Cardinals: Locking up Fitz a priority

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The Cardinals are hoping to work out an extension for All-Pro wideout Larry Fitzgerald.

--The Cardinals and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald are opening negotiations toward a contract extension, which was an expected order of business that became a known priority when Arizona dealt Anquan Boldin to the Ravens last year.

What isn't apparent yet is how the deal could impact wide receiver Steve Breaston, a starter when healthy in 2010 who became less involved very late in the season, and a player eligible for free agency this spring. Breaston might be viewed as expendable by a coaching staff known to believe in young receivers Andre Roberts and, to a lesser extent, Early Doucet. Doucet started as the No. 3 receiver at times but didn't have a breakout season.

"Personally, I feel I can do a lot for this football team," Breaston said, and noteworthy to his late-season role was a bothersome knee. "But whatever happens, happens."

In the Fitzgerald negotiations, the leverage lies entirely with the player. The Cardinals have a large gap to bridge before Fitzgerald opts to sign his third deal with the team. His current contract expires in 2011, and he entered last season as the NFL's highest-paid receiver.

Even in what he described as a disappointing season, Fitzgerald caught 90 passes for 1,137 yards with six touchdowns as the Cardinals rotated quarterbacks on an almost weekly basis. Fitzgerald, 27, maintains that he wants to stay in Arizona.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "When you go 5-11 ... changes are going to be made." -- Coach Ken Whisenhunt on his approach to the 2011 offseason

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

On his offseason checklist, Ken Whisenhunt's first order of business is hiring a defensive coordinator.

He interview Greg Manusky, who held that job the last four seasons with the 49ers. It's believed that Whisenhunt's first choice is Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler, but he's under contract and the team is in the postseason. He can't interview Butler until after the playoffs and, even then, only with the Steelers permission. It's possible Pittsburgh could promote Butler to co-defensive coordinator, or a similar "promotion" in name only, with Dick LeBeau likely nearing the end of his coaching career. He received a new contract last spring after rejecting an offer to become the Dolphins' defensive coordinator. Included was a promise that he would succeed LeBeau as the Steelers' coordinator.

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