A year of Keim time

Posted by Darren Urban on January 8, 2014 – 9:38 am

A year ago today, the Cardinals hired Steve Keim to be their general manager.

It turned out to be a pretty good first year on the job.

Churning the roster quite a bit — there were 193 roster moves in that span — Keim orchestrated an overhaul that produced five more wins in 2013 than 2012, and while the playoffs didn’t work out, it was a remarkable turnaround. He got a solid starting quarterback for basically a sixth-round draft pick. He got a guy who looks like a viable long-term running back, a dynamic playmaker both running and receiving, with a sixth-round pick. He won the waiting game with what looked like would be high-priced veteran free agents, getting Karlos Dansby, Eric Winston and John Abraham at his price and then watching them produce. There are others, of course. You needed a lot of quality changes to get to where the Cards went.

Honestly, it’s hard to see many misses this first year out of the box. You wonder what second-round pick Kevin Minter will be, but it’s not like the linebacker flopped, he just didn’t get a chance to play because Dansby — a spectacular post-draft free agent signing, again, on the Cards’ terms — was so good. Yes, the Cards committed to left tackle Levi Brown last season (make no mistake, had their been a left tackle there at No. 7 last draft they would have taken him) but Keim was smart enough to cut ties relatively quickly when it wasn’t working out. You move on when you need to move on.

In many ways, Keim’s second offseason is going to be more difficult than his first. The bar was set low. This offseason, expectations are much higher, but the Cardinals face many of the same issues — unknowns at many positions because of impending free agency, a tight salary cap, and some nasty cap numbers on existing contracts. (And that doesn’t include the possibility of signing cornerback Patrick Peterson to a long-term and no d0ubt hefty contract extension.)

Keim has surrounded himself with quality guys, like vice president of player personnel Jason Licht (who figures to be a GM himself someday) and director of football administration/salary cap guru Mike Disner (who, if you missed it, was just named to the Forbes 30 rising stars under age 30 in sports list). The front office is strong right now. It starts at the top.

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21 Responses to “A year of Keim time”

  1. By Patrick Hoog aka Don't Take Losses on Jan 8, 2014 | Reply

    Ok, thumb me in the eye, here it comes again:

    Fitz does not want to give up $$ to fund PP’s accounts. If he doesn’t, it will disrupt Keim’s mojo. Eugene Parker (who used to work for me at Barrett & McNagny in Fort Wayne, IN, around 1981, when a 30 yr home mortgage was 18% after he was All American BB at Purdue), simply just says no. That’s about all he does. No good faith in his negotiations… he did not get that from me. This is why I’ve pounded the issue here (and have gotten thumbed with in the eye, lol. I can take it! Ha.) Its the issue of the offseason, then Dansby Drama. Its PP turn. Hoping for a surprise, but Fitz (and Parker) will be Keim’s moment of truth…and perhaps albatross…

  2. By D on Jan 8, 2014 | Reply

    This is the strongest front office Cards have had since arrival in the desert. Props to Michael for moving Keim into GM chair.
    Keim’s bar is high going into this offseason where in order to keep just a few of thier own free agents and able to sign a FA Left tackle, some players won’t be back. I just don’t see how they can keep Larry, Dockett and Colledge at thier current cap #’s. Throw in PP maybe new deal it could be tight. Restructures and maybe a cut of Darren C maybe in order, even though he has been along with Lyle the best OLman the last three years.

  3. By WVcardFan on Jan 8, 2014 | Reply

    Patrick, Keim has already said publicly that Fitz’s $18M cap number in 2014 is accounted for. Now obviously, there’s some posturing in there to create leverage, but worst case… if parker plays hardball, the Cards just deal with the $18M cap # this year, and then they have ALL the leverage next year, when it will only be a $5M dead money cap hit to cut Fitz. And Keim can tell Parker “good luck getting $10M a year for a 32-year-old aging WR.” I expect Parker is smart enough to realize that a restructure is in his client’s best interest. The issue is, restructures don’t alleviate the problem, they just kick the can down the road. Keim is going to have to get creative to make sure his offer gets Fitz some extra guaranteed money but also lessens the cap implications in the future.

  4. By Patrick Hoog aka Don't Take Losses on Jan 8, 2014 | Reply

    WVcardFan – good points, but its just hard to sort. What we know is that duo (Larry/Eugene) is a problem at contract time. Neither Larry nor Parker make public statements and embarrass the Club (think Boldin), so we have that. But Larry does not “share well” with others. Staying free at his mansion is admirable, but he has been overpaid from the beginning, and we’ve never gotten out from under that first contract mistake. Keim may get us out this time.. but it may make some waves…

  5. By Itsallinthecards on Jan 8, 2014 | Reply

    You can’t forget about Keim getting Tyrann in the third round. Pro Football Focus just listed him as the 3rd best rookie defender this year – and he was a third round pick! What I love about Keim and Arians is their frankness. Keim said before the draft that Tyrann in the third round would be worth taking. They rarely blow smoke. It’s fantastic having a GM that is a true talent evaluator and I love that he’s willing to put guys on prove it contracts instead of 5-year albatross deals like the previous GM and then see where the chips fall.

    Go Cards

  6. By Big Ken on Jan 8, 2014 | Reply

    I’m with you “D”. Larry Fitzgerald a diva in decline. Keim take a long look at WR’s in the draft. I see Peterson as a fine young player who is still evolving but got to keep him. Draft a left tackle for depth and competition.

  7. By vsancards on Jan 8, 2014 | Reply

    @Patrick Hoog – I don’t disagree that Fitz could help the team but why should he? Wouldn’t the Cardinals be in the place of negotiating in bad faith if they wanted him to change his contract?

    Patrick Peterson is deserving of a big contract. Part of the new system is to reward young players for their production. So I believe that has to happen.

    What Keim needs to do is work with the Cap Guru and find a way to make work so everyone is happy. It will definitely be a tough balancing act but one the team has to make work. Fitzgerald is more than a football player to the franchise. The majority of jersey’s in the stands are 11 or 40. He is a very good advocate of the team, stays out of trouble, and helps the community. So he should be the highest paid player on the team. Thankfully, In alot of ways Patrick Peterson is the same way…:)

  8. By joe.holst on Jan 8, 2014 | Reply

    Michael Bidwill deserves a lot of credit for making this hire happen.

  9. By Sir60 on Jan 8, 2014 | Reply

    Big Ken:

    Larry is not and never has been a Diva. I don’t think we can speak for or against Larry at this point since no negotiations have taken place.

    I believe Larry wants what’s best for this team and would like nothing better than to finish his career with the Cardinals.

  10. By ored on Jan 8, 2014 | Reply

    the highest paid players are most always qbs’,we just have’nt found a young franchise one yet.the only thing that even remotely makes things work this year is the fact palmer gets 10 mil.instead of 20+,but that does’nt mean we should throw another fitz like contract at peterson,play him next year and franchise him if need be until we figure out a cheaper solution.sometimes a scheme and solid players are all that is required,it’s not like teams have’nt made big plays on us anyway.

    i want peterson to stay as much as anyone,but we have seen that qb is the only position for that kind of money,nobody else touches the ball every play and has that kind of decision making resposibility.what would you be saying if the qb passed for less than 50 yrds,still worth that kind of money–don’t think so.i think fitz’s contract was a mistake, that was done by previous gm,we just need to not revisit that scenario.even megatron could’nt get lions into the playoffs.if we make a SB run, then pp will have his choice of working something out on a winner or take his chances starting all over–in the end it will be the same for us all,can’t take it with you and what’s left is fought over and goes to taxes and lawyers.

  11. By Patrick Hoog aka Don't Take Losses on Jan 8, 2014 | Reply

    Larry is spotless in his character, and a team leader. I did not want to give the wrong impression… I want him here.

    But other 1st rounders deserve their big pay day, and there are more than one coming up. The new rules don’t allow the huge first contracts… like Larry already got. He doesn’t “need to help the team”… he needs to be a teammate and let some of the others taste the honey so we have a lot of good players, not just a few haves, and many have nots. Share the spoils.

    Also consider Larry will make more than all 3 of our QBs combined. That simply has got to change to get and keep this team on a consistently high level. The Franchise QB going rate is… what Larry makes, but Larry handles the ball 1 out of 5 plays, the Franchise QB 5 out of 5. Keim must make room for that guy…

  12. By Cactusjeff on Jan 8, 2014 | Reply

    I am not on the Keim bandwagon just yet. His first moves in free agency were not great. We fans called for Dansby, Winston, and Abrahams well before any action which was taken. It appeared to me that he didn’t value them as high as his early free agent signings. Obviously you could give him the benefit of the doubt, thinking he knew how great they were all along and was waiting for the price tot go down. If so then he did great.

    Also the second round pick has not been impressive.

  13. By georgiebird on Jan 9, 2014 | Reply

    As usual, I’m glad everyone is finally catching up to me as concerns Larry. I broached this subject over two years ago. Larry is a great guy and player but he was never a Roy Green. Bad contract from the beginning- now we have to live with it.

  14. By clssylssy on Jan 9, 2014 | Reply

    While the Cards had a good season, it’s too early to tell how good a GM Keim really is and if he’ll be able to stand the test of time, OR, if he APPEARED good because he wasn’t Graves. Really great GMs have more than one successful season to hang their hats on and in this regard I consider the jury to still be out. I have been a Cards fan for about twenty years and about the only things that has been consistent here is the fickleness of the fans. Certainly Keim did a great job in signing some talent on the cheap that proved to work out much better than anticipated. However, if you look at the teams that repeatedly make the playoffs, they have a certain consistency and retain their core players who are leaders on and off the field. You don’t see the Saints cutting their proven playmakers just to save a buck and they are working within the same cap as the Cards. The 9ers keep adding major marquis talent without sacrificing the players who have made them the repeat contenders they are AND they draw MAJOR box office and national respect and excitement. Steve Keim’s real test as a GM is yet to be determined based upon his follow-up success to this first season, whether he will be able to keep what we have in place and build upon it. We have certain core players who have unmeasureable value as anchors, leaders, and CONSISTENT players who were the foundation of our wins this year; they need to be retained and payed because if we don’t pay them one of our contenders will and we will be back to the bottom of our division instead of poised to move ahead. Fitz may not have had the stats he has had in the past but that was largely to do with the way BA used him and not a reflection of a “diva in decline”. He consistently caught balls and made plays that Michael Floyd consistently dropped, although Floyd is developing nicely. Same with PP, who was everywhere on both sides of the ball and did everything but be towel boy! Our defense was #1 against the run because of Karlos Dansby, Daryl Washington, Calais Campbell, Darnell Docket, John Abraham…and, we’re gonna mess with what works? We have a tremendous secondary as was evidenced when Honey Badger went down and guys had to be moved around. It’s bad enough that we could lose a valuable member of our coaching team but do we really need to throw the “baby out with the bathwater”? After we went to the Superbowl, the front office sold off most of our major assets and I was hoping that we had learned something from that. We have a chance to finally begin to gain a measure of respect within the NFL because we have some great players who can execute complicated plays created by a Master Playcaller. I’m hoping that Steve Keim is all that he’s been advertised to be, but, I’m waiting to be WOWED! (Still having trouble putting the Ryan Swope incident out of my mind)

  15. By iammattyoung on Jan 9, 2014 | Reply

    I think if you can trade Larry, you trade him. Are we a better team with Fitzgerald? Absolutely. Obviously. And maybe it doesn’t really hurt us too much to keep him around at $18 mil this year. But think about this: in the final year of Michael Floyd’s rookie contract (2015-2016 season), Fitz will be making $21 mil! Peterson needs to get paid too by this time next year. The question isn’t simply whether we’re a better team with or without Fitz, but are we a better team over the course of his contract? This coming season? We’re better with him. In two years, when they’re paying him $21 mil? We’re not. And no one is going to trade for a 33-year old receiver who’s not worth the $21 mil he’s owed. There are two teams out there with the cap room, who will be taking QBs with high draft picks, who would be interested in adding a safety net for their rookie QB and a veteran presence for their locker rooms. Reggie McKenzie in Oakland, probably isn’t interested in being burdened by another huge contract. But Jacksonville, might be a realistic possibility. They have loads of cap space, own the #3 pick, and play in a division where a young QB and Fitz could make them competitive. I think you send them Fitz, in return for their second round pick, and swap third rounders. That would give us the opportunity to draft a replacement for Fitz in the second round (or use some of the fitz money to get a guy like Eric Decker or Jeremy Maclin), and you get a much much higher pick in the third round, where the Cards have made hay over the past few years. Just a thought.

  16. By Chuck 1 on Jan 9, 2014 | Reply


    Who was the GM when the Cartds were put behind the Cap eight ball?
    Who gave Fitz his current exorbitant contract?

    And, who is now faced with trying to come along with a shovel and clean up that mess?

    Somewhat revealing that, with the job that Keim has done in one year, your jury is still out (and, probably will be until the Cards win a Super Bowl).

  17. By clssylssy on Jan 10, 2014 | Reply

    That was Graves and Bidwill senior with juniior in his learning phase. You seriously don’t think that those kinds of financial decisions are made without input from the man with the money? And, I acknowledged that Keim has done a nice job this season HOWEVER, the Ryan Swope incident was due to a lack of homework into Swope’s medical history and blew a draft pick which everyone completely overlooks. Sorry, Keim doesn’t get to be anointed King after just one season!
    The Cards have to play within a Cap but so do all of the other teams and they manage to sign marquis players and continues to add more talent which is one reason they are as tough as they are (9ers, Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, Steelers, etc.) Other teams are in worse Cap trouble than we are but you don’t hear a constant whining from their fans that they’ve been wronged…boo hoo; that’s called THE NATURE OF THE BUSINESS. Winners don’t sell off all their best players and expect a bunch of undisciplined,unexperienced , college kids, and noname castoffs to fill the stadium and take them to the Big Dance. Box office in footbal is like the movies (this IS the entertainment industry afterall) and you need big name icons on your marquuis to get the attention of the national media and fans,in order to lend a certain credibility to people you want to give up their cash or have national media give you any respect. Nobody says anything about the Kevin Kolb contract, since he’s no longer here, but that was more of a factor in our cap woes than Fitz’s contract. Fitz has put this franchise in a more positive light with the league and fans everywhere and he continues to be the glue that has held us together. Just say’n…people have to EARN respect in this business and it takes more than one season. Personally, I prefer the Patriots model where the HC IS the GM!

  18. By johnnybluenose on Jan 10, 2014 | Reply

    Keim will do what he thinks is best for the TEAM. We all hope Fitzgerald remains a Cardinal his entire career but it makes no sense paying him more than he is worth if it means being unable to keep other valuable guys or being unable to pursue needed free agents. Fitzgerald understands this too. After a few really dismal years there is now a decent quarterback here to throw to him and to direct the team to win. The opportunity to win and perhaps get to the Superbowl again, especially next year, is obviously important to Fitzgerald. Let us hope it is important enough to allow him to re-do his contract. Time will tell.

  19. By Chuck 1 on Jan 10, 2014 | Reply


    Re: Swope. I, along with georgibird or cardsalltheway (I can’t remember which one) banged the table, complaining that the Cards i.e. Keim didn’t do their homework on Swope and should have used that pick to shore up the OL. That’s one failure compared with how many successes?

    Re: ….”constant whining from their fans that they’ve been wronged”….
    I don’t visit other teams’ blogs and I doubt that most of the other Cards’ fans on this blog do either. So, I don’t know if they “whine”. Apparently, you do visit those sites.

    Re: HC and GM the same person; I don’t know the data;, however, I think that the majority of the teams that have tried that have not had a successful record. The Patriots would be the exception, I would think.

  20. By Dr. G. on Jan 10, 2014 | Reply

    vsancards – Your Quote “Wouldn’t the Cardinals be in the place of negotiating in bad faith if they wanted him to change his contract?”

    Answer – NO sir, part of the contract will state that only the “guaranteed money” is non-negotiable; the remainder of the contract can be terminated. When you consider that a player will never return $$$$ for bad performance, you can conclude this is fair. All the gamble/risk is on the Team. Insurance policies take care of certain things.

    Joe – Michael Bidwell deserves “all” the credit for Keim’s hiring. A great one!

    As for Larry, he will not admit openly that he has been in a place of frustration with the organization in past years for their bad QB choices…his numbers could have been phenomenal. He probably feels a little mistreated because of this. And he is certainly a good, not great, role model for kids. Please don’t ask for details…

    Hoog – Agreed, Fitz must restructure…period. I do not pity his $$$ $ituation.

    I am super confident Steve Keim can handle the myriad challenges. This year is much easier than starting from basic scratch as he did last year.

    Personnel changes are a constant reality in the NFL…not as years past…

    Go Keim Go! You’re the Man!

  21. By Dr. G. on Jan 10, 2014 | Reply

    clssy – HC & GM – the same person? Perhaps you were not here when “You gotta winner in town” Buddy Ryan arrived on his high horse. He was a zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzaster! A true hatchet man….. Be well…

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