Graves and Cardinals forced to battle NFL reality

Note: This column appears in the 5/1 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 5/2 issue of the Peoria Times

Poor Rod Graves.

While Cardinals’ general manager Rod Graves is certainly enjoying the newfound expectations that have come from the improved situation he helped create, there remains one man inadvertently trying to hold him back from future success. That man has slicked-back hair and once held a press conference on Terrell Owens’ front lawn.

That man is Drew Rosenhaus.

What?! That contract is a week old! Stop living in the past!

Just when the Cardinals seem on the cusp of a winning season, the sports agent du jour has arrived to remind the franchise just how difficult it can be to turn a corner. Two weeks ago, linebacker Karlos Dansby -- whose agent, coincidentally, is not Drew Rosenhaus -- signed the tender offer that acknowledges his “franchise tag,” and thus will earn over $8 million this season. (Graves says a long-term deal is on the horizon.) This reminded defensive tackle Darnell Dockett that he would like a new deal. Dockett signed a five-year contract extension in late 2006, but now -- and please remember, the 2008 season has yet to start, so feel free to use your fingers to do the math -- he would like a different contract. For more money. Dockett’s agent is Drew Rosenhaus.

Back in March, the Cardinals worked out a four-year, $40 million deal with Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. (It should be mentioned that Fitzgerald’s agent is not Drew Rosenhaus.) Everyone was happy. Including Rosenhaus, who had waited on the deal to get done as leverage for his own client, Anquan Boldin, who now, oddly enough, would like a new deal. As of last week, Boldin’s situation has led to rampant trade rumors.

No, no, I would never suggest harming another human being. All I'm saying is, if he were to go missing, I wouldn't ask any questions.

Graves has remained steadfast that both Dockett and Boldin are currently under contract, and that no new deals for either player will happen this year. Rosenhaus has remained steadfast that he is Drew Rosenhaus.

Far be it from me to criticize an NFL player for trying to get paid, especially in a league where a career-ending injury could happen any day, and where non-guaranteed contracts rule the landscape. It’s easy to portray the team as the victim in these situations, when that’s not always the case. And while it’s easy to hate on him, if I were an NFL player, I would want Rosenhaus on my side. Okay, that is completely untrue, but still. (I’d probably use my equally ruthless lawyer uncle.)

Nevertheless, the timing of these new contract demands can’t please Graves, what with voluntary workouts underway and the team’s focus shifted on signing their draft picks. It’s also the “Look at what he’s getting…I want THAT” nature of Rosenhaus negotiations that are such a turn-off to the average fan. Fitzgerald’s deal -- while great news for Cardinals fans -- also serves as a template for what Rosenhaus wants for Boldin, and as a reminder that the Cardinals aren’t exactly notorious for throwing money around.

And hey, it’s not like the Cards are the only team that has to deal with this crap. Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, Rosenhaus is trying to drag wideout Chad Johnson out of town because Johnson -- who is also under contract by the way -- is, well, sad. The Bengals, like Graves, aren’t budging.

Thankfully, Rod Graves was able to push aside the drama for enough time to make a few draft picks this Saturday, all of whom, he hopes, have lawyer uncles. One of those picks -- fifth-round selection Timothy Hightower -- is a running back. If and when the Cardinals eventually sign him, that should remind Edgerrin James -- who is represented by Drew Rosenhaus -- that his current contract only has two years left. That is unacceptable.

Rod Graves, you’ve been warned.

Would I be standing here if I truly believed that my client caused a distraction? Next question.