Finishing the draft doesn’t mean rest for Cardinals GM Keim

May 5, 2016, 8:15 AM | Updated: 5:10 pm

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It’s been a busy offseason for the Arizona Cardinals from a player personnel standpoint.

General manager Steve Keim has engineered a big trade, acquiring pass rusher Chandler Jones from the New England Patriots. He’s worked his magic in free agency, bringing in guard Evan Mathis and safety Tyvon Branch.

Keim just completed his fourth draft as the top man in Arizona’s front office, selecting six players, including defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche from Ole Miss. He followed that up by inking 16 undrafted free agents. Among them, former Alabama quarterback Jake Coker, who helped lead the Crimson Tide to a College Football Playoff championship last season.

At this point on the calendar, there may be a tendency for an NFL general manager to exhale and step back to get a better look at what he’s built. Keim isn’t wired that way.

He’ll continue to monitor the waiver wire, looking for veterans without a team he feels can help the Cardinals in 2016.

“There are free agents out there who are out there because they’ve turned down certain contracts,” Keim told Ron Wolfley and Paul Calvisi on “The Big Red Rage” Wednesday night on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “We’ll continue to monitor players, and when that price comes down, if we feel like that would be a good fit and it works within our salary cap, we’ll take a shot on them — we won’t shy away from that at all.”

Keim’s track record verifies he’s not blowing smoke on the subject. In 2013, he brought in linebacker John Abraham and offensive lineman Eric Winston right before the start of training camp. Abraham led the team with 11.5 sacks and Winston started all 16 games at right tackle for a 10-win team that narrowly missed the playoffs.

The next season, Keim brought in veteran defensive lineman Tommy Kelly, who became an important part of a unit that ranked fifth in the league in points allowed and helped claim an NFC Wild Card spot.

Last summer, it was veteran Chris Johnson who came in during training camp and led the Cardinals in rushing with over 800 yards.

Keim also said the moves he’s looking into now aren’t just with next season in mind.

“On top of that, we’ll have different projects that are more pointed toward 2017 and 2018,” he said. “Whether it’s taking certain position groups and breaking down everybody in the NFL that’s played and ranking them and looking at different trade scenarios.

“It’s a year-round business. There’s not a lot of time off. We will have some time to decompress, but this is an exciting time to be a Cardinal.”

One player who remains a possibility to return is defensive back Jerraud Powers. The 28-year-old just completed his third season with Arizona and started 13 games. Outside of a visit with the New York Giants and discussions with the Cardinals, there wasn’t much action for Powers in free agency. Could he be back in the nest in 2016?

“He’s at a point where I think he just wants to do what’s best for him and his family,” Keim said. “It’s one of those situations where it takes two sides, but I will never rule out the possibility of anybody returning.”

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