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Release WR Early Doucet
The knock on Early Doucet to start his career despite showing promise was that he couldn’t stay healthy.
Injuries ended his first three NFL seasons early (please, disregard the pun).
He was able to remain healthy enough the last two seasons to play in more games (28) than he did the first three (26). Only now, he can’t catch.
Doucet has dropped 16 passes over the last two seasons—eight each season. With 36 of 51 targets this season deemed “catchable” by ProFootballFocus, that means he dropped 22.2 percent of catchable passes.
His 207 yards receiving in 2012 were his lowest output since his rookie season.
Money Saved: $2 million
Reduce QB Kevin Kolb and Restructure WR Larry Fitzgerald
At a combined salary of $23.75 million for 2013, Kevin Kolb and Larry Fitzgerald account for 20.2 percent of salary-cap money on the books for the Cardinals.
You read that right. A fifth of money paid to the current roster will go to Kolb and Fitzgerald.
That is, unless they both reduce or restructure their contracts. For Fitzgerald, a restructure is likely if he is asked. He epitomizes the “team first” mentality and would do anything for the team if it meant being able to sign someone who could help Arizona get to the playoffs.
Kolb, on the other hand, really doesn’t have a choice other than to negotiate a pay cut. He has started just 14 of a possible 32 games since being traded to the Cardinals and signing a lucrative extension he had not—and still has not—earned.
If he does not reduce his $13.5 million cap hit, Arizona could be forced to cut him. Although Arizona would still be on the hook for $6 million in dead money this season if forced to cut him, the team would save $7.5 million.
But Kolb is a reasonable and honest man. He knows he hasn’t earned the money. Some fans believe he should have come to the team already with an offer to reduce his would-be salary. Instead, we are all left waiting for it to happen.
Reducing Kolb’s salary from $9 million to $2 million saves the team $7 million. The team can save $4 million by cutting Fitzgerald’s salary for 2013 from $5 million to $1 million and diverting it to later years in his contract.
Money Saved: $11 million
Extend FS Kerry Rhodes’ Contract
Kerry Rhodes is entering the final year of his contract with the Cardinals. He is to be paid $6 million this year, with $5.5 million guaranteed and a $500,000 workout bonus added.
He will be 31 on August 2, and having started 15 games last season, upper management has to feel confident he can play at a high level for a handful more years.
To lower his cap hit, the team must extend his contract and divert some of his salary over the life of the new deal. An expected extension for a player of his caliber could be somewhere in the ballpark of three years and $21 million. This would be similar to the deal Quintin Mikell received from the St. Louis Rams in 2011.
The deal should be back-loaded very similar to that of Mikell. The Rams’ veteran safety could be a cap casualty this season, as he is owed $9 million and has not done enough to say he has earned it. But for Rhodes, he has earned an extension.
A three-year, $21 million extension could have $4 million of 2013’s $4.5 million salary converted into a signing bonus, which would be evenly distributed across the life of the deal. The first year (2013) could carry a base salary of $2 million, and with the prorated signing bonus, that would bring his cap number to $4 million (he is owed a $1 million roster bonus March 17).
Money Saved: $2 million
Total Money Saved: $15 million
There will be more movement than I highlighted, but that gives you an idea of what could and should be done to help free up cap space for the Cardinals. Now, onto those free agents.
Note: All salary-cap numbers are taken from overthecap.com.