The Arizona Cardinals are preparing to have a new general manager starting with next season.
After announcing earlier this week that sitting GM Steve Keim is taking a medical leave of absence from the team, the prevailing thought around the league is that he'll be replaced permanently in that role starting in 2023.
In Keim's absence, the reason for which has been kept private, general manager duties are being split between VP of player personnel Quentin Harris and VP of pro personnel Adrian Wilson. Sources around the league believe both will be in consideration for the full-time role after the season ends.
According to league sources, team owner Michael Bidwill was particularly active talking one on one with participants of last week's accelerator program, where 32 minority candidates across 28 clubs joined the league meetings in Texas to learn, shadow and network with NFL decision-makers.
Questions about the immediate future of Keim and head coach Kliff Kingsbury emerged prior to Keim's leave, amid a disappointing season and despite the contract extensions both men signed in the offseason. At 4-9, the Cardinals were officially eliminated from playoff contention following Monday night's loss to New England, in which starting quarterback Kyler Murray tore his ACL, ending his season.
Murray, whose on-field performance prior to injury was falling short of expectations for a franchise quarterback who just inked a $230.5 million contract, had already suffered through the embarrassment of the unprecedented homework clause briefly included in that deal.
Issues both on and off the field that have dogged the Cardinals since making the playoffs following the 2021 season for the first time since 2015 -- an appearance that saw them get blown out by the eventual Super Bowl champion Rams.
Prior to this season, the NFL suspended franchise wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for the first six games of the season for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Running backs coach James Saxon was placed on administrative leave in August before pleading guilty to domestic battery charges. He eventually resigned. Offensive line coach Sean Kugler was fired in November for allegedly groping a hotel security worker at the team's Mexico City hotel.
Just this week, Kugler filed a request for arbitration. He called the allegations "mysterious" and "untrue," wondering in a statement whether it was "a miscommunication or mistaken identity." The Cardinals said in a statement they were "confident the process will result in a much different set of facts than those presented" and that they had "good cause" to fire Kugler.
As for who will take on the responsibility of rebuilding the team starting in 2023, both Harris and Wilson are well respected by their industry peers and are considered GM candidates -- whether in Arizona or elsewhere.
Harris played for the Cardinals from 2002 to 2005 as a safety out of Syracuse. He joined the Cardinals as a pro scout in 2008 and earned the VP title in 2021.
Wilson is a Cardinals legend who's in the team's Ring of Honor as a three-time All-Pro safety during his decade-plus with the team. He's worked his way up the scouting ladder with the team since his 2015 retirement.
But many around the league wonder if Bidwill would hire an external candidate. It's been nearly three decades since the Cardinals have hired a general manager from outside the organization. In 1994, legendary coach Buddy Ryan was named head coach and GM. The Cardinals' three GMs since then — Bob Ferguson, Rod Graves and Keim — have all been promoted from within.