Warner's status biggest issue for Cards
By BOB BAUM, AP Sports Writer
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Kurt Warner's possible retirement. Contract troubles with Darnell Dockett and Anquan Boldin. Oh, and a defense that was scorched for 90 points in two playoff games.
These are just some of the issues facing the Arizona Cardinals following their elimination from the playoffs in a blowout loss at New Orleans.
The ugly end ruined any chance for Arizona to repeat its magical run to the Super Bowl.
At his season-ending news conference Sunday, coach Ken Whisenhunt emphasized the positives. The Cardinals took the NFC West title for the second year in a row and won 10 games in the regular season for the first time in 33 years.
Then Warner was near prefect in a 51-45 wild card shootout against Green Bay, the highest-scoring game in NFL playoff history.
"We are two games from where we were last year. That is pretty good," Whisenhunt said. "There are a lot of teams that would switch with us. We are one of the top eight teams in the league. ... I consider it a successful season for us."
Warner, as he cleaned out his locker, said he and his wife planned to get away for a bit, but his decision on whether to return next season won't be a drawn-out affair.
"It won't be long. That's all I can say," he said. "I don't really have a date or a time but I want to make my decision real quickly for all parties involved, but I don't really know exactly when that will come."
The 38-year-old quarterback has one year, worth $11.5 million, left on the two-year contract he signed last offseason. Warner said that physically, other than the soreness from the battering he took in New Orleans, he feels "better than I've felt probably over the last three years."
Warner echoed Whisenhunt's evaluation of the season.
"I think we just continue to build on what a lot of people never expected for this organization," he said. "It's tough to go to the Super Bowl every year. It's tough to win your division two years in a row. You have to understand when it comes playoff time if you don't bring your best performance you get beat. That doesn't mean you had a lousy season."
Dockett, the big, quick defensive tackle, made the Pro Bowl as a starter. He has two years left on his contract but wants a new one that would give him money comparable to the best at his position.
"I've done things in the last two years that no guy has done at my position," he said. "But at the end of the day, everybody knows what team I'm playing for."
Dockett said if he is to sign a new deal with Arizona, it's this offseason or never.
"If they don't want to do it, that's cool," he said. "But if I get into my last year, I'm just going to play it out and go to another team."
Boldin, who missed both playoff games with a high left ankle sprain and sprained left knee, has a year left on his contract. He passed 1,000 yards receiving for the fifth time in his seven seasons with the Cardinals.
But he turns 30 next October and has not made it through a season without injury since 2006. That, and the emergence of Steve Breaston and Early Doucet, may make Arizona unwilling to give him money comparable to the top receivers in the league.
A trade is possible, or the Cardinals may simply let Boldin play out his contract.
"I have maintained what I have said all along: We are a better football team when Anquan is playing for us and that is always something that you look at as you go forward," Whisenhunt said. "I have great respect for Anquan and what he has fought through."
As for the defense, Whisenhunt wouldn't go in to specifics. He fired defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast after last season's Super Bowl run and promoted Bill Davis into the role. The goal was to cut down on the big plays, and Arizona did that at times this season.
But in the last two quarters against Green Bay and the first two against New Orleans, Arizona gave up 70 points.
"I know that playoffs aren't what we wanted them to be defensively, but we did make strides this year on defense from a standpoint of keeping points down, being better in the red zone, and being a better third down team," Whisenhunt said.
The Cardinals have a long list of unrestricted free agents in an environment made uncertain by the NFL's collective bargaining issues with the players union.
At the top of the list is linebacker Karlos Dansby, who was tagged as a franchise player the last two seasons. He said he wouldn't be surprised to get the franchise label again .
Arizona is 31-23 in Whisenhunt's three years, without a losing season. This from a franchise that, before the coach arrived, had one winning season since 1984.
Whether that success continues could well depend on whether the Cardinals' graybeard quarterback decides to come back.