Running back LaRod Stephens-Howling is one of three restricted free agents to whom the Cards tendered offers to with free agency looming.
LaRod Stephens-Howling was a seventh-round pick when he was taken in the 2009 draft, but the running back has proved to be worth much more than that.
So it was no surprise when the Cardinals extended a second-round tender to the restricted free agent, one of a handful of moves the team made with free agency – and the new league year – set to begin Tuesday afternoon.
The tender was one of three given to the Cards' four restricted free agents. Defensive backs Greg Toler and Rashad Johnson were also tendered at their original draft status, while the Cards did not tender linebacker and special teamer Reggie Walker. The Cards are expected to try and bring Walker back, however.
Stephens-Howling, Toler and Johnson can all still seek free-agent deals from other teams. Stephens-Howling's offer, expected to be worth about $1.9 million means if another team were to sign him away, the Cards would receive a second-round draft pick in return. The original tenders for Toler and Johnson, expected to be worth about $1.2 million, would mean they would produce a fourth-round and third-round draft pick as compensation, respectively.
The Cards, however, retain the right to match any contract offer, and most restricted free agents never get another offer because teams usually end up matching the deal anyway.
Stephens-Howling has proven big-play ability, has he showed in long catch-and-run touchdowns against Pittsburgh and Dallas this past season, and is one of the Cards' most important special-teams players. And with Beanie Wells sitting out the season finale, he also gained 93 yards rushing in his first game as a featured back.
Toler missed all of the 2011 season, tearing up his knee in the preseason, after he was going to start at cornerback. He is expected to return for training camp. Johnson became a valuable piece in the secondary filling in for injured free safety Kerry Rhodes.
Cornerback A.J. Jefferson and wide receiver Stephen Williams have already signed their one-year exclusive rights deals. The other exclusive rights players offered contracts are quarterback Rich Bartel, running back Alfonso Smith, defensive end Ronald Talley and linebacker Brandon Williams.