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Business As Usual

Despite labor uncertainty, Cards confident offseason strategy shouldn't change


General manager Rod Graves congraulates linebacker Karlos Dansby after a win in Seattle during the 2009 season.
Labor uncertainty has already weaved its way into the storylines of the NFL offseason, and it will impact the rules of free agency if -- as anticipated – a new collective bargaining agreement isn't reached by the beginning of March.

What it won't affect, the Cardinals say, is the way the franchise will do business.

"For the last three years we have operated a certain way and have had great success with that," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "We've brought in free agents that have had a tremendous impact, like a Bryan Robinson. We have done a good job of drafting. As far as our approach, none of that has changed.

"If there is a free agent out there we feel can help our football club, we will pursue that free agent. There are (free-agent) restrictions … but we will do everything we can to keep the process the same it's been the last couple of years because it has worked well for us."

The Cardinals are in the midst of finalizing plans for the offseason, prepping for next week's scouting combine and preparing for the free agent period – however it may look – that begins March 5.

"We will focus on the players we want back and on the draft," general manager Rod Graves said. "For the last several years we have not been heavy into free agency and I am not anticipating that will be any different this year."

Four current Cardinals are at the top of the team's to-do list right now:

-- Safety Antrel Rolle is going into the final year of his rookie contract scheduled to receive a $4 million roster bonus at the beginning of next month and more than $8 million in salary this season. Graves said the team currently is working on restructuring and extending his deal.

"He's a playmaker for us and we'd like to extend him," Graves said.

Added Whisenhunt, "That's what this organization has done, try to keep the good football players, and Antrel is one of those. We are working on it, much like we did with Larry (Fitzgerald) in almost this same type of situation (in 2007)."

-- Linebacker Karlos Dansby looks like he will become a free agent, although Graves emphasized the team would like him back.

"It's going to depend on his expectations and the kind of interest he gets out there on the open market," Graves said. "We know where we would like to be with Karlos from a contractual standpoint. If we are able to meet that, I think we can get him back. If not, we'll make a decision on it based on the situation."

-- The team has talked to both defensive tackle Darnell Dockett and agent Drew Rosenhaus about the possibility of a contract extension, although nothing is imminent.

"We are going to take a look at it to see first of all if we can do it, and then if it makes sense to do it at this time," Graves said. "But we are going to take an opportunity to study the feasibility."

-- As for wide receiver Anquan Boldin, Graves said the team will look at all the options – which remain a trade, an extension, or just keeping Boldin for the final year of his contract – and "settle on whatever is best for the team."

The only other immediate issue for now is Whisenhunt's need to fill out his coaching staff after defensive backs coach Teryl Austin left to become the University of Florida's defensive coordinator. Whisenhunt said there was no timeline, saying it could happen by the end of the week but still might be longer.

Whisenhunt also said he remains confident the offense doesn't have to be overhauled for new quarterback Matt Leinart and that life A.K. – after Kurt – won't be much different for the Cards, at least in the way they construct the roster.

"We have been building the team to give us the best chance at sustained success, which we have done for two years," Whisenhunt said. "What we have shown we have been able to do is adapt to the personnel to what we are trying to get done on both sides of the football.  We have shown progress in the run game and it gives us optimism going forward that we can be more balanced. We have a lot of young talent that have shown they can make plays.

"The way we are building the roster is not going to change. It's not based on the quarterback."

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