In a move long anticipated and much debated, the Arizona Cardinals cut veteran tackle L.J. Shelton Wednesday, ending what had been a tumultuous relationship over the past year with coach Dennis Green.
Shelton, a first-round pick of the Cardinals in 1999, had been the steadiest offensive line starter as a left tackle since 2000. But he and Green never clicked since Green was hired in January, 2004. Shelton, coming off both ankle and elbow surgery last offseason, was overweight going into offseason workouts. And Green wanted to move Leonard Davis from guard to left tackle.
Shelton managed to climb out of the doghouse long enough to eventually start at guard for nine games last season until a knee injury ended his season.
The team had been trying all offseason to trade Shelton. One potential deal was with Buffalo for running back Travis Henry, but the Bills didn’t think Shelton alone was worth trading Henry for, so a trade never came to fruition. By mutual decision Shelton had stayed away from offseason workouts in Tempe.
Shelton was scheduled to make $3 million in salary the next four seasons. The Cardinals, because they decided to let Shelton go before June 1, absorb his entire $3.3 million cap hit — the pro-rated part left of his signing bonus from a 2003 extension — on their 2005 salary cap.
The Cardinals also released tight end Lorenzo Diamond Wednesday. Diamond had gone into 2004 as the backup to Freddie Jones, but his disappointing play dropped him all the way to the practice squad at one point last year.