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Barnwell: Cardinals mismanaged offseason after DeAndre Hopkins trade

General manager Steve Keim of the Arizona Cardinals looks on during team OTA's at the Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center on May 29, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Arizona Cardinals dumped David Johnson’s bloated salary, swapped fourth-round draft picks and essentially gave up a second-rounder to the Houston Texans to acquire DeAndre Hopkins. That was widely considered a heist.

Was the rest of the Cardinals’ start to free agency all that good, though?

Arizona slotted free agents into openings at defensive tackle and both linebacker positions, but ESPN’s Bill Barnwell finds it off-putting how the Cardinals paid their top three free-agent additions.

Even the Cardinals, who had the Hopkins deal fall into their lap, have managed to get their other major decisions wrong. Contracts for players such as Jordan Phillips, Devon Kennard, and De’Vondre Campbell have voidable years attached to reduce Arizona’s short-term cap issues in 2020. That’s a reasonable move if you have Drew Brees under contract at $25 million, but not really if you’re adding marginal defensive players. Campbell’s deal has a ridiculous four voidable years attached. It’s the sort of financial mismanagement that would lead you to take away somebody’s checkbook. Think about how foolish that strategy is … and how much better Arizona’s offseason still looks than Houston’s.

That’s quite the backhanded compliment.

It’s true that the Cardinals have found unique ways to attract free agents to the desert.

Campbell’s contract is for only one year, but general manager Steve Keim didn’t want to put all $6 million of the guaranteed money on the salary cap for this year. Campbell’s base salary is $1 million and includes a $5 million signing bonus that is counting against the cap just $1 million spread out for the next five seasons.

According to Spotrac.com, the last four seasons automatically void after the fifth day of the 2021 league year, putting a total of $2 million against the 2020 cap and the remaining $4 million on 2021’s cap sheet.

Phillips’ contract for three years and $30 million also automatically voids after the third year. It carries a $2 million cap hit into 2023 but only a $4 million hit this coming season before skyrocketing to $12 million in 2021-22.

Similarly, Kennard’s three-year deal worth $20 million voids in 2023 and still counts as $1.25 million in cap space that year. His hit is only $2.5 million this coming year but jumps to $8 million (2021) and $8.25 million (2022).

Spacing those deals out, of course, allowed the Cardinals to add multiple starting-caliber players on the defensive side. It’s just going to bog things down in the coming years.

Couple that with the potential restructuring of Hopkins’ deal, and things might get financially tight down the line.

All salary figures via Spotrac.com.


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