How Does Arizona’s Free Agency Haul Affect Their Draft Outlook?
Steve Keim has always been a man with a plan.
After working his way up from a low-level scout to a General Manager in the National football league, he’s made an incredible splash in NFL free agency in his first two years as the Cardinals GM.
In 2013, Keim had a strong offseason haul that was highlighted Arizona bring in quarterback Carson Palmer for 6th and 7th round picks along with signing the likes of John Abraham, Eric Winston and new Browns ILB Karlos Dansby. He also had a stellar draft in finding future stars in Tyrann Mathieu and Andre Ellington in later rounds, and we’ve yet to see the fruits of Jonathan Cooper and Kevin Minter as well, who didn’t play last year.
Just like last year, Keim put together his “Big Board” of free agents that Arizona would pursue at the positions of greatest need. Those positions were as follows:
As free agency approaches on March 11, Cardinals would like to add LT, OLB and CB in free agency, and fill some other needs in the draft.
— Mike Jurecki (@mikejurecki) February 25, 2014
With his first big move in free agency, Steve Keim has addressed Arizona’s greatest need going into the offseason, Left Tackle, with the signing of Jared Veldheer from the Oakland Raiders.
Veldheer was unexpectedly let go by the team, and Arizona pounced, locking him up on a 5 year, $35 million dollar deal per Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. Compared to the size of the contract fellow top-tier left tackle Branden Albert received, that’s getting him at fantastic value. And he’s got plenty of upside as well:
Congrats to the #Cardinals on Jared Veldheer. Felt he had top LT talent when healthy. Could be a star.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 11, 2014
After the Cromartie signing recently, cross off cornerback off that “needs” list as well now. The Cards reportedly wanted length at their other CB position and they’ve likely found it in the 6’2, 215 lb. Cromartie. When healthy, the veteran gives Arizona big upgrade over Powers, and while it doesn’t rule out Arizona taking a cornerback in the draft, it seems unlikely that they would spend the 20th overall pick on one.
A secondary of Peterson, Cromartie, Mathieu and Powers should be one of the best in the NFL, and a CB at 20 would be difficult to justify.
Other signings after the free agency period began that Steve Keim managed included bringing in new players speedster WR Ted Ginn Jr., TE John Carlson, RB Jonathan Dwyer, C/G Ted Larson and brought back some fan favorites in good depth players in OLB/DE Matt Shaughnessy, DE Frostee Rucker and OLB Marcus Benard that they weren’t able to lock up before the free agency craze started.
So where does Steve Keim plan to go from here? He has given himself and the Cardinals the flexibility to use the old draft term “go best player available.” He won’t be limited by gaping holes on his roster
We’d like to grow a little bit more on the defensive line and add some length, not only at defensive end, but outside linebacker. And then safety is an issue where we need to continue to grow and get better at that spot. Inside linebacker probably needs more depth, and we’ll find out what Kevin Minter is made of.
Cardinals GM Steve Keim-via AZCentral.com
Keim seems intent on building a solid, complete defense from top-to-bottom, and while the offense was the weaker point of the team last year, he seems to be taking a leaf out of rival teams’ books and only making Arizona’s elite defense that much better.
While it’s not set in stone, due to the Veldheer signing, Cardinals fans should be expecting quite a few defensive names called when the Cardinals’ selections roll around come May.
Phoenix Sports-Kings Contributor Blake Murphy @blakemurphy7