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What the Cardinals should do with Boldin

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

We preface this discussion about Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin with a trip back in time to the Aug. 1, 2005 edition of the Arizona Republic:

"Boldin rolls into camp, a smile as wide as the grill on his luxury sedan, saying he believes in the franchise's future. Coach Dennis Green says of course he thinks the Cardinals are serious about winning. If he didn't believe that, he would have stayed home in Del Mar this summer.

"But Boldin's signing provides proof. This was a litmus test of the Cardinals' legitimacy.

"'Some people might view it that way,' Boldin said. 'I see it as us heading in the right direction, us keeping guys who are good players, on and off the field. It's just a tribute to what they're trying to get accomplished, showing that they are trying to win and are committed to winning.'"

That was then. Boldin had just signed a four-year extension with the Cardinals. The team would pay $25.5 million to him from the 2005 season through the 2010 season.

The extension seemed richly deserved after Boldin significantly outplayed a rookie contract that had valued him only as a second-round draft choice, not an emerging star. The market has predictably changed again since 2005, and the Cardinals' reluctance to meet Boldin's subsequent demands has strained the relationship -- perhaps beyond repair.

Boldin says the Cardinals reneged on a promise to rework his contract earlier. He requested a trade and has reportedly told the Cardinals he won't consider any offers. The Cardinals have said they hope to make things right, but they also have other priorities. Kurt Warner, Karlos Dansby and Antonio Smith can become free agents in 16 days.

Boldin isn't going anywhere without the Cardinals' approval. They own his rights through the 2010 season. They could conceivably restrict his options beyond 2010 by naming him their franchise player, if such a provision exists as part of a future labor agreement.

We know what the Cardinals could do. The question becomes what they should do. We raised the question in our most recent Hot Topic item, and you responded. We join the conversation.

jzrthreekats: Trade him and use the money to upgrade the running game. i.e. running back and upgrade the center of the O-line. We need to prepare for the post-Warner years and if Matt Leinart is the future, he will need a more solid running game.

Mike Sando: That makes sense in theory, but this doesn't have to be an either-or proposition. The Cardinals should be able to keep Boldin, one of their best players, and still upgrade other aspects of their roster. The team has enough salary-cap room. And with a new stadium, revenue shortfalls shouldn't be as much of an issue.

theoldred29: I would find a good opportunity for a trade. On this point, Boldin can't be a beggar and a chooser, meaning if Detroit or another downtrodden franchise is the trade partner, he can't say no. With that said, if the Cards do not get a deal similiar to [what] Roy Williams [commanded], then I say they keep him. If Boldin is un-willing to sign an extension, then he needs to play out his contract.

Mike Sando: You point to a significant aspect of any trade. Any trade would be contingent on Boldin and the new team agreeing to contract terms. Boldin could pretty much kill a trade by refusing to sign a long-term deal with the new team. And he would presumably want something comparable to the deal Larry Fitzgerald signed. Trading Boldin might be easier said than done.

Crixtopher: I would trade him. From a business standpoint, he is hurt a lot, we have Fitz, we have Steve Breaston, Jerheme Urban and hopefully Early Doucet is solid. We simply don't need him. We have other needs that are higher priority. Julius Peppers comes to mind. However, if they wanted to trade only to an AFC team, what about Boldin for Shawne Merriman? Boldin for Albert Haynesworth?

Mike Sando: A healthy Merriman would indeed upgrade the Cardinals' defense. He's entering the final year of his contract, so the salary-cap ramifications would be minimal. On Haynesworth, the Cardinals would have to decide whether he would fit their needs as the defense considers adopting a more traditional 3-4 scheme. And of course any deal for Merriman or Haynesworth would depend upon striking a long-term contract agreement. Again, easier said than done.

calpoon: Arizona should tell Team Boldin the Cards will not consider trade offers or extensions. Why should players always be allowed to re-negotiate their deals only when they perform well? Why do they never offer take less when they stink it up after signing a big money deal?

Mike Sando: I understand your point and sympathize with it. I also understand and sympathize with the players' perspective. Teams routinely break contracts with players. The contract Ahman Green signed with the Texans before last season carried a $4.8 million salary for 2009 and a $4.3 million salary in 2010. The Texans broke the contract when they released him this week. Green will never receive the $9.1 million in salaries.

Gra
nted, Green knew the terms when he signed the deal. He knew the team could release him and not pay his salaries. But if you're a player, you need to look out for yourself. The team is going to put its interests first.

DWRinAZ: If I'm the Cards, my bottom line is a 1 and a 3. Let Q's agent do the work, either he can find a team willing to pony up or he can't. I wouldn't go after any of the big-name free agents. They rarely if ever are worth the money. I think Haynesworth is a bust in the waiting. Same with Peppers. Best value on the D-line is the guy from San Diego or Cards own Antonio Smith. Even Karlso Dansby is going to be marginal at the $$$ he wants given his limited pass rush capabilities.

If you can get the picks you should be able to grab a center and either a RB/TE/OLB in round 1 and the extra pick in the 3rd should yield a decent player. I think the Cards have a potential star in Lance Long. Every Cards DB says he is harder to cover in practice then anyone on the roster.

Mike Sando: The defensive backs I've spoken with have called Larry Fitzgerald the toughest cover in practice. Beyond that, I agree with your general statement on the bad money spent in free agency. And if the Cardinals do decide to trade Boldin, they should definitely outline parameters and let the agent do the work.

The question becomes whether Boldin's situation would hurt his production or become a drag on the team if the Cardinals held their ground and made Boldin play out his contract. At some point, the Cardinals need to establish how they plan to do business. Will they be in control, or will the players be in control? As much as Boldin has done for the organization, his unhappiness does provide managment with an opportunity to show its strength.

mhkervin1: This is ridiculous. Being a 10+ year season ticket-holder, I believe Q when he says manamgemnt told him they would redo his contract this past year. I also know how cheap the Bidwills are, so I'm sure they did jerk him around some. However, he is a former second-round draft pick who signed an extension a few years ago; I'm sure Drew [Rosenhaus] is whispering in his ear about a big payday and being THE MAN somewhere else (which also gives Drew a big payday).

I love how hard Q plays and what he brings to the table, so I think the team should work to redo his contract and make him feel loved. But if not, trade him to an AFC team for a draft pick AND a defensive front-7 playmaker (better front 7, the better our secondary will look - don't waste it on CB, line and LB much more valuable) or a draft pick and RB.

Mike Sando: You passed the test of being a true fan by spelling the Bidwills' name correctly (as opposed to the all-too-frequent Bidwell references). I think you raise a good point about agents, too. They benefit from new transactions.

bardo1959: This is tough. Admired Q for a long time and he's my son's favorite Cardinal. But he's messing with the chemistry this team has. Cards are in a good position because they can get trade value and work on getting Dansby signed. They can't let Dansby go and he's more valuable to this team than Q. I think the future of this team is really building the defense and Warner has never been consistent. You can't rely that he will be the same QB next year. Besides, he's almost 40. Leinart's not a bust and I think he has benefitted from sitting on the bench the last year. Hate to say it, but Q has got to go. Sign Dansby and lets get Terrell Suggs if he's available.

Mike Sando: I doubt the Ravens will let Suggs get away. Again, this doesn't have to be an either-or proposition. The Cardinals should be able to keep Boldin, a player they drafted, and still make upgrades in other areas.

As for the team chemistry part, I'm not so sure. The Cardinals have paid top dollar to Fitzgerald. They will probably do the same for Warner. They could do the same for Dansby, even if it's as a franchise player. I think the organization needs to clearly explain its reasoning on Boldin while demonstrating a willingness to spend when appropriate. If the Cardinals do those things, team chemistry should be fine.

Catjuggeler: If I was Boldin, I too would be mad that I am only making 3 million while Fitz is making 10 million. Boldin held the team up early in his career without Fitz and then Fitz makes way more than Boldin right after being drafted. Fitz is better, but Boldin was there performing beforehand and should at least be making around 6-7 million for his talent/toughness/believe it or not leadership.

Mike Sando: The Cardinals probably agree. Timing would be the issue with them. Should they be reworking deals with multiple years remaining? If they do it with Boldin, should they do it with Darnell Dockett and others?

jasongresham8: Put him on the block and see what offers they draw. That will answer all questions. If they can get a nice combo of players and picks, let him go. If not, make him honor his contract. He wants out, so the Cardinals should get whatever they can to make the team better. If he doesn't wanna be there, it will be bad for the team.

Mike Sando: On the other hand, Boldin's anger and frustration did not stop the Cardinals from advancing to the Super Bowl.

CITYIGNITES: Trade him to the Seahawks, then draft Michael Crabtree. The Seahawks will probibly take Crabtree, they need someone for Hasselbeck to throw to. Crabtree is a high pick wideout, so he's big ro bust. Boldin is a for sure pro bowler
, which they need. Seahawks would take the trade, and the Cards get a bigger boldin in Crabtree.

Mike Sando: I highly doubt the Cardinals would trade Boldin within the division. The Eagles might make more sense as a trading partner because they have the draft capital and they have pursued veteran receivers.

jeffrey.aronson86: What most people overlook or just plain don't know is that Boldin has brought some of this on himself. Last season, the Cards went to him and offered to re-do his deal. Boldin with Rosenhaus' advice told the Cards they wanted to wait until Fitz signed his deal. By the time all was said and done, the Cards were up close to the cap and didn't have room to give him a new deal. Now this offseason we do. I believe that the Cards will offer Boldin a new contract and we will see where it goes from there.

One thing that gives me hope is Lance Briggs. Two years ago, Briggs, whose agent is Drew Rosenhaus, told the Bears he would never sign a new contract after being franchised. Well last season the Bears opened up the bank and Briggs signed a contract and all was forgiven.

Mike Sando: The question here would be whether Boldin's pride would stand in the way. We also can't be sure what the Cardinals would be willing to offer on an extension. We've heard much about Boldin's feelings to this point, but we'll conclude with a perspective too often overlooked.

Leesters: On a personal note, I'm sick to my stomach. 21 years of rooting for a team that moved into my yard, and there is only one other player that I could call my favorite Cardinal ever, Larry Centers. Yea, yeah, the rest of you don't know him ... but Cardinal fans adore him. Anquan has showed the same kind of heart, leadership, and toughness Centers gave me. He has inspired, amazed, and outmanned every one compared to. He is awesome on every level since he got here.

Anquan is my favorite Cardinal, and he hates my guts. That is really the hardest thing of all. Lose a Super Bowl by a miracle throw with 37 seconds left? Sure, I can handle it. Listen to the country say my team is the worst team in the playoffs? Okay, fine.

But when a grown, sane man takes a player as close to the pedestal I put Boldin, I am just crushed by his hatred for the team I love so much. Boldin/Cardinal fans, I feel your pain. It's the worst. I just want it over soon. Give him the key to city, or trade him for Tony Gonzalez. Fast. The nightmare of this offseason that started with a perfect pass and perfect catch must end.