Guard Deuce Lutui is expected to sign his qualifying offer before June 15, but that won't make Cardinals coaches and front office officials feel better about Lutui's absence from spring workouts.
A restricted free agent, Lutui has yet to sign his tender offer of $1.759 million. He's not alone, of course. A week before the June 15 deadline, 35 restricted free agents remain unsigned. But Lutui's decision to skip the offseason work might have cost him a starting job and jeopardized his future with the team.
Lutui has started at right guard for most of his four years with the club and desires a long-term deal. The Cardinals aren't going to give him one at this time. They are looking to extend the contracts of others first, including defensive lineman Darnell Dockett. Since they still control Lutui's rights, the Cardinals are in no hurry to lock him in to a long-term deal.
They might not need to. The club signed two guards this offseason, Alan Faneca and Rex Hadnot, and are grooming Herman Johnson, a fifth-round pick in 2009. Jeremy Bridges has started at guard before, too. Faneca immediately became the starter at left guard with Reggie Wells moving from left to right to fill Lutui's old spot.
Lutui has been working out diligently, according to his new agent, Ken Harris. But Cardinals officials haven't seen Lutui and are curious about his conditioning. Lutui has a tendency to gain weight, and the Cardinals fear he will show up to camp in poor physical condition.
While the Cardinals have depth at the guard spots now, it could be a temporary condition. Faneca and Wells are due to be unrestricted free agents in 2011, and Johnson is not a proven commodity. Still, Lutui accomplished nothing by staying away this offseason, other than avoiding some work.
It's folly to draw concrete conclusions based on voluntary workouts, but the Cardinals are encouraged by the performance of their receiving corps.
With the departure of quarterback Kurt Warner and Pro Bowl receiver Anquan Boldin, the receiving positions will garner a lot of attention in 2010.
The Cardinals had no question that Steve Breaston would be able to successfully replace Boldin in the starting lineup, but there was fear Boldin's absence could be felt further down the depth chart.
Early Doucet, expected to be the No. 3 receiver behind Larry Fitzgerald and Breaston, has played well this offseason and should be able to fill the role, provided he stay healthy. That's been a problem in both of his seasons.
The fourth and fifth receiver spots are open. Onrea Jones, who has bounced around the practice squad of various teams, has enjoyed an impressive spring. And there has to be a place for Andre Roberts, the team's third-round selection.
If the Cardinals enjoy good health in 2010, the receiving position should be strong, despite Boldin's departure. Breaston has more speed than Boldin, and runs well after the catch.
The Cardinals might be even more dangerous with him in the starting lineup. The problem will be depth. An injury to any one of the top three receivers will force an unproven youngster into a critical role.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt was a little sensitive to the fact that he missed a recent voluntary practice to participate in a charity golf tournament sponsored by Safeway, one of the team's major partners. Asked his score, Whisenhunt said he didn't know.
"I went there for Safeway, who is a good partner of ours (the Cardinals) and they raised $2.5 million for charity last year," Whisenhunt said. "So when they asked (me) to do that, I said, 'Sure, I'll support that.' I went in there real quick, got out of there and got back here."
The Cardinals have used a number of players in the starting units this spring, as coaches have looked at different personnel combinations and rewarded some players for performance. "Whenever you see somebody do some things you like, you want to put them in situations with the first team...where you get a look at them," Whisenhunt said. "That's going to continue through training camp, as well."
Strong safety Adrian Wilson missed the last week of voluntary practices to travel back to High Point, N.C., where his high school is retiring his number. It's a big deal to Wilson, who has been wearing the number, 9, in practice this spring.
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