Since being named general manager of the Arizona Cardinals on January 8, 2013, Steve Keim has had to deal with a number of tough looming decisions. So far he has had to cut ties with two poor signings (Stewart Bradley and William Gay) that were made by the previous regime, and today he had to make one of the toughest moves that he will probably ever have to make.
This morning Keim announced that the Cardinals were indeed releasing 12-year veteran safety Adrian Wilson (per Mike Jurecki of XTRA 910).
Wilson has been the heart and soul of Arizona's defense for the last decade, and no one stood behind him more than Keim did. According to Dave Burns of ArizonaSports.com, former Cardinals head coach Dave McGinnis told him that the organization's new general manager believed in A-Dub throughout the whole draft process back in 2001.
At the time, Keim was a regional scout for the 'Cards and in his second year of employment. One could say that if it wasn't for the former North Carolina State alum, No. 24 may have never donned the red and white for as long as he did.
The NFL is a business, plain and simple. Players and coaches both know that, but let's not forget that there is human emotion involved in the game as well. Everyone is used to young players coming and going because it's just a part of the routine, yet when a vested veteran who has given his all leaves the building, things are different.
The locker room is a little bit quieter, meeting rooms lose a wealth of knowledge and fans become instantly disappointed. Yet that doesn't mean the right move wasn't made. The right move isn't measured by some personal attachment the general manager has with the player; it's measured by how the move helps the team.
Which is exactly why Keim releasing Wilson was hands-down the right move. For an organization that has been facing major salary cap constraints since the end of the season, releasing the 33-year-old safety was one step towards alleviating those constraints. The move saved the Cardinals $3 million in cap space and $3.75 million in cash, according to Brian McIntyre.
Overall, Arizona's total cap number now sits at $112,632,441, a far cry from where it was just two weeks ago. With the ability to negotiate with potential free-agent signees beginning at midnight, being $10,367,559 under the salary cap floor leaves room for the re-signing of a current player or the possible addition of a new face to the desert.
Regardless of what transpires from now until Tuesday, Keim shouldn't become complacent with his salary-slicing moves. Kevin Kolb's contract still needs to be addressed, as well as Kerry Rhodes'; Rhodes carries a cap hit of $6 million in 2013 and Kolb carries a cap hit of $13.5 million.
Obviously the Cardinals want to keep both players, especially Rhodes, but they may not be able to unless they both agree to a restructure. This is the final year of Rhodes' contract, so to save money they would have to turn some of his base salary into a bonus that would either get paid out immediately or at the end of the season.
As for Kolb, Arizona would prefer he took a straight-up pay cut. His play hasn't backed up his pay over the course of the past two years, and he knows it. He likes being a Cardinal and he knows his best opportunity to start is in Arizona, but he also knows that the free-agent and rookie class of quarterbacks are weaker than normal.
A $2-million roster bonus is due to Kolb on March 16, so it appears as if that will be the deadline for his future. In recent weeks there hasn't been a whole lot of chatter about the situation, which leads me to believe that the two sides are still talking but aren't making substantial progress.
Nevertheless, the Cardinals appear to be in good hands for the first time in a long time. So it would be wise to trust the fact they will make the right decisions going forward, just as Keim did today with the release of Wilson.