Choosing the starting running back for the Arizona Cardinals is simple, General Manager Steve Keim said Friday.
"The guy who is under contract, and the guy who earns it," Keim said during an extended interview on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
The Cards have already engaged in contract talks with free-agent-to-be Kenyan Drake, and "I made it clear we would like to have him back," Keim said.
As for David Johnson, who lost his job to Drake and who carries a guaranteed salary of more than $10 million for 2020 (and a salary cap hit of more than $14M), the plan is to find a spot for him.
"Cutting him is not an option," Keim said. "Not only the cap hit, but you're still paying him the cash as well, and it wouldn't be responsible for me or the organization for me to do that."
Keim declined to get into speculation about any potential Johnson trade (although that also would carry financial hurdles given that his new team would have to agree to absorb Johnson's salary as is).
"If David Johnson isn't the starter, he still has a significant role," Keim said. "He still creates big-time mismatches in the passing game, he still brings kick return ability. There are a number of things, and you can't just have one back. You have to have a platoon of backs. We've seen that. So there are enough carries to go around."
Keim emphasized "I still have a lot of faith in David," Keim said. "He's got tremendous skills, he's a great person, he works extremely hard. I think it was one of those things, if you look at the big picture, Chase (Edmonds) got hurt, David got hurt, we made the trade (for Drake), and Kenyan Drake came in and he got the hot hand."
-- Keim said he is "very optimistic" left tackle D.J. Humphries, who is scheduled to become a free agent, will return.
"I am very proud, not only of the way he played but also his maturation," Keim said. "The way he has progressed as a worker, as a leader. ... (Offensive line coach) Sean Kugler has been fantastic for that room. It certainly was the area of the most improvement for our football team was the offensive line. They stayed healthy, we ran the football effectively this year, and D.J. Humphries was a big reason for that."
Keim added that after looking at the free-agent crop and talking to the rest of the front office and Kugler, "we all feel very confident D.J. Humphries has grown into one of the better tackles in the National Football League."
-- There have been initial contract extension talks with cornerback Patrick Peterson, who is going into the last year of his contract. Keim didn't want to get into details but noted that both he and chairman/team president Michael Bidwill would "love to see him retire as a Cardinal."
"When you look at the body of work last year, he'd be the first to tell you he didn't play up to expectations," Keim said. "The last three games he played excellent, the way we expected him to play. I think he's got a chip on his shoulder and I think he's going to come back with a vengeance."
-- Keim on the signing of CFL quarterback Chris Streveler: "He has to make the team first, but he is someone we followed. He's competitive, he's fun to watch, he's a gritty guy, he can really run, make plays with his feet. It'll be interesting to see him in this offense. Maybe there is a little Taysom Hill, he brings different things to the table. But it's all projection."
-- Keim was asked about the support Bidwill gave him this week despite criticism of Keim from fans and media.
"It's always good to have support from your boss," Keim said. "This business comes with that pressure. That's what I've done the past few years, you have to look at it an embrace that pressure. This job isn't for everybody. Hopefully I do a good enough job, and have thick enough skin, to not take it personal. ... It's my job to make it better, it's a results-based business, and I get that."
Later, Keim called it an "honor" to have the GM job.
"Through the good and bad that has happened here, I truly believe in my heart that the next chapter is going to be the best of all," Keim said. "So I hope the fans are excited, and are ready for this ride."
The top images from the Cardinals' 2019 regular season