For a second consecutive season, the NFL on Monday raised the salary cap for the Arizona Cardinals and the rest of the league.
Growing to $224.8 million from $207.4 million in 2022, all 32 teams will see a $16.6 million increase to work with personnel changes this offseason.
As it stands Wednesday, Arizona has about $14.5 million to work with, per OverTheCap.com. As for the rest of the NFL, the Cardinals are 11th overall for next season.
Now, Arizona’s cap number is by no means fixed. When the NFL’s offseason is in full swing, it will fluctuate based on a number of different variables, with extensions, retirements, free agent signings, potential trades and cuts all factored in.
There’s also the added unknown of how new general manager Monti Ossenfort and Arizona’s next head coach function in their respective roles.
“I don’t know what’s been done here before,” Ossenfort said during his introductory press conference. “I have a system that I believe in and that’s where we’re going to focus our time and attention on how we’re going to find players and what we’re looking for specifically.
“First we have to define what we are looking for and then we will turn over every stone we can to build this list. I think there is a lot of assessment to be made at all levels of the football organization and we will cross this bridge.
Two potential extensions that are central to the organization in 2023 are defensive end Zach Allen and cornerback Byron Murphy. Through ESPN’s Matt Bowen, Allen is considered the 23rd best free agent available 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 assists defended in 13 games played.
He thrived under the mentorship of retired JJ Watt and clearly took a step forward in the final year of his rookie contract. Among the inside free agents the Cardinals should bring back into the mix, the defensive lineman is at the top 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 put him on injured reserve. He finished with 0.5 sacks, 36 tackles, including three for a loss, and a QB hit. Outside of last season, however, Murphy has played in all but two games – one due to COVID-19 – over a three-year span.
The fact that he’s a local talent from Saguaro High School is an added bonus. In 2021, Murphy played as Arizona’s No. 1 cornerback behind four interceptions and 12 passes defended. The back injury is something to watch out for, but there’s no reason to believe CB can’t get back to those numbers.
There are also 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 in terms of extension this season is catcher Hollywood Brown, who is in the final year of his rookie contract after the Cardinals picked up the catcher’s fifth-year option last season. Extending the wide receiver in 2023 would yield about $9.8 million in cap savings, according to OverTheCap.com.
As these three look to extend their careers, a few other 2022 Cardinals are likely to hang up their bootstraps.
We already know Watt calls him off after his illustrious career, taking with him what likely would have been a hefty price tag after his best season since 2018. According to OverTheCap.com, Watt has three void years on his contract, which is a ceiling. reached $8.36 million in 2023 and 2024.
He’s also not the only Cardinal who could leave at sunset, with center Rodney Hudson, left tackle Justin Pugh and receiver AJ Green all considering retirement. Hudson is carrying two zero years on his current contract and holds an $8.33 million cap over the next two seasons.
Then there’s the DeAndre Hopkins conundrum that Arizona must consider amid its reorganization.
Since the end of the season for the Cardinals, the wide receiver has been the subject of trade talks given the team’s current situation and a new general manager. There’s also the health of quarterback Kyler Murray to weigh in as he recovers from a season-ending knee injury and will likely miss the start of 2023.
As it stands Wednesday, it carries a cap of $30.75 million in 2023.
The timing of any potential trade is important when it comes to limiting savings for Arizona.
Dealing with No. 1 before or on June 1 would save the Cardinals $8.15 million, but would also be a dead money hit of $22.6 million in 2023. Arizona next season would grow 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 strike $11.3 million in dead money, but also give Arizona $19.45 million to work with, increasing his cap space to nearly $34 million plus additional savings in 2024.
The second option, however, is much easier said than done, with potential landing spots likely wanting to acquire Hopkins’ services before June.
Another cap-saving option the Cardinals could use is releasing wide receiver Robbie Anderson. If released on or before June 1, the Cardinals would save $12 million.
And considering Anderson’s production in 10 games (two starts) with Arizona — seven catches for 76 yards — saving money on his release might do more favors than keeping him on the roster.
There are certainly plenty of different avenues the Cardinals can use this offseason to get more cap space available to them. For now, we’re waiting to see how it all pans out.