Jul. 28, 2012; Flagstaff, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back LaRod Stephens-Howling (36) is tackled by cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) during training camp practice on the campus of Northern Arizona University. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE
It's not often that you see the Arizona Cardinals look to extend players more than a year before their current contract expires.
That seems to be the case, though, as Cardinals GM Rod Graves stated publicly that he would like to see Daryl Washington, the outstanding young inside linebacker for the Cards, with the team for a few more years. He also mentioned that kick returner/running back LaRod Stephens-Howling also has a future with the club.
There is no underestimating the importance of each of these players for the Cardinals. Washington is an anchor on defense and can play almost any position on the field. Heck, he might even play a little safety in 2012. That is why it is important for the team to keep him around for the long term. Signing him sooner rather than later may be the best option. Said Graves (via Craig Morgan of CBS Sports):
"He's a core player," Graves said. "We haven't sat down to talk contact, but we anticipate doing that soon. He's under consideration like several others. The main point is to keep the group together."
As Morgan mentioned in his article, Graves knows that it may seem somewhat unusual to look to extend a player that is just two years in the league, but Washington is no ordinary player. Washington seems elated that the Cardinals would come to him so soon.
"For them to come to me and want me to be here, it's important... [It shows] respect and understanding [of] my abilities and the way I am on the field and off the field, what kind of person I am."
As for Stephens-Howling, his change of pace running style and ability to return kickoffs at such a successful rate makes him a key cog to both the offense and special teams. He gives his soul for this football team because he is the type of player that does not take for granted where he is at. To keep him in a Cards uniform for the next few years should be paramount on the organization's to-do list.