Cardinals Next Move Depends on Boldin's

The team's strategy depends upon whether it trades receiver Anquan Boldin in the days leading up to the draft. The Cardinals have taken the strategic position of letting everyone know they will listen to offers, yet they are emphasizing that they aren't soliciting offers for Boldin.

It's clear, however, the Cardinals want teams to call and they want to know what Anquan Boldin's worth. If the Cardinals could receive first and third-round picks in return for Boldin, they likely would make that deal.

That would give them 10 picks in the draft, giving them the inventory to trade up and get multiple targeted players.

General manager Rod Graves usually doesn't get fancy on draft day. When he has made trades, they generally have not worked out for the Cardinals. In 2003, he traded the sixth overall pick and the chance to draft pass rusher Terrell Suggs for the 17th and 18th selections, where he selected receiver Bryant Johnson and Calvin Pace.

In 2007, the Cardinals traded their fourth-round pick to Oakland to move up to the top of the second round. They took nose tackle Alan Branch, who has been a bust in two seasons.

The Cardinals aren't going to trade Boldin unless they receive what they deem to be a solid offer. Boldin was unhappy all of last year, beginning in training camp when he ripped the organization and criticized coach Ken Whisenhunt for being too involved in negotiations.

The situation in 2009 can't be any more poisonous than that, so the Cardinals aren't worried about Boldin returning to the team after he's been on the market.

If the team doesn't make a deal for Boldin, it likely will play it conservative in the draft. They have no desire to make any moves far up the draft board, so they will likely use their assigned 31st overall pick and take a running back or outside linebacker to fill an immediate need.

WR Anquan Boldin

They would be thrilled if a quality running back is available at 31. Players such as Georgia's Knowshon Moreno, Ohio State's Chris Wells and Connecticut's Donald Brown are attractive.

TEAM NEEDS: Running back, outside linebacker, tight end, interior offensive line.

RB -- Coaches don't think Edgerrin James is an elite running back and he likely will be released. That leaves Tim Hightower as the No. 1 back and Jason Wright as the third-down back. Hightower probably isn't ready to assume the No. 1 role and the Cardinals would like to get someone who provides a contrast in styles. Hightower is a powerful, one-cut runner but he doesn't have great speed. The Cardinals would like to draft someone who brings an added dimension as a runner and receiver. If they don't that player in the draft, there's a remote possibility James could return.

OLB -- The team has four solid veterans at the two outside linebacker spots, but it needs to get younger. On the weak side, starter Travis LaBoy dealt with injuries all last season. Backup Bertrand Berry will be 34. On the strong side, starter Chike Okeafor and backup Clark Haggans are both over 30 and have dealt with injuries in recent years. The Cardinals are moving to more of a 3-4 look, and the outside linebacker spot is a difficult one to play in that scheme. It can take a few years to learn the intricate defense, and the club has no younger players in the pipeline. The Cardinals could take multiple linebackers in this draft.

TE -- The Cardinals have been searching for a solid tight end for the better part of the past two decades. Starter Leonard Pope has been banged up the past two years and nuances of the offense sometimes escape him. Backup Ben Patrick has some ability but can't get past nagging injuries. Stephen Spach signed last October and became the team's No.1 tight end, an indication of just how weak the position has been. But Spach suffered a torn ACL in the playoffs and might not be ready when the season starts. In the Cardinals' offense, the tight end needs to be able to block, and that's been a struggle for the Cardinals youngsters.

Kurt Warner & Lyle Sendlein

C/OG -- Ken Whisenhunt believes you can never have enough offensive linemen, and the Cardinals could use some depth on the interior line. Center Lyle Sendlein played better as last year progressed, but coaches would like to have some to push him. The same can be said of right guard Deuce Lutui. The Cardinals have a couple of young tackles in Levi Brown and Brandon Keith, whom they think will develop into solid players. The focus will be the interior offensive line spots.


--Negotiations with LB Karlos Dansby were placed on hold recently when Dansby fired agent Kirk Wood, who reportedly was nearing a long-term deal with the club. Dansby since hired Todd France, but negotiations haven't resumed. Dansby is talking as if he wants to be a free agent in 2010, when there might not be a salary cap. Dansby denied that Wood had nearly completed a new contract.

"Not close, not even close," Dansby said. "That's why I felt there was a need for a change in order to get me a solid deal done that I'm comfortable with, that my family is comfortable with."

--NT Alan Branch has been a regular at the team's offseason strength and conditioning workouts, and according to coaches, no one needs it more. Branch has been overweight for most of his two NFL seasons and he's close to being labeled a bust. He weighs about 343 and wants to get down to 325 by the start of the season.

"Last year I really didn't understand how much the weight was important to the coaches," Branch said. "Last year I thought even if I was a little overweight, even if I played well, it wouldn't matter. But what coach (Ken) Whisenhunt told me was not coming in at the weight he wanted proved that he couldn't fully trust me."

--The Cardinals have a minimal number of starting jobs open, so draft choices won't be expected to start in their first seasons. Don't look for the team to draft a quarterback or a receiver. And the Cardinals don't have a great need for a cornerback, either.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think it would be foolish from our standpoint not to listen to those opportunities and see what actually exists." -- Coach Ken Whisenhunt on the team's decision to listen to trade offers for receiver Anquan Boldin.


The Cardinals have the salary cap space to accommodate the big contracts required by inside linebacker Karlos Dansby, receiver Anquan Boldin and safety Adrian Wilson.

It's questionable, however, if they will decide to pay that much in cold, hard cash over the next few months. The organization's commitment to winning will be tested, and fans are ready to judge.

The club stepped up in the contract with quarterback Kurt Warner, guaranteeing $19 million of the $23 million total.

The Cardinals haven't been a major player in free agency, preferring to sharp for bargains.

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