Market to dictate Cards' aggressiveness

TEMPE, Ariz. -- When the Arizona Cardinals start free agency on March 11, they’ll be like a race car driver who’s being strategic with their gas.

Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said Thursday on SiriusXM NFL Radio from the NFL combine in Indianapolis that Arizona will approach free agency aggressively but they’ll still be smart with their money.

“Aggressive doesn’t mean overspend or being unwise with our money,” Keim said. “We have to budget. That’s why we run all the statistical analysis on the market, age of players, position, that sort of thing, and we have a great database to go off of.”

According to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, the salary cap for 2014 is expected to be raised to $130 million, which gave the Cardinals about $11 million of cap space to work with, according to Keim. The majority of that sum came from Larry Fitzgerald restructuring his contract.

The extra money – about $9 million from Fitzgerald – will allow Arizona to be more aggressive once free agency kicks off.

“We’ll approach some of the top guys in free agency in positions in need but you have to be ready to move on to the next guy,” Keim said.

That patience has paid off for Keim, who signed a bevy of B-list free agents in 2013 that led the Cardinals to a 10-6 season. This year, however, one of the Cards' primary needs is on the offensive line. They want to strengthen left tackle, occupied last season by Bradley Sowell, and may need to restock right tackle if they can’t re-sign Eric Winston. Tops on the free-agency market is Kansas City left tackle Branden Albert, who made $9.8 million last season. But don't expect to see the Cardinals rushing to sign a tackle, or anyone for that matter, once the clock strikes 2 p.m. on March 11 in Arizona.

“It all depends on the market,” Keim said. “We’ll see where the market goes. After probably the first two to three hours of free agency, people will start to panic and things will settle in.”

But first, Arizona wants to take care of some in-house free agents.

Keim said Arizona recently concluded a series of meetings about its 15 unrestricted free agents, of which the Cardinals would like to “address several of our own players” – including linebacker Karlos Dansby. Dansby played under a $2.25 million contract in 2014 and could ask for as much as $10 million to potential suitors. But that’s the type of money Arizona may not want to pay for a 32-year-old inside linebacker, regardless of his career season in 2013.

“He's a big priority,” Keim said during his combine news conference. “Karlos is a guy we'd like to have back. He's a great leader. He's a good football player. Hopefully, we can get something done but you have to be prepared to move on, from any player. That's why we drafted Kevin Minter in the second round last year. We saw some good things out of Kevin in training camp, in preseason football.

“And that's how you have to build your team. You know, at times you are going to lose players. You have to have the right kind of depth. That's why on draft day you can never draft for need because needs are always changing.”