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Free Agents Wait

Posted Jan 3, 2011

Notebook: Labor talks slow process; The Leinart question

Guard Alan Faneca talks with the media Monday as players cleaned out their lockers.


The end of the season always starts the clock on free-agents-to-be.

And with the ongoing uncertainty with the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement – and the looming lockout that threatens to delay the free-agent signing period – the Cardinals have a large group of key players currently without deals for 2011.

“They talked to fewer guys than they normally would have at this point because they don’t really know how to negotiate the contract (because of the CBA),” said running back/special teams captain Jason Wright. “I think they have approached guys these last couple weeks and said, ‘Hey, we want to talk to you, we just don’t know at this point.’ The guys upstairs do a great job … and there will be good communication here the next few days.”

A new CBA could dramatically impact the salary cap and/or the rules for free agents, not to mention the possible wait to be able to talk contract in the first place. Teams can re-sign their own players to extensions up until March 4, which is when current contracts officially expire, when free agency is supposed to begin, and the date at which the lockout would start.

That’s the backdrop for players like Wright, wide receiver Steve Breaston, center Lyle Sendlein, guard Alan Faneca, guard Deuce Lutui and defensive linemen Alan Branch, Bryan Robinson and Gabe Watson, among others.

Some players are considering retirement, like Robinson, Faneca and Wright. Robinson and Faneca have said they want to take some time and discuss the future with their respective wives. Wright said that discussion for him is already underway.

“Our goals are bigger life goals, so it’s more than just finding the right team or the right contract, but whether or not to continue in this profession,” Wright said.

The others will wait to see what happens, whether it may be an earlier extension offer or – more likely for some – hitting the market to see what other teams propose compared to the Cards.

“Right now I am a Cardinal,” Lutui said. “I am excited for the next year, the next step, wherever it may be.”

Said Sendlein, “Until they get a deal done, I can’t think about it because I could be restricted, unrestricted … thinking about it now doesn’t matter.”

WHAT IF WITH LEINART

The Cardinals released Matt Leinart right before the regular season. Then they proceeded to use four different quarterbacks during their 5-11 season.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said it was “fair” to ask him if he had regrets how the quarterback situation was handled. Overall, he said, the coaches were “fair and honest with the process.” As for the idea Leinart could have made a difference in the season, Whisenhunt said “that is a question I don’t know can ever be answered.”

Whisenhunt reiterated the decision to part ways with Leinart was best for the team at the time.

“It was based on performance,” Whisenhunt said. “It was based on the reaction of the team to the players and who was in there and the confidence that our team had in that position being able to execute. And that was what it was all about. It was based on the work in the offseason. It was based on the work in OTAs and in training camp and that is the way you have to evaluate players, I think. Who knows? That’s the question that can’t be answered but I am sure it is a popular topic.”

WAITING TO SEE AT LINEBACKER

As the Cardinals continue through transition, they will have to make decisions on a pair of veteran linebackers who weren’t playing at the end of the season. Joey Porter was hurt with a tricep injury and missed the last two games, while Gerald Hayes was inactive the last four games.

Porter had five sacks, but after making four in three weeks – culminating with two at Minnesota Nov. 7 – he didn’t have another. He is due $5.75 million in salary for 2011, and the Cards have O’Brien Schofield waiting in the wings.

“I’m going to rehab, get healthy, and get ready for next year,” Porter said.

Hayes, who has been a Cardinal since being drafted in 2003, is due $4.25M in 2011. He was benched so the Cards could play rookie Daryl Washington and Paris Lenon on the inside.

“It’s been a tough year but I got through it,” Hayes said. “Let’s just say I’m not worrying about being here next year.”
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