There are several key issues that will be addressed in the coming weeks, both regarding the Cardinals' current roster and future additions to a solid core of young talent. Veteran QB Kurt Warner expressed his desire to take a brief step away from the game in order to assess his outlook for the 2009 season and beyond.
Warner's future could hinge on the status of Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Haley has emerged as a hot commodity in the coaching ranks and has been mentioned as a front runner for the Kansas City Chiefs head coaching vacancy. If Haley leaves for Kansas City, it could sway Warner towards retirement after 11 years in the NFL.
The ongoing saga of WR Anquan Boldin continues and his future in Arizona is still relatively unknown. Although Boldin is under contract through 2010, he's a prime candidate to holdout if his demands for a new deal are not satisfied. Boldin went on the record earlier this year stating that he will not be back with the Cardinals following this season. However, given Arizona's improbable playoff run, Boldin could rescind those comments.
Boldin's current contract pays him roughly $4.5 million per season but he'll be looking for a deal similar to what WR Larry Fitzgerald received prior to the 2008 season. Fitzgerald signed a four-year $40 million contract, making him one of the highest paid receivers in the game.
The Cardinals have multiple unrestricted free agents, but arguably the most important player on that list is LB Karlos Dansby. Not only has Dansby established himself as one of the top linebackers in the league, Arizona has little depth behind him at the position. If Dansby is not locked up to a long-term deal, the team will be left scrambling to find his replacement via free agency or the draft.
Meanwhile, Smith gained steam all season long and may have played his way into a lucrative contract thanks to his postseason performance. Due to his recent success, Smith's contract demands may come at too steep of a price for Arizona. In addition, defensive ends Calais Campbell and Kenny Iwebema are both waiting in the wings at the position.
Looking forward to the draft, the Cardinals have the luxury of going several different directions with their first-round selection. With veteran RB Edgerrin James likely headed out of town, GM Rod Graves will need to acquire a running back to compliment RB Tim Hightower. LeSean McCoy of Pittsburgh and Iowa's Shonn Greene are two preliminary names that have shown up on Arizona's radar.
Given the uncertain status of Dansby, the Cardinals could find themselves in desperate need of a linebacker. A pair of teammates from USC, Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews, could draw heavy interest from the Arizona front office if Dansby does in fact leave the desert.
While this season came to an anti-climatic end, next year's success will hinge greatly on what happens during the offseason. The Cardinals have taken the necessary strides in becoming a constant fixture in the NFC and will need to continue that trend in order to follow-up a stellar 2008 campaign.
Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at firstname.lastname@example.org