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NEWS | March 6, 2009

Will the Cardinals fall back to Earth?

By Airman 1st Class Patrick McKenna Capital Flyer sports writer

(Editor's note: This article is the second of a series of three)

The Arizona Cardinals season was something out of a classic Hollywood sports movie. Kurt Warner was cast as the aging quarterback who's looking for just one last shot to show everyone what he's got left (see Dennis Quaid in "Any Given Sunday"). Anquan Boldin was the ultra talented wide receiver who doesn't feel like he's appreciated enough for putting his body on the line making tough catches (see Cuba Gooding Jr. in "Jerry Maguire"). Ken Whisenhunt is the young head coach trying to figure out how to keep everyone focused and the ship afloat (see Rick Moranis in "Little Giants"). Okay, that last one was mostly in jest, even though a case can be made the Cardinals could have used the Ice Box during Pittsburgh's final drive.

After a tumultuous preseason which saw Matt "Hollywood" Leinart fumble the starting gig away to Warner, the Cardinals enjoyed one of the most surprising seasons the NFL has ever seen.

The Cardinals stormed out of the gate going 7-3, only to stumble to the finish line 9-7. Truth be told, the Cardinals only made the playoffs because they had the benefit of playing in the worst division in sports. Yes, even worse than baseball's National League West, but they also were a well oiled offensive juggernaut that played just enough defense come playoff time to make it to the big game.

So are they a team on the rise or will they join a long line of teams to struggle following a Super Bowl appearance?

They have three key personnel decisions this offseason that will make or break their chances of repeating as NFC West champions.

First and foremost is resigning Kurt Warner. With the loss of offensive coordinator Todd Haley to the Chiefs, Arizona needs to bring Warner back to provide stability to the offense.

Second, what are they going to do with wide receiver Anquan Boldin? Boldin is unhappy about how the organization has treated him and has requested a trade. The only problem for Boldin is the Cardinals appear to have no desire to honor his request, and why would they? How often is it that a team coming off a Super Bowl appearance has a great player locked up in a great contract and decides trading him is a decent option?

Third, will they be able to bring unrestricted free agent linebacker Karlos Dansby back? Dansby, who finished 11th in the NFL in tackles, provided a defensive presence that the Cardinals had been sorely in need of the last few years. He is just entering his prime and has seen his tackles rise each year he has been in the league. If they let him slip through their fingers, the defense that surrendered the fifth most points in the league in 2008 may be too suspect for even the Cardinals aerial juggernaut to carry.

The Cardinals have approximately $41.7 million dollars in salary cap room this offseason so money will not be a factor in their decision making. They will bring back Warner and Dansby.

Boldin will pout, but in the end will suit up for the Cardinals week one.

The Cardinals will also bring in at least one solid defensive free agent to solidify their subpar pass rush. The most logical fit would be Terrell Suggs who went to college at Arizona State.

The Cardinals are not going anywhere just yet. While their division can't get any worse, none of the teams will improve enough to take the NFC West crown from Arizona.

For questions or comments about the "Top NFL offseason question," write to