A lot of NFL writers and analysts are already singing the praises of the offseason for the Indianapolis Colts, the Minnesota Vikings, the Green Bay Packers, and even the New York Jets, who have finally put themselves in a position for everyone to forget that the current brain trust actually drafted Christian Hackenberg. You will, however, be hard-pressed to find anyone brave enough to rave about the offseason that the Arizona Cardinals are having. Did you hear that the team gave Sam Bradford $20 million on a one-year deal, gave Mike Glennon another NFL contract to theoretically play behind the former Oklahoma star, and cut the Honey Badger. Outside of Larry Fitzgerald, I’m not entirely sure the team even has another living, breathing wide receiver on the roster. And yes, all of their tight-end options have probably already been placed on injured reserve knowing that it’s going to happen this fall anyway.
But none of that matters yet.
The offseason, and, particularly free agency, is traditionally a happy time every fanbase is excited about which guys are coming in, and, perhaps, even more, excited about which guys are heading out. That’s not the case this offseason for Cardinals fans. They know the San Francisco 49ers haven’t lost a game with Jimmy Garoppolo under center, they know Russell Wilson is still in their division, and they know the Los Angeles Rams are signing and trading for every disgruntled star defensive player they can get their hands on. And right now, they have Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon, so I get it.
But the Cardinals’ general manager Steve Keim has time.
The Jets came just short of stealing Kirk Cousins away from the Vikings, so they traded up to nab the No. 3 pick in this year’s draft. The New York Giants are clearly heading for a rebuild, the team just traded away Jason Pierre-Paul to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and if the team really does believe Eli Manning has a few more years in him, trading the No. 2 pick for a king’s ransom makes sense. We know how empty former general manager Jerry Reese left the cupboard for current general manager Dave Gettleman. With the Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles and even the Dallas Cowboys -- winning a Super Bowl before they have to pay Dak Prescott puts them in this category -- in win-now mode, the Giants should move down and the Cardinals should strike.
The Cardinals head into the 2018 season with a new head coach, a new offensive coordinator, a new defensive coordinator, and an entirely different quarterback room. It’s easy to forget that Carson Palmer retired in January, as expected, but it’s also easy to forget that with a healthy Palmer this was a team that many felt could win the NFC just two seasons ago. Now, that quarterback is gone, Drew Stanton has gone to Backup Quarterback Heaven, and has anyone checked on Ryan Lindley? Bradford, like Palmer, comes with major durability concerns, and, like Stanton, Glennon is a nice guy to have as your team’s No. 2 option. Keim was obviously uneasy about heading into 2017 with Palmer and Stanton as his quarterback options, which is why Patrick Mahomes was close to wearing a very different shade of red to begin his pro career.
I find it hard to believe that if Keim was uneasy about heading into a season with a quarterback like Palmer, he’s solicitous at the idea of heading into the 2018 season with Bradford as his No. 1 option. If Keim lands Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, or even Lamar Jackson in the first round adding two veterans like Bradford and Glennon to new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy’s quarterback room looks a lot better.
Remind you of anyone?
You’re right, the Philadelphia Eagles under Howie Roseman did something similar when they traded for Sam Bradford, signed Basically Mike Glennon If We’re Being Honest Chase Daniel and still traded up for Carson Wentz. Roseman’s Eagles just won the Super Bowl, and they did it without any of the quarterbacks named in this paragraph -- Nick Foles. It took some time, but Roseman found his guy and found another guy and another guy and won the Super Bowl. The Vikings, another NFC championship representative, started the season with Bradford, missed their franchise quarterback Teddy Bridgewater whom they traded up for a few years prior, and came just one game short of being the first team to play in the Super Bowl in their own city with Case Keenum under center.
Why not Arizona?
It’d be costly, but it always is. It worked out for the Eagles, it worked out for the Rams, it may have even worked out for the Redskins if Robert Griffin III could have stayed on the field. The Cardinals still have too much talent to reach the point where they’ll be drafting No. 1 or No. 2 overall. To get their next franchise quarterback they’ll have to give up a lot of picks to get their next franchise quarterback. That’s just how this works, unless you stumble into a Wilson or Prescott, of course, but that’s a rarity. The Eagles traded away two first-round picks, a second-round pick, a third-round pick, and a fourth-round pick over the course of three drafts and something tells me Roseman would do it again every single time. For the Cardinals to get the Browns’ No. 4 pick, or even the Giants’ No. 2 pick, it’ll hurt, but if it results in Keim landing a franchise quarterback for the next fifteen years, it’ll hurt significantly less.
Right now, it’s fun to joke about Keim paying Bradford $20 million on a one-year deal. It’s fun to joke about Keim signing Glennon for, really, any amount of money. It’s not as fun to remember that Keim’s teams are 49-30-1 since he took over in Arizona, which makes him the most successful general manager in the history of the franchise.
Maybe Keim deserves the benefit of the doubt? Maybe the defense won’t fall apart without Tyrann Mathieu roaming the secondary. Maybe his decision to hire Steve Wilks away from Carolina turns out to be a home run. Maybe bringing in McCoy, who built successful offenses around Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning, was a sneaky, perfect hire. Maybe Keim knows what he’s doing. Actually, I’d bet that he does.
It could be Rosen, it could be Darnold, it could be Mayfield, who knows, but I know Keim isn’t finished. He had Mitch Trubisky on his “short list” of quarterbacks, he “loved” Mahomes, and he didn’t land any of them. It’s hard to see the best general manager in the history of the Arizona Cardinals going back-to-back drafts without landing their next quarterback of the future.
Keim is an aggressive general manager, and it’s paid off. But the Cardinals need to find their next “guy” under center, and they know that. Bradford and Glennon don’t signal that Keim is done. He’s got time, but he still has to deliver. The Cardinals are still a good football team, they just need a franchise quarterback.