Analyzing Potential Arizona Cardinals Salary-Cap Casualties in 2014 Offseason

Tyson Langland@TysonNFLNFC West Lead WriterFebruary 13, 2014

Analyzing Potential Arizona Cardinals Salary-Cap Casualties in 2014 Offseason

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    After a 10-6 season in 2013, it's clear things are headed in the right direction for the Arizona Cardinals. Head coach Bruce Arians and general manager Steve Keim made serious strides in one offseason. They added quality depth at key positions and maximized the talent of the players on the field on a weekly basis.

    Nevertheless, the front-office duo is in no position to get complacent. Plenty of work still needs to be done. They have to find a franchise quarterback for the future and straighten out some of the bloated contracts that are holding the team back. 

    The only way to get the salary cap under control is to start trimming the fat. That's how the Cardinals will keep pace in the ever-so-talented NFC West.

    Without a doubt, the organization would like to punch its first playoff ticket since the 2009 season in 2014. 

    With a current salary-cap figure of $120,622,419, according to Spotrac, let's take a look at five different salaries that Arizona should consider dumping during the offseason.


    Unless otherwise noted, all cap numbers via Over the Cap and all statistics via Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

ILB Jasper Brinkley

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    2014 Cap Hit: $2,200,000

    Dead Money If Cut: $200,000

    Cap Savings If Cut: $2,000,000


    Why He Might Be a Salary-Cap Casualty

    Despite making four starts, tallying 27 combined tackles and logging 210 defensive snaps, Brinkley has likely played his last down for defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. The sixth-year pro out of South Carolina is set to turn 29 years old during the offseason, and his $2 million salary is too steep for the team’s third-best inside linebacker.

    Even if fellow inside linebacker Karlos Dansby doesn’t return, expect second-round pick Kevin Minter to find his way into the starting lineup. That’s no knock on Brinkley. He served his purpose when he filled in for Daryl Washington amid his suspension, yet there isn’t anything special about his skill set.

    He’s a liability in pass coverage and has a tendency to miss open-field tackles. According to the analysts at Pro Football Focus, he received a negative-6.5 grade against the run.


    Why He Might Not Be a Salary-Cap Casualty

    As good as Washington and Dansby were last year, Arizona doesn’t have a whole lot of quality depth at the linebacker position. A lot of the players who occupy roster spots are either unproven or often injured. Aside from a nagging groin injury, that is not the case for Brinkley.

    Over the course of his four-year career, he has only missed one game due to injury. Undoubtedly, his annual clean bill of health could factor into the Cardinals’ decision-making process when they are trying to decide whether they should keep him or cut him.

    Let’s not forget, he has a ton of value as a run defender. Yes, the sample size was small, but the folks at PFF awarded him with a plus-9.3 run grade. That’s incredible based on the fact he played a mere 88 snaps versus the run in 2013.

    Can the Gridbirds ignore his shortcomings in coverage because of his stout play against the run? Brinkley hopes they do so he can stay employed for another season.

LG Daryn Colledge

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    2014 Cap Hit: $7,275,000

    Dead Money If Cut: $4,550,000

    Cap Savings If Cut: $2,725,000


    Why He Might Be a Salary-Cap Casualty

    What was former general manager Rod Graves thinking when he gave Colledge a five-year, $27.5 million deal?

    The 32-year-old left guard hasn’t been awful for the Cardinals, yet he has defined mediocrity. He’s a maddening player to watch on film. One week he looks like one of the league’s premier offensive guards, and then the next he turns in an atrocious performance.

    Per PFF, he garnered nine positive starts and seven negative ones in 2013. At times, he put together some impressive outings, but he fell off a cliff down the stretch. From Week 12 to Week 17, he turned in four negatively graded games.

    Time after time, he lost at the point of attack in the run game. When Arizona’s running backs rushed off Colledge’s backside from Week 12 to Week 17, they averaged less than four yards per carry and scored zero touchdowns.

    If Keim wants an average player at left guard, he shouldn’t have to pay him the $7.275 million that Colledge is owed in 2014.


    Why He Might Not Be a Salary-Cap Casualty

    The one thing Colledge does have going for him is his top-notch pass protection.

    Since his arrival in the desert, he has allowed nine quarterback sacks, 16 quarterback hits and 56 quarterback hurries. This, in turn, means he surrenders a quarterback pressure once every 24 pass-block snaps.

    For someone who is pegged as an inconsistent player, that’s an eye-opening number. The Cardinals have to decide whether or not his pass-protection skills outweigh his downfalls as a run-blocker.

OLB Sam Acho

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    2014 Cap Hit: $1,507,607

    Dead Money If Cut: $118,607

    Cap Savings If Cut: $1,389,000


    Why He Might Be a Salary-Cap Casualty

    When Acho was drafted in the fourth round of the 2011 draft, the Cardinals were banking on his competitive nature and powerful bull rush off the edge. Unfortunately for Arizona, the stiff-hipped pass-rusher out of Texas has turned out to be an utter disappointment.

    In 35 career games, he has amassed 61 quarterback pressures. Of them, 12 were quarterback sacks, nine were quarterback hits and 40 were quarterback hurries. For a guy who was brought in to rush the passer, averaging less than two (1.74) quarterback pressures per game is unacceptable.

    Furthermore, there’s no guarantee he will be fully recovered from the gruesome leg injury (broken fibula) he suffered against the New Orleans Saints.


    Why He Might Not Be a Salary-Cap Casualty

    Acho may not be the pass-rushing phenomenon the Cardinals hoped he would be, yet that doesn’t mean he isn’t good for something. The lone bright spot in his game has been his pass coverage. Pro Football Focus gave him a plus-1.8 coverage grade in 2011 and a plus-5.1 coverage grade in 2012.

    The only problem is that he was drafted to be a fierce edge-rusher. He will have to show real promise in training camp. If he doesn’t, Keim and Arians will be quick to show him the door and use the $1.389 million in savings elsewhere.

RB Ryan Williams

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    2014 Cap Hit: $1,593,274

    Dead Money If Cut: $535,442

    Cap Savings If Cut: $1,057,832


    Why He Might Be a Salary-Cap Casualty

    The curious case of Williams has been one of the most intriguing storylines since Arians and Keim took over prior to the 2013 season. When the organization signed Rashard Mendenhall in free agency and drafted Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor, the writing was on the wall for the fourth-year tailback.

    Despite being healthy (as far as we know), the former second-round pick didn't record a single snap in 2013. The most baffling part about the situation was the fact that no explanation from the front office staff was ever given as to why he didn't play.

    Yes, he has had his fair share of injury problems, yet that doesn’t explain why the Cardinals refused to play him this past season. It’s not like Arizona’s running game was firing on all cylinders. It finished with the 10th-worst ground attack in the NFL.

    The Cardinals averaged 96.2 yards rushing per game and ended with 10 rushes of 20 yards or more. Surely, it wouldn’t have hurt the offense to give him a shot late in the season. In 2012, he tallied 164 yards rushing and caught seven passes for 44 yards.


    Why He Might Not Be a Salary-Cap Casualty

    Honestly, there isn’t a scenario where he returns to Arizona. Odds are he gets released and catches on with another team. Here’s what Cardinals beat writer Kent Somers of had to say about Williams and where he currently stands: 

    The Cardinals would hate to give up on Williams, a second-round pick in 2011. It's easy to suggest trading him, but after three seasons filled with injuries, Williams has little or no value. The Cardinals could trim $1 million off the 2014 salary cap by parting ways with Williams. Look for that to happen.

    It’s too bad his tenure with the Cardinals will have to end this way. The once talented running back would have to blow the coaching staff away in training camp.

    Unfortunately for him, the probability of that happening is slim to none.

CB Jerraud Powers

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    2014 Cap Hit: $4,750,000

    Dead Money If Cut: $2,000,000

    Cap Savings If Cut: $2,750,000


    Why He Might Be a Salary-Cap Casualty

    Powers is probably the most unlikely cut, considering Arians connection with him from their days in Indianapolis. However, the sixth-year veteran needs to be looking over his shoulder.

    This year’s draft class is deep at the cornerback position, and Powers struggled in coverage as the season wore on. Per PFF, opposing quarterbacks registered a quarterback rating of 89.9 when throwing into his coverage area.

    Additionally, quarterbacks completed 59.8 percent of their throws when they targeted him. As far as cornerbacks on Arizona’s roster go, that was the highest completion percentage for anyone who played at least 50 percent of the team’s defensive snaps.

    Another glaring weakness in his game was his ability to wrap up pass-catchers in the open field. He missed nine tackles total. That was the fourth-highest number on the team. Only Dansby, Washington and Calais Campbell had more missed tackles at season’s end.


    Why He Might Not Be a Salary-Cap Casualty

    The Cardinals are thin at the defensive back position because of a few impending free agents and Tyrann Mathieu’s knee injury. So it’s clear Powers is in a favorable position to return. Plus, his ability to effectively play the run helps his cause as well.

    Of the 16 games he appeared in, he finished with 11 positively graded games. Surprisingly, that’s the same number of positively graded games as fellow All-Pro corner Patrick Peterson. Peterson is viewed as one of the most well-rounded cornerbacks in the NFL, which makes his performances against the run noteworthy.

    Moreover, Powers is still young. He turns 27 before the 2014 season starts, which means he has another three to four years of productive play left. If he can find some sort of consistency in coverage, he is more than capable of turning into a guy who can complement Peterson.

    Nonetheless, $4.75 million for a slightly above-average corner is unreasonable. The good news is that players typically improve in their second year in a particular defensive system.