An Offseason Look at the Arizona Cardinals

After a nice start to the season the Arizona Cardinals quickly fell apart and out of the playoff race. It’s a team with a terrific defense that was completely wasted by the failures at the QB position. If there was one team last season that would gone from being a bottom 10 team to a Super Bowl contender just by having a passable QB it was the Cardinals.

Cap Positions

Right now I have the Cardinals around $2.5 million over the 2013 NFL Salary Cap, but I have not accrued any dead money from last season for Arizona yet so their situation may be a bit worse than I have listed. The most likely candidate for a release or a restructure is QB Kevin Kolb, who the Cardinals traded for a few years ago and never panned out as a viable starter. Kolb has a salary cap charge of $13.5 million in 2013, $2 million of which is due in early March in the form of a roster bonus. The only reason for him to remain on the roster is because he is the best option they currently have at QB if he could stay healthy, but with a cap savings of $7.5 million if released and cash savings of $11.5 million they should turn elsewhere.

S Kerry Rhodes has been a solid player for the Cardinals since coming over in a 2010 trade with the New York Jets, but will need to rework his contract if he wants to stay. Rhodes has a $6 million dollar cap charge in 2013, all of which would be saved if he was released. I would think that it’s more likely that Rhodes receives a contract extension to bring his cap number down this year.

Releasing CB William Gay should save the team over $3 million which makes him as good as gone. WR Early Doucet saves the team $2 million in cap with his release and with so much investment in high level wide receivers it doesn’t see realistic to keep him in 2013. Moving TE Jeff King will free up $1.55 million and he could be one of a number of small cap savings moves, such as releasing RB Beanie Wells, and replacing them with low cost rookies that the team needs to make to gain enough cap room to improve their offense.

Notable Free Agents

The Cardinals more or less signed most of the guys they want to keep for the future last season and thus have limited free agents this year. LB Paris Lenon is the biggest name but its doubtful the team would want him back. CB Greg Toler is probably the one person that they need to keep but he should be able to come back at a reasonable price.

Rookie Pool

Arizona should have one of the higher rookie pools in the NFL with just over $6.4 million estimated to jump onto the 2013 salary cap. As their roster stands now that would mean close to $3.2 million in net cap room. Based on that plus minimum workouts that are soon to accrue the Cardinals will need to shave off about $7 million just to stay even with the cap these next few months.

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ESPN’s Mike Sando weighs in on Kevin Kolb

In keeping with the Clayton list, ESPN’s Mike Sando takes a deeper look at the Kevin Kolb contract in the NFC West blog. Sando does a really excellent job of laying out what went into the decision and reasons why it sometimes is more difficult than not to look at a number and say “bad deal”.

Arizona fell into the trap of falling in love with the backup QB. It happens time and time again. Most times it does not work out (Rob Johnson, Matt Cassel, etc…), but occasionally (Matt Schaub) it can pay dividends. What was more difficult here is that Kolb had shown just as much bad as he did good in his brief playing tenure in Philadelphia. The Eagles were prepared to move on from an ineffective Donovan McNabb in 2008, but Kolb was so bad in relief against the Baltimore Ravens that the idea was immediately scrapped. He would get two chances to start in 2009, one of which was a good game and the other a good statistical game in which he threw three picks and was blown out. Once McNabb was healthy he retook the starting position. He showed little special when finally given the ball in 2010 before getting injured and eventually replaced by Mike Vick.

Maybe Arizona was swayed by the success of Aaron Rodgers. Maybe they felt that if you paired Kolb with Larry Fitzgerald that it would be a match made in heaven. But the risk with the move was very high and they compounded the cost by sinking more money into Kolb when they should have moved on after one season. Here is Sando’s take on the future:

Kolb’s deal included $20 million in compensation for the first two seasons. His salary is scheduled to be $9 million in 2013. The team must account for $6 million in future salary-cap charges related to Kolb whether or not he remains on the roster. That $6 million charge could be spread across more than one year. Seeking a reduced salary for Kolb could make sense if the team thinks he can still provide value in the future.

The $6 million cap charge is the remaining proration from his $10 million signing bonus that is unaccounted for. By designating Kolb a June 1 cut the Cardinals can spread that hit over two seasons, with $2 million being charged to 2013 and $4 million charged to 2014. There is a catch to doing that, however. If the Cardinals designate Kolb a June 1st cut they will carry his full cap charge, $13.5 million, throughout free agency with the relief coming after June 1st.  By just using the normal cut and taking the full $6 million hit the Cardinals will free up $7.5 million in immediate cap room. Kolb has a roster bonus due on the 5th day of the League Year, so a decision will need to be made before that date.