as an organization.”

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