Arizona Cardinals extend contracts of GM Steve Keim, coach Kliff Kingsbury through 2027
There’s no telling when or if quarterback Kyler Murray will receive the contract extension he’s seeking from the Cardinals this year. The team just made a major long-term commitment to Murray’s head coach and general manager, however.
The Cardinals announced Wednesday they have reached agreements on a contract extension with coach Kliff Kingsbury and GM Steve Keim on deals that will keep each of them with the team through the 2027 season.
“The leadership of both Steve and Kliff have been key factors in the team’s turnaround over the last three seasons,” Cardinals Owner Michael Bidwill said in a statement. “We are all looking forward to continuing that progress and recognize these two individuals will be a big part of achieving our long-term goals as an organization.”
Kingsbury initially signed a four-year deal upon getting hired in 2019 and was set to enter the final year of his deal. Keim agreed to an extension in 2018 that was set to last through the 2022 season.
Reactions: Cardinals slammed for Kingsbury, Keim contract extensions
After finishing last in the NFL with a 3-13 record in 2018, the Cardinals fired head coach Steve Wilks after one season and elected to also move on from rookie quarterback Josh Rosen, their first-round draft pick that year. Bidwill and Keim replaced Wilks with Kingsbury, the former Texas Tech head coach, and used the No.1 overall pick in 2019 on Murray, the Heisman Trophy winner out of Oklahoma.
Arizona improved to 5-10-1 in 2019, 8-8 in 2020 and went 11-6 this past season, reaching the playoffs for the first time in six years but falling to the Rams, 34-11, in the NFC Wild Card round.
Shortly after the Cardinals made the announcement, Kingsbury’s agent responded on Twitter.
“Congrats to client Kliff Kingsbury on his well-earn extension,” Erick Burkhardt wrote.
Burkhardt also represents Murray and on Monday, the agent released a statement strongly suggesting that the Cardinals need to get a new, long-term deal worked out with the quarterback, who is eligible for an extension. It’s not clear how the new deals for Keim and Kingsbury might impact negotiations with Murray but working with Burkhardt on a new contract for Kingsbury could be interpreted as a positive sign for Murray.
In his first three NFL seasons, Murray has been named Offensive Rookie of the Year and been named to two Pro Bowls. He is seeking a deal similar to the six-year, $258 million deal the Bills awarded quarterback Josh Allen.
Keim was asked on Tuesday while attending the scouting combine in Indianapolis if he and the Cardinals have seen enough out of Murray to warrant that type of contract.
“I don’t want to get into any sort of speculation or negotiation thoughts, but I will say this, looking back three years ago, the strides that he’s made, both on and off the field, have been very impressive,” Keim told reporters. “There’s no doubt that he’s a huge, huge reason for the turnaround and success.”
Keim said the Cardinals “absolutely” will pick up the fifth-year option for Murray in 2023, which will allow the team to control Murray’s rights for at least another two years. He’s scheduled to earn $5.5 million in 2022 and his salary will jump to $29.7 million in 2023. If the Cardinals were to sign him to an extension this year, those numbers would change.
Keim recently completed his 23rd season with the Cardinals and his ninth as general manager after being named to that position in 2013. He joined the franchise as a scout in 1999, was elevated to director of college scouting in 2006, promoted to director of player personnel in 2008 and then vice president of player personnel in 2012.
Of the six seasons in franchise history in which the Cardinals have won 11 or more games, three have come during Keim’s nine years as GM (2013-21). He’s had a knack for pulling off notoriously one-sided trades in favor of Arizona, namely ones involving quarterback Carson Palmer in 2013, pass rusher Chandler Jones in 2016, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in 2020, and center Rodney Hudson and tight end Zach Ertz last year.
Under Kingsbury, the Cardinals had the NFL’s 8th ranked offense in 2021 after finishing with the 6th ranked offense in 2020. It marked just the second time (2015-16) since relocating to Arizona in 1988 that the franchise had a top-10 offense in back-to-back seasons.
During his short tenure, Kingsbury also oversaw an offense that posted 400-plus yards in a game 20 times, which ranks fifth in the league over that stretch. It also posted 400-plus yards and scored 30 or more points in a game 14 times, tied for fourth in the NFL.
Though the Cardinals improved every year under Kingsbury in total victories, the team also suffered second-half slides in each of his three seasons. After a 3-3-1 start his first year, the Cardinals went on to lose seven of their final nine games. Following a 5-2 start in 2020, Arizona dropped six of their final nine games, just missing out on a playoff berth.
Last season, the team streaked to a 7-0 start, improved to 10-2, but then went on to lose five of its last six games, including the playoff game to the Rams.
According to published reports, the Cardinals have granted wide receiver Andy Isabella permission to seek a trade. A former second-round pick out of UMass, Isabella has steadily fallen down the depth chart and wasn’t expected to have much of a role this upcoming season. Arizona used the second-round pick it received from the Dolphins in exchange for Rosen to draft Isabella in 2019.
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