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Cardinals GM Steve Keim: ‘Free agency is going to be an important part’ of the draft process

In all, 256 selections will be made next weekend at the 2014 NFL Draft.

And each year, the last player taken in the annual selection process is dubiously bestowed with the title of Mr. Irrelevant.

But as Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim reiterated Thursday, plenty of relevant assets will be found after pick No. 256.

“Now with the ability to bring 90 guys in, free agency is going to be an important part of the process,” Keim said. “In the past, it could be judged as throwing darts. We’ll have some grades up there of players who we think can make significant contributions.

“So, we have to be smart not only in the way that we draft, but then we flip our board and it becomes the free agent board. We have to attack that board just as aggressively.”

On paper, at least, it would appear that the Cardinals will have a little more time this year to digest the latter board. In the 2013 draft, Arizona had nine picks scattered over all seven rounds. This spring, however, Keim and Co. have one a piece in each of the first six rounds.

While the focus has been on preparing the 120-player big board, the Cardinals general manager admitted that the potential free agent pool isn’t far from his mind either.

“This year it’d be after the sixth round pick, unless we acquire more,” said Keim in response to be asked when his attention will turn towards free agency. “I can tell you this, for the past two weeks we’ve been aggressively calling players and planting seeds that if somehow they go undrafted I feel like this would be a great fit for them.”

Two of Arizona’s undrafted free agents from a season ago — Jaron Brown and Tony Jefferson — made notable contributions during the team’s 10-6 campaign.

Brown caught 11 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown, while Jefferson starred on special teams and made two starts at safety, finishing with 24 total tackles.

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