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Cards face tough call on trading or keeping Boldin

Dealing the receiver might let Cardinals move up in draft to get running back or linebacker

TEMPE – As has been the case a lot in recent months, the Arizona Cardinals find themselves in foreign territory.

The Cardinals have the 31st pick out of 32 in Saturday’s NFL draft. The late selection is the product of Arizona’s improbable run to the Super Bowl last season.

“It’s frustrating because when you’re at 31 you know there’s players that you like that would be a very good fit for what you’re trying to do,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “They go off the board and you almost feel defenseless that there’s nothing you can do.

“But I kind of like drafting 31. That’s a problem I hope we have for years to come, except I’d like it to be at 32″ – when the Super Bowl winner picks.

Arizona could have a higher selection if the team agrees to trade disgruntled wide receiver Anquan Boldin. The three-time Pro Bowl receiver remains upset over his contract situation.

The Cardinals have received inquiries from “quite a few teams” about Boldin, but general manager Rod Graves and coach Ken Whisenhunt said Tuesday they would be happy to keep Boldin and try to sign him to a new contract.

“Quite a few teams have called but we have no offers from those teams,” Graves said. “Anything can evolve from this point through draft day so that’s where it is right now.”

Arizona denied reports it’s asking for first- and third-round picks in return for Boldin. The Ravens have expressed interest in trading for Boldin, according to the Baltimore Sun, but have balked at sending first- and third-round picks to the Cardinals in return.

“We haven’t specified what we’re looking for, or anything along those lines,” Graves said.

Boldin has two years left on his four-year, $22.25 million contract. He earned $4 million last season. By comparison, teammate Larry Fitzgerald is in the second season of a four-year, $40 million deal. He and quarterback Kurt Warner have said they would be open to altering their contracts in order to keep Boldin.

Graves repeated that contract talks with representatives of linebacker Karlos Dansby and safety Adrian Wilson must be resolved before attention would turn to Boldin. That might not be until 2010.

In Florida last week, Boldin appeared open to staying with the Cardinals, a departure from earlier requests to be traded.

“I didn’t say a trade was necessary,” Boldin said. “I just want something to get resolved. It’s something that’s gone on long enough.”

If the Cardinals’ first choice comes at No. 31, Whisenhunt knows it’s a guessing game which players will be available.

Arizona’s first-round picks the last two years – offensive tackle Levi Brown in 2007 and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in 2008 – were Super Bowl starters.

“You really can’t target who you think’s going to be there quite as easily, maybe, as you could our first year here when we were picking high,” Whisenhunt said, “and even our second year we had a pretty good idea who was going to be there. Now I guess you try to get it to positions and then hope that one of the players you have rated highly would be there.”

While the Cardinals are thought to be most interested in drafting a running back or outside linebacker, Whisenhunt insists the team doesn’t “really specifically have a certain need going into this draft like I think we’ve had in the past, because we have good players at all our positions.”

“I think it’s more about us being able to take, as the cliche in the draft is, the best player available and how it fits for us,” he said.

But with the anticipated release of Edgerrin James, Arizona needs someone to back up young Tim Hightower in what was the worst ground game in the NFL last season.

The candidates are Knowshon Moreno of Georgia, Chris “Beanie” Wells of Ohio State and Donald Brown of Connecticut.

Brown is the most likely to be available, and he might be the best fit, too.

“There are backs whose skill sets fit what we do better than the other backs,” Whisenhunt said, without tipping his hand. “If we’re picking a back, that’s what we are hoping for that would be available there is somebody that we fit. If there wasn’t, then we’d probably look to another position.”

Brown would be UConn’s first first-round NFL selection.

Arizona also needs a pass-rushing outside linebacker to bolster the aging group at the position, which compares to defensive end in other systems.

If the Cardinals go for a linebacker, Larry English of Northern Illinois could be the choice.

In Whisenhunt’s two previous drafts, Arizona has had success finding players in later rounds, including Hightower (fifth round), wide receiver Steve Breaston (fifth round), defensive end Kenny Iwebema (fourth round) and tight end Ben Patrick (seventh round).

This year, the Cardinals will be looking to add depth throughout the roster, including the offensive line, where the same players started all 20 games last season. Defensive line and tight end also are possibilities.

For once in Arizona, the idea is to build on success.

“We know what our scheme is, what we do well,” Whisenhunt said. “Being able to identify players that can fit into that scheme and help us has become, I don’t want to say more important, but it’s become a little bit easier. It’s more the whole organization is on the same page.”



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