While the Arizona Cardinals stand to lose the services of numerous veteran players this offseason, the next few months could set the franchise’s sites even higher in 2010. Regardless of who ends up leaving the desert, the Cardinals’ roster remains stacked with established Pro Bowlers and countless up-and-coming players. The key to this offseason will be mixing in newcomers and veterans with the foundation already in place.
By far the most crucial storyline heading into the next year will be the future of QB Kurt Warner. Multiple reports say Warner is leaning towards retirement but one last campaign isn’t out of the question. Although WR Anquan Boldin may be headed elsewhere, talented wideouts such as Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet will tempt Warner to return for a 13th NFL season.
If Warner does indeed retire, 2010 could end up be dictated solely by the quarterback position. Current backup QB Matt Leinart probably isn’t the answer as he’s struggled during the majority of his career. Arizona isn’t expected to invest a first-round pick in a young signal caller, making the chances of securing a new starter through the draft unlikely. Finding a diamond in the rough or a capable replacement via free agency will likely be the only options if Warner isn’t around.
Although OT Mike Gandy is scheduled to become a free agent, the presence of Russ Grimm should make up for a potential defection. Jeremy Bridges made strides during the season and could be ready to blossom under Grimm’s guidance. However, if Grimm bolts for a heading coaching position of his own, the stability along the offensive line could quickly become a distant memory.
Things are also uncertain on the defensive side of the ball, particularly due to the status of LB Karlos Dansby. Dansby has been slapped with the franchise tag for two consecutive seasons and now stands to cash in with a lucrative long-term deal. Whether that deal comes in Arizona is to be determined. Dansby certainly wasn’t pleased by the Cardinals stalling on a commitment and may be ready to move on.
In addition to Dansby, a host of defensive veterans will hit the free-agent market. Bryan Robinson, Chike Okeafor and Bertrand Berry are among the headlining players. All three have been important cogs on defense but are replaceable. Furthermore, Arizona has done an excellent job of acquiring young talent through the draft. Gabe Watson and Kenny Iwebema are two players who could see an expanded role next year.
The Cardinals have put off restructuring the contracts of a handful of players but will need to address certain issues soon. DT Darnell Dockett wants a new deal and probably deserves one. Meanwhile, FS Antrel Rolle’s salary cap number will rise dramatically in 2010. On offense, Breaston will be a restricted free agent and given the ability he’s displayed thus far the Cardinals will almost certainly retain him.
It’s too early to tell what the Cardinals’ 2010 roster will look like but there surely will be some major differences. If Warner and the current coaching staff come back next year, look for the success of the past two seasons to continue. If not, a new era could be set to begin in the desert with hopes of riding the franchise’s recent momentum.
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