Can Cards keep it together in 2009?
When the Cardinals' incredible run ended in Tampa just less than two weeks ago, many football fans and experts felt that this was one of the best Super Bowls ever played. Sure, when everyone looked at the matchup prior to kickoff, many felt the Steelers held a decisive edge, but when the game concluded many realized this was a closely contested battle between two heavyweights that were able to throw and land their best punches.
Now that it is all over, Steelers fans are confident they have a team that could possibly make a run in 2009. But what about Arizona? When the game ended, I'm sure many felt this was a good team that has an opportunity to repeat in 2009 if it can stay intact. But then that's the real question, isn't it?
With Warner considering retirement, the loss of offensive coordinator Todd Haley, and linebacker Karlos Dansby likely to become an unrestricted free agent, Cardinals fans will have to wait to see what happens with their team in the Desert. With everything considered, perhaps one of the biggest question marks moving toward free agency (set to start Feb. 27) will be wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
Boldin unhappy in the desert...
It's no secret that Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin is an unhappy camper under the sun. It is hard to imagine why a player that signed a $23 million, four-year contract extension would be unhappy, but maybe if the organization you played for reneged on a promise to rework your deal, you might understand. Not likely since I won't ever see dollars like that, but that's neither here nor there...
(photo by David Kadlubowski / The Arizona Republic)
When Boldin entered the NFL back in 2003, he was the Cardinals second round pick (54th overall) out of Florida State. As a late second round draft pick, Boldin did not receive a huge payday when he signed with the team as a rookie. But after three impressive seasons with the Cards that included two with over 100 receptions, the team rewarded Boldin with a four-year $23 million contract extension.
So what's the problem?
From 2005 through 2007, both wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan had impressive runs for the Cardinals. In three seasons, Fitzgerald collected 272 passes (in 44 games) for 3,764 yards and 26 touchdowns, while Boldin hauled in 256 passes (in 42 games) for 3,458-yards and 20 touchdowns. Fitzgerald received a four-year deal for $40 million. According to Boldin, he received a promise to rework his four-year deal that was only one year in.
A new deal was never struck and Boldin entered the 2008 season an unhappy player in Arizona. Clearly Boldin has proven to be one of the league's best receivers and feels he's as deserving of a big payday as his counterpart. Whether there was a promise or not, Boldin was asking for the Cardinals to show him the Quan.
That was over six months ago and all of that has now changed.
Is the Red-Bird reading to soar like an Eagle?
No new deal was signed before the 2008 season, a season that Boldin showed his guts, skills, heart, and determination coming back from a severe facial injury in week four. Boldin gave his everything, perhaps to show management what they would eventually lose, or maybe to display to any potential caller what they would be getting.
According to the Arizona Republic, recent whispers across the desert sands have the Cards seriously looking at possibly trading Boldin, and according to ESPN's John Clayton there are a couple of teams from the East that could make a play. A player of Boldin's talent and caliber is unlikely to accept a deal to any non-contending team, and when you look at possible suitors the Eagles or Giants make sense.
Could Boldin really be traded? Well, I have to say there's something oddly familiar about this whole disgruntled wanting-a-trade situation. Just about the time Boldin was entering the NFL, the Eagles were involved with signing another number 81 that wanted out of somewhere. This past season, McNabb and company sure did make a nice run into the playoffs, but it did look as though there was a missing piece to their puzzle.
(photo by AP)
The Eagles have talent and speed on offense, especially at the wideout position, but none of their current receivers have the size and strength of Boldin. With a player of his size and the speed of DeSean Jackson and Kevin Curtis on the outside, you have a dangerous mix for quarterback Donovan McNabb. The Eagles have a few other holes to fill and questions to answer on offense, but Boldin in an Eagles uniform sure makes all of that easier to deal with.
While Clayton mentions that the Giants may be an interested party, it's pretty evident with two late first round picks that the Eagles are the front runners to make an offer the Cardinals may not be able refuse. It's never been mentioned, but if you're Arizona you don't want any prospect of a holdout heading into training camp.
If Boldin is unhappy, it would make sense to do your team some justice by moving the frustrated receiver now so you can use the additional draft picks and address some of your pressing needs on defense. The additional cap money made available would also make sense to be used to re-sign free agents like LB Karlos Dansby, QB Kurt Warner, and DB Arian Wilson (who has one year left on current deal), as well as secure a player like DB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who will likely be looking to restructure his six-year deal. The Cardinals would also have the ability to upgrade their tight end position by signing someone like L.J. Smith (would a sign and trade deal make sense?).
The move to trade Boldin to Philly just makes more sense than not, simply because everyone could win. The Cardinals get to move on and address their needs not only in free agency, but in the draft with the additional picks. The Eagles would receive an instant boost to the offense and give McNabb something he hasn't had since the T.O. days. Philly would also have plenty of cap space to still be a player in free agency.
(photo by Getty Images)
Could Boldin really land in Philly? I certainly don't see why not. I believe this Red Bird is ready to fly the coop and leave the desert. I don't believe the Cardinals are going to be able to re-sign him to a new deal. I can't see the team sitting on this one when there is so much to gain and so much to avoid, like the negative attention and distractions associated with this whole scenario, like facing a possible hold-out (ala T.O. in 2006). The last thing Arizona needs is a circus.
I believe it's just that time to trade Boldin and move on. Don't be surprised to see Anquan building a new nest in the middle of Lincoln Financial Field and wearing Eagle green before the start of the 2009 season.
That's my take.
By David Ortega
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