One year's worth of free-agent signings isn't enough to judge Steve Keim (and his staff) -- even if the Cardinals general manager hit some home runs in his first season with Karlos Dansby, John Abraham, and some extra base hits with the likes of Alameda Ta'amu, Matt Shaughnessy and Frostee Rucker.

But one thing has become clear about Keim and Co.: They are a shrewd bunch who won't overspend to fill their needs. Arizona wanted to bring back Dansby, but when Cleveland offered him a four-year deal, the Cardinals moved on, hoping that 2013 second-round Kevin Minter can plug the hole, even though he has a different skill set than Dansby.

And with cornerback Antonio Cromartie still testing the market after a Tempe visit last week, the Cardinals are holding firm on an offer they think is reasonable.

This doesn't always sit well wit the fan base, which wants immediate gratification and is all too willing to spend somebody else's money on the next shiny thing they see on the shelf.

It's also difficult for coaches to sit by and watch good players leave or just pass through, because coaching is an immediate results business that doesn't afford the luxury of building.

But GMs must focus on winning now while making sure they can win in the future. That means building wisely through the draft, building wisely through free agency and managing the finances so they don't come back to bite you -- even if that means letting talent walk.

The Cardinals already have a little more than $10 million in dead money that will count against the cap in 2014, in large part due to previous contracts with tackle Levi Brown and guard Adam Snyder. Deals like that are going to happen from time to time, but Keim and his staff have been careful to structure contracts the past couple seasons -- either through one-year deals or creativity -- that won't hurt the Cardinals down the road.

Arizona went into free agency this season with several needs. They needed a left tackle and they wanted to add a third receiver with speed to replace Andre Roberts, who they expected to walk in free agency. They wanted to add a cornerback, and they wanted to improve their tight end situation, given the importance of that position in coach Bruce Arians' system and the slow progress of 2011 third-round pick Rob Housler. They also need a strong safety who is capable of covering tight ends.