AZ Eager to Rebuild Defensive Depth

The team's efforts for the remainder of the offseason will be focused on addressing depth concerns on defense. The club is precariously thin at linebacker and cornerback, and those two positions should be a priority in the draft.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt has cautioned that the team will consider all options in the draft, especially in the first round. The Cardinals pick 16th, and they don't want to pass on a dynamic offensive player just to fill a need on defense.

Of course, no one would expect Whisenhunt to say anything else, but he is sincere. The Cardinals could use a running back to supplement starter Edgerrin James, and might not be able to afford to wait until later in the draft if they want one.

But overall, the emphasis will be on defense. The third cornerback at this time is Michael Adams, an undrafted rookie last year.

The three top outside linebackers, Bertrand Berry, Chike Okeafor and newcomer Travis LaBoy, dealt with some injuries last year.

PLAYER NOTES


LB Brandon Chillar
Kevin C. Cox/Getty

The delay in finalizing Larry Fitzgerald's contract cost the club a chance to sign linebacker Brandon Chillar, who instead signed a two-year deal with Green Bay.

Chillar isn't a great player, and the Cardinals weren't expecting him to be a starter. Still, they were interested enough to discuss a multi-year offer with his agent and to talk to him about holding off on making a decision.

Chillar waited as long as he could, however. While Fitzgerald agreed to terms on March 11, the NFL's management council raised concerns about one element of the deal. And the two sides have been trying to work it out since.

The problem centers over a clause that protects Fitzgerald in the event the team wanted to franchise him after the fourth and final year of the $40 contract. The contract stipulates that the franchise number would be $23 million.

The collective bargaining agreement states that a franchise number is the average of the top five salaries at that position or 120 percent of the player's salary the previous year.

According to a source, the league's management council had questions if the clause was permissible under the CBA.

Cardinals officials say only they are trying to work out details of the contract, but it has been more than a week since Fitzgerald agreed to terms. Without the cap space created by his restructuring, the team is limited in what moves it can make.

That's why the Cardinals missed out on Chillar. And that's why they cut receiver Sean Morey when long snapper Nathan Hodel agreed to a four-year deal. The club expects to re-sign Morey when Fitzgerald's deal becomes official.

--SS Adrian Wilson, who missed the latter half of last season with an Achilles injury, is starting to run and anticipates being 100 percent by the start of training camp. Wilson won't participate in on-field work until then. He underwent surgery to correct the problem, which had bothered him for years.

--Long snapper Nathan Hodel is one of the steadiest players at his position. The team rewarded him with a four-year contract. Re-signing him was important, because the club struggled in the kicking game last year. That was due in part to releasing punter Scott Player in the preseason. Player also held for kicker Neil Rackers.

--Receiver Anquan Boldin isn't going to stage a holdout to try and force the team to renegotiate his contract. Boldin is making slightly less than $4 million a year while his counterpart Larry Fitzgerald is making $10 million. Boldin said he will attend offseason workouts and show up to camp on time. He'll let his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, worry about the contract, he said.

--The Cardinals' offseason program starts on Monday, but the club had about 25 veterans working out last week, the first week they could be paid for training at the facility.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I can't be worried about that. I think when players get involved in that, that starts to affect their play on the field. Me, I can go home and sleep good at night, staying out of the business side of it and just concentrating on what I need to do." -- WR Anquan Boldin on how Larry Fitzgerald's new deal might affect his contract status.

TEAM NEEDS/OFFSEASON STRATEGY

With WR Larry Fitzgerald all but signed, club officials can breathe a little easier because they have the cap space to at least put together a complete roster.

They were down to less than $400,000 in cap space before Fitzgerald's deal was restructured. When the deal becomes finalized, management will focus on re-signing some veterans for depth, such as defensive lineman Rodney Bailey and safeties Matt Ware and Oliver Celestin.

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