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Free Agency Turns Chillar

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The Cardinals are hoping to sign Rams linebacker Brandon Chillar to a free-agent deal after snaring defensive end Travis LaBoy from the Titans.

Defensive end Travis LaBoy came and the Cardinals signed him to a five-year contract. Linebacker Brandon Chillar visited too, and the Cards are trying to see if they can lock him down.

Beyond that, the Cards will be taking a break in free agency, coach Ken Whisenhunt said Tuesday.

"We have a bunch of (free-agent) names," Whisenhunt said. "Whether we bring those guys in … Some of them we will look at as this thing progresses. (But) we don't have anything scheduled right now."

Whisenhunt acknowledged that the continued inability to work out a new contract with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is part of the reason. Fitzgerald carries a $16.5 million salary cap figure right now.

Asked if the team was holding back on free agency because of the standstill in the Fitzgerald talks, Whisenhunt said "it is pretty close to that, yes."

The Cardinals were supposed to host defensive end Antwan Odom, but Odom canceled his visit after signing with Cincinnati.

"We will be faced, if we had to sign other free agents, we would have to find roster space which obviously could involve cutting players," Whisenhunt said.

That shouldn't include the Chillar situation, although it's up in the air whether the Cards can snare the former Rams starter.

Chillar said he is going to visit Green Bay after leaving Arizona, and added that St. Louis has made it clear they would like to have him return.

"It comes down to financials," Chillar said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me. I want to make the right decision."

Chillar, who has started for the Rams the past two seasons, had 2½ sacks and 85 tackles last season. At 6-foot-3 and 242 pounds, he would be able to be used both inside and outside, Whisenhunt said, a versatility that drew the Cards' attention.

"I can fit wherever they need me to fit," Chillar said.

The same concept was why the Cardinals pursued LaBoy so hard. LaBoy officially inked his contract Tuesday, a deal reportedly worth $22 million with $7.5 million in guarantees. Whisenhunt said when the Cards evaluated the 6-3, 260-pounder, they were reminded of the now-departed Calvin Pace.

"He's a fourth-year guy, and we're going to ask him to do a lot of the same things we did last year with Calvin," Whisenhunt said.

That's why LaBoy wanted to be a Cardinal so bad, signing despite getting a bunch of calls from his former employer, the Tennessee Titans, asking him to return.

"I couldn't really find a better fit," LaBoy said of Arizona's defensive scheme.

Whisenhunt said LaBoy intrigued the Cardinals before they knew Pace was not going to return. But LaBoy's skill set does ease the loss of Pace.

"I don't think it was a question to replace Calvin," Whisenhunt said. "(But) when we didn't get a contract worked out with Calvin … we knew Travis would be a good person, if we lost Calvin, to fill the role well."

Whisenhunt added that LaBoy will play the defensive end/linebacker spot opposite Chike Okeafor, and will compete with Bertrand Berry for a starting job.

As for Cardinals receiver Bryant Johnson, his visit to Buffalo ended without a contract, although the Bills remain the apparent leader to sign him.


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 3/4/08.

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