Steve Keim is making up for his mistakes with Hopkins trade and free agency

Steve+Keim+is+making+progress+to+get+the+Cardinals+on+the+right+track+after+a+5-10-1+season+in+2019.

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Steve Keim is making progress to get the Cardinals on the right track after a 5-10-1 season in 2019.

It is safe to say Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim is not a popular figure in valley sports the past few years. That was until he made perhaps the greatest trade in franchise history.

On March 16, Keim masterminded a blockbuster trade, fleecing Houston Texans head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien by acquiring perennial all-pro wide receiver Deandre Hopkins for David Johnson, a 2020 second round pick and 2021 fourth-rounder.

The word “unbelievable” can tend to be thrown around a lot. When news of the trade came out, there was no other reaction way to describe the the fact Keim pulled off a trade that would not work in the NFL’s most popular video game series, “Madden.”

After the Zack Greinke trade to the Astros that sent over several top prospects, an Arizona team is on the right side of a lopsided trade with a team from Houston for the second time in a year.

Despite some questionable moves in free agency and the draft, Keim has pulled off arguably the two best trades in franchise history.

Chandler Jones was acquired from the Patriots for a second-round pick and Jonathan Cooper in 2016. All Jones has done is rack up 60 sacks in four years, including 19 in 2019. Hopkins has two straight 100-catch seasons and is three-time all-pro.

Questions remain surrounding Keim’s drafting history as GM, particularly in the first round. Out of seven drafts Keim has presided over since becoming GM in 2013, only two first round picks (D.J. Humphries, Haason Reddick) remain with the team. Only one first-rounder (Humphries) has signed a second contract with the Cardinals.

That is not to say he has not had any success in the draft. Keim has picked many gems in the later rounds that have turned into stars and key contributors. Safety Tyrann Mathieu (2013, third round) Safety Budda Baker (2017, second round) defensive tackle Rodney Gunter (2015, fourth round) and Johnson (2015, third round) are some mid-round players drafted by Keim that are currently or were key contributors.

Coming into 2019, Keim’s job security was in question after a disastrous 2018 that saw head coach Steve Wilks fired after one year and quarterback Josh Rosen traded, one year after trading up to draft him 10th overall.

With the nightmare that 2018 was, Keim deserves a ton of credit for the bold moves he has made over the past year. When Keim made the unconventional decision to hire Kliff Kingsbury, who had no NFL coaching experience, and a losing record at Texas Tech, to be the Cardinals’ next head coach, there was an immense amount of skepticism.

Kingsbury took over a unit that was ranked last in the league in total offense in 2018, averaging 14.1 points/per game. It ranked 17th under Kingsbury in 2019, averaging 22.6 points/per game.

Keim also made the franchise-changing gamble of giving up on Josh Rosen after a season and making another criticized decision; selecting 5-foot-10-inch quarterback Kyler Murray first overall in 2019.

Murray had a rough first three quarters in the season opener against the Lions, and the team was down 17-3. Murray then led an 18-point comeback in the fourth quarter, sending the game to overtime. Though that game tied at 27, Murray came alive, igniting a rookie-of-the-year winning campaign.

Murray and Kingsbury were two dramatic gambles. If they blow up in Keim’s face, it likely will cost him his job. It is only one year, but it looks like both are trending in the right direction.

With Murray still on his rookie contract, Keim has aggressively filled one need after another in free agency, bolstering the linebacker core with signings of De’Vondre Campbell and Devon Kennard. Defensive tackle Jordan Philips has been signed to add to what was a weaker pass rush besides Chandler Jones in 2019.

Games have to be played in order to decide whether the signings are justified, but it appears that Keim is making one smart signing after another. A defense that was among the league’s worst in 2019 suddenly has a lot more depth.

Since 2018, the Cardinals have gone a combined 23-39-2, and Keim deserves a share of the blame for that. However, the moves he has made to aggressively reshape the roster for 2020 are an exciting prospect with an extra playoff sport up for grabs starting this year.

Most importantly, Keim has potentially found a game-changing franchise quarterback the organization has lacked for decades.

Line Murray up with a game-changer like Hopkins, another extremely talented wideout in Christian Kirk, a breakout running back in Kenyan Drake and sure-handed veteran Larry Fitzgerald, and there is a good recipe for offensive fireworks.

Though many have tried, a Super Bowl cannot be won in the offseason. Keim, though, is starting to make up for the mistakes of his tenure and get the Cardinals back on a trajectory to hoist that first Lombardi Trophy.

As Terrell Owens once said, “get your popcorn ready.”