What a difference a few years can make.
Less than a decade ago when the Cardinals were still playing at Sun Devil Stadium, the organization did an extremely poor job of locking up key young pieces to their roster. As a result, lots of players would leave and then go on to have productive careers elsewhere.
That isn’t the case anymore with the Cardinals organization. With Michael Bidwell taking over the duties of the franchise from his father, Bill, the Red Birds have done a much better job of locking down most of their key players to long-term deals.
The organization did it last offseason with signing the face of the franchise, Larry Fitzgerald, to a eight-year deal. The front office locked up defensive end Calais Campbell earlier this offseason and they did the same with linebacker Daryl Washington just a few days ago.
Now the speculation begins on who will be the next player to get an extension. Patrick Peterson is only in his second year of his rookie contract, so you won’t have to worry about him until 2015 at the latest. Paris Lenon could be an option, but at 34, how many years does he really have left in the tank playing such a grueling position?
Looking at the Cardinals free agent list of next offseason, the one guy that makes the most sense is LaRod Stephens-Howling. The Hyphen will be an unrestricted free agent in 2013, where he can sign with any team in the league.
Cardinals general manager Rod Graves in the past has even said that Stephens-Howling would be an option for an extension. It is unclear whether or not the two sides have even discussed a possible deal.
Stephens-Howling is an extremely important part of the Red Birds. He has been well known for his special teams play over the years, but he is expected to have a larger role in the Cardinals offense in 2012. When the Hyphen has the ball in his hands, he makes things happen.
It remains to be seen if Stephens-Howling wants to remain in Arizona though. If he rides it out and has a big season as the team’s #3 running back, he could receive a big payday from another team. He could also have a much bigger role with that team as well.
Only time will tell what happens with Stephens-Howling or who the next player to sign an extension with the Cardinals will be. One thing is for sure, the Cardinals are in good shape with their contracts with almost all of their key players locked up for several years.