The Cardinals are choosing to eat up salary cap room quicker than in past years for one simple reason: The players still available as free agents aren’t worth saving space.
The Cards decided to make free agent center Al Johnson’s $3.5 million initial payout a roster bonus instead of a signing bonus, meaning the entire amount (along with Johnson’s $3.5 million salary) goes on this year’s cap as a $7 million hit.
New free agent safety Terrence Holt also got a $4 million roster bonus split over two seasons instead of a signing bonus, helping put Holt’s salary cap number at approximately $5 million this season.
The Cards have around $8 million to $9 million left in cap room — and that’s how it was planned.
They need money for the rookie pool and at least one contract extension — linebacker Karlos Dansby is going into the final year of his deal — and vice president of football operations Rod Graves emphasized the team is not going to overspend just to sign bodies in free agency.
“I would rather re-invest that money in Anquan Boldin or Larry Fitzgerald or players of that nature,” Graves said. “I’d see that rather than chasing guys who you don’t even know if they will line up for you but yet they are getting multi-million dollar deals.”
That’s one of the reasons negotiations have been slow with free agent targets such as cornerback Roderick Hood and offensive lineman Mike Gandy. Neither are considered locks to start if they came to the Cardinals.
The Cardinals are still hoping to sign both players, however, and negotiations are ongoing.
Graves said the team would rather “take the medicine now” instead of having dead money later, which would make managing cutting a player easier. It would also help when players such as Boldin, Fitzgerald, safety Adrian Wilson and quarterback Matt Leinart come up for contract extensions.