Arizona Cardinals GM Steve Keim explains change in offseason philosophy

Apr 21, 2022, 7:09 PM | Updated: Apr 22, 2022, 12:59 pm
General manager Steve Keim of the Arizona Cardinals waves to fans before the NFL game against the P...
General manager Steve Keim of the Arizona Cardinals waves to fans before the NFL game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at State Farm Stadium on December 08, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

TEMPE — The Arizona Cardinals weren’t shy last offseason when it came to making notable outside free agent moves.

Headlined by defensive end J.J. Watt and running back James Conner, the Cardinals showed the rest of the league just how aggressive they can be in the free agency market.

The result? Yet another season of improvement in the win-loss column.

Fast forward to this offseason, however, and the Cardinals haven’t added a ton of outside talent, prioritizing in-house options and leaving some to question general manager Steve Keim’s methods.

But to Keim, it’s all part of the plan.

“I think the positive is when you have the opportunity to re-sign your own players, you already know what you’re getting,” Keim said Thursday. “We have guys like Zach Ertz and James Conner, guys like that that have come back, A.J. Green, that you know what you’re getting in terms of preparation, work ethic, attention to detail. That’s the hardest part about free agency.


“It’s not like college scouting where you get all the background information. Unless a coach has coached a player on another team, generally you’re making some big commitments based off what you see on tape which is difficult because you don’t know much about the person.”

Ertz and Conner came on strong upon their arrivals to the desert in 2021. The tight end was quick to mesh in head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense after being traded to the team midseason. Over 11 games played with Arizona, Ertz caught 56 of his 81 targets for 574 yards and three touchdowns.

Conner on the other hand was a critical part of the team’s running game, recording 752 yards and 15 touchdowns (second among NFL running backs) on 202 carries. He also caught 37 of his 39 targets for 375 yards and three scores.

Despite Green’s infamous non-turn around in a Thursday Night Football loss, the wideout did manage to reel in 54 catches for 848 yards and three touchdowns.

And while the focus has largely been around retaining key contributors from last year’s team, Arizona hasn’t gone completely dark on adding outside free agents.

The Cardinals have added depth to the linebackers and cornerbacks rooms with the additions of backer Nick Vigil and corner Jeff Gladney. They may have also found their starting right guard in Will Hernandez, who played under run game coordinator and OL coach Sean Kugler at UTEP.

Still, there are quite a few areas of need to fill for Arizona — notably at pass rusher, wide receiver and cornerback, making the upcoming NFL Draft and post-draft free agency two important pieces to the pie for the Cardinals.

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