TEMPE, Ariz. — If all goes according to plan in the first few years of the Steve Keim-Bruce Arians partnership, the
Cardinals will soon look more like the
In other words, the flurry of free-agent signings and releases that defined this offseason will be replaced by a mostly quiet March while the team prepares for the draft.
“Once we’re able to put our stamp on the draft this year and next year, I think you’ll see a cycle where we’re a little more comfortable with maybe a player or two here or there in free agency and then continue to build this team universally through the draft,” Keim said Thursday at a pre-draft press conference at the team’s complex.
The danger in laying out that organizational philosophy so plainly is that Keim and Arians are now under the microscope. If the Cardinals are signing multiple free agents again, three and four years down the road, you’ll know something has gone terribly amiss, and that usually doesn’t portend good things for the longevity of management, scouting and coaching staffs.
But in the salary-cap age, it’s also the best approach to keep payrolls manageable while ensuring a steady flow of coachable talent into the organization in what is increasingly becoming a young man’s game.
It was no surprise that neither Keim nor Arians tipped their hands with regard to their draft strategy on Thursday. They believe this draft is deep in safeties, cornerbacks, offensive linemen and pass rushers, which corresponds to most of the club’s needs.
Although it is unlikely the team will use the No. 7 pick to select a quarterback – an offensive lineman or a pass rusher is more likely – the Cards could choose a QB in the later rounds, in addition to drafting a lineman, a pass rusher, a safety and perhaps a cornerback.
Arians has said in the past that he doesn't see any of the quarterbacks in this year’s draft having a wow factor, but he added Thursday, “I really do believe there are about four or five quarterbacks in this draft that are going to play for a long time.”
Keim said that since last June, the scouting staff has compiled about 3,100 reports on players and the coaching staff recently added 287 more.
“It goes to show you that we’ve done our due diligence and have been very productive,” he said.
As has been noted in the past, the Cardinals will work off their top-120 board when making selections.
“We’re not quite finished,” Keim said of the board, “but the hay is almost in the barn.”
And although they would not say who or what positions they plan to address, both reiterated that they expect the No. 7 pick to play right away and that they will be drafting for talent far more than need.
“There’s always positions you’d like to get but I wouldn’t say
need to get,” Keim said. “I think that’s what free agency is for – shopping for your groceries in free agency and then grabbing for the best players in the draft.”
Of course, the Cardinals will fill some needs next week.
“You’ll have four or five guys graded within a fraction of each other. If one of them is a need position, well, obviously that would take precedent over a strength on your team already,” Arians said. “So if your board’s set properly, you normally have decisions to make between three to five guys that are going to be clumped together at that spot.”