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Dan Bickley

Cardinals GM Steve Keim atones for past blunders with Hopkins trade

General manager Steve Keim of the Arizona Cardinals on the field during the first half of the NFL game against the Los Angeles Rams at State Farm Stadium on December 01, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Thank you, NFL, for business as usual. For not hitting pause in the midst of a pandemic. Otherwise, a blockbuster day in Arizona would not have been possible.

Thank you, city of Houston, for your daffy sports teams. The Astros gave up three top prospects while liberating the Diamondbacks from Zack Greinke’s stifling contract in 2019. The DeAndre Hopkins-for-David Johnson trade is easily among the worst in the 21st century, and everyone knows it but your head coach.

Finally:

Thank you, Steve Keim. For your uncanny ability to find the easy mark, the sucker in the room. Once it was Oakland’s Reggie McKenzie. Now, it’s Texans coach Bill O’Brien. You are proof that many fools remain in the NFL, and you are not one of them.

You are also proof that fortune favors the bold. You have resurrected your reputation and the franchise you grounded. You did it by swinging for the fences, starting with a failed college head coach; a 5-foot-10 quarterback; a proactive trade for a disgruntled running back in Miami; and now this.

Keim’s tenure in Arizona bottomed out with his costly DUI. It was resuscitated on Monday with a case of highway robbery.

With one impossibly lopsided trade, the ceiling has been raised in Arizona.

When the NFL regular season commences in 2020 (fingers crossed), there will be one additional playoff berth available in each conference. The 49ers will be dealing with the Super Bowl hangover that so often grounds its bridesmaids. The Rams have nothing special at quarterback or running back. With some sage drafting and defensive additions, the Cardinals will compete for the playoffs in 2020.

Just like that, Keim has dramatically validated his job security and the faith displayed by Michael Bidwill, the team’s chairman and president. The revamped offense will feature a rising star at quarterback (Kyler Murray); a top-three wide receiver in Hopkins; a Hall of Fame wide receiver who is also the most popular athlete in Arizona history (Larry Fitzgerald); a local kid who will shine as a No. 3 receiver (Christian Kirk); a dynamic playmaker at running back who will likely return (Kenyan Drake); a backup running back who scored three touchdowns in a spot start at New York (Chase Edmonds); and a head coach who has all summer to draw up plays.

Keim just repaid Bidwill with a lot of tickets sold in the coming months. He also did something unthinkable in these parts, matching the efforts of Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen, who posted three winning seasons while rebuilding the Diamondbacks in a different image.

Keim also hit the accelerator on his football team, and that’s imperative. The Cardinals must make every effort to win now, while Murray remains on his rookie contract. The former Heisman Trophy winner signed for three more seasons, with an average annual salary of $8.7 million. His value allows the team to build a roster with quality depth at all positions. If you do it right.

The Chiefs did, winning the Super Bowl with Patrick Mahomes, in year three of a deal that pays him an average salary of $4.1 million. Same with the Seahawks and Russell Wilson, a franchise quarterback who lasted until the third round of the NFL draft.

With one flurry of news, it feels like Keim has restored all that he’s lost along the way. The trade for Hopkins looks that good, joining his collection of masterpieces (trading for Palmer, trading for Chandler Jones, trading for Drake in midseason to lift Kliff Kingsbury’s sagging offense).

It would’ve been victory enough for Keim if he merely traded Johnson and his salary, thereby gaining the financial ability to retain Drake. Adding a receiver like Hopkins? On a day when every pundit in the NFL raved about Keim’s sleight-of-hand and the Cardinals’ playoff viability in 2020?

It’s a most welcome surprise. It atones for whiffing on Andy Isabella vs. D.K. Metcalf. It compensates for a lot of bad stuff. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.

The whole country needs football. We need emotional relief, something reassuring on the horizon. Cardinals’ fans received a lot more than good news on Monday.

They reeled in a true impact player, along with a net full of hope.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.


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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier