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Futures of Cardinals' stars still uncertain heading into free agency

INDIANAPOLIS -- The countdown in Arizona has begun.

In less than a week, Kurt Warner could become a free agent, Edgerrin James could be released and the discussion about Anquan Boldin could heat up yet again.

This is not how the NFC champions intended to enter free agency, and the Cardinals still have a few days to fix it.

"Obviously we don't have a deal in place right now, but we believe Kurt wants to be back with us," Cardinals general manager Rod Graves said Saturday at the NFL's annual scouting combine in Indianapolis. "Talks have started, so we will continue to negotiate and we hope to get something done sooner rather than later."

Warner's contract is part of the issue, a big part.

He resurrected his career with an MVP-type season, winning the starting job in 2008 and leading a franchise that has traditionally struggled to the NFC title. Warner has said he wants to finish his career in Arizona, but at 37 may ponder retirement if things don't work out.

With Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and Boldin, the Cardinals' offense improved dramatically -- enough to make a surprising playoff run.

Fitzgerald, a Pro Bowl player, has already said he would restructure his contract if it meant keeping Boldin, who caught 89 passes despite missing four games with injuries in 2008.

But Boldin's issues run much deeper.

He wants a new contract even though two years remain on the current deal. Earlier, he said he would not re-sign with the Cardinals, and last week, agent Drew Rosenhaus sent an e-mail to NFL teams identifying three of his clients, including Boldin, were seeking trades.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Boldin has not expressed those opinions to the Cardinals.

"Everything I've heard has been reports from the outside," he said. "I don't feel any different about Anquan and we want to work out a long-term deal with him."

Yet Graves appears in no hurry to redo Boldin's contract.

"We've got players on the roster with contracts ready to expire, and players with one year left on their contract. Anquan has two years left," Graves said. "We'd like to extend him when the opportunity presents itself."

For now, that means Graves will focus on players like Warner -- and deciding what to do with James, whose playoff resurgence gave Arizona the running game it needed.

When James was benched for seven games, he met with Graves. James later said he expected to be released with one-year left on his deal.

On Saturday, Graves made it clear that was no certainty, either.

"No decision has been made on Edgerrin, but we did have a meeting with the acknowledgment of how he felt," he said. "We'll weigh any decision with respect to him and our roster."

So where does that leave the Cardinals?

In a scramble to get things worked out before the free agency opens Friday.

"Anquan had a huge part on our success and he's a core player," Graves said. "We wish we could add to everyone's opportunities when they wanted to, but that's not reality."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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