NFL Wire News

Cards GM Keim loves loading up on O-linemen


The Sports Xchange

TEMPE, Ariz — For years, the Arizona Cardinals almost ignored drafting offensive linemen. From 2009 through 2012, they drafted only one earlier than the fifth round, Bobby Massie, selected in the fourth round in 2012.

In 2010 and 2011, they didn’t draft even one offensive lineman.

When the team didn’t have superlative play at quarterback, there was nothing to fall back on, and it led to losing three consecutive non-winning seasons.

Steve Keim committed to changing that when he became general manager in 2013, vowing to put a premium on improving line play on both sides of the ball.

He backed up that vow again in this year’s draft, taking Florida tackle D.J. Humphries with the 24th overall pick.

In three offseasons, Keim selected offensive linemen in the first round twice. His two most expensive free agent acquisitions also were linemen, left tackle Jared Veldheer and left guard Mike Iupati.

“Listen, being here for 17 years, many of you know we’ve had a lot of lean years up front where our offensive line was a major weakness,” Keim said. “I talked about this two years ago, and the minute we hired Bruce (Arians as coach), we wanted to emphasize getting bigger and more physical up front.

“Now when you look at our offensive line, I don’t see many glaring weaknesses.”

The Cardinals vowed not to pick for need in this draft, and they appeared to back that up with the selection of Humphries.

Both starting tackles, Veldheer and Massie, return after playing well last season.

However, the Cardinals had Humphries ranked 13th on their board of 130 players and declined offers to trade down because they thought Humphries would be gone.

Humphries will compete with Massie for the right tackle job. No matter who wins it, the oldest starting offensive lineman will be no older than 29.

“This is a group that can potentially be together for four to five years, who you can grow with,” Keim said. “Hopefully, (it) will evolve into one of the best lines in football. Again, going from where we were years ago, having one of the weaker units, to being one of the stronger units is a tremendous accomplishment.”

Keim said Humphries was selected with an eye toward 2016. But Massie will be a free agent then, and the Cardinals already have a lot invested in Veldheer, Iupati and guard Jonathan Cooper.

If Massie plays well in 2015, he will merit more money than the Cardinals likely would be willing to pay.

“It’s just a guy you can’t pass up,” Keim said of Humphries. “One of the first things I asked him when I called him was if he was disappointed not going to his hometown team (the Carolina Panthers) right behind us, and he answered no, he wanted to come to Arizona the whole time.

“He passed the intelligence test.”

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