It is no secret that the Arizona Cardinals are in the midst of a significant rebuild. After picking 1st overall in this past years draft, general manager Steve Keim, who has held the position since 2013, now looks to return the Cardinals to the playoffs. In this previous draft, he established the building blocks by adding 11 new rookies, including quarterback Kyler Murray. The Cardinals are hoping Murray can develop into a franchise-caliber quarterback and will look to make aggressive signings while they have the passer on an inexpensive rookie contract. These moves, however, might have to wait until next season, as the Cardinals currently have the fourth least cap space available, with just over 6 million dollars to spend.
So how did we get here? How could a team with so few cornerstones have so few financial options? Well, let’s start with the most aggravating part of it, the dead cap money for players not even on the team.
Arizona’s Roster Construction and Mishaps
The Cardinals currently have over 30 million dollars of their cap space going to players such as Josh Rosen, Sam Bradford, and Jermaine Gresham. In addition to Rosen and Bradford, the Cardinals are still paying Mike Glennon. These three quarterbacks alone account for over 16 million dollars in cap space for the 2018 season.
Now, onto the players that are currently on the Cardinals roster. Unfortunately, there aren’t many advantageous cuts Arizona can make. Chandler Jones ($19.5M) and David Johnson ($9.75M) are two of, if not the two, best players on the team. The Cardinals wouldn’t save much by cutting them, let alone the on the field ramifications. Larry Fitzgerald ($11.25M) and DJ Humphries ($9.625M) are guaranteed deals, mitigating any reason to cut them. The only cap recovery subsequent would be $250,000 from a Fitzgerald bonus.
The Cardinals genuinely are limited to three options to open up cap space. With the recent news, new cap room could potentially go towards the likes of Trent Williams.
Arizona can either trade or cut the following players: Patrick Peterson, D.J. Swearinger, or D.J. Humphries. First, Patrick Peterson, who is currently facing a six-game suspension for PED use. He would free up about $10.6M while only incurring about $1.3M in dead cap. Peterson, however, remains an elite corner, one who finished fifth in “coverage grade” according to Pro Football Focus, posting the second highest grade of his career this past season. The most likely option, if the Cardinals were to move on from Peterson, would be to find a trade partner willing to give up sufficient draft capital to part ways with the former fifth overall pick.
Additionally, D.J. Swearinger presents an intriguing cap situation. Trading or releasing the hard-hitting journeyman safety would free up about $4.5M in cap space, with no dead money. This obviously would be a precarious move considering the Cardinals signed the safety just this offseason. However, should the opportunity for an elite tackle like Trent Williams come along, the Cardinals may pull the trigger.
Finally, a trade of offensive tackle D.J. Humphries could be soon in the works. As mentioned earlier, the tackle currently has a fully guaranteed $9.625M deal. If the Arizona Cardinals cut him, they would free up no cap space. If they happen to trade him, his entire cap hit would be transferred to the other team. Moving the 4th year tackle might be difficult, and would almost certainly hinder Murray’s development. The Cardinals offensive line was the team’s most substantial weakness last year, so the Cardinals would be wary of moving on from Humphries without a player like Trent Williams in return. Unequivocally, Arizona would have to add more to their side of the deal.
By The Numbers
Here is the projected cap pace if the following moves were to happen, in terms of current to resultant space.
Trade/Cut Patrick Peterson – $6.2M – $16.2M
Trade/Cut DJ Swearinger – $6.2M – $10M
Trade DJ Humphries – $6.2M – $15.2M
Were all three scenarios to happen, the Arizona Cardinals would go from $6.2M in cap space to $29M. Ultimately if Arizona plans to make any moves the rest of the offseason, keep an eye out for these three players. As for next off season, expiring contracts and dead cap relief will allow the Cardinal’s to build around Kyler Murray in free agency. But for now, all the Red Sea can do is wait and see.