Updated Jan 8, 2014 - 1:25 pm
The Five: Top moves in Steve Keim's first year as Arizona Cardinals GM
Promoted from the role of Vice President of Player Personnel, Keim, who was 40 at the time, became the fifth-youngest GM in the NFL.
Coming off a season in which the Cardinals won just five games, he certainly had his work cut out for him. One year and 193 roster moves later, the team's win total doubled, putting Keim in the running for Executive of the Year.
In this edition of "The Five," I'll take a look at the top five moves made under Keim's watch in his first season as general manager.
1. Hiring Bruce Arians
They say it all starts at the top, and the hire of Bruce Arians got the ball rolling on what turned out to be an unexpectedly successful season.
"Enthusiasm, passion, intensity," Keim explained at the time. "Those are some of the words that you can describe Bruce Arians with. But then on top of that we were looking for a guy who was a leader, a guy who was a motivator and we think that's Bruce Arians."
Coming off a season where he guided the Indianapolis Colts to a 9-3 record as an interim coach, Arians had some name recognition, but there were some questions as to whether or not the 60-year-old who also spent time with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs would be able to run the show.
It's safe to say those questions have been answered.
2. Trading for Carson Palmer
The Cardinals needed a quarterback. The Oakland Raiders had a quarterback they didn't want. It was a match made in heaven, and all it took was a seventh-round draft pick.
"Once I had an opportunity to come in and watch the tape, and I actually sat down and watched every one of his throws from the past three years, and I'll tell you what, the guy's ability to make those anticipatory throws," Keim mused back when the deal was made, pointing to specific routes. "The things that Bruce asks his quarterbacks to do in this offense were really some of Carson's strengths, and that's really what excited us."
Palmer completed 362-of-572 passes for 4,274 yards with 24 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. He got off to a bit of a slow start, but rallied to throw for 14 touchdowns and just eight interceptions over the second half of the season.
Palmer did not miss a single snap due to injury or benching, providing a level of stability the likes of which the Cardinals had not seen at QB since Kurt Warner was slinging darts all over the field.
3. Signing Karlos Dansby
It wasn't the most high-profile move of the offseason, but the signing of Karlos Dansby to a one-year deal in May proved to be one of the shrewdest.
The 31-year-old had been released by the Miami Dolphins and failed to land a long-term deal elsewhere, so he decided to return to the place where his NFL career started.
"Adding him back to our mix because of the type of player he is, the type of person he is, the type of leader he is," coach Bruce Arians said at the time. "We're extremely excited he's back being a Cardinal."
Even Arians couldn't have predicted what was to come.
Dansby finished the season with a career-high 122 tackles, 114 of which were solo, along with 6.5 sacks, 4 interceptions, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and two touchdowns. He became one of the team's leaders, and helped guide the defense to its No. 6 ranking. Though he unjustly failed to reach his first Pro Bowl, Dansby earned Second-Team All-Pro honors from the Associated Press and is in the running for Defensive Player of the Year.
4. Second and third-day draft picks
The Arizona Cardinals selected nine players in the 2013 draft, but two of them -- Tyrann Mathieu and Andre Ellington -- stood out above the rest. And, in perhaps a stroke of genius or luck, neither was selected on Day 1.
"Tyrann (Mathieu) was a unique situation," Keim said after using the team's third-round pick, 69th overall, on the defensive back. "It was a player that we've done on our due diligence on. Our scouts have gone to the LSU campus, probably talked to every staff member that has come into contact with Tyrann in his time there. We spent time with Tyrann himself. We flew him into Phoenix and had dinner with him. We spent time with him and Patrick (Peterson) together. At the end of the day, there's always an element of risk to any of these picks. But with the structure we have in place and the agreement we have in place with not only Tyrann but his representative to take the necessary measures to make sure he walks the straight and narrow, we felt comfortable with the risk that was involved."
One season in that appears to be the case, as Mathieu had 68 tackles, two interceptions, one sack and one forced fumble before his season was cut short after 13 games. He also broke up nine passes and had five tackles for loss, leading some to believe he should be Defensive Rookie of the Year.
And Ellington, well, he carried less risk than Mathieu but provided just as big of an impact. The sixth-round pick out of Clemson rushed for 652 yards and three touchdowns while picking up another 371 yards and a score via the air, providing the Cardinals with a dynamic playmaker on the offensive side of the ball. Ellington led the NFL in rushing yards per attempt, and while the Cardinals seemed unwilling to use him as a lead back, there is no doubt he'll have a big role in the team's offense going forward.
5. Signing John Abraham
One of the last additions proved to be one of the best. Signed on the eve of training camp, John Abraham came to the Cardinals with a wealth of experience and a track record of getting to the quarterback.
"People make the comparison to the signing of Bertrand Berry," Cardinals play-by-play man Dave Pasch said at the time, "and nothing against Bertrand because he was a Pro Bowler when he came here from Denver, but this is a guy that has always been a star. And I think he still is."
Abraham failed to register a sack in any of his first six games, struggling to find his footing as a part-time player and leading some to doubt whether the four-time Pro Bowler had anything left in the tank.
Injuries forced him into a more prominent role, however, and he responded with 11.5 sacks over the final 10 games -- including three-sack efforts against the Houston Texans and St. Louis Rams.
Abraham climbed into ninth place on the NFL's all-time sack list with 133.5, and he was selected to his fifth Pro Bowl.
Adam Green, Web Content Editor - ArizonaSports.com
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