Steve Keim speaks: Former Cardinals GM talks DeAndre Hopkins’ trade value, Kyler Murray
Apr 6, 2023, 11:14 AM | Updated: 11:18 am
Steve Keim publicly stepped away from his role as general manager of the Arizona Cardinals in mid-December for health-related reasons before he departed the team permanently after a 4-13 season.
He’d been out of the spotlight and away from football until Thursday, when the former GM joined the Green Light with Chris Long podcast.
“After 25 years of working for the same organization … it’s a long process, not only in the positions (I was in), the stress of moving up the ladder and having goals and aspirations, but then when you get into that chair, things are a lot different,” Keim said. “There’s no manual you sit down at your desk to read, here’s how to be a GM.”
While he began with the organization as a scout in 1999, Keim from 2013-22 led the front office.
He admitted that the stress of the job impacted him from Day 1 as the general manager.
“I remember going up to my desk after I was introduced as a GM at our press conference, and I remember sitting down at my desk and putting my hands on my head and saying, ‘What the (expletive) do I do now?’ And I truly felt that way,” he said. “I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I was in the moment, there was a lot of pressure and I had to flip a (5-11) team around. Quickly got my nerves together and had to hire a head coach and find a quarterback.”
Keim hired Bruce Arians and traded a late-round pick for quarterback Carson Palmer, two decisions that defined early success in his tenure. Things went well early before an up-and-down string of seasons from 2018-22.
Keim replaced Arians with Steve Wilks, was arrested for DUI, fired Wilks after a 3-13 season, then made the bold hire of Kliff Kingsbury to tepid results before — for many reasons — things went south in 2022. Arizona replaced Keim with former Tennessee Titans executive Monti Ossenfort in January.
Now, Keim said he will join FOX Sports for NFL Draft coverage and will consider taking consulting jobs in the football space. Otherwise, he’s focusing on his health. He’s tried to enjoy the time off by learning to try new things and spending time with his kids.
The former GM spoke a bit on his Arizona tenure in his near-hour appearance on the Green Light with Chris Long podcast, touching on Kyler Murray’s ceiling, DeAndre Hopkins’ trade value and Kliff Kingsbury’s departure.
DeAndre Hopkins’ trade value not looking great
Insight from a front office figure in tune with the current environment and having negotiated Hopkins’ current contract doesn’t lend much optimism Arizona would get a relatively great deal for the 30-year-old receiver.
“They’re probably going to have to come to understand that they’re probably not going to get as much as they would if he was a younger player or his contract was considerably lower, where you could get him for a second-round (pick),” Keim said. “It could end up being a second- or third-day draft pick to really get it done. Probably (need to) get a new deal done.”
Hopkins, who self-negotiated his current contract with Keim, said he’s hired his lawyer as an agent, a sign he is anticipating needing to rework his contract.
Keim hinted at how difficult the deal he agreed to with the receiver will be to trade.
“Here’s the problem: The problem is his current contract,” Keim said.
“Hop was his own agent, and I can tell you that wasn’t the easiest (negotiation) in the world,” the former GM added. “Between him and Larry Fitzgerald, that put all the grey on my beard.”
Kyler Murray can get rid of ‘inconsistency’
Keim drafted the current Cardinals quarterback first overall and handed him a massive contract extension.
And while the 25-year-old statistically took a major step back before suffering a season-ending ACL injury last season, his talent remains unquestioned in Keim’s eyes. But the former GM does buy into what Arizona right tackle Kelvin Beachum believes: Murray can still grow up and learn what it takes to be great.
That doesn’t mean Murray is not dialed in already.
“He still needs to grow. (Beachum’s comments are) not slanted toward his character,” Keim said. “He’s not a bad guy. He’s a good kid, has a good smile, has a nice way about him. I think it’s like anything, guys have to continue to learn what it’s going to take to be great. Does he know what Tom Brady and Peyton Manning knows of what it takes to be great? No.
“Does he work? He does work. I think it’s just that side of the game, the film study, the attention to detail part that he can continue to improve upon. And I think he will. Kyler’s a proud guy, man. He doesn’t want to lose and he doesn’t want to let people down.”
Murray completed 66% of his passes for 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions in addition to 418 rushing yards last season. The context of the team around him was iffy for several reasons, but the numbers and film were a step back from 2021, when Murray was in the MVP race around the midway point of the season.
“You got to think he’s headed in the right direction,” Keim said. “I just thought he kept getting better and better and better. There’s just some times of inconsistency with him.
“Obviously, the height hurts him at times, seeing over the line and processing and seeing the field. But at the same time, he’s just a tremendous talent. The stuff he does, you see in practice and games, it’s off the charts.
Kingsbury’s departure: While Keim didn’t touch on the past season, he did call Kingsbury’s work ethic unquestioned: “I will tell you this though: I’ve worked with a number of head coaches. There’s nobody who worked harder than him. I’m telling you now there are mornings I got there at 4:30, I never beat him to the office. I’m like, does this dude sleep?”
Whiff on Nkemdiche: The former Cardinals executive was asked how to navigate and judge the off-field issues around top-defensive tackle prospect Jalen Carter, who was linked to a street racing incident that killed two people in the Georgia football program.
Keim said the love for football must stand out to overlook such issues. He gave one example of how difficult that can be by discussing Cardinals 2016 first-round choice Robert Nkemdiche despite his off-field issues.
Nkemdiche, who attended Ole Miss, fell out of a fourth-floor window and was later charged with drug possession several months before the draft.
“Now, in Arizona I drafted Robert Nkemdiche with the (29th) pick overall, who we thought was a top-10 talent,” Keim said. “And there were some concerns and questions coming out. At the end of the day, really, the guy in my opinion didn’t love football enough.
“He didn’t succeed or play at a high level because he was in love with the process of going through the draft, being the top pick, getting the money. When it was time to grind, that wasn’t his focus.”