Cardinals Turn Attention to Contract Issues

General Manager Rod Graves tried to put the team's upcoming offseason issues out of his mind in January as the club marched through the playoffs and into the Super Bowl. But he knew what was coming. The issues confronting the Cardinals in 2009 would be both real and "immediate," despite the success of 2008.

The first priority is to address core players whose contracts are up. That includes quarterback Kurt Warner and inside linebacker Karlos Dansby, the club's franchise player in 2008.

Warner is far more likely to sign in February than Dansby. Warner will be 38 next season but he proved this year that he has plenty left. He's comfortable in Arizona, both professionally and personally, and isn't anxious to uproot his wife and seven children to start over elsewhere.

But it would be a mistake to just assume that he's going to give the Cardinals a large discount because of his fondness for the team's offense and the area's weather. Warner knows what elite starting quarterbacks are worth - around $12 million to $14 million a year - so the Cardinals won't be able to re-sign him on the cheap.

Warner hasn't committed to playing in 2009 and beyond, however. He said he will take a few weeks to consider his options and to pray for guidance. The Cardinals want him back and they expect Warner to want to return.

Last summer, he said he would like to play two more seasons, and his agent, Mark Bartelstein, has said he expects Warner to return.

Dansby will be more difficult. He would like a deal worth more than Calvin Pace signed last year with the Jets. Pace signed a six-year deal that includes around $20 million in guarantees.

The Cardinals have balked at that number and could well use the franchise tag again on Dansby.


--It's hard to tell how the Cardinals would replace offensive coordinator Todd Haley, should he get the Chiefs coaching job. There is no heir apparent on the staff, and it's likely coach Ken Whisenhunt would take over the play-calling. It's something he did for most of his first year with the club.

--Cardinals coaches didn't get any time off after the Super Bowl. They were back in the office Tuesday, evaluating their own players. In the next few days, they will start ranking potential free agents around the league.

"We're five weeks behind a lot of teams," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "Don't mistake me on this - this is a very good problem to have, but we're five weeks behind. You would like to take a chance to decompress and get away, but you don't have that luxury."

--The players are philosophic about the chances of keeping this team intact for 2009.

"We're not going to keep this team together," QB Kurt Warner said. "You understand that is this business. That's part of the special season that we had. It's a special group of guys that will probably only be together this season."

--ILB Karlos Dansby said in Tampa before Super Bowl XLIII that he wanted to be first up when it came to negotiations this season. He backed off that stance a bit this week.

"Everybody wants to come back and be a part of a winning team," he said. "We've got some unfinished business, man. We planted the seed in Florida. Hopefully, next year we can go back and reap the fruit."

--FS Aaron Francisco thought Steelers linebacker James Harrison should have been ejected from the Super Bowl for throwing punches at Francisco on a punt.

"I know he's a great player but if he wants to come out like that and show he has no class, that's on him," Francisco said.

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