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Now Or The Future?

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The Cardinals took Calais Campbell because of his pre-draft ranking, but his arrival also fit well because of Antonio Smith's contract status.

Calais Campbell?s name just kind of ?jumped off? the draft board.

That in the end was why the Cardinals took the defensive end in the second round of the 2008 draft, when everyone expected the team to take a running back. The Cards had Campbell among its top 25 players in the entire draft class, so the team felt it needed to grab him.

It didn?t hurt that one of the Cards? starting defensive ends, Antonio Smith, was heading into the last year of his contract, and that if Smith played well he?d likely get a bigger contract on the free-agent market than the Cards were willing to pay. If that happened, Campbell would be perfect to step into the role.

When the draft arrives in a week, multiple factors will play into the Cards? decisions in their war room. While the team is built to compete now ? especially after reaching the Super Bowl last season ? the future must always figure in.

The Cardinals need a running back now, given they will likely release Edgerrin

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James. They don?t necessarily have to have a pass rusher in 2009 ? they do have Bertrand Berry, Chike Okeafor, Travis LaBoy and Clark Haggans at their outside linebacker/pass rush positions ? yet that spot is likely one of need.

 ?(The future) is obviously a part of what we look at,? coach Ken Whisenhunt said.  ?When you talk about the overall depth of a football team, I think you have to look at the age of your depth. You may be three or four deep at a position, but it may be veterans who have a number of years.

?What you want to do is continually look to improve your team through the draft and through youth. Not always are you going to be able to do that, but it is something you have to look at.?

The Cardinals went into last year?s draft already loaded at wide receiver. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin were established stars. Bryant Johnson did leave as a free agent, but holdovers like Steve Breaston and Jerheme Urban were still around.

Yet the Cardinals spent their third-round pick on wide receiver Early Doucet. No, Breaston wasn?t expected to have a breakout season, nor were Boldin?s contract issues a major problem at that point. Doucet was there for the future, however, and again, rated too high for the Cardinals to pass up.

If the Cards end up trading Boldin this offseason, Doucet's presence suddenly becomes that much more important -- even if that wasn't the reason the team took him in the first place.

?The thing about it is you have to rely on patience,? director of player personnel Steve Keim said. ?You have to have confidence in the (ranking) system. You have to have patience it will fall to you the right way. You can?t press. That?s when you start making mistakes.?

The Cardinals, drafting 31st ? the latest the team has ever drafted, except in years they didn?t have a first-round pick ? must balance these ideals against the background of waiting. It seems probable the team either goes with a running back in the first round, which would have more of an immediate impact, or pass-rusher/linebacker, which may be more for the future.

The Cardinals are fortunate they probably don?t have such glaring holes that need immediate help. They could take an offensive lineman or tight end, for instance, but they don?t have to given the current roster makeup.

Keim acknowledged need of one kind or another does slightly skew the team?s player rankings. But that?s where the decisions must be made between now and later.

?If you look at eight out of 10 (draft) mistakes ? if you count 10 mistakes over the years ? were made by pressing and reaching for need instead of letting it come to (us),? Keim said. ?How many times are your needs in April the same as October, because of contract issues because of injuries because of multiple other reasons? Your needs are constantly changing, so you get into trouble going off of need.?


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 4/18/09.

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