Around this time year, NFL teams would be looking to create additional cap space by releasing or trading players after June 1st.
There are greater cap savings in store if players are released after that date instead of prior but with a caveat...
NFL clubs are allowed to designate only up to two players as a post-June 1 cut. Therefore, teams cannot just release any number of players on their roster that they want to take advantage of the greater savings.
And considering the most talented free agents are already off the market, teams that intend to release and re-sign a talented player to a smaller contract are not guaranteed to get their guy back. So, do it at your own risk.
According to Over the Cap, the Cardinals have the 13th-most cap space in the NFL with a little over $13.5 million. This number will drop under $10 million after they sign their top two draft picks in Zaven Collins and Rondale Moore.
With that said, here are six names to keep in mind that the Cardinals could potentially cut, trade, or trade for as post-June 1 approaches (by no means am I advocating for these players to be moved).
Cut Candidate: Devon Kennard
Devon Kennard was one of the Cardinals priority free agent signings last season as he signed a three-year $20 million contract with Arizona after his release from the Detroit Lions. He was signed with the expectation that he would be the starter opposite Chandler Jones but a combination of injuries and being outplayed by other players on the roster had him out of the starting lineup.
Chandler Jones and Markus Golden will be the starting edge rushers. Kennard is being given starter money to serve as a backup and would be earning more than Golden, who re-signed on a two-year $9 million contract this offseason. If Kennard is released after June 1st, the Cardinals would save over $6.63 million in cap space. He is my cut and re-sign candidate. The Cardinals do not need the additional cap space now but it could be necessary to re-sign Larry Fitzgerald or to acquire one of the “trade for” candidates below.
Trade Candidate: Jordan Hicks
Less than two weeks ago, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted out that Zaven Collins would be the starting MIKE linebacker and the Cardinals granted permission to veteran Jordan Hicks to seek a trade.
1st round draft picks can change plans: The #AZCardinals picked LB Zaven Collins 16th overall, and he is now the starting MIKE backer. The team has given Jordan Hicks permission to find a new home via trade, source said. Hicks is a respected leader & AZ wants to do right by him.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 12, 2021
According to Over the Cap, the Cardinals would save over $2.94 million in cap space if traded after June 1st. Though Hicks has his athletic limitations, he has been durable in his two years in Arizona having played all 32 regular season games. Any team that acquires him would be getting a smart team captain and a quality tackler with 268 career tackles as a Cardinal. If he stays put, Hicks would be a great mentor for second-year linebacker Isaiah Simmons and rookie Zaven Collins.
Trade Candidate: Christian Kirk
Christian Kirk is not a bust but his play has been underwhelming since being a second-round selection by the Cardinals in 2018. He has had spurts of greatness with only three 100-yard performances in his career with multiple games in between of quietness. In his three years with the team, Kirk has 159 receptions, 2,051 total scrimmage yards, and 12 touchdowns.
He is a respectable route runner with good speed but what he lacks is consistency in game-by-game production and has had quite a few focus drops. He has been heavily criticized for the critical drops he had against the Patriots and 49ers last season which begs to question if he can relied on in crucial situations. The Cardinals drafted Rondale Moore in the second-round and could very well be Kirk’s replacement in 2022. If the Cardinals have no intentions of re-signing the Texas A&M product after the season, it might be wise to package him in a trade. $2.43 million for Kirk this season is affordable for many teams.
Trade For Candidate: Zach Ertz
Ertz is coming off a poor 2020 season marred with injuries and inconsistencies. Based on the 2020 season alone, you would have to ask yourself why any team would trade for this guy?
Prior to 2020, he was selected to three consecutive Pro Bowls and was a top-5 tight end in the NFL. He has 561 receptions, 6,078 receiving yards, and 60 touchdowns in his career being one of the top tight ends over the last decade. I cannot remember the last time the Cardinals have had a tight end of his caliber and he would certainly satisfy a need. His wife, Julie, was born in Mesa, Arizona so the Pro Bowl tight end certainly has some ties to the Valley. Any team that trades for Ertz will have to take in his $8.5 million salary but with his quality production over the last decade, he could be worth the price.
Trade For Candidate: Hayden Hurst
The Atlanta Falcons made a trade with the Baltimore Ravens for Hayden Hurst last season and he put up some respectable numbers. He had 56 receptions, 571 receiving yards, and six touchdowns in 2020. With the recent addition of Kyle Pitts, who many believe is a generational-type talent from this year’s draft, Hurst’s future in Atlanta will end after the 2021 season. The Falcons also declined his fifth-year option which makes his departure from Atlanta inevitable.
With Hurst being phased out of the Falcons’ plans, this is a player the Cardinals should target in a trade. He is on the final year of his rookie deal and would only have a cap hit of over $1.98 million this season. Hurst is an athletic tight end (4.62 40) with size (6’4’’ 260lbs) and durability. The 27-year-old tight end would be the perfect inexpensive replacement for Dan Arnold, who signed with the Panthers this offseason. He would be reunited with Maxx Williams, who was Hurst’s teammate in Baltimore.
Trade For Candidate: Julio Jones
Let’s have some fun with this shall we?
Cardinals’ All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has been busy this offseason by recruiting J.J. Watt to Arizona and is making an attempt to bring All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones to the desert.
Hopkins even said on Twitter that he is willing to restructure his contract to make Julio Jones to Arizona more possible but that would only free up over $2.75 million. If the Cardinals trade for Julio Jones, they would have to take in his massive $15.3 million base salary in 2021. Though the Cardinals do not have enough cap space at the moment to take in that salary, packaging players in the deal or even extending Chandler Jones’ contract would be enough to fit Jones in.