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Right mix of money, talent not in the Cards early in free agency

First, I need everyone to take a deep breath.

Just because the Arizona Cardinals didn’t rush to sign a big-name pass-rusher or high-profile cornerback doesn’t mean that the world is ending. Nor does it mean the Cardinals won’t be in good shape next season.

Arizona has two glaring needs, as most everyone who follows this team knows. But general manager Steve Keim has proven in his three seasons that he won’t overpay to fill those needs. It’s a philosophy -- and a strategy -- that he follows strictly. He’d rather draft needs than overpay in free agency. As Keim said at the NFL scouting combine this year, he uses free agency as a way to supplement the draft.

This year happens to be one of the deepest classes of pass-rushers in recent memory. So, why overpay for one that’s either in his late 20s or 30s?

At the NFL scouting combine this year, he also talked about the risks of paying big money for free agents.

“When you get in that position, you have cap casualties, you have dead money that follows,” Keim said.

And even though there was plenty of talent on the board, to him, they weren’t worth it. It’s come out now that the Cardinals went after Jason Pierre-Paul, but he opted to go back to New York. Keim will pick his spots. When he sees the right player at the right price he’ll chase them, but, as was the case with Pierre-Paul, he may not always win.

History has proven him right. Look at the past two years. The biggest free-agent signings were left tackle Jared Veldheer and left guard Mike Iupati. Keim had to address needs and decided to pay a premium because those aren’t positions that draft picks could immediately fill. The Cardinals thought Jonathan Cooper was the guard of the future in 2013, but he didn’t pan out.

When it comes to finding a pass-rusher, the money this year was exorbitant and, in some cases, Arizona just couldn’t compete with teams like Jacksonville and Oakland. The Cardinals had $16.8 million in cap space. The Jaguars had $81.6 million. Who’s going to win the financial fight?

Now, if the Cardinals don’t address both needs in the draft, then it’s time to slowly start panicking because the only hope is to find a veteran who’s looking for a one-year “prove it” deal around the start of training camp. And while Arizona has found them before (see: Jonathan Abraham and Dwight Freeney), it’s not always a guarantee that they’ll be around or that they’ll come through.

For now, though, exhale. Keim has proven he can make good decisions when it comes to managing money spent against the right talent.