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Q and A with GM Rod Graves, Part II

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General manager Rod Graves waves to someone prior to the season opener in San Francisco earlier this season.

General manager Rod Graves sat down with azcardinals.com for a question-and-answer session this week as the Cards reached the bye break. The first part of the interview was posted Thursday.

Q: There are contract issues that will be pressing sooner or later, whether it is free-agents-to-be Karlos Dansby and Kurt Warner and Antonio Smith or extension possibilities like Anquan Boldin or Adrian Wilson. Where do any contract talks stand?**

A: Right now I am not actively engaged in any specific talks but our lines of communication have always been open. We have not changed our position with regard to Anquan or Kurt or a number of other players. We would like to re-sign those players. It will remain our commitment to keep our core together. Nothing has changed with respect to that.

Q: Is salary cap space an issue right now or is waiting more of a philosophy?

A: The salary cap is not as big of an issue for us right now and I don't anticipate it being a big issue in 2009. But we do have to balance an overall budget against a salary cap and doing what we think is necessary to continue building a competitive team. But cap room is something I think we have managed well.

Q: Will success on the field make that harder, though?

A: Of course it will. It always makes it a little more difficult. We will have to balance decisions in the near future in terms of who we are going to keep versus those we may pass on.  When it gets to that point, we plan to have younger players or capable vets step into those roles. Those are the type of business decisions we will ultimately be faced with. As we get more successful, our players will get more expensive and we will be faced with some difficult decisions.

Q: With those decisions, is there an equation combining the football aspect of a player to the monetary aspect of a player?

A: Michael (Bidwill), Ken (Whisenhunt) and I will spend a significant amount of time talking about what is best for the team not only now but in the future. The equation, if you want to call it that, is based on the core group. That's about 12 to 15 players that we think are key players to the long-term success of the organization and we will try our best to keep those players together. As long as it makes sense to invest in those players, we will try to do so. That's where we start.

After that, we will make an effort to make sure the younger players are prepared and ready to play. And I think we have made a significant improvement in that area. The development of players helps us when evaluating the tough decisions.

Q: Here are five recent draftees for you to give some thoughts on:

Alan Branch:

A: Alan has made progress but he needs to make more progress. It's all up to him. We have seen Alan become a dominant player at times. He has responded to Ron Aiken's coaching. Alan needs to be more disciplined, because when he is on the field, we are as strong up front as any team in the NFL. When you have a combination of nose tackles like Alan Branch, Gabe Watson and Bryan Robinson, very few teams will be able to run against us. We feel Alan can be a strong component of our team.

Matt Leinart:

Matt, to me, had his best offseason and his best training camp. I think Matt is poised to be an outstanding quarterback in the National Football League. If it hadn't been for Kurt Warner's performance, he'd be on the field and I believe enjoying the attention we all anticipated he would have. He is staying focus, and when he gets his opportunity, I believe he will do very well.

Tim Hightower:

Tim has probably provided the most excitement for us out of this year's draft class. Like many other teams, there were questions about his speed when he came out of University of Richmond but that has proven not to be a factor. I give credit to (scouts) Jerry Hardaway and Steve Keim because they thought Tim brought a level of toughness and vision, he was highly productive in college, and he had the character we were looking for. He is only going to get better.

Levi Brown:

Levi I believe will become one of the league's top offensive tackles. He has improved and will continue to improve under Russ Grimm's direction. I think he started like a lot of young players, just trying to get a handle on the position. Over time he has gotten better and more confident. It's a tough position to play but he has the physical tools and he is smart enough to do it.

Steve Breaston:

If you could name the most improved player on our football team, I think coach Whisenhunt would agree with me that it is Steve Breaston. Since the time he came in, and I hope I don't offend him by saying this, he was a skinny kid who worked his tail off. He has worked not only to improve his skills as a receiver but he has gotten physically stronger and he has made a commitment to Coach John Lott's offseason program and it's paid dividends. His toughness, his concentration, all of that has improved. I believe most people would agree that we have a player there.


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 10/18/08.

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