Earlier this week the Cardinals came out with the first round of roster cuts for the 2015 season. In the most surprising move in the first round of cuts earlier week, the organization decided to release Dave Zastudil and keep Drew Butler.
Naturally there was uproar amongst some fans and no small amount wonder at what would make the Cardinals certain that Drew Butler was the best option after last year. In fact, during Bruce Arians usual Q&A on Monday via arizonasports.com he addressed questions on the decision saying,
I think he [Drew Butler] won the battle easily on a daily basis.
He had a heck of a year other than the playoff game — the playoff game he struggled getting out of a funk, but he’s hit it really solid the whole time.
However, while Arians isn't wrong in saying that Butler has improved it seems a little disingenuous to say he "clearly" beat out Zastudil.
Let's look at their preseason stats:
Obviously there isn't much of a difference between the two players. And truthfully if you take the last full season of playing by both of them it's clear that Zastudil was the better player with a 40.1 net yard average in 2014 compared to Butler's average of 36.8 in 2014.
Understand a few things. First, Zastudil's stats mirror Butler's at his career. Clearly, Drew Butler has improved and that bodes well for him in the future. Dave Zastudil had hit his peak. Second, both players look almost identical in the preseason. Maybe, Butler was better in practice, but he couldn't have been soundly winning when the games looked so similar.
The NFL is a league focused on the idea of "what have you done for me lately?" Since both players performed similarly there can only be one factor that separates them.
Dave Zastudil was set to earn $1.6 million against the cap if he stayed on the team. By releasing him, he costs only roughly $300,000. Conversely, Drew Butler is set to be paid only $585,000 being on the roster. For two players who are performing the same there is truly only one good choice to keep.
We often forget football is a business, but you can be sure Steve Keim and Bruce Arians never forget that fact. It's not an evil thing or a good thing. But it is an important factor when considering the moves the Cardinals may make in the next couple weeks.