LB Karlos Dansby (Stephen Dunn/Getty)
Coach Ken Whisenhunt was pleased with the job his coaching staff did last year, especially in light of the injuries the team suffered on both sides of the ball.
The defense had to adjust to losing linebackers Chike Okeafor and Bertrand Berry, cornerback Eric Green and safety Adrian Wilson. On offense, receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin never seemed healthy at the same time, and the club lost starting quarterback Matt Leinart to a fractured collarbone in the fifth game.
So while many coaches around the league fired assistants, Whisenhunt was focused on retention. That's why it was so important to him that ownership moved quickly to retain offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
Haley was due to fly to Miami to interview for the Dolphins job. But the Cardinals quickly offered Haley a new three-year deal that included a substantial raise. Haley was tempted by the chance to go to Miami and work for his old boss, Bill Parcells, but he stayed in Arizona for two reasons: 1) He didn't want to move his family for the second time in two years; and 2) he thinks the Cardinals are on the cusp of winning.
He thinks the Cardinals can win next year if they are "a little smarter, commit fewer turnovers and are more disciplined. I really believe that. I believe in myself and I believe in what we're doing here."
Haley is expected to make at least $1 million a year, which would place him among the NFL's higher paid coordinators. Haley is close to Whisenhunt, who thought it was imperative to keep the staff together.
Whisenhunt often has mentioned his plan to eventually hand over play-calling duties to Haley.
"Continuity is such an important part (of success)," Whisenhunt said. "Our offense made significant strides this year. We had a number of players who achieved milestones, and Todd was a big part of that. That gives us a chance to pick up where (we) left off."
Haley was not considered a front-runner for the Dolphins job, but he is close to Parcells, for whom he worked in Dallas. Passing on the Dolphins interview was "one of the more difficult things I've had to do," Haley said.
--Cardinals GM Rod Graves is trying to schedule a meeting this week with Kirk Wood, the agent for inside linebacker Karlos Dansby. Dansby is due to become an unrestricted free agent, and the Cardinals would like to re-sign him to a long-term deal.
--The Cardinals finished fifth in the NFL in passing. What makes that number impressive is that they did it without having a bunch of games where they fell behind by multiple scores and had to throw. "We were starting to click together," said offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
--If the Cardinals get some help at cornerback in free agency and the draft, don't be surprised if cornerback Antrel Rolle begins cross-training at safety. Rolle played well this year as the nickel corner covering the slot, but he sometimes struggles as a starter.
--Bertrand Berry's days with the team are probably numbered. He suffered season-ending injuries at mid-season in each of the past three years and is scheduled to make $4 million in 2008, the last year of a five-year contract.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
COACHING CAROUSEL: Ken Whisenhunt just completed the first year of a four-year contract, so he's not going anywhere.
Assistant head coach/offensive line Russ Grimm could garner some attention for a head-coaching position. He's interviewed for jobs in the past, including with the Cardinals. If he leaves, it would be a significant blow. He's regarded as an excellent teacher, and the Cardinals don't have an assistant offensive line coach ready to replace him.
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley turned down a chance to interview with the Dolphins and signed a new three-year deal with Arizona. Running backs coach Maurice Carthon also played and coached for Bill Parcells. It's not likely the Cardinals would let him leave for a lateral position. The Cardinals have prevented such moves in recent years.
FREE AGENT UPDATE: The most immediate priority is re-signing linebackers Karlos Dansby and Calvin Pace, who are due to become unrestricted free agents. The club is in negotiations with the agents for both players.
Pace is likely to sign first, but the Dansby negotiations already have become a bit contentious. The Cardinals could use the franchise tag on him.
The other most significant unrestricted free agent is receiver Bryant Johnson. Whisenhunt has raved about Johnson's performance this year. He filled in well when Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald were out with injuries. But the club probably won't spend the money it will require to re-sign Johnson, who might want to become a starter elsewhere.
FEELING A DRAFT: The Cardinals will pick 16th. That's quite a change considering they've entered the draft with a top 10 pick the past five years.
They have so many needs that they will enter it with flexibility. They could use help at corner, especially if Antrel Rolle is moved to safety. Arizona's Antoine Cason would be an intriguing player there.
Among the club's needs are a pass rusher, another offensive tackle or guard, a running back, a speed receiver and a punter.
Cornerback: Starters Eric Green and Rod Hood are solid, but the team could use a difference maker. Rolle, the nickel back last year, could be moved to safety.
Defensive/Outside linebacker: The pass rush suffered when Bertrand Berry went out with an injury at midseason.
Receiver: Johnson, the third receiver, is likely to leave via free agency and there's not much else on the roster.
MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.