Arizona Cardinals GM Steve Keim’s history of NFL Draft-day trades
Apr 24, 2022, 9:32 AM | Updated: 3:34 pm
(Arizona Sports/Matt Layman)
Steve Keim hasn’t been afraid to deal during the NFL Draft. In seven of his nine drafts, the Arizona Cardinals general manager has made a move.
The two exceptions of Keim standing pat came in 2016 and 2020.
As for the trades, five of the GM’s 11 total deals moved the Cardinals up in the order, while five moved them down. Another move saw quarterback Josh Rosen get dealt in exchange for draft capital.
Now in 2022, with Arizona holding the No. 23 pick with some holes to fill on the roster, trading down has been speculated as a more likely scenario, especially with the team not holding a fourth- or fifth-round selection this year.
Here’s a history of Keim’s movement:
2013 NFL Draft
Keim made two moves, both of them to acquire more picks. The San Diego Chargers bumped up seven spots in the second round for the price of a fourth-round pick to select linebacker Manti Te’o at No. 38.
In exchange, the Cardinals acquired No. 45 to pick linebacker Kevin Minter, and that fourth-round pick would be on the move later.
The New York Giants traded for that fourth-round choice at No. 110 overall to pick quarterback Ryan Nassib.
In what was Keim’s first big win on a draft-day deal, the return was picks Nos. 116 and 187. He used those to grab offensive lineman Earl Watford and running back Andre Ellington, respectively.
Watford was a nice depth option for the Cardinals offensive line and did a fine job filling in when needed from 2013-16 and again in 2017. Ellington reached over 1,000 yards from scrimmage in his first two seasons and spent two more years with Arizona before being waived in 2017.
Minter started 37 straight games for Arizona from 2014-16. He signed with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017.
2014 NFL Draft
Three picks were involved in Keim’s only 2014 deal and all three selections became notable names.
The New Orleans Saints wanted a shiny new toy for Drew Brees and used a third-round pick (No. 91) to move up from No. 27 to 20 in the first round and select wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
In moving back, the Cardinals still got their guy in linebacker/safety Deone Bucannon and a speedy receiver of their own in John Brown at No. 91.
For three seasons with the Saints, Cooks amassed 2,861 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns in 42 games. He’s bounced around and has been on four teams now, but he’s produced six 1,000-yard seasons in the NFL.
Bucannon had an up-and-down time in Arizona, excelling early on in a specialty role as a box safety, a job many teams looked to fill and modeled after Bucannon. Injuries and Bruce Arians’ departure hurt Bucannon’s next couple of seasons, though, as he was never able to match his quality of play from 2014 or 2015.
He left for free agency in 2019.
Brown’s speed was never in doubt with the Cardinals, and his 1,003-yard, seven-touchdown 2015 season is often forgotten in terms of the production he brought. The next two years included injuries, illness and disappointment, however. He moved on to the Baltimore Ravens in 2018, getting back to his solid form with 42 catches for 715 yards and five scores.
That strong season earned Brown a three-year, $27 million deal from the Buffalo Bills in free agency. Brown had a breakout 2019 in Buffalo as Josh Allen’s most reliable target, posting career highs in catches (72) and yards (1,060).
2015 NFL Draft
In 2016, Keim was happy to move down from No. 55 to 58 in the second round, allowing the Baltimore Ravens to pick tight end Maxx Williams, who is now with the Cardinals, while Keim got his pass rusher in Markus Golden.
The extra asset gained by Arizona was a fifth-round pick used on linebacker Shaquille Riddick.
Golden was a legitimate game-changer for the 2016 season, his second in the NFL, in which he led the team with 12.5 sacks. He only played four games in 2017 due to an ACL injury and wasn’t the same player the following season, reaching 2.5 sacks in 11 starts.
Golden signed with the New York Giants in 2019 and got back into form with 10 sacks. In 2020, Arizona traded a sixth-round pick to re-acquire him. Golden, in nine games back with the Cardinals, had the highest pressure-per-total snap rate of everyone aside from Dennis Gardeck in 2020 and re-signed with the team as a free agent last offseason.
He amassed 11 sacks in 2021 to lead the team.
Riddick never played a game for the Cardinals.
Keim’s 2015 draft wasn’t done. The Cardinals worked with the Cleveland Browns to jump from No. 123 in the fourth round to No. 116 to swoop up defensive tackle Rodney Gunter.
The price was a sixth- and seventh-round pick that turned into tight end Randall Telfer and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. The Browns took tight end Vince Mayle in the fourth round.
Mayle didn’t make the Browns’ roster his rookie year and Telfer had five catches in two seasons for Cleveland.
If Ekpre-Olomu sounds familiar, that’s because the Oregon corner was a potential first-round pick before tearing his ACL and dislocating his knee, an injury that had teams back off.
Those three players didn’t do much for the Browns, while Gunter became a reliable depth piece on the defensive line for the Cardinals, notably playing the best football of his career in 2018 and earning a re-up three years ago on a one-year deal. Gunter earned a three-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars heading into 2020 but announced his retirement due to a heart condition.
Gunter appeared in 77 of 80 possible regular season games with Arizona from 2015-19, recording 126 tackles and 11 sacks, and never played a game for another NFL team.
2017 NFL Draft
The Cardinals made a Keim-era high three deals during this draft, the most memorable being a move up in the second round for defensive back Budda Baker.
To jump from 45th to 36th in the second round, Arizona sent a fourth- and a sixth-rounder to the Chicago Bears, along with a 2018 fourth-round selection. The Cardinals also received a seventh-round pick.
The Bears’ used the fourth-round pick to take running back Tarik Cohen, a vital part of Matt Nagy’s offense in Chicago.
As for Baker, he’s turned himself into one of the best safeties in the NFL. A four-time Pro Bowler, he earned captainship in 2020 and a NFL record contract extension for a safety.
After selecting Baker in the 2017 draft, Keim traded down from No. 77 in the third round to 98th while also scooping up a fourth-round selection at No. 115 from the Carolina Panthers.
Wide receiver Chad Williams was the pick for Arizona in the third and was a disappointment for two seasons. He made only 17 catches in 2018 with the spot opposite of Larry Fitzgerald up for the taking. He was cut in 2019.
The pick at No. 115 for Arizona was offensive lineman Dorian Johnson. Seen as a strong value pick at the time for the Cardinals as a second-round-caliber talent, Johnson was surprisingly cut before the start of the season.
Another trade-up wrapped Keim’s activity for the 2017 draft day when he moved from 221st to No. 208 at the price of a seventh-rounder to select defensive back Rudy Ford.
A strong special teams player, Ford had 13 total tackles in two seasons before being traded in 2019 to the Philadelphia Eagles.
2018 NFL Draft
What we thought was the biggest move on this list three years ago was the Cardinals trading up to pick UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen at No. 10.
The price for five spots in the first round was reasonable and reviewed positively across the league: a third- and fifth-rounder, along with No. 15, all sent to the Oakland Raiders.
Rosen had an inconsistent rookie year in Arizona after taking over for over-the-hill quarterback Sam Bradford. Playing for two offensive coordinators behind a injury-plagued offensive line, he threw for 2,278 yards, 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 14 games played.
Oakland’s return in the Cardinals trade included the 15th overall selection of tackle Kolton Miller, who has since earned himself starting tackle money via an extension.
The Raiders later in the draft dealt the 79th pick they received from Arizona for wide receiver Martavis Bryant. They also traded the fifth-round pick to move up in the third.
2019 NFL Draft
It didn’t take long for the previous big trade to be topped.
With Kyler Murray available at Arizona’s No. 1 pick in 2020, Keim quickly pivoted. He took Murray first overall and traded Rosen to the Miami Dolphins for the 62nd overall pick and a 2020 fifth-round selection. The Cardinals would take wideout Andy Isabella with that pick at the end of the second round.
After the Dolphins started the season 0-2 in Ryan Fitzpatrick’s first two starts, the Dolphins turned to Rosen, who underwhelmed.
After three starts for Rosen, Miami went back to Fitzpatrick midway through the season. Rosen completed 53.2% of his passes for 567 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions.
You know what happened from there. The Dolphins used their 2020 fifth overall pick to select Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. By September, the Dolphins had decided to allow Rosen to find an opportunity elsewhere, and the Buccaneers signed him to their practice squad.
Isabella, meanwhile, has remained one of the bigger disappointments for the Cardinals. Despite Murray’s need for more weapons, Isabella continued to be buried on the depth chart and failed to separate himself the past three seasons.
Isabella had nine catches for 189 yards and one touchdown as a rookie, then 224 receiving yards and two scores in 2020 before catching one pass in 2021.
What happened to the fifth-round pick in the Rosen trade, you ask? It was given back to Miami after Arizona traded for Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake mid-way through the 2019 season because Drake hit on conditional performance goals.
2021 NFL Draft
The Cardinals made a mid-round trade that Keim recently said saved them for 2021. Arizona dealt a fifth-round selection (No. 160 overall) and a 2022 fourth-rounder to attain a 2021 fourth-rounder (No. 136 overall) and a sixth-rounder (No. 210 overall) from the Baltimore Ravens. The Cardinals lost their original fourth-round pick in the trade for wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
Keim selected Florida cornerback Marco Wilson, whom the general manager said he had highly graded.
The Cardinals’ cornerback depth took a hit when veteran Malcolm Butler retired two weeks before Week 1, and Wilson started in the season opener.
He never relinquished his role on the outside, starting in 13 of 14 games and playing the fourth most snaps as a defensive back on the team.
There were growing pains as he surrendered a 70.3% completion percentage when targeted. The coaching staff, though, continued to trust him and his development.
Arizona selected Duke edge rusher Victor Dimukeje with the sixth-rounder it acquired. Dimukeje had three tackles and a quarterback hit as a rookie in 2021.