Is Fitz's new deal dividing the locker room?

Now that the draft is complete and the free agency pool is drained, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt will start to fully confront what could be a large problem. Several of the team's key veterans are unhappy with their contracts, and they're not hiding their feelings.

Defensive end Darnell Dockett hasn't attended voluntary workouts and wants a contract, despite having four years remaining on his current one.

Receiver Anquan Boldin wants a new deal, and his agent has requested a trade, even though Boldin has three years remaining. Strong safety Adrian Wilson wants a new contract and his two years left. Inside linebacker Karlos Dansby, cornerback Eric Green and defensive end Antonio Smith all are working under one-year deals and are eying big contracts.

At the center of the problem is the four-year, $40 million deal receiver Larry Fitzgerald signed this offseason. Boldin wants a comparable contract since he reasons that he's at least as good as Fitzgerald.

The problem is, the Cardinals don't have the cap space to do another long-term deal for at least a few more months. And it's questionable if they could afford such a deal for Boldin, or if the team would fret over the excess spending on receivers.

That doesn't stop anyone from asking, however. And it's no coincidence that three of the players who want new deals -- Boldin, Smith and Dockett -- are represented by Drew Rosenhaus.

Cardinals' general manager Rod Graves has a good relationship with Rosenhaus, and the two have agreed on numerous deals over the years. But the Cardinals have gone on the offensive this time, detailing how they made Boldin an offer through Rosenhaus in December.

According to the team, Rosenhaus never responded. Graves called him a month later and Rosenhaus said he would wait until the Fitzgerald deal was done. At that time, Graves told him that the club probably wouldn't have the means to extend Boldin's deal if Fitzgerald agreed first.

So as the Cardinals gathered this weekend for their first minicamp, it wasn't all balloons and lollipops. Whisenhunt will have to call upon his motivational skills to convince players to prevent their off-field issues from interfering with their play on the field.


RB Edgerrin James
Stephen Dunn/Getty

--The Cardinals entered the draft hoping to upgrade their speed on offense, especially at running back. It didn't happen.

Team officials say it's because they resisted the urge to "reach" for a running in the draft. Instead of taking, say, Rutgers' Ray Rice or Texas' Jamaal Charles in the second round, the Cardinals selected defensive end Calais Campbell of Miami.

The Cardinals did add a running back, Tim Hightower, in the fifth round, but he's hardly a speedster. He runs the 40 in the 4.5- to 4.6-second range, no faster than Edgerrin James.

Contrary to speculation, the Cardinals weren't intent on replacing James this offseason. He rushed for 1,222 yards last year, which coaches emphasize is an accomplishment.

But it's also true that James averaged just 3.8 yards a carry, had just four runs of 20 yards or more and the team finished 29th in rushing.

A speed back might have helped. James has trouble breaking tackles at the second level and he's not going to outrun defensive backs. Factor in that he turns 30 in August, and the club could be correctly criticized for not looking harder for his eventual replacement.

NOTES, QUOTES


CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Miller Safrit/Scout.com

--The Cardinals looked at cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's medical history and felt comfortable enough to draft him. Rodgers-Cromartie was born with a kidney that didn't function, and it was removed he was 8 years old. It was no small concern to the team, which practices in temperatures of over 100 degrees during the first two months of the season.

--Team officials talked a lot about adding players with "football character" in the 2008 draft. But they took a chance on seventh-round pick Brandon Keith, an offensive tackle from Northern Iowa. He was arrested and charged with three misdemeanors after an incident at a public party in Cedar Falls, Iowa, last month.

Police officers used a Taser on Keith when he charged at officers, a police spokesman said.

The Cardinals researched the incident before the draft and felt comfortable enough to take Keith, a team spokesman said.

--The Cardinals' lack of depth at defensive end was obvious in the second half of last season as production dropped. Coach Ken Whisenhunt felt the ends wore down in the second half of the season. Darnell Dockett had eight sacks in the first half of the season and only one in the final eight games.

That lack of depth is why the Cardinals took two defensive ends in the draft: Calais Campbell out of Miami (Fla.) in the second round and Kenny Iwebema out of Iowa in the fourth.

"We certainly feel like we helped ourselves there with some young players," said GM Rod Graves.

"This gives us a chance to work some other guys in, hopefully have some competition at that position," Whisenhunt said.

--Offensive coordinator Todd Haley sees a little of Marion Barber in fifth-round pick Tim Hightower, a running back from Richmond. Hightower isn't a speedster but he's effective.

"He definitely carries his pads well and is physical, hard running and he is a get-yards-after-contact guy," Haley said. "So I didn't see a big issue with the time."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm a 4.5 guy. I'm not a 4.3 guy. I never will be. But I'm a football player, so that's all that really matters." -- Rookie receiver Early Doucet on his average speed.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

FRANCHISE PLAYER: LB Karlos Dansby (tendered at $8.065M; signed April 17).
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--DL Rodney Bailey has the ability to play inside and out adds to his value.
--P Mitch Berger didn't secure the job in the final weeks of '07.
--QB Tim Hasselbeck is probably out after the addition of Brian St. Pierre.
--S Bhawoh Jue could provide depth.
--DT Ross Kolodziej was banged up last year, and he probably won't return.
--QB Tim Rattay is a solid backup but is trying to seek a No. 2 job elsewhere.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--TE Tim Euhus (not tendered as RFA) could return as a camp body.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED
--CB Michael Adams: ERFA; terms unknown.
--LB Clark Haggans: UFA Steelers; $1.5M/1 yr, SB unknown.
--P Dirk Johnson: FA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DE Travis LaBoy: UFA Titans; $22M/5 yrs, $7.5M guaranteed.
--WR Jamaica Rector: ERFA; terms unknown.
--DL Bryan Robinson: UFA Bengals; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--QB Brian St. Pierre: UFA Steelers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--LB Matt Stewart: UFA Browns; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--TE Jerame Tuman: FA Steelers; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED
--TE Troy Bienemann: ERFA; terms unknown.
--OT Elton Brown: RFA; $927,000/1 yr.
--CB Ralph Brown: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--S Oliver Celestin: UFA; terms unknown.
--LB Karlos Dansby: Franchise FA; $8.065M/1yr. --CB Eric Green: RFA; $2.017M/1 yr.
--LS Nathan Hodel: UFA; 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR Ahmad Merritt: Not tendered as RFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--WR Sean Morey: FA; had been released by Cardinals; terms unknown.
--DE Bo Schobel: Not tendered as ERFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DE Antonio Smith: RFA; $2.017M/1 yr.
--DE Joe Tafoya: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR Jerheme Urban: Not tendered as RFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--S Matt Ware: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
PLAYERS LOST
--LB Darryl Blackstock: Not tendered as RFA/Bengals; $560,000/1 yr, $40,000 SB.
--DT Chris Cooper (released).
--S Terrence Holt (released).
--LB Brandon Johnson: Not tendered as ERFA/Bengals; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--WR Bryant Johnson: UFA 49ers; $2M/1 yr, SB unknown.
--OLB Calvin Pace: UFA Jets; $42M/6 yrs, $22M guaranteed.
--OT Oliver Ross (released).
--OG Keydrick Vincent: UFA Panthers; $2M/2 yrs, $400,000 SB.


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