GM Steve Keim deserves credit for Cardinals upturn, Michael Bidwill says
The talent deficit has increased for the Arizona Cardinals relative to their NFC West woes in the last few years.
A reverse-course after replacing head coach Bruce Arians with Steve Wilks after just one season put Arizona in a hole as much as the missed draft picks and thumbing through veteran free agent flops.
General manager Steve Keim is well-removed from the success stories that began his tenure as top Cardinals’ top executive in 2013 — hiring Arians, trading for quarterback Carson Palmer and drafting David Johnson among them. But the success after hiring Kliff Kingsbury to replace Wilks and drafting Kyler Murray with the No. 1 pick has cooled speculation that Keim’s job might be in danger.
“I’d say (Keim) just picked the rookie of the year with his last (first-round) draft pick,” Cardinals chairman and president Michael Bidwill said Wednesday. “He had a lot to do with hiring Kliff Kingsbury. He’s done a lot of things right. I feel like we’ve certainly turned and for as much as the Cardinals are going in the right direction, Steve Keim deserves a lot of credit for that and so I hope fans recognize that was a lot of his decision-making.”
A lot of the continued improvements will have to do with Keim playing his cards right this offseason.
Among the priorities to manage with extensions, free agency and the draft: adding two starting tackles, re-signing running back Kenyan Drake, bolstering a depth-lacking defense and giving Murray better weapons at receiver.
As of Wednesday, Keim has approximately $54 million in cap space. That figures to be eating up some by extensions — D.J. Humphries and Drake are the top potential signees there — and also by paying the draft class that will include the No. 8 overall pick.
In-house development, particularly of three rookie receivers who didn’t break out, could help improve Keim’s recent success rate in the draft.
Even after a year in which the team lost six games in a row, the improvements seen in the totality of Arizona’s 5-10-1 season are enough to feel good, Bidwill said. And the disappointments weren’t all directly to blame on Keim. The loss of starting cornerbacks Patrick Peterson (suspension) and Robert Alford (injury), plus the dismissal of defensive end Darius Philon stung Arizona before 2019 kicked off.
“There are a lot of good things happening,” Bidwill said of his GM. “He’s received his fair share of criticism — some of his draft picks didn’t work out — but you look at just last year, look at the number of starters that were not available on our defense. Had they been available, the season could’ve been, on the defensive side of the ball, much different. That had to do with injury and other things that you can’t blame any general manager for.”