TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Cardinals cleaned out their lockers Monday, a day after their season ended on a game-winning field goal in a loss to the 49ers. The mood, for the most part, was upbeat. There was an overwhelming sense of disappointment in not making the playoffs but throughout the locker room, the outlook was positive. Everyone just wished they were still playing.
But they all faced reality, and are planning their offseason trips and their futures.
Here are five storylines to watch as the offseason gets underway:
Staff expected to return: Cardinals coach Bruce Arians doesn’t expect any turnover on his staff, he said Monday, but the most likely possibility would be defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. The Cleveland Browns didn't waste any time, requesting an interview with Bowles on Monday to talk about being their next head coach.
“Rightfully so,” Arians said. “I guess a lot of jobs opened today. I’ve been on that side of it, too. I feel bad for all those guys.”
If Bowles leaves, then he might take a couple of assistants but 78-year-old pass rush specialist Tom Pratt said he’ll be back and Arians expects Tom Moore and Larry Zierlein, 75 and 68, respectively, to return.
Free-agency mayhem: Arizona has 16 unrestricted free agents to decide if they want to pursue during the offseason -- seven on offense, seven on defense and two on special teams.
The group includes kicker Jay Feely, linebacker Karlos Dansby, right tackle Eric Winston, running back Rashard Mendenhall, wide receiver Andre Roberts, tight end Kory Sperry, tight end Jim Dray, guard/center Mike Gibson, linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, cornerback Antoine Cason, cornerback/returner Javier Arenas, defensive back Bryan McCann, defensive end Frostee Rucker, punter Dave Zastudil and tight end Jeff King.
Washington due bonus: If the team hasn’t already, it has until March 11 to decide if it’ll pay linebacker Daryl Washington his $10 million option bonus that was included in the new contract he signed in 2012. If the Cardinals decide not to pay Washington the bonus, they’ll have to cut the two-time Pro Bowler.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Washington said Monday. “I can say I’m confident and it can go differently.”
The Cardinals may wait until the 11th hour to make a decision. There’s the possibility that Washington could face another suspension stemming from his May arrest on aggravated assault charges.
“That probably could be one of the biggest things,” Washington said. “I’ve never really even looked at it like that but that may be one of those things looking at.
“I’m praying and hoping that everything gets behind me and that I don’t miss any more games the next season. I think I’m very confident (in) where I stand in this organization that I’m a good enough player and a good enough person on and off the field to come back next season.”
Washington missed the first four games of 2012 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Another violation could mean a year-long ban.
Peterson negotiations can begin: The Cardinals and Patrick Peterson’s new agent, Joel Segal, could start negotiating the cornerback’s new contract starting Monday, according to league rules.
Peterson, who was named to his third Pro Bowl in as many seasons on Friday, is signed through 2014 with a club option for 2015. If a new deal is not worked out by time his rookie contract expires, the Cardinals could utilize the option to franchise Peterson in 2016 and 2017. He made $2.05 million in 2013 and will make $2.89 million next season.
The negotiations can set the tone for how the relationship between Peterson and the Cardinals will be impacted during the next few years. The common belief is he could command the largest contract for a defensive player in the NFL, a title held by Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh with a $63.5 million contract.
Offseason additions: The Cardinals brain trust has been talking for about four weeks already on where the team needs to improve in 2014. Those conversations will amp up in the next few days, Arians said. Look for the Cardinals to target a left tackle in free agency, and if they can’t secure one there, that will be their primary target in the draft. Arizona will also look for a quarterback and safety in the draft, most likely in the first few rounds.
The quarterback won’t be out to supplant starter Carson Palmer, rather he’d sit and learn Arians’ offense. A running back could also be considered, depending who’s available as could a third receiver if the team doesn’t re-sign Roberts.