Steve Keim has worked for the Cardinals since 1999, a span in which the offensive line for too many of those years was not that good.
"We've had a lot of lean years up front," the current General Manager said. "We wanted to emphasize getting bigger and more physical up front. Now when you look at our offensive line, I don't see many weaknesses."
Keim's comment came after Thursday night's first-round selection of Florida tackle D.J. Humphries in the NFL draft, the latest piece in the Cardinals' constant offensive line upgrade. Guard Mike Iupati was the big free-agent signee in March, left tackle Jared Veldheer was the big free-agent signee in 2014, and right guard Jonathan Cooper was the No. 1 draft pick in 2013.
It hasn't been hard to figure out the plan.
"We said we would build the lines offensively and defensively," coach Bruce Arians said.
Humphries will compete with 2014 starter Bobby Massie for the right tackle job, Arians said. Humphries said he will have no problem flipping from playing the left side in college to the right side. Massie is scheduled to be a free agent after the 2015 season, but Keim said the Humphries pick was about taking the best player available and not as a hedge for the future.
Keim did consider trading up and had conversations with teams to do so, but the Cardinals were not willing to pay the requested price to leave pick No. 24. There is a chance that could have changed the Cards' outcome Thursday, with pass rushers Bud Dupree and Shane Ray going off the board in the two picks directly in front of the Cards to the Steelers and Broncos, respectively.
Pass rush is an area of need for the Cardinals, but the first round is about talent, and Keim said Humphries was the 13th-rated player on their draft board. There was a potential to trade down as well, but the Cardinals had no interest in passing up a chance for Humphries.
"The things we are looking for in an offensive linemen, he possesses all of them," Arians said.
Only 21, Humphries came out of Florida after his junior year even though the NFL Advisory Board told him he would be better off to stay in school another year to improve his draft stock.
He gained weight – 290 pounds to his current 315, mostly due to "meat and potatoes," he said – yet believes his footwork is
even better now. He wowed teams at the Scouting combine with his athleticism and said for the most part, he never had doubts in his decision.
"I believed I could be a first-round draft pick, and I believed I could put the work in to make myself a first-round draft pick," Humphries said. "Once I am committed to doing something, I'm all the way in."
Keim noted that Humphries was one of the "cleaner" prospects the Cardinals looked at, meaning that not only did he grade well in football, he impressed with both his medical check and off the field. In fact, asked what he brings to a team outside of football, Humphries said his personality helps a locker room.
"I feel like I'm a pretty awesome person," he said with a chuckle, drawing laughs during his conference call.
If he can also turn into an awesome football player, the Cardinals will have something special. No starter on the offensive line right now is older than 27 years old. There are other places where the Cardinals figure to look in the draft the next couple of days – running back and pass rusher among them – but if the game starts up front, Keim has the men he wants for the ride.
"This is a group that could potentially be together for four or five years and you can grow with and evolve hopefully into one of the best lines in football," Keim said. "Going from where we were years ago from one of the weaker units to be of the strongest, to me, is a tremendous accomplishment."
Images of Florida offensive tackle D.J. Humphries, the Cardinals' pick at No. 24 overall