BY: ED COLE
GLENDALE, Ariz. – A steady increase in wins (10 in 2013, 11 in 2014, 13 in 2015) and a berth in the NFC Championship Game last January will have any free agent making a double-take in the direction of the Arizona Cardinals.
“There is no question,” Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said. “The culture has really shifted; just going back three years ago into my first year as the GM versus now, the amount of calls that I get from agents that are recruiting us to talk to their players. That was the goal in mind three years ago when we set this thing in place, was why not Phoenix? We have the weather. We have the facilities now. (Cardinals team president and owner) Michael (Bidwill) has put the resources into this building. And, we have a really good team, and play in one of the top five stadiums (University of Phoenix Stadium), in my opinion, in the NFL. So, when you bundle all that with the cost of living, the community, the fan base, I feel good about our ability to recruit with the best of them.”
It’s not only the Cardinals being able to keep their own free agents (some of them at a lesser rate than they would’ve gotten on the open market, i.e. Drew Stanton, Jermaine Gresham, Chris Johnson), but it’s their ability to attract top-flight free agents like safety Tyvon Branch, outside linebacker Chandler Jones and right guard Evan Mathis, all of whom who have seen the strides the Cardinals have made in the last three seasons under arguable the best trio in professional football in Bidwill, Keim and head coach Bruce Arians.
“It means a lot,” Jones said. “Coming from a team that had success already, moving forward to another team with this success, it’s a great opportunity.”
For Mathis, who lives with his family in Scottsdale, Ariz., he took the time to study the NFL landscape, and see who the right fit would be for him after he finished his one year with the Denver Broncos, and it was hands down the Cardinals.
“They’ve (Cardinals) been doing a good job of acquiring the right talent and continuing to evolve in so many phases, on the field, off the field, in everything they do,” Mathis said. “It seems like that’s what they’re doing. They’re putting a lot of work in behind the scenes to become a better team, and that definitely is showing.”
Safety Tyrann Mathieu’s not a free agent yet, nor does he want to be, nor do the Cardinals want him to be. He’s got one more year left on his rookie contract, but he, his agents, and the Cardinals are doing all they can to get a new deal done so he can remain a Cardinal, hopefully for the remainder of his playing career.
Mathieu says it’s “a great sign” when he looks and sees that his teammates, who could’ve went on and made more money elsewhere, decide that the better move for them and their families is to stay and continue to build something with the Cardinals. Add on the fact that Jones and Mathis wanted to move from two winning organizations (New England Patriots and the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, respectively), to another one in the Cardinals, and it all spells more and more success coming the Cardinals way.
“With the type of success we’ve been having, on and off the field, guys want to come and play for winners. Everybody wants to be a winner,” Mathieu said. “I think (Cardinals head coach) B.A. (Bruce Arians), and (Cardinals general manager) Steve (Keim), how those guys lead our organization, it speaks volumes throughout the league. A lot of guys can relate to B.A., so in return, a lot of guys want to play for him.”