Cards win without spending

Cheap or frugal? That is the question.

In a recent ESPN The Magazine/Sportingintelligence Global Salary Survey, the Arizona Cardinals ranked last among NFL team in average annual salary, shelling out $1,123,249 per player in 2013.

Compared to 294 teams across various sports in 13 other leagues from across the world, the Cardinals are ranked 187th in average annual pay, down from their ranking of 159th last year.

The Cardinals’ payments from 2012 to 2013 are down 40.6 percent and their total bill wage was $59,532,174. But when it comes to long-term earnings by Cardinals players, their five-year average earning was $9.46 million, ranked 133rd.

So, what does this mean? Do the Cardinals not like to open their wallet? Or are they smart with how they spend their money?

After last season, it’s safe to say the Cards are spending more wisely.

General manager Steve Keim understands the value of the dollar better than his predecessor and he knows how to make contracts work in the Cardinals' favor. Too many teams in the NFL overspend on talent that never reaches its full potential or expectations.

Take this offseason for example. The Cardinals' only major investment came in left tackle Jared Veldheer, who signed a five-year contract worth $35 million because his job comes at a premium in the NFL. Arizona’s other high-profile signings, Ted Ginn and Antonio Cromartie, will make an average of $3.75 million and $3.5 million per year, respectively. But those numbers are offset by the Cardinals' desire to play young players. Besides Ryan Williams, none of the Cards’ running backs make more than $795,000.

Their starter, Andre Ellington, will make $495,000 in 2014.

Keim knows how to get the most for the least amount of money. Arizona doesn’t need to be among the biggest spenders in the league. The Cardinals went 10-6 last season and barely missed the playoffs by spending an average of $1.1 million on their players.

Keim’s philosophy is changing the organization one dollar at a time.