The Arizona Cardinals didn’t have to cut anyone Tuesday, the annual June 1 date that allows NFL teams to release unwanted players and spread out the salary cap hit in the process.
But coach Dennis Green sent a shock wave through the locker room anyway, dumping five veterans, including former starting defensive tackle Marcus Bell.
Also gone are defensive tackle Barron Tanner, tight end Steve Bush, safety Justin Lucas and third-string quarterback Preston Parsons. Each of them had been with the Cardinals at least two full seasons. “We brought (Green) here to make us a winner, and every decision he makes is to help us get in that position,” tight end Freddie Jones said. “As a player that’s what our job is, to trust in him that what he is doing will take us to the next level.”
Green called the moves a normal roster adjustment for June 1 and emphasized the Cardinals had younger players available that can fill the reserve roles now open. Bell had started most of last season but in Green’s new defense was backing up veteran Russell Davis at nose tackle.
“We’ve been very consistent about what we have said about developing players,” Green said. “With three minicamps . . . we’ve had a lot of chances to look at players and see where they stack up.
“We’re not doing anything but trying to strengthen our team and put us in better position to hopefully be a playoff team.”
The players who benefitted the most Tuesday were seventh-round pick John Navarre, who is all but assured a roster spot as the third quarterback; young defensive tackles Darnell Dockett, a third-round pick, and Kenny King; and tight end Lorenzo Diamond, whom Green immediately named Jones’ backup.
Diamond, an undrafted free agent last year, spent 14 games on the practice squad and was inactive for the final two games. “The (young) guys around here know coach Green is a fair guy and what he says is what he does,” Diamond said. “For the young guys, if he says you have an opportunity, we feel in our heart that’s the truth.”
The moves mean little in salary cap savings. Three of the contracts — those of Lucas, Bell and Bush — were carrying with them no signing bonus and thus leave no “dead” money on the cap. The total salaries lopped off the roster (in the offseason only the top 51 cap numbers count against the cap) between the five players was $2.9 million. It shaves a little more than $1 million off the Cardinals’ cap.
The Cardinals now have about $8.8 million of cap room under the $80.6 million salary limit. It could end up being more, though. While Green insisted he wasn’t looking to send any message to veterans Tuesday, the veterans on the roster are still predictably wary of other changes that could be made. Even Davis, who had the two players directly behind him on the depth chart sent home, refused to say it meant good things for him.
“Just because they got released doesn’t mean I’m kicking my feet up because there’s not pressure on me,” Davis said. “If anything there is more pressure.”