How Cardinals GM Steve Keim botched the Josh Rosen situation
The Josh Rosen era lasted one year in Arizona, and it ended when Rosen was shipped out for a late second-round pick (and a future fifth-round pick). A year ago, Arizona traded up to No. 10 by giving up the No. 15 overall pick and picks in both the third and fifth rounds.
When you look at the evidence as a whole, it sure looks like Arizona GM Steve Keim botched the handling of this when he ended up with a late second-round pick for Rosen once the draft was underway. A GM cannot fall for the sunken cost fallacy, and there was no way that the Cardinals were going to come out of this getting anywhere near the value they surrendered a year ago. But they could have gotten more, and a better result from the whole process.
Robert Klemko has a deep dive into the Josh Rosen situation at Sports Illustrated, and he talked to Josh Rosen and his agent, Ryan Williams.
Despite the likelihood of the Cardinals taking Kyler Murray at the No. 1 overall pick being out there in the public sphere for awhile, Arizona did not formally initiate trade discussions until the draft was getting going. Rosen was holding out hope that those were just unfounded rumors. In the end, Arizona ended up having a very limited market, with the New York Giants, Washington, and Miami engaging in some trade discussions.
So let’s talk about some of the errors.
The first thing is that Arizona absolutely could have started trade discussions for Rosen before the day of the draft. Sure, the downside is that it gets leaked out that the team is trying to trade Rosen, but they enlist the help of his agency in trying to find the landing spot, in an environment where the time-intensive nature of the draft is not hurting the ability to find a deal. Even if it gets out that the team has talked to Rosen about exploring a trade, they have the first overall pick. No one can outbid them for Kyler Murray. If that is the way they decided to go, there is not that much downside in letting it get out to facilitate the deal. The top overall pick no longer negotiates a big deal; it is basically slotted how much Murray will make.
Sure, teams know that the Cardinals want to take Murray, but they also then know Rosen is officially available, and the price point can take more time to shape up. It can also shape up before teams finalize their draft board and plan of attack.
The second error is to apparently not understand that market, as this segment reveals:
Then at 6 the Giants took former Duke quarterback Daniel Jones, and Keim asked Williams if the Patriots liked his client and might be open to making him the heir apparent to Tom Brady.
Williams was taken aback and grew angry. How did Keim not already know the answer? The whole world knew, or had a good idea, that the Cardinals were taking Murray on Thursday. Why the secrecy? Why are we negotiating trade terms now instead of weeks ago?
And then third, by not understanding that market, the early word that came out is that Arizona wanted a first-round pick. That wasn’t happening. An anonymous Washington executive is quoted as saying “[t]hat’s really bold for someone who just took a QB,” while laughing. If Arizona entered the market early, and understood the value, they could have maybe obtained an early second-round pick for Rosen.
But once Washington selected Dwayne Haskins, it was basically down to Miami bidding against themselves until the price point got to a position where a team that needed a backup would consider trading a third-round pick. Miami played it brilliantly at that point and ended up getting Rosen for cheap. They could have traded the 48th overall pick for Rosen. Instead, they shrewdly traded down, added a 2020 second-round pick from Saints, and got to the end of the round. When you add up all the compensation that Miami got in that trade with New Orleans along with their trade for Rosen, they basically got Rosen and his cheap contract for a mid-to-late third round pick (depending on how valuable that future Saints pick is).
If Keim had made the move earlier, the option of retaining Rosen would have also been on the table. He could have communicated honestly with the agent, could have communicated a price point where they would not make a deal but keep Rosen because he was more valuable than how others perceived him. You could present that as “hey, Josh, we think you are a starter in this league. No one else seems to be willing to give up a pick at this point that represents that, so we think you are more valuable here. If things change and someone makes an offer in the future because of an injury, we will facilitate a deal.” That kind of honesty could have kept the possibility of keeping that relationship intact. Instead, despite the public comments to the contrary about keeping both, it felt like the relationship had to end. Once the Cardinals strung Rosen along past the draft starting, the relationship was gone.