Cardinals GM Steve Keim (left) and coach Bruce Arians are confident in the roster despite some free agent losses.
Bruce Arians wore a large sling on his shoulder as he arrived at Steak 44 in Phoenix for a charity dinner Wednesday night.
The Cardinals coach was in high spirits, explaining that the surgery to repair his torn rotator cuff actually went better than it appeared.
“Hopefully I’ll play golf in June or July,” said Arians, who was attending the “Dinner of Champions” to benefit the Animal Rescue Foundation of Diamondbacks chief baseball analyst Tony La Russa. “The original plan was that I wouldn’t play golf until next year.”
Arians and General Manager Steve Keim feel like free agency held similar deception. While the team took some hits, it wasn’t as bad as it looked.
The Cardinals lost five defensive starters in less than two weeks—including star defensive tackle Calais Campbell and breakout safety Tony Jefferson – but Keim and Arians spoke confidently on Wednesday, believing the infrastructure is in place to replace the departed contributors.
“The one thing you can see is we’ve obviously done a good job of identifying those players,” Keim said. “When guys like Marcus Cooper are getting $5-plus million or D.J. Swearinger are getting big contracts – these are guys we took off the street that nobody else wanted. I think our personnel department does a fantastic job. Our coaches do a fantastic job of developing these players and getting them ready.”
One thing that stood out to both decision-makers during the season was a lack of passion and leadership in the locker room. That’s why they targeted veterans Karlos Dansby, Antoine Bethea and Phil Dawson to add to the fold. Arians was “ecstatic” with the free agent additions and Keim explained what the trio will bring.
“Tremendous leaders,” Keim said. “Guys who have had success in the NFL. When you look at a guy like Karlos, he came in and I had dinner with him. The next day, he came into our facility, and his enthusiasm and passion for the game – there was an energy in our building that was missing, to me, to some degree. It was exciting to have him back. He couldn’t shut up.”
While Keim has signed big names in free agency in the past, he hasn’t done so in the past two offseasons. He is wary of making a move unless he is fully confident the player will live up to the contract.
“When you look at history of free agency, the fact that it’s like the draft and it’s an inexact science, there’s a lot of mistakes that are being made,” Keim said. “When you’re getting into a situation where you are paying large contracts and paying an excess amount of money, you get into a position where if that player doesn’t have success, not only are you putting team in a bad position, you’re incurring dead money moving forward. I feel like in the last four years we’ve done a great job of (limiting dead money).”
While the defections have left voids, Arians feels like the roster is in good shape. Robert Nkemdiche and Rodney Gunter were drafted to replace Campbell. Arians didn’t want to lose Cooper, but the market was hot.
“I told you guys at the combine Coop was getting paid,” Arians said. “Everybody was saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got to find a corner.’ ‘We’ve got one, dammit. Shut up.’ Now he got a hell of a contract. But Brandon (Williams) is ready. Justin (Bethel) is going to be much, much better, and the draft is loaded with corners.”
Arians certainly isn’t stressing about the state of the team. His bigger concern now is getting Larry Fitzgerald to pony up for his shoulder surgery after causing the injury while celebrating the Week 16 upset in Seattle.
Arians said a “Get well” card won’t cut it from his star receiver.
“Oh, hell no,” Arians said. “It’s going to be a “Get well” convertible. I’m just still deciding what kind.”
Keeping track of the arrivals and departures during the free agency period