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Money As Motivator

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Linebacker Karlos Dansby is one of a few key Cardinals who are scheduled to become a free agent after the 2008 season.

Karlos Dansby has already been through a contract year, and it brings to mind for the Cardinals linebacker a few different issues.

But first, Dansby said, "you better get yourself some insurance. This game is rough, man. You never know."

OK, maybe Dansby did grin a bit when making the comment. Money, however, is at the root of most thoughts during a "walk" year.

For a veteran NFL player, a contract year -- knowing unrestricted free agency and a potential windfall new deal could await – can also serve as motivation for the current season.

"It definitely adds motivation," said cornerback Eric Green, a scheduled free-agent-to-be. "Any guy would be lying if he said it didn't. You want to focus on the team and the things you are doing, but it's always in the back of your head.

"For me it's a little more motivation because I want to prove to my team they should want to keep me here. Everyone is talking about free agency and that's a great thing, but Arizona is where I want to be."

The contract issues of wide receiver Anquan Boldin notwithstanding – Boldin's contract runs through 2010 -- the Cardinals have a plenty of players that are scheduled to have contracts expire after the season. Only some are in position to possibly earn big-money deals.

Green is one, as is defensive end Antonio Smith. Each are receiving a little more than $2 million this season having signed tender offers as restricted free agents in the offseason. Dansby is playing under the franchise tag of more than $8 million, having reached unrestricted free agency this offseason. Unable to get a long-term deal done with Dansby, the Cards tagged him.

There is also quarterback Kurt Warner, the free-agent-to-be who could be in line for a lucrative new deal having won the starting quarterback job.

In all cases, the organization has thoughts of re-signing the players. Whether it can thrust the team to a higher level because the player is motivated that much more is just one positive benefit within a subject that can often polarize a player and his team.

"(Money) is a big factor on both sides of the table," general manager Rod Graves said. "For us on the club side, it's about managing all of your player's salaries to fit within certain limits. The unfortunate thing is you can't get to everyone at one time.

"Beyond that, any one deal can affect your negotiating position with all the others. For the player, all he has to do is worry about himself – how much money can I get? It creates an interesting dynamic. The main thing is the majority of our players seem to want to be a part of what is going on here and that always gives us a chance to work something out with them."

Coach Ken Whisenhunt acknowledged the business part of the game can catch coaches in the middle. They develop close relationships with players, yet also have to see the big picture of the team and the future.

As for motivating a player, Whisenhunt – who had a nine-year NFL career himself – wasn't sure how a new contract would fit.

"I think players are driven to be good," Whisenhunt said. "I'm sure when they think about it the business part is important to them. But I think when they step out on the field it's all about playing and playing well."

Smith said the issue isn't just about making money for the future. It's also a question of what the franchise thinks of you as a player, and whether the team is willing to pony up to keep you as main member of the roster.

Those are all thoughts that creep into a player's head, Smith said.

"I play hard regardless," Smith said. "I may have a little more incentive now. I can use it as a tool. But I enjoy playing, laughing, smiling, slamming them to the ground. Do what I normally do." * * * Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 9/11/08.

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