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Keim time? Considering depth at safety

Posted by Darren Urban on May 30, 2018 – 1:25 pm

The Cardinals made a recent move to add to their secondary when they traded for cornerback Jamar Taylor. Perhaps another move to add a safety is forthcoming. Multiple tweets indicated veteran safety Tre Boston — who spent last season with the Chargers but was with Steve Wilks in Carolina before that — will visit the Cards. Boston has been a name thrown around quite a bit this offseason as a match with Arizona, especially after Tyrann Mathieu was released.

Boston played with the Chargers on a one-year deal hoping to get big bucks this offseason. That market never materialized. This is the area in which GM Steve Keim excels, finding players that fit what the Cardinals need and giving those veteran free agents the ability to maximize the situation, even if the base salary isn’t quite what they were hoping. At safety, the Cardinals have Budda Baker and Antoine Bethea and then other pieces they are investigating. A player like Boston would definitely focus the situation, if he were to sign.


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From no QBs to now: Draft aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2018 – 5:18 pm

The question was about how he and General Manager Steve Keim felt Saturday, two days later, about the ability to trade up and draft potential quarterback-of-the-future Josh Rosen, and Steve Wilks took the opportunity to flash back to January, when he was first hired.

“When you go back to January 22nd, when I was hired, there were questions,” Wilks said. “Here’s a guy with no head coaching experience, you have no quarterback on the roster, the offensive line has a lot of holes, there are a lot of questions about this team. And I would say this: Sight is totally different than vision. Sometimes you have to see past the difficulties. We had a plan. We had a vision.”

Wilks noted the additions on the offensive line, with Justin Pugh and Andre Smith. He noted signing quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon. He reiterated the oft-used “aggressive” phrase the Cardinals have used in relation to the first-round trade and the Rosen pick.

“To be sitting in this situation now, to have what could be a future franchise quarterback for many years, you’ve got a dynamic running back who I consider to be the best in the league in David Johnson, we continue to build that offensive line, dynamic receiver (Christian Kirk) who will learn and grow from one of the best in the league in Larry Fitzgerald, so we got better,” Wilks said. “Going back and looking at it now, we’re in a great situation.”

Whether the draft class pans out is TBD. Keim has been excited about every draft class he’s had on the Saturday of the draft. Then, inevitably, some guys don’t work out. That happen with every team. But Wilks does have a point — the roster, particularly the quarterbacks, looked bleak a few months ago. Suddenly, not so much. That’s not to say Rosen — or Bradford — is a lock to star in Arizona. But they could. And if Kirk becomes the wideout the Cards want and need, if Chris Campbell fleshes out as one of Wilks’ late-round developmental gems in the secondary … yes, there are “ifs.” But the Cards are in a much different spot than they were.

— As for Keim and his Rosen reflection, he admitted “it’s a little bit of a relief” to have that future QB around. Finally.

“But at the same time, (I want) to have a little fun and watch how this thing plays out,” Keim said. “I don’t forget my evaluation on Sam Bradford, and if he can stay healthy, you could be talking about a guy who could potentially be the NFL Comeback Player of the Year. I feel that strongly about how he can throw the football.”

— The Cards are in the process of agreeing with undrafted rookies. The official list won’t be out until Monday at the earliest, but I’ll probably retweet some names on Twitter if you want to look there. The official list always ends up a little different — those guys still have to pass physicals, and sometimes, players tweet out they are “signing” with a team even when they are only invited on a tryout basis.

— Last season, then-rookie safety Budda Baker missed all the offseason work other than the rookie minicamp because of an arcane NFL rule that prevented rookies from taking part until after graduation of their school. (The rule was in place to make sure guys could graduate without the pressure of having to miss time, although the reality is guys who are drafted most of the time are ready to go play football anyway.) There were a handful of schools that are on quarter systems and don’t graduate until mid-June. UCLA is one, meaning Rosen normally would have been out like Baker was. But the NFL changed the rule last fall, and Rosen will be able to be around.

“We all know you can’t get that time back,” Wilks said.


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Draft day two, and Deuce Lutui’s impact

Posted by Darren Urban on April 27, 2018 – 8:54 pm

The long day ended with a pick of an offensive lineman and, more entertainingly, an ex-offensive lineman dancing his way to the announcement.

“I don’t know if I’m more excited about (our) last two selections or Deuce Lutui’s announcement of our pick,” GM Steve Keim said after the Cardinals took OL Mason Cole following the pick of WR Christian Kirk earlier in the day.

The Cardinals have three picks left, one each in the fourth, sixth and seventh rounds, none of which are the Cardinals’ original 2018 picks. The fourth- and seventh-rounders are compensatory picks, the sixth-rounder the selection given by the Broncos in the Jared Veldheer trade. What might be the Cardinals looking for? Well, they could still take another offensive lineman, maybe a defensive lineman, and definitely a cornerback. Although both Keim and Steve Wilks insisted they won’t push anything.

Thus far, “we didn’t veer because of grades or because of positional need,” Keim said. “We stuck to value and we stuck to the person.”

— With the last day of the draft, “we’re going to have some players who have some holes,” Keim added. “We have to find certain traits we can hang our hat on.”

— When it comes to cornerback — the most glaring need the Cardinals have — do not forget that Wilks, a former defensive backs coach, frequently used and used successfully cornerbacks with perhaps not the highest draft pedigree. He can make different pieces work (Josh Norman, don’t forget, was a fifth-rounder.)

— Keim was asked about the first three picks thus far, which includes a QB, a receiver and offensive lineman. “Other than Coach kept staring at me talking about defensive players, it was good,” Keim deadpanned.

But he said Wilks has been “unbelievable” in understanding how defense hasn’t gotten a pick, and Wilks said he’s always been able to see the big picture in team building. Then he reiterated the need to build both the offensive and defensive lines, so again, a pick there wouldn’t be a surprise.

— As for that trade for Josh Rosen and the surrendered third-round pick, 79th overall?

“We got to the 79th pick and Coach and I looked at each other and we saw the players who were left on the board and I said, ‘I’m glad we have a potential franchise quarterback versus what was left,’ ” Keim said. “Not to take anything away with what was left on the board, but I would certainly do that again over and over.”


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Josh Rosen draft aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on April 26, 2018 – 8:59 pm

Whatever concerns others might have had about Josh Rosen’s personality or leadership skills, the Cardinals don’t have them. They wouldn’t have traded up Thursday night to get the quarterback, otherwise. GM Steve Keim was feeling good about it, having his own mic-drop moment to close out his Rosen press conference after he was asked about the fact Rosen had a hot tub (inflatable) in his dorm room at UCLA.

“Wish I had one,” Keim deadpanned.

Keim used to say that about a (potential) long-term answer at quarterback. He doesn’t have to wish anymore.

For all the slings and arrows the GM has absorbed — and many are fair criticisms — the biggest was that he didn’t find a successor for Carson Palmer. And while there was a certain amount of good fortune that played into it Thursday, Keim indeed found that guy only a few months after Palmer retired, and he has a bridge guy in Sam Bradford to help the Cardinals in the short term. That the Cards didn’t have to spend their second-round pick or next year’s first rounder was simply the best-case scenario. The Cards still have two picks Friday thanks to that third-round compensatory selection earned from losing Calais Campbell as a free agent.

As for Rosen, nothing has changed from all the speculation prior to the draft. No one knows for sure who the best QB will be from the five selected in the first round. Maybe Rosen will be it. He certainly made no bones about the fact he thought he should’ve been the first picked. He’ll have a chance to show everyone why. (Really, to “drop” to 10 isn’t horrible. It wasn’t like Aaron Rodgers dropping to 24 when he thought he should go first. Rodgers turned out to be right.)

He’s known for being outspoken, but Steve Wilks said he loves Rosen’s personality. Rosen isn’t stupid. He knows what he’s walking into, and his place as a rookie. He’s not going to sit in a corner in silence, but he’s smart enough to get it.

“I want to be me and the Arizona Cardinals know what they are getting,” Rosen said. “They are not getting a kid that is going to say stupid things and piss people off unnecessarily.”

They are getting a kid who might just be that quarterback everyone has been waiting for.


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Barwin and where things are in free agency

Posted by Darren Urban on April 9, 2018 – 1:50 pm

There was a report Monday morning that the Cardinals would be getting a free-agent visit from veteran pass rusher Connor Barwin, who played for the Rams last season. Whether or not something comes of that, it’s a good reminder of where things are in the NFL when it comes to free agency, especially this close to the draft.

The bigger contracts for free agents have dried up. Players still out there usually have to consider playing for a little bit less than they originally planned in order to get a spot now, or they can wait until after the draft, see what teams fill up the holes at that player’s particular position, and then try and get a little leverage that way. Jordan Matthews, a receiver who visited the Cardinals among others early in free agency, didn’t sign until he got  a one-year, minimum deal with the Patriots recently.

The Cardinals, in the Steve Keim era, rarely sign a free agent in April prior to the draft, in fact. The last time they did it was 2015 — and that was just to allow Adrian Wilson to retire as a Cardinal. The last time they signed players who actually took the field in the offseason was when they signed cornerbacks LeQuan Lewis and Eddie Whitley in 2014, and neither lasted into the regular season.


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Being “aggressive” in the search for QB

Posted by Darren Urban on March 1, 2018 – 6:49 am

It’s the buzzword that the Cardinals — and many teams — use this time of year: “Aggressive.”

It came up with both GM Steve Keim and coach Steve Wilks here at the Scouting combine, when both were asked what exactly it meant when they said they were going to be aggressive in their pursuit of a quarterback.

“When you don’t have one, there is no other way,” Keim said, and that’s hard to argue.

Still, both men described being aggressive pretty much the same way they have been talking about the quarterback search in general.

“We will have plans in place for free agency, but again, a trade option potentially, and the draft, it’s all three because we don’t have any on the roster currently,” Keim said. “Whether we are going to keep two or three, we’re going to have to have someone that’s experienced,  and you’d like to be able to take a young guy and develop him.”

Wilks was a little more specific.

“What I mean by aggressive right here is when free agency starts, we’re going to try to get the best one, not only have a plan A but a plan B and a Plan C,” he said. “You also have to look at trades. And then, there’s the draft. We’re sitting at 15. Do we feel there is a guy we have to move up for? All those things come into play when I talk about being aggressive, not sitting back.”


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Wilks’ QB input: “A whole lot”

Posted by Darren Urban on February 22, 2018 – 3:30 pm

Steve Wilks, who makes it clear of his conviction in whatever he might be talking about, took a few questions today prior to an open interview session with his offensive assistants. One of the questions was a very basic one, especially for a head coach with a defensive background: How much input will you have on the decision for the next quarterback?

“Have a lot of input in it,” Wilks said. “A whole lot.”

“We’re going to work together to make sure we bring the right guy in here,” Wilks added. “Coaches are watching tape and evaluating as well. (GM) Steve Keim and myself are constantly talking and communicate about our gameplan of what we want to do. Anyone coming on this roster I will have a definite input and major factor in bringing them in.”

That Wilks would have a large say isn’t a surprise, especially after Keim and Michael Bidwill talked during the coaching search that having such QB input was one of the selling points to a candidate. There is little question, however, how strongly Wilks feels about the process and his place in it.


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In the wake of Steve Wilks arrival

Posted by Darren Urban on January 22, 2018 – 3:44 pm

The wait is over, and even with all the talk/speculation about potential assistant coaches hung up working in the playoffs, the Cardinals, Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim went with a man whose team was sent home a couple of weeks ago — Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.

This comes with all the caveats, the same ones that show up with every head coach. We won’t know what this means on the field until September at the earliest. Even in the case of Bruce Arians, when the Cards stumbled around for half a season, it took a minute for things to settle in. And as we all know, Wilks’ first year will be dictated in part by a quarterback that we not yet know. Well, we might know of him, we just don’t know if which one will be the Cardinals’ guy.

All that said, in my brief interaction with Wilks today, you can see why he can command a room. Michael Bidwill said recently that in the second round of interviews, usually someone stands out, and I can see why that would have been Wilks. We will see how his staff builds out. But now, the offseason feels like it can officially get started.

— No official word yet on assistants, but there has been some speculation. Jason LaCanfora reported that the Cards will have former Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell in for an interview. Bevell interviewed for the Cardinals’ vacant head coaching job in 2013 that went to Arians and is a product of Scottsdale Chaparral High School. Meanwhile, LaCanfora said Panthers offensive line coach Ray Brown (who began a long NFL playing career with three years as a Cardinal) could be coming to Arizona, with Joe Person saying Panthers linebackers coach Al Holcomb could be as well.

One thing to remember about all the assistant coach talk and speculation is that while some names will accurately land on staff, others won’t, for various reasons. It always plays out like that.

— There are some Cardinals assistants still under contract that Wilks will undoubtedly sort through over the next couple of days. I know many are asking, but there is nothing yet about what might happen with defensive coordinator James Bettcher.

— Speaking of defense, yes, Wilks ran a 4-3 in Carolina. The personnel he has inherited is for a 3-4 base. Something is going to have to change, although do not forget that the vast majority of defensive snaps these days are spent in packages that usually include extra defensive backs. And when the Cards rush in obvious passing situations, they line up with four up front anyway.

— I’m thinking it’s too early to know what the impact of Wilks is on Larry Fitzgerald’s decision. I’d think he’d want to know who the offensive staff will be first.

— The Wilks press conference is Tuesday at noon, and it’ll be streamed live on azcardinals.com. (Thanks to the Panthers for the pic.)


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Talking coaches, roster and a podcast

Posted by Darren Urban on January 4, 2018 – 3:18 pm

The Cardinals will be conducting coaching interviews on the road over the next few days as they move toward finding a new football boss. When it comes to the idea that Michael Bidwill pointed out yesterday — that he wanted potential coaches to have a chance to visit Arizona and the team’s Tempe facility and interact with staff — I don’t think we are talking about every single person. My guess is that you’d have to have caught the Cardinals’ eye. If the initial interview doesn’t intrigue Bidwill or GM Steve Keim, I don’t see it going further necessarily. But we will see. It’s always an interesting time of year when a potential coach could end up being busy into February if his team makes it to the Super Bowl, and then having his “new” team having to wait it out. Could that be the Cards?

— My annual roster breakdown can be found right here. It gives the contract status of virtually everyone, so yes, it includes who will be free agents in March.

— Our weekly Cardinals Underground podcast is right here. I believe it’s always a good listen with myself, Kyle Odegard and Paul Calvisi (so if you can, get in the habit of checking us out, assuming you don’t already.) This week’s episode has a special treat at the end: A “Best of Bruce Arians” soundbites montage put together by Jim Omohundro. It was certainly an interesting five years.


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Keim: Learn from 2017, no “woe is me”

Posted by Darren Urban on December 26, 2017 – 8:16 am

The Cardinals are analyzing their free-agents-to-be and with some of them, the team has/will be formulating extension offers, General Manager Steve Keim said Tuesday during an appearance on 98.7, Arizona’s Sports Station. The players Keim wants back are, not surprisingly, not only competitors on the field but good in the locker room. That was a focus last year as well.

“That’s an ongoing process and we have made some of those players extension offers,” Keim said. “The bottom line is we have a lot of work to do, as I said last week.

“We’ve dealt with enough adversity this year with the injuries and with some of the losses, so we have to make sure we use this season and, in particular, our issues that we have dealt with, as learning things, where we can look back and grow from it instead of having the attitude of ‘woe is me.’ That is something I believe in wholeheartedly, not only on the scouting side of it but as an organization in general.”

— The many injuries have made it more difficult to evaluate some key players here and there, Keim acknowledged, but “at the end of the day there are still one-on-one battles these guys have to win.”

— Does having a chance to knock the Seahawks out of the playoffs mean a lot for Sunday? “Anytime you are playing a division rival it’s big regardless of what is at stake,” Keim said. “We are all competitors. We want to win every game. In my opinion, you can’t look at where your draft slot could potentially be. Let the chips fall where they may. We owe it to our fans, we owe it to our organization to compete every week and to try and put the best product on the field. We will deal with draft and free agency when it comes. This week our mindset is to go up to Seattle and get a win.”

— The Cardinals’ first shutout since 1992 “says a lot of things about players on the field and the character in our locker room.” Keim credited the game planning of defensive coordinator James Bettcher. He also said he though $LB Deone Bucannon not only played his best game of the season, he had arguably his best game in the NFL, period. Chandler Jones provided pressure and drew a couple of holding calls, Frostee Rucker and Karlos Dansby are invaluable leaders, and safety Antoine Bethea was “exceptional” in getting a pair of interceptions.

— Keim added his thoughts to the huge game of wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who Keim said took over the game offensively. “There’s no doubt he willed us to win on offense.”

— Keim added that it was nice to see John Brown contribute with a touchdown and a key third-down conversion with his two catches.


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