Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images
With the Arizona Cardinals holding their first open training camp practice on July 30, many fans will get to see this new team in person in such a highly-anticipated event in Arizona for the upcoming 2021 NFL season. General Manager Steve Keim was able to address many needs in free agency and the draft but he has the reputation of adding proven veterans late in the offseason that end up making a huge impact on the team.
And these late adds are considered “Keim Time” signings.
Here is the growing list: John Abraham, Eric Winston, Dwight Freeney, Jermaine Gresham, Chris Johnson, Tramon Williams, Josh Bynes, Tre Boston, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Kelvin Beachum.
All players above were signed in the months of July or August with the exception of Freeney, who was added in October of 2015.
One position that has not been addressed is tight end but the Cardinals are expected to add a veteran some time within the next month.
Who will this year’s “Keim Time” signing(s) be?
Here are five names to keep in mind:
Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images
Geno Atkins – Defensive Tackle
What is one thing Geno Atkins, Darqueze Dennard, Jordan Phillips, and Shawn Williams have in common?
They all played for Vance Joseph in the NFL and the Cardinals like adding players that their coaches are familiar with. Especially for players added late in the offseason, familiarity is key in lessening the learning curve. Atkins, an 11-year veteran, is only one year removed from a five-sack season with 53 total pressures created and a Pro Bowl selection.
His accolades include eight Pro Bowls and a two-time First-Team All-Pro selection. It did not make sense for the Cincinnati Bengals to limit Atkins to a situational role last season even if he has regressed. I have my doubts that his regression was as steep as the Bengals made it out to be. A starting defensive line with J.J. Watt, Jordan Phillips, and Geno Atkins sounds too exciting to pass up.
Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Tyler Eifert – Tight End
While we are talking about former Bengals, let’s take a look at the opposite side of the ball at a position of need for the Cardinals. At one point in Tyler Eifert’s career, he was considered NFL’s next elite tight end with a stellar 13 touchdown season in 2015. Unfortunately for him, he has been very injury prone having missed 54 career games in his eight year career.
Though he may be susceptible to injury, Eifert may have turned over a new leaf with only one missed game the last two seasons. He was not placed in the most ideal of situations with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Giving Kyler Murray another big-bodied target would be beneficial for the offense.
At 6’6’’ with Eifert’s promising outlook health wise, the Cardinals should take a chance on him. Any free agent at this point will not command top dollars and the Cardinals are in need of a vertical threat at tight end.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Larry Fitzgerald – Wide Receiver
Is Fitzgerald ready to call it a career and hang up the cleats?
That continues to be the biggest question that has been left unanswered since the end of the 2020 season. The legendary Arizona Cardinal is coming off a year where he set career lows across the board in catches (54), receiving yards (409), and touchdowns (1). Though it seems the Cardinals are preparing to move on from the future Hall of Famer with the additions of A.J. Green and Rondale Moore, he will be welcomed back if he decides to return for another season.
Fitzgerald knows the offense so he can continue to take his time before reaching a decision on his NFL future. He turns 38 in August and training camp is right around the corner.
In a recent poll, nearly 52 percent of the 114 voters believes that he will retire.
I want to know what everyone thinks here.
— Andy Kwong (@akwong31) July 13, 2021
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Steven Nelson – Cornerback
The Cardinals already have the numbers at cornerback that includes Byron Murphy, Malcolm Butler, Robert Alford, Darqueze Dennard, Marco Wilson, Tay Gowan, and a few others. With this team facing Julio Jones and A.J. Brown in Week 1, the Cardinals will need all hands on deck for that matchup with the Tennessee Titans.
It would not hurt to add more competition to the cornerback room with the addition of Steven Nelson, who is coming off a two interception season with the Pittsburgh Steelers. At this point, it seems like a wide open cornerback battle among the veterans and the two rookie draft picks. Nelson’s versatility to play slot and wide corner should make him a coveted free agent for a cornerback-needy team.
Nelson recently hinted on Twitter that he could be signing with a new team either today or tomorrow.
Today or tomorrow stay tuned
— Steve Nelson (@Nelson_Island) July 20, 2021
I highly doubt Nelson will be signing with the Cardinals but anything is possible.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Olivier Vernon – Edge Rusher
Chandler Jones skipped mandatory minicamp and OTAs which makes me skeptical about his future with the Cardinals. We are a little over a week away from training camp and there is no update regarding Jones’ situation in Arizona. Jones wants to get paid and deservingly so considering he has been an underpaid elite pass rusher over the last decade. At the same time, he suffered a season-ending torn bicep injury last October and the Cardinals might just want to see if he can recapture his elite form by wanting him to play out his deal.
With the uncertain future of Jones, rehabilitation of Dennis Gardeck from a torn ACL, and the demotion of Devon Kennard last season, the Cardinals might need to add another pass rusher to their roster. Getting a proven pass rusher like Olivier Vernon would be a smart move only if Chandler Jones is moved. By no means am I advocating for Jones to get traded. I would very much like him to remain with the Cardinals.
In 2016, Vance Joseph had a chance to coach Vernon in Miami but the Dolphins rescinded his transition tag that made him a hot commodity in free agency that year. If Jones gets traded, Vernon would be a decent replacement option.
Who would you like the Cardinals to add among the free agents available?
Give us your thoughts below.