Breaking Down Arizona's Salary Cap Situation After Releasing Bradley and Gay

Tyson Langland@TysonNFLNFC West Lead WriterMarch 2, 2013

Nov. 25, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA: Arizona Cardinals linebacker Stewart Bradley (55) against the St. Louis Rams at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

After only playing 40 snaps in 2012 and 235 snaps in 2011, the writing was on the wall that Stewart Bradley would not be back with the Cardinals this coming season. He carried a $6.5 million cap number in 2013, which was just too high of a figure considering he wasn't even a starter on Arizona's defense.

Releasing Bradley saved the Cardinals a total of $21.5 million dollars on the three remaining years of his initial five-year deal. However, there is $3 million worth of dead money that the organization owes to the former third-round pick. Meaning Bradley won't officially be off the Cards' payroll until the end of the 2013 season.

Arizona Cardinals @AZCardinals

The @AZCardinals have released LB Stewart Bradley and CB William Gay. #AZCards

As for William Gay, he didn't even last a full calendar year in the desert. After signing a two-year, $4.95 million deal on March 25, 2012, Gay was let go after an average inaugural year in Arizona. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed 52 catches on 88 targets, surrendered 726 yards receiving and opposing quarterbacks had a quarterback rating of 80.

Not the greatest of numbers by any means, yet they could have been a whole lot worse. Gay's contract in 2012 had a bargain price of $1.375 million attached to it, however this upcoming season (2013) wasn't structured to be as bargain friendly. He was due a total of $3.6 million in base salary and bonuses, so it was definitely the right move to make on a player who was performing at his highest level.

The early termination of his contract will only cost the Cardinals $250,000 more by the time it's all said and done. A cheap alternative when you compare it to paying him his full salary for the 2013 season. Both players will hit the open market immediately, and won't have to clear waivers or wait for free agency to officially begin on March 12.

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Kent Somers @kentsomers

With the release of Bradley, William Gay, #azcardinals are about $5 million under the salary cap

As you can see in the tweet above, the release of Bradley and Gay saved the team around $5 million in cap space for the 2013 season. A significant upgrade over the $800,000 in cap space they had before making the two cost-effective roster moves this morning. Yet general manager Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians would like to get under the cap even more before the start of free agency.

So let's take a look at how they could do that. The most obvious and logical move would be to restructure quarterback Kevin Kolb's contract. He has the highest cap number of any player on the roster at $13.5 million in 2013. Yes, he makes more than Larry Fitzgerald, Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett.

If the Cards aren't able to restructure his deal, the next place they could turn is to safety Adrian Wilson. Even though Wilson would be owed $1.925 million in dead money, it would still create an overall net savings of $3 million in additional cap room. And for a team that is seemingly strapped for cash, every little bit helps. 

Another potential cap saving move would be to cut wide receiver Early Doucet. Doucet isn't in line to make a lot of money, but $2 million in extra wiggle room can go along way. Especially considering the fact that the former LSU Tiger isn't worth the $2.25 million cap number he carries. Arizona's front office could easily find equal talent for about half the price. 

All of the moves I proposed just goes to show that a team, tight up against the cap can dig themselves out of a hole. They just need to be able to cut their losses and make tough decisions on players regardless of the emotional level involved.

Keim wasn't put an ideal situation based on a few ballooning contracts, yet how he responds to the tough contract situations will tell us a lot about him. We all know he's a great football mind that has an eye for talent, but now I want to see how he manages a roster and the financial aspect of it.

Don't expect Bradley and Gay to be the final round of cuts before the end of free-agency either. There will be a couple more coming as the Cardinals are trying to still make room for a couple of their own players they would like to try and re-sign before they hit the open market.

March 12 can't come soon enough, it's as simple as that.


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