TEMPE, Ariz. -- The draft might be over for the Arizona Cardinals, but their work is far from done.
As soon as their final pick was made Saturday, the Cardinals flipped their draft board and began focusing on signing undrafted free agents. It’s a process that is not quite as detailed as preparing for the draft, but has become an integral part of the draft over the past few years.
“Now with the ability to bring 90 guys in, the free agency is going to be an important part of the process, where in the past it could be judged as throwing darts,” Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said. “We’ll have some grades up there that are players who we think could make significant contributions.
“So, we have to be smart, not only about the way we draft but then we flip our board and it becomes the free-agent board, and we have to attack that board just as aggressively.”
Keim said Saturday that he wished Arizona had a seventh-round pick, but since it doesn't, the Cardinals can get a leg up on recruiting because "quite frankly, I think that's one of the things Bruce and I do best."
Arizona began recruiting players during the few weeks leading up to the draft. They worked the phones, calling prospects who Arizona thought might not be drafted and pitched the Cardinals.
While Keim didn't have a total number he was hoping to sign in the next day ready, he wants to sign two running backs and three to five offensive linemen.
"Those are some of the positions where we can actually get out and be aggressive, pay some money and make sure we get our guys," Keim said. "When you're talking to the agents and the playeres, they're looking at your depth chart and you're just trying to sell the opportunity."
Once the Cardinals’ draft ended, a scout and assistant coach were paired together, and they began working the phones again. For the hundreds of players whose dreams of getting drafted didn’t pan out, an NFL opportunity could still happen.
“Those guys work in concert together,” Keim said, “and they do a fantastic job recruiting players, selling the opportunity.”