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Half Cards’ FA Cap Space Gone

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NFL: Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

12 of the Cardinals’ 2020 cap space has now been eaten up—-by a mere two players: WR Larry Fitzgerald ($11.7M) and LT D.J. Humphries ($15M).

Imagine this—-at the beginning of free agency, Michael Bidwil and Steve Keim were able to slap down a 64 slice pizza in the locker room—-at $1M a slice.

But, before leaving the pizza there for the free agent players, Bidwill and Keim took their own pizza box and dragged 7 slices in for the draft pool (#8 pick slotted to make $4.2M, #40 pick $1.5M, the rest of the picks are under $1M) and an added 5 slices for Steve Keim’s annual post Week 1 slush fund for acquiring players of need—-as Bidwill termed it this week: “We’ve got to save some room for the kind of acquisitions like Kenyan Drake,” Bidwill said. “We were able to get Kenyan Drake done because we had some room.”

So—-take away the draft and annual slush fund slices—-and what’s left: 52 slices.

Fitz was the first player to be ushered over to the pie—-and he grabbed close to 12 slices—-then D.J. grabbed 15 because, as he said, “Walmart-type discounts don’t apply to left tackles.”

Remaining slices: 25

Heading into free agency, Peter Schrager predicted the Cardinals were going to he “the hottest team” destination for free agents in the NFL.

Knowing that Fitz took his share and that D.J.’s 3 year, $45M deal with $29M guaranteed was in the works, and after explaining the rookie pool and slush fund allocations, Michael Bidwill avowed with regard to free agency, “We’re going to be aggressive. I can’t predict today who is going to agree to join us, but I know that we’re going to look at both sides of the ball.”

With as many needs as the Cardinals have—-and still with as many of their own free agents to consider bringing back—-does a mere $25M really allow the Cardinals to be aggressive in free agency in what is supposed to their most popular year?

Imagine that—-2 players consuming half the pie.

Fitz could have spared a of couple slices—-but—-he set the double cheese tone.

D.J., who graded out as the 4th best LT in the NFC West behind Joe Staley, Duane Brown and Andrew Whitworth, didn’t genuinely earn 15 slices of this pie, but he believes that by virtue of his position, he was owed them.

Fact is—-of all the NFC West LTs, D.J. is the most undisciplined, inconsistent, and injury prone, while playing in the most LT friendly offense in the division because of QB Kyler Murray’s elite mobility and escapability. Because of the threat of Kyler’s wheels, the LT position is not necessarily the most important position on the offensive line, as each of the 5 offensive linemen are of equal importance. In fact, if one had to pick the most important position on the OL in this offense—-most of the signs point to the center.

The consensus among the merry and jubilant Cardinals’ fans on twitter last night was that the Cardinals really had no other options, so kudos for them for wrapping up the $45M deal for Humphries.

In one clear sense, the fans have a good point—-simply because it was probably a foregone conclusion that Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim would lack the kind of creativity it takes to take full advantage of having $64M to work with at the start of a free agency in a year where the Cardinals were likely to be popular. “Can the Cardinals Handle Being Popular?”

Moreover, what’s clear about Bidwill and Keim is that despite the recent $13-15M a year salaries they have been lavishing on the likes of Tyrann Mathieu, Sam Bradford and David Johnson, they are eager and willing to heap that kind of money on yet another oft-injured player (3 of last 4 year ending on IR)—-and not only that—-to a player who will now become the 2nd highest paid player on the team, but is arguably not one of their best 10.

What does Humphries’ $15M a year contract with $29M guaranteed mean down the road for those better players when their contracts are up?

If the Cardinals next let RB Kenyan Drake into the room, he is likely to grab at least 5 slices, same with C A.Q. Shipley and QB Brett Hundley will deserve at least 3 slices. Then—-how about the RT position? Justin Murray is a restricted free agent—-he deserves at least 3 slices (on a 2nd round tender)—-but there’s been talk about the Cardinals re-signing Marcus Gilbert—-and what would he command? 4-5 slices? Add K Zane Gonzalez’s 3 slices (2nd round tender)—-and lo and behold—-if Bidwill and Keim first let some of the offensive free agents and the kicker into the room , as they have done for Fitz and D.J., there will be less than 10 slices left for upgrading the NFL’s 32nd ranked defense.

And we still haven’t even begun to consider free agents from other teams.

So much for being popular.

Even though Michael Bidwill lauds Steve Keim for turning the Cardinals back in the right direction—-keep an eye on his three major gambles this off-season:

RB David Johnson, LT D.J. Humphries and DC Vance Joseph.

A fourth could be added to that if Keim goes ahead with his plan to sign CB Patrick Peterson to his 3rd contract.

it would be extra sweet if David Johnson and Patrick Peterson get back to playing Pro Bowl caliber football.

Now—-I hope like mad that D.J. gets in great shape and lives up to his contract—-not only for the sake of the team, but so that he could stick it—-once and for all—- to BA and Harold Goodwin.

I hope like crazy that Vance Joseph is able to build on the signs of success the defense showed the last three weeks of the season and that he can turn a 2019 team weakness into a 2020 strength.

At least Steve Keim learned from the Mathieu and Johnson contracts to put Humphries’ guaranteed money up front in the first two years. The deal is, in essence, a 2 year $30M deal, with a $15M team option for year 3.

And lastly, I hope like the Dickens that the players who get their hands on the remaining slices of this free agent pie, are tough-minded, highly spirited dynamos who can help the Cardinals get to the playoffs in 2020.

Update—-there is always the possibility of a second pizza being delivered this year—-if the Cardinals push the bulk of the guaranteed money (and signing bonus) onto the 2021 and 2022 caps. As Gungus has informed us, the Cardinals have $164M of cap space available in 2021 and that includes David Johnson’s salary.

Plus, just as Gungus has been suggesting, if the Cardinals come to agreement with Patrick Peterson on a contract extension, they can add more cap space to this year’s cap.

By pushing the guaranteed money backward and on to future caps, the Cardinals can sign as many free agents as they wish—-but—-the money will catch up to them down the road.