Now that Kurt Warner's deal is on the books and Rod Graves and the rest of the Arizona Cardinals front office can turn their attention elsewhere, what will be their next step. There are certainly plenty of options out there with Karlos Dansby needing a long term deal, Anquan Boldin wanting a long term deal, Adrian Wilson entering the final year of his deal and that little thing called free agency. Graves and the rest of the front office will certainly have their hands full, but what's the most pressing need?
First, we should probably talk cap space. Before the start of free agency we were all very hopeful that a big splash was coming because the Cardinals had boat loads of cap room. After franchising Dansby (9.7 million) and signing Warner (11.5 million), the Cardinals are standing somewhere in the neighborhood of $22 million under the cap. They could also open up some more cap room by signing Dansby to a long term deal (could possibly save a couple million) and cutting Edgerrin James ($5 million). Considering that they don't have any more big-name free agents to retain (Berry's probably the biggest but he won't command much), the Cardinals still have plenty of room to make a couple of significant moves.
Free Agency - The obvious answer is free agency simply because they're working against every other team in the league. The Cardinals have hosted four free agents that we know of, Bryant McFadden, LaMont Jordan, John Kuhn and Mike Wright, but have yet to make a significant offer to anyone. This roster still has plenty of needs including, running back, outside linebacker, corner back and depth at safety so they'll have to continue to the search for a free agent that fits their system and pocket book. Speaking of the pocket book, we mentioned earlier in the week that McFadden is looking for much more than the Cardinals are willing to offer but some aren't ready to close the book on him just yet. There is some hope that as the rest of the league picks over the available free agents, the asking price on the remaining players will drop. If McFadden is one of the players left without a chair when the free agency music dies down, the Cardinals might be able to get a bargain. I'd still put it as a long shot, but that's the hope right now.
Adrian Wilson - It may sound crazy, but I think extending A-dub's contract might be the next 'in-house' step for the Arizona Cardinals front office. He's entering the final year of his contract and the 29 year old will carry a $5.6 million dollar cap hit in 2009. After a bounce back season in 2008, Wilson will be looking for a significant contract, especially considering it'll probably be his last big pay day. It's been rumored that the Cardinals are preparing to offer Wilson an extension to the tune of four years at $28 million ($7 million per). I'd have to think that's a fair deal and would lock Wilson up until the twilight of his career. Here are some contracts of the other top safeties around the league:
- Troy Polamalu signed in July of 2007: 4 years at $30.19 million
- Bob Sanders signed in December of 2007: 5 years at $37.5 million
Karlos Dansby - First, Dansby signed his franchise tag tender which doesn't mean a whole lot, other than that he can't negotiate with any other team (which he wasn't doing anyways). The Cardinals have until the middle of July to get Dansby locked up long term or he'll play this season under the tag (with a $9.7 million cap hit) and be a free agent again next off season. If they can get a long term deal in place, it would not only give them some piece of mind for the foreseeable future but it would also lower his cap hit. Even if they agree to a 'front-loaded' contract, it'll still probably be a couple million below his current tagged value. If you're wondering what kind of contract Dansby may be seeking, I'd look no further than Bart Scott's contract with the Jets (six years for $48 million).
Anquan Boldin - Boldin may not like this, but he's still not very high on the Cardinals' 'to do' list. He's got two years left on a four year contract and his demands for a trade probably won't go away any time soon. Boldin's biggest problem is that he has no
leverage outside of just being a vocal distraction. He can't sit out significant portions of camp with amassing massive fines and further damaging his reputation around the league. The Cardinals, with plenty of depth at wide receiver and loads of cap room, are the ones with options and at this point nothing would surprise me. I still think one reasonable contract offer makes all of this go away but I could see him being forced to play one more season under his contract or even playing in a different city next season. I wonder if TJ Houshmandzadeh's contract (5 years at $40 million) with the Seahawks sets the market for Boldin.
Darnell Dockett - Dockett's been somewhat quiet about his contract since last year's training camp but his desire for bigger money is not going away. Maybe he accepted the fact that he's not even on the radar yet considering he's got three years left on his deal or maybe he just hasn't been in front of a microphone yet.
As you can see, the Cardinals can't sit back and say 'job well done' yet. This off season and the decisions that they make will greatly effect the franchise for years to come. What would your next step be if the sign on your door said "Cardinals GM?" What's a fair market deal for each guy?