Ranking the 5 Best Candidates to Replace Fired Cardinals GM Rod Graves

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystDecember 31, 2012

Ranking the 5 Best Candidates to Replace Fired Cardinals GM Rod Graves

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    It's "Black Monday" across the National Football League, and not only are head coaches feeling the wrath of disappointed and angry owners, but general managers are as well.

    Among the casualties is Arizona Cardinals general manager Rod Graves, whose inability to find a viable replacement for Kurt Warner at quarterback eventually cost him his job (per ESPN.com).

    The search now begins for his replacement and here's a look at some of the leading candidates.

Kevin Abrams

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    The first two names on this list would be fantastic gets for the Cardinals, but they're probably more pipe dream than realistic target.

    Kevin Abrams has functioned as assistant general manager for the New York Giants for the past 11 seasons, and given the annual success that the G-Men enjoy in the draft, Abrams is sure to be a hot name on the GM market this year.

    In addition, Abrams has an intimate knowledge of the intricacies of navigating the NFL's salary cap, having served as the Giants' salary cap analyst for three years before becoming Jerry Reese's right-hand man.

Tom Gamble

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    Tom Gamble, the Director of Player Personnel for the San Francisco 49ers, is probably going to have to get a new phone line installed at his house because of all the calls he's going to be fielding from teams wanting to interview him as a potential general manager.

    Gamble worked under Bill Polian with the Indianapolis Colts and has extensive experience at both the collegiate and professional levels.

    There's probably no hotter name on the GM market right now.

    Unfortunately, there's a very narrow window open in which to interview Gamble. With the 49ers still alive in the playoffs, the Cardinals need permission from a division rival to speak to him and there are a handful of other NFL teams knocking at his door.

    It'd be a great hire, but it's an improbable one.

Jimmy Raye

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    Jimmy Raye has been a fixture with the San Diego Chargers for well over a decade, serving as first a scout and director of college scouting before becoming Director of Player Personnel in 2008.

    Given all the vacancies that have opened up around the NFL, Raye could be a difficult get for the Redbirds—especially since the Chargers have a vacancy at general manager of their own after A.J. Smith was shown the door.

Steve Keim

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    Now we've reached the part of the program where we discuss the in-house candidates.

    In other words, one of these next two guys is most likely getting the gig.

    Vice President of Player Personnel Steve Keim has been with the Cardinals since 1999, and served as the director of player personnel from 2008 until May of last year, when he was promoted into his present position.

    However, whether it's in Phoenix or elsewhere it doesn't appear that Keim will hold his current spot very long, as Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the Browns are expected to interview Keim for their general manager vacancy.

Jason Licht

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    If the Cardinals do decide to look in-house for Graves' replacement, then the leader in the clubhouse is likely Jason Licht, who served as Director of Player Personnel in 2012.

    Before that, Licht spent two seasons in a similar role with the New England Patriots and he is now believed to be one of the top candidates (per ESPN's Adam Schefter) to replace Gene Smith as general manager of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    Licht may well be the most likely replacement for Graves, assuming that he wishes to stay with the team.