Whisenhunt Shuffles Pieces into Place

The secondary will undergo further renovation this offseason, including moving cornerback Antrel Rolle to free safety and the likely release of free safety Terrence Holt.

A key free agent signing last year, Terrence Holt was a disappointment in what probably will be his only year in Arizona. He had just one interception, very few pass break-ups and a handful of key missed tackles.

Clearly, he wasn't worth the five-year, $15 million contract he signed. But the Cardinals structured the deal in such a way that it will cost them no cap space in 2008 to cut Holt.

Holt didn't receive a signing bonus, but instead was due to received roster bonuses in his first two years. This year's bonus of $1.5 million is payable if Holt is on the roster March 13. That is unlikely to happen, so the Cardinals will save $3.5 million -- the roster bonus and salary -- if they release Holt before that deadline.

While a bonus, the salary cap savings aren't the motivation for the move. The Cardinals could easily accommodate the $3.5 million if Holt had played up to expectations.

The problem is his performance. Holt proved to be an unreliable tackler and he didn't make plays in coverage. Those deficiencies became even more obvious when strong safety Adrian Wilson was lost at mid-season with an injury to his heel and Achilles.

The Cardinals have some replacements ready. Antrel Rolle will make the move to safety, a spot where many teams had him pegged when he came out of the University of Miami in 2005. He'll compete with Aaron Francisco for the starting job.


Antonio Smith and Darnell Dockett
Harry How/Getty

NOTES, QUOTES

--DE Antonio Smith visited the Pro Bowl in Hawaii recently as a guest of teammate Darnell Dockett, an alternate filling in for Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris. Smith remains confident he can make it to the Pro Bowl on his own one day. For motivation, he keeps a clip of a newspaper story that compliments him for his steady play but points out that he is not a Pro Bowl caliber player.

--QB Matt Leinart has worked out this offseason near his home in Southern California. The rehab on his fractured left collarbone is fine, and Leinart expects to be fully healthy when minicamp starts this spring. There was a report last month that Leinart was experiencing problems in a knee, but his representative said that was untrue.

--Negotiations continue between the Cardinals and the agent for receiver Larry Fitzgerald about restructuring his contract. He is due to make $14.6 million in 2008 and more than $17 million in 2009, the final two years of his contract. The Cardinals want to extend the contract and lower those figures.

--Unlike some players, who see Super Bowl week as opportunity to cash in by making appearances, receiver Anquan Boldin left the country. Boldin spent part of the week in Brazil, celebrating Carnival.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Larry's deal certainly has a bearing on how we proceed through free agency, but we're prepared in one form or another to either get his deal done or not have it not. But the case of not being able to restructure certainly will have some implications on our roster and our opportunities in how we proceed through the offseason." -- GM Rod Graves on the importance of restructuring Larry Fitzgerald's contract.


WR Larry Fitzgerald
Chris Graythen/Getty

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

TEAM NEEDS/OFFSEASON STRATEGY

Most of the Cardinals' efforts now are focused on re-signing Larry Fitzgerald and linebackers Karlos Dansby and Calvin Pace.

Fitzgerald is the lynchpin to the team's offseason plans. If they are able to lower his cap figures the next two years ($16.5 million in '08 and $19.25 in 2009), the club will be able to sign some help in free agency.

If Fitzgerald's deal is delayed, however, the club will have a hard time even shopping the bargain bin in free agency.

1. Pass rusher -- Bertrand Berry and Chike Okeafor are coming off injuries and the club needs someone to help Darnell Dockett.

2. Cornerback -- Antrel Rolle's move to free safety makes an already thin position thinner.

3. Offensive line -- The club needs an infusion of young talent at guard and tackle.

MEDICAL WATCH

--SS Adrian Wilson, who missed the second half of last season with a heel/Achilles injury, is recovering nicely from surgery. He is expected to be 100 percent by training camp.

--DE/OLB Bertrand Berry is progressing well from a torn triceps tendon that caused him to miss the last half of the season. Berry, however, is due to make $4 million in 2008 and has finished the last three years on injured reserve. Those factors might result him being released.

--DE/OLB Chike Okeafor has recovered from a torn biceps tendon that caused him to miss the 2007 season. Okeafor should be 100 percent healthy for the start of training camp.


WR Bryant Johnson
Otto Greule Jr./Getty

FRANCHISE PLAYER: ILB Karlos Dansby.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--QB Tim Rattay is a solid backup but likely will seek a No. 2 job elsewhere.

--QB Tim Hasselbeck could stay as the No. 3 QB, depending if the team drafts a quarterback.

--WR Bryant Johnson is liked by the coaches, but the club likely won't have the money to re-sign.

--OL Keydrick Vincent is a decent backup who could re-sign.

--OLB Calvin Pace is coming off his best NFL season, and the team needs to re-sign him.

--S Matt Ware is just an average guy.

--S Bhawoh Jue could provide depth.

--S Oliver Celestin is a good special teamer.

--CB Ralph Brown is a decent No. 4 corner who is always prepared.

--DE Joe Tafoya is a good special teamer who shouldn't play much on defense.

--DE Bo Schobel was a late-season addition who didn't get much of a chance.

--DL Rodney Bailey has the ability to play inside and out adds to his value.

--DT Ross Kolodziej was banged up last year, and he probably won't return.

--LS Nathan Hodel is a solid player, but the club might want to look at TE Troy Bienemann to save a roster spot.

--P Mitch Berger didn't secure the job in the final weeks of '07.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--TE Tim Euhus is average at best and could return as a camp body.

--WR Jerheme Urban looks good in practice but had too many drops in the regular season.

--WR Ahmad Merritt looked good before getting hurt and he can return kicks and punts.

--CB Eric Green is a solid player who should get a second-round tender.

--OLB Darryl Blackstock still hasn't proven to be an every-down player.

--OT Elton Brown is a good backup who is showing improvement.

--DE Antonio Smith is a starter who should only improve.

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