This is a bittersweet day for the Arizona Cardinals.
On the one hand, the Cards announced today that they have released 12-year veteran Adrian Wilson, according to Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today, a sad end for such an important figure in the team's history in Arizona.
But, it signals a new direction for the Cardinals, one where the team is willing to make tough decisions to improve the team's future, even when it comes to an important figure like Wilson.
By making the move, the Cardinals are saving $3 million, hopefully with the idea that they can improve the team in other areas and get younger at the same time.
The fact that the Cardinals are making a tough decision a week before free agency is also a sign of respect for Wilson. It gives him a one-week head start on the free-agent frenzy that is likely to occur next week.
Cardinals team president Michael Bidwill is quoted as saying "All of us thank Adrian for what he has meant not only to our organization but also to this community," in a statement from the team.
Many teams can say that about the key players for an organization, but in the case of Wilson, it fits him perfectly.
The team also announced the move via Twitter on Friday:
Arizona Cardinals @AZCardinals
The @AZCardinals have announced that the team has released strong safety Adrian Wilson. #AZCards #nfl3/8/2013, 5:30:17 PM
The reason that Wilson is so important to Cardinals history is that he wanted to stay here.
He never longed to play for the Dallas Cowboys or other organizations. He made it very clear that he wanted to be here and see the Cardinals become better.
Coming here in 2001, Wilson had a chance to see the Cardinals at rock bottom and then gradually become better. During the majority of his time in Arizona, he was one of the best safeties in the NFL.
The Super Bowl XLIII appearance against the Pittsburgh Steelers almost served as a reward for Wilson's faith and perseverance with the Cards.
Wilson sent a message to the fans via Instagram Friday:
It's been an honor and a pleasure Cardinal fans. 12 years of heart and dedication and loyalty. 1 day we'll celebrate the #24 together.
The Cardinals and Steve Keim are showing that they are going about the business of building the the team, even when it comes attached to making a tough business decision.
Arizona has had better players come through the valley through the years, but no one as loyal to the Cardinals' brand.
It will be odd to see Wilson wearing another team's uniform next season.