Steve Keim’s tenure as general manager of the Cardinals started with three consecutive double-digit winning seasons including two playoff appearances.
But since 2016, the Cardinals have been average to below-average and questionable resource management by Keim is largely responsible. Despite Arizona not logging an above .500 season since 2015, the future is bright.
Quarterback Kyler Murray's first season revealed plenty of promise that he can be the long-term answer under center and was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year for his efforts. Murray is surrounded by talented weapons and Keim made considerable investments to improve the defense.
While Keim’s transaction log has its share of lowlights, he’s worked some magic in the trade market, particularly those involving second-round draft picks.
Let’s examine some of the heists he’s been able to pull off.
Terms: Arizona received defensive end Chandler Jones, New England received guard Jonathan Cooper and 2016 second-round pick
Jones has emerged as one of the NFL’s elite defensive playmakers since he was acquired via trade in 2016 and is building a resume that should land him in the Hall of Fame.
When considering what the Bears gave up for Khalil Mack (a 2019 first-round pick, 2020 first-round pick, 2020 third-round pick and 2019 sixth-round pick) and the Saints for Marcus Davenport (a 2018 first-round selection, 2019 first-round selection and 2018 fifth-round selection), the Cardinals got a major bargain for Jones.
While the second-round pick was a considerable piece of the deal, unloading Cooper’s contract was a bonus. After Arizona selected him with the seventh-overall pick in 2013, he started only 11 games in three seasons and never suited up for New England after the trade.
In totality, the Cardinals acquired an elite pass rusher in his prime for a second-round pick and the opportunity to unload Cooper in the final year of his rookie contract.
Well done, Keim. Well done.
Terms: Cardinals received 2019 second-round pick, Miami received quarterback Josh Rosen and 2020 fifth-round pick
Picking Rosen in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft was a mistake, but to the Cardinals’ credit, they did not cling to the mistake and quickly moved on. While they did not recoup what was invested in drafting Rosen, the Cardinals were able to land a second-round draft pick for Miami to take him off their hands. Arizona fully moved on with Murray as the franchise quarterback.
At the time, the move made perfect sense for the Dolphins, who needed a long-term answer at quarterback, and Rosen was a top-10 selection one year prior. He was a lottery ticket for a team in search of an answer.
After one season in Miami, it became clear Rosen wasn’t going to be that long-term answer. He started only three games, and Ryan Fitzpatrick became the preferred starter for the Dolphins who significantly outperformed Rosen.
Since the deal was executed, Miami invested its top-five draft pick in Tua Tagovailoa, and Rosen has again been quickly fazed out of an opportunity to be a starter with a second franchise in as many years.
Bringing back a second-round pick for Rosen doesn’t remove the blemish of drafting him from Keim’s record but being able to unload him, land a second-round pick and reset with Murray is a nice way to rebound.
With the benefit of hindsight, Miami would like to have that second-round selection back.
Terms: Cardinals received wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and 2020 fourth-round pick, Texans received running back David Johnson, 2020 second-round pick and 2021 fourth-round pick
The moment Cardinals fans learned their team acquired Hopkins and unloaded Johnson’s ridiculous contract for what amounts to a second-round pick is one they won’t forget.
Hopkins is a top-three wide receiver and the dream go-to target to grow with Murray. Johnson was aging, injury-prone and a leach on Arizona’s cap space. The Texans were flat-out robbed, and it was just the latest example of Keim erasing a mistake — Johnson’s contract — and finding insane value for a second-round pick.
Keim has acquired Jones and Hopkins in their primes without parting with a first-round draft pick. He also brought back a second-round selection for Rosen.
Let that sink in.
Attention NFL teams: Do not engage in trade discussions with Keim where a second-round pick is involved. It doesn’t end well for you.