Did Wilson's Deal Put Boldin Out in the Cold?

Safety Adrian Wilson's new five-year contract is structured in such a way that it's going to be difficult for the team to re-sign receiver Anquan Boldin this year. Wilson will receive $8.5 million in base salary this year, which gives him a cap figure of about $9.6 million. That leaves the Cardinals about $2 million under the cap, likely not enough space to reach a new deal with Boldin...

General manager Rod Graves thinks it will be possible to reach an agreement with Anquan Boldin, but admits it's going to take some creativity between the team and Boldin's agent, Tom Condon, to get it done.

The Cardinals could have saved themselves $4 million or so in cap space but giving Wilson more signing bonus and less base salary in 2009.

But that's not how the team has done business in recent seasons.

The club prefers to take the biggest cap hit in the first year. Graves' philosophy is that it's better to budget for that cap charge, rather than be surprised later and have to count a hefty acceleration.

They followed a similar plan with several free agent signings in recent years, including running back Edgerrin James and center Al Johnson.

Wilson is the second major re-signing for the Cardinals this offseason. Quarterback Kurt Warner signed a two-year, $23 million earlier this year, with $19 million being paid this year.


When the Cardinals stockpiled tight ends this offseason, it appeared to be a reasonable response to bolster a position decimated by injuries in 2008.

It turns out, the club likely had another motive. Ben Patrick, a leading contender for the starting job, has been suspended the first four games of the season for violating the league's steroid and other banned substances policy.

According to his agent, Patrick tested positive for Adderall, which he took one time to stay awake on a long drive.

Patrick has known for months about the positive test, so it's likely the team knew, too. With Patrick's suspension coming, the Cardinals signed veteran Anthony Becht and Dominique Byrd this offseason, giving them six tight ends on the roster.

Becht would have been signed anyway. A 10-year veteran, he brings experience and blocking ability to a position in badly need of both attributes.

Byrd's signing, however, was a surprise. A former third-round pick of the Rams, he was out of football last year after getting cut.

The Cardinals didn't have high expectations for him when they signed him, but Byrd looked surprisingly good in offseason practices. He could make the roster coming out of camp.

Leonard Pope likely will be the starter, with Becht and Byrd as the backups. Stephen Spach is hopeful of practicing in training camp, but he will be just six months removed from surgery to repair a torn ACL.

That makes his availability question for early in the season.

--New defensive coordinator Bill Davis and his staff installed a considerably bigger playbook during offseason practices. It will be trimmed later but Davis thinks the Cardinals can handle the extra mental demands.

"We've put a heavy, heavy focus on the little things," Davis said, "the details, with each player understanding what his job is, why that's his job, why that's his stance, why his eyes have to be where they have to be. They have to know the little things.

"Every great defense I've been around, that's the secret formula. It's not some phenomenal scheme that nobody has ever seen because there is no such thing."

The bigger volume gives Davis more options when it comes to rushing the quarterback.

"Attacking protection means you are trying to get a mismatch. You really have to get your guys on their weak links and win those matchups."

--Tight end Ben Patrick, who has been suspended for the first four games of the season, has known for months bad news was coming. He tested positive last fall and was recently suspended.

"I've had this cloud hanging over my head all offseason," Patrick told the team's website, azcardinals.com. "It's been really hard to come in and smile with the guys, knowing what was going to happen. I'm just going to try to do my best to work hard."

--Coach Ken Whisenhunt was pleased with his team's progress in offseason workouts.

"Overall, I thought it was a productive month for us," he said. "It's sad to see it come to an end. This is really one of the funniest times of the year for a coach because you're getting to work on things and there's not the pressure of the season or a game coming up. It's a little bit more relaxed atmosphere with your players."

--The coaching staff has been encouraged by the play of outside linebacker Will Davis, their sixth-round pick. Davis has some pass rush skills which should benefit the team down the road. Davis might not be ready to play much this year but the club thinks it might have another late-round pick who can make an impact.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The real test ... is can they sustain that when we put the pads on. That's what it's really all about. This is kind of maybe proving ground for them, to learn the system and see what they can do against competition." -- Coach Ken Whisenhunt on the end of OTAs.

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