TEMPE, Ariz. — Amazon’s new series “All Or Nothing” couldn’t come at a more appropriate time for its featured subjects, the Arizona Cardinals. The title embodies the approach the Cards have taken since general manager Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians took over three-plus seasons ago.
Keim and his staff may not be finished in free agency as they begin their NFL Draft preparations, but with a major trade piece in place and at least three key free-agent signings on board, it’s a good time for Valley fans to take stock, pinch themselves and reaffirm that this is the new Cardinals reality.
Arizona’s greatest need in free agency was a pass rusher. Keim couldn’t land one in free agency. Instead of settling for a lesser name, or relying on the unlikely scenario of landing a marquee player with his late first-round draft pick, Keim bit the bullet on a previous mistake and turned guard Jonathan Cooper into 26-year-old defensive end Chandler Jones, who had 12.5 sacks last season.
To fill the hole that Cooper’s departure created on the offensive line, Keim signed veteran Evan Mathis to a one-year deal, and then he brought back veteran running back Chris Johnson and tight end Jermaine Gresham, who both took less money to re-sign with the team.
“I think it speaks for the culture of our locker room,” Arians said of Johnson and Gresham. “They know how close we are and they enjoyed playing with our guys, and the ring was more important than the money.”
It’s clear the Cardinals’ focus in these deals is on the short term. How the pair navigates a different reality three years down the road will bear watching, but it’s no secret the Cardinals’ window is open now with 36-year-old quarterback Carson Palmer.
When you’re close, you go all in.
“Pass rushers don’t grow on trees,” Keim said.
Neither do quarterbacks, yet Keim has managed to acquire two of the game’s four most critical positions via trade in a league where trades are the exception.
This by-any-means-necessary mentality clearly wasn’t the case with past regimes, but it bears repeating because it’s not an isolated incident. This has been the Cardinals’ m.o. ever since Keim and Arians took over, and the pair has been granted the critical blessing and support of team president Michael Bidwill.
That’s why free agents will sign for less. That’s why the Cardinals’ reputation in league circles has done an about-face. That’s why the Cardinals dominate the local airwaves and web traffic in a media world where the NFL already enjoyed a sizeable advantage.
Arizona may never win a Super Bowl with Keim’s and Arians’ fast-lane approach. That achievement has almost as much to do with luck as it does with skill, execution and shrewd decision-making, but the Cardinals’ dogged pursuit of that goal is a reminder that this is how you want your franchise to operate. As a fan, this is your dream scenario.
Is it any wonder the Cardinals have become the Valley’s marquee franchise?
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