Craig Massei: We heard Anquan Boldin didn't participate in the team's first minicamp due to some mysterious ailment. That doesn't sound a whole lot like Boldin. What's the deal with him? Was that a ploy to say he wants a new contract - and wants it now? Is this a situation that could carry over later into the year?
Amberly Richardson: Unfortunately for the cash-stretched Cardinals, Boldin's camp seems to be leaking trade rumors here and there, but Boldin has debunked all talks that he's asking for it. He's said he hasn't spoken with anybody about a trade and that he wants to stay in Arizona.
Boldin's adamancy is music to Arizona's ears. A Boldin-less Cardinals organization is a disheartening thought for everyone involved; he is the emotional leader of the team on and off the field. As a core-player the Cardinals will shell out the big bucks to keep him in red, but not yet. General Manager Rod Graves will address Boldin's contract situation when he "gets another window to do it in."
The Cardinals want to hammer out a long-term deal, but have to feel discouraged from the "sore hamstring" that had him sitting out in minicamp. Then the most recent developments of a no-show for the first day of the Cardinals' voluntary workout last Tuesday. After five years in the league Boldin knows there is nothing "voluntary" about the NFL.
CM: Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald are true studs, but how do you expect the loss of No. 3 wide receiver Bryant Johnson - who signed with the 49ers as a free agent during the offseason - to affect Arizona's passing game? Who steps in to take his place?
AR: There doesn't appear to be too much concern surrounding the Cardinals passing game as they finished fifth in the league last season. Most questions are surrounding how Matt Leinart is going to assimilate back into his starting role, but with Fitzgerald and Boldin down the stretch they'll make him look. If injuries sideline either Boldin or Fitzgerald the winner of the training camp battle between Early Doucet and Steve Breaston is more than capable of stepping up. Doucet could be an immediate contributor if the Cardinals let him. Doucet's game is very similar to Boldin's. Breaston made a name for himself on returns last season and has the possibility of beating out the Cardinals third-round pick.
CM: It looks like the Cardinals had a pretty decent draft, particularly at the top. What's your take on how Arizona did on draft weekend? Did the Cards get any immediate starters? What draft picks do you feel will make the biggest impact right away?
AR: For the first time in quite awhile the Cardinals were able to pick with the "best available player" approach rather than draft by need. That said, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie fell into both categories. The Cardinals were in desperate need for a corner to supplement the unit of Roderick Hood, Eric Green and Ralph Brown. Green left a lot to the imagination, so Rodgers-Cromartie could very well slip into a starting role.
RB Tim Hightower was a surprise to many. Arizona wanted a back with "home-run" ability. That's not what they got in Hightower, but they might have gotten more. This is a player with very capable hands and almost never goes down on contact. He's starting to grow on me as a player who could make an immediate impact. Especially since Edgerrin James' wheels are slowing down, averaging just 3.8 a carry. Also, his backups, J.J. Arrington and Marcel Shipp, combined for just 119 last season.
CM: How much did the Cardinals improve their team in free agency this year? We didn't see them sign many big names. Is defensive end Travis LaBoy really worth $22 million to the Cards? What's the expectation of what his impact will be?
AR: The Cardinals were stuck in a salary cap nightmare for the first wave of free agency. They heavily pursued big names, like Alan Faneca and there were rumors that Lorenzo Neal was brought in as well. Agents were starting to get annoyed with the franchise that was trying to buy big names with food stamps though.
Regardless, if LaBoy ends up being worth it or not, they needed him. The departure of Calvin Pace and Darryl Blackstock left holes that the Cardinals couldn't fill up with rookies.
LaBoy should start at outside linebacker with his yearly sack total seeing no drop off.
CM: The Cardinals finished 8-8 last season, good for second place in the NFC West. It was their best record since 1998, and their highest finish ever since joining the NFC West in 2002. Is Arizona ready to take the next step, and what will it take for the Cards to get there?
AR: The Cardinals need to continue improving their offensive line. Not only to protect Leinart, but to also increase the amount of yards they get on each play on the ground (3.6 isn't cutting it). They've done a good job locking up their key players and loading the lineup with big names and even bigger talent. Injuries and penalties will likely be the keys though. Keep the roster healthy and play smart.