Cardinals, NFL get some added wiggle room with bumped up salary cap
Feb 1, 2023, 6:00 PM | Updated: 6:20 pm
For a second consecutive season, the NFL has raised the salary cap for the Arizona Cardinals and the rest of the league on Monday.
Jumping up to $224.8 million from $207.4 in 2022, all 32 teams will see an increase of $16.6 million to work with as they toy with personnel changes this offseason.
As it stands Wednesday, Arizona has around $14.5 million to work with, per OverTheCap.com. In terms of the rest of the NFL, the Cardinals are 11th in total cap for next season.
Now, Arizona’s cap number is not fixed by any means. When the NFL offseason gets into full swing, it’ll fluctuate based on a number of different variables, with extensions, retirement(s), free-agent signings, potential trades and cuts all factoring in.
There’s also the added unknown of how new general manager Monti Ossenfort and Arizona’s next head coach operate in their respective roles.
“I don’t know what was done here previously,” Ossenfort said during his introductory press conference. “I have a system that I believe in and that’s where we are going to focus our time and attention on how we go about scouting players and what we’re looking for specifically.
“First, we have to define what we’re looking for and then we’re going to turn over every rock that we can to build this roster. I think there’s a lot of evaluation that has to go across all levels of the football organization and we’ll cross that bridge.”
Two potential extensions that are front and center for the organization in 2023 are defensive end Zach Allen and cornerback Byron Murphy. Per ESPN’s Matt Bowen, Allen is considered the 23rd best available free agent in the league. Murphy landed at No. 37.
Allen is coming off his best season as a pro, producing 5.5 sacks, 19 QB hits, 10 tackles for loss and eight passes defensed across 13 games played.
He thrived under the mentorship of the retiring J.J. Watt and clearly took a step forward in the final year of his rookie deal. Of the in-house free agents the Cardinals should bring back to the mix, the defensive lineman is atop of the list.
Murphy, however, is coming off an injury-riddled season, managing to play in just nine games in his fourth NFL season before a back injury placed him on injured reserve. He finished with 0.5 sacks, 36 tackles, three of which were for losses, and a QB hit. Outside of this past season, though, Murphy played in all but two games — one due to COVID-19 — over a three-year span.
The fact he’s a homegrown talent out of Saguaro High School is an added bonus. In 2021, Murphy looked the part of Arizona’s No. 1 cornerback behind four interceptions and 12 passes defensed. The back injury is something to monitor but there’s no reason to believe the CB can’t get back to those numbers.
There are also the franchise and transition tags to consider if your Arizona. For defensive linemen, the franchise and transition tags are worth $19.7 million and $17.45 million, respectively. As for cornerbacks, those numbers are $18.14 million and $15.79 million, respectively.
Another name to watch extension-wise this season is wide receiver Hollywood Brown, who is in the final year of his rookie contract after the Cardinals picked up the wideout’s fifth-year option last season. Extending the wide receiver in 2023 would bring along about $9.8 million in cap savings, per OverTheCap.com.
While those three are looking to extend their careers, a few other 2022 Cardinals are likely hanging it up.
We already know that Watt is calling it quits after his illustrious career, taking with him what likely would have been a hefty price tag coming off his best season since 2018. Per OverTheCap.com, Watt has three void years on his deal, which will account for a cap hit of $8.36 million across 2023 and 2024.
He’s not the only Cardinal that could be riding off into the sunset, either, with center Rodney Hudson, left tackle Justin Pugh and wide receiver A.J. Green contemplating retirement. Hudson carries two void years on his current deal and holds a cap hit of $8.33 million across the next two seasons.
Then there’s the DeAndre Hopkins conundrum Arizona has to consider amid its retool.
Since the season came to an end for the Cardinals, the wide receiver has been a topic of trade discussions given where the team currently stands and a new general manager. There’s also quarterback Kyler Murray’s health to weigh in as he recovers from a season-ending knee injury and will likely miss the start of 2023.
As it stands Wednesday, he carries a cap hit of $30.75 million in 2023.
The timing of any potential trade is important when it comes to cap savings for Arizona.
Dealing the No. 1 wideout before or on June 1 would save the Cardinals $8.15 million but also carry a dead money hit of $22.6 million in 2023. Arizona’s cap space next season would jump to around $22.6 million with additional savings in 2024 but would also have a dead money hit of $11.3 million.
A trade after June 1 would be much more advantageous for the Cardinals and their cap number. Hopkins would carry an $11.3 million hit in dead money but would also give Arizona $19.45 million to work with, increasing their cap space to nearly $34 million plus additional savings in 2024.
The second option is a whole lot easier said than done, though, with prospective landing spots likely wanting to acquire Hopkins’ services before June.
Another cap-saving option the Cardinals could utilize is the release of wide receiver Robbie Anderson. If released ahead of or on June 1, the Cardinals would save a solid $12 million.
And given Anderson’s production in 10 games (two starts) with Arizona — seven catches for 76 yards — saving the money with his release could do more favors than keeping him on the roster.
There are definitely a lot of different avenues the Cardinals can go this offseason to have more cap space at their disposal. For now, we wait to see how it all unfolds.