The Arizona Cardinals are sure to be among the teams looking to make financially driven decisions after the signing of J.J. Watt.
The Cardinals on Monday signed Watt to a two-year contract worth $31 million with $23 million guaranteed. Arizona, though, has just $11.2 million in cap space, per OverTheCap.com.
Simply, it means the Cardinals will have to release a player or two in order to fit Watt’s finances.
Enter the New England Patriots.
The Patriots have the third most cap space entering the 2021 season — an expected $62 million. New England, as you may know, has a plethora of positions of need with quarterback and pass-catchers among the most important.
Obviously, Arizona signal-caller Kyler Murray and All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who carry two of the team’s higher cap numbers, aren’t going anywhere.
But who are some potential cap casualties in Arizona who could hit the open market after being released? Let’s take a look:
— Outside linebacker Chandler Jones
We questioned whether Jones could find himself a surprise cut by the Cardinals. And while it sounds crazy (and maybe it is), the fact that the pass rusher sports a team-high $20.8 cap figure makes it a question. Arizona would save $15.5 million if they cut him.
Patriots diagnosis: Jones making a return to New England probably would (and should) be welcomed by Patriots fans, but it’s a long shot, to say the least.
— Cornerback Robert Alford
Alford, who signed a three-year contract for $22 million in 2019, carries a cap hit of $9 million. It would save the Cardinals $7.5 in cap space as the 32-year-old corner, who hasn’t played since 2018, carries just $1.5 in dead money.
Patriots diagnosis: New England is plenty deep in the secondary, meaning they won’t be interested with an aging corner who hasn’t played since 2018.
— Tight end Maxx Williams
The 26-year-old Williams, a second-round pick in 2015, just finished his second season in Arizona. He carries a $3.2 cap number, but his release would leave merely $250,000 in dead cap.
Patriots diagnosis: Williams certainly isn’t the same caliber of tight end as Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, etc., but he would be a low-cost veteran for a team that needs more at the position. Williams has, however, only played 16 games one time in six seasons — which went for 15 receptions for 202 yards and one TD.
— Outside linebacker Jordan Hicks
The 28-year-old Hicks signed a four-year, $34 million contract in 2019. The reality is, though, he carries a $9.5 million cap hit and cutting him after June 1 would save Arizona $6.5 million with a $3 million left as dead money.
Patriots diagnosis: Hicks regressed in his second year in Arizona pretty much across the board — sacks, tackles, quarterback hits, interceptions. While the Patriots should add a pass rusher, the 2015 third-rounder probably wouldn’t be of much interest.
— Receiver Andy Isabella
The Cardinals obviously won’t cut Hopkins or Larry Fitzgerald while Christian Kirk has proven a good No. 3 with No. 2 wideout potential during in each of his three seasons. Isabella, though, could be expendable. And while his $1.2 million cap figure isn’t a major financial burden, the fact that he counts just shy of $700,000 in dead cap makes it a possibility.
Patriots diagnosis: To put it simply, no matter what receiver is released the Patriots should probably kick the tires. New England’s receiving corps was a key issue during the 2020 season and the 24-year-old UMass product, a 2019 second-rounder, has plenty of potential despite just 21 receptions for 224 yards in 13 games last year.