It's not that crazy to think the Cardinals can turn this thing around next season. Like, winning record, scary to face in the Wild Card game, turn this thing around. Look at how they competed the last quarter of the season. look at their cornerstones on offense (Kyler Murray) and defense (Chandler Jones). Most importantly, look at their division rivals. The Rams went 4-12 in 2016. Sean McVay took over, and took them to the playoffs the next year. The 49ers were 4-12 last year. Now they’re the scariest team in the NFC. It ain't that berserk.
I don’t hate Keim as much as most fans do. I think it took balls to admit Rosen was a mistake and draft a quarterback like Kyler Murray, whose slight frame is unlike anything we’ve seen work long term. Some general managers, like Ryan Pace in Chicago, are hoping to convince fans water isn't wet, and Trubisky isn't bad. And I get it, balls don’t make great GMs. Meticulous planning and strategy do. Still, I’m willing to see what he’s got up his sleeve with a projected $72 million in cap space and the 8th pick in the draft. And even if I wasn’t willing, I’d have to be because Michael Bidwill damn sure is. Anyways, here’s what I’d do if I had the power.
1. As Jody Oehler puts it mornings 6-10a on Fox Sports 910, "Build. The. Lines."
There’s a reason for this. The NFL’s the ultimate chaos sport. With 53 guys on a roster, it’s like herding cats for a coach. Monty Williams only takes care of 16 guys. Torey Lovullo will oversee only 26 in 2020. Plus, the on-field product is pure violence. Turmoil. Guys are constantly injured, and backups need to be ready to play on limited reps. Mayhem. And you only have 16 games to figure it all out. The NBA gives you 82, the MLB gives you 162. Not to mention the media circus that surrounds the NFL like no other league. And with all that chaos, what we’ve seen is that teams who prioritize stability-creating positions on offense, and stability-wrecking positions on defense, tend to win long term. AKA: Offensive lineman to keep the quarterback upright, and defensive lineman to wreck the opposing quarterback. Pro Football Focus ranked the Cardinals offensive line 22nd in the league, and even though Chandler Jones approached the NFL sack record on defense, the team allowed a league-worst passer rating of 109.9 from opposing quarterbacks. Maintain your own stability, create opposing chaos, build the lines. Brandon Scherff is a name to watch out for in free agency on O-Line, while Yannick Ngakoue and Chris Jones are names to look out for on D-Line. The Cardinals should also keep free agent D.J. Humphries in-house with a contract.
2. Don’t open the vault for Drake.
Kenyan Drake was really good this year. He scored an 80-yard touchdown in Seattle, and signaled that he’d like to be compensated for it during his celebration dance. I really have no interest. He’s now an unrestricted free agent, which means other teams can bid on him. Don’t get emotionally attached. Look at his traits. No elite size, good but not great speed, is he great at anything? By the way, even the guys that are great at multiple things and have elite qualities probably shouldn’t be paid what they are. 7 of the 8 highest paid running backs in the NFL missed the playoffs this year. Yep, that includes David Johnson. Smart teams have been telling us for years, go get three guys who fit your system, pay them $3-4 million annually, and enjoy the freedom that comes along with fiscal responsibility. Running backs are almost always injury prone and the league is more pass-centric than ever. The Patriots, Eagles, 49ers, Ravens, Bills and Chiefs have the right idea.
3. Hit it down the fairway with the 8th pick.
Here’s the full list of 1st round picks under Steve Keim:
2013 – Jonathan Cooper: 7 teams in 6 years.
2014 – Deone Bucannon: Released by Bruce Arians in Tampa Bay in October 2019. Picked up by Giants later that month. Journeyman.
2015 – D.J. Humphries: Doing well, set for payday.
2016 – Robert Nkemdiche: Suspended, out of the league.
2017 – Haason Reddick: Still finding his position. Started 5 games this year with Cardinals.
2018 – Josh Rosen: Traded for 2nd round pick last offseason to Miami. Road bench most of year.
2019 – Kyler Murray: Franchise QB.
The common theme, when you go back and read the pre-draft analysis of each prospect, is that Steve Keim is a risk taker. Deone Buccanon was project to go in the 4th round. Robert Nkemdiche fell out of a hotel window and was found with weed on him while in college. Haason Reddick was believed to be playing out of position pre-draft (and still is). This, by the way, includes Kyler Murray, whose height wasn’t, and still isn’t really known, and is certainly much smaller than the average elite NFL quarterback. But there’s no need for risks anymore. Bidwill believes in Keim. Keim took the ultimate gamble and found a franchise quarterback. The media loves Kingsbury. All is well in Glendale. Keim doesn’t need to reach on a guy that could set the franchise record in sacks, but could also set the franchise record in beer-bong rips. Looking at you Nkemdiche. Sorry. Just take the can’t miss prospect.
Just my three cents.