Karlos Dansby (Getty)
The Cardinals got a nice jump on their rookie contracts before members of the front office headed off on vacation. Half of the eight-member draft class in under contract, with the top four picks remaining unsigned. General manager Rod Graves is working on other fronts, too. He would like to get a deal done with inside linebacker Karlos Dansby, who is working under a franchise tag of $9.7 million.
The Cardinals have until July 15 to reach a long-term deal with Dansby. If they can't, Karlos Dansby is likely playing his last season in Arizona.
The Cardinals are unlikely to franchise him in 2010 because his tender would jump to about $14.5 million.
So far, there is no movement in negotiations so things would have to move quickly for a contract to be reached by the deadline.
OFFSEASON STANDOUT: WR Lance Long was impressive this offseason, catching nearly everything thrown his way. But he did that last year as an undrafted rookie. It was good enough to earn him a spot on the practice squad. The club is deep at receiver so it's going to be difficult for Long to crack this roster, unless he excels on special teams in the preseason.
LINEUP WATCH: RB Beanie Wells missed OTAs because classes at Ohio State didn't end until mid-June. Wells tried to keep pace mentally but most of the offense has been installed, and he missed valuable time. But rookie running backs are capable of contributing early, and Wells could still beat out Tim Hightower for the job.
ROOKIE IMPRESSIONS: The Cardinals are thrilled with their class. They think RB Beanie Wells will contribute, and that safety Rashad Johnson is a playmaker. CB Greg Toler, the fourth-rounder, is a project but he has eye-popping speed and he's smart. OLB Will Davis, the sixth-round pick, has some pass-rush skills that intrigue the coaching staff.
INJURY WATCH: NT Gabe Watson is coming off his second knee surgery in as many years. If he's healthy, he'll challenge for a starting job. TE Stephen Spach hopes to be able to play in the preseason after suffering a torn ACL in the playoffs. He could be the team's best all-around tight end.
CONTRACT TO WATCH: WR Anquan Boldin skipped OTAs because he wants a new contract. Boldin doesn't seem the type to hold out of camp, but it's a possibility. DE Darnell Dockett also wants a new contract but he has three years remaining on his contract and the club isn't going to address it anytime soon.
--It remains to be seen if the new contract signed by the Packers Greg Jennings has any impact on negotiations between the Cardinals and receiver Anquan Boldin. The odds on Boldin signing in 2009 seem long. The Cardinals have only $2 million or so in cap space after structuring safety Adrian Wilson's contract to consume about $9.5 million in space this season.
--NT Alan Branch, a second-round pick in 2007, has been a huge disappointment. He's been overweight and coaches were hoping he would commit himself to getting in shape this offseason. Judging by the results through the OTA period, coaches are still waiting.
--DE Darnell Dockett hasn't participated in a team workout since the Super Bowl. But that was his M.O. last year, too, and he played well, especially at the end of the year. Dockett wants a new contract, even though he has three years remaining.
--Coach Ken Whisenhunt is a near-scratch golfer and is going to get a chance to prove it under pressure. He's going to play in the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe during July.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I remember being told to do the wrong thing on certain plays. It made me realize I had to learn this stuff on my own. And it made me vow that if I ever got in that position as an experienced player, I would help somebody grow." -- DL Bryan Robinson on how veterans didn't help him when he broke in with the Bears.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Cardinals have only about $2 million of cap space after the recent contract extension of strong safety Adrian Wilson, who signed a five-year, $39 million contract.
Wilson's cap figure in 2009 is about $9.6 million, thanks mostly to a base salary of $8.5 million. GM Rod Graves said the team has room to sign its rookies and to handle a 53-man roster.
But if the club really wants to re-sign receiver Anquan Boldin this year, it must reach a new contract with inside linebacker Karlos Dansby.
Dansby is working under the franchise tag of $9.7 million, and the Cardinals could create more space by extending his contract. That might give them enough room to re-sign Boldin, who has two years remaining.
It's questionable, however, how motivated the team is to re-sign Boldin this year.