Gabe Watson walked off the field Tuesday, exhausted from the heat after a 90-minute practice but happy about his “wonderful opportunity” now that he had been elevated to the Cardinals’ starting nose tackle.
But, Watson cautioned, “The work is not done.”
Some work, though, has been done — like trimming the roster, which happened Tuesday when the team cut three veterans: defensive tackle Kendrick Clancy, guard Milford Brown and fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo.
None of the three fit into the schemes of new coach Ken Whisenhunt. Clancy and Brown had been asked to take pay cuts to stick around, but both declined.
“Whenever you have a (coaching) change, you are re-evaluating guys,” Whisenhunt said. “We wanted them back.
“(But) I didn’t want it to come down to a situation in training camp where we had to make a decision about these guys based on the money. … They decided they didn’t want to restructure, and I respect that.”
Brown had been scheduled to make $2.35 million in salary but was going to be a backup behind starting guards Reggie Wells and Deuce Lutui.
Clancy, who was scheduled to make $1.5 million this season, was playing with the first unit. But in Whisenhunt’s new 3-4 defensive look, Clancy was not big enough — and his future was set once the Cards drafted Alan Branch to add to Watson.
Ayanbadejo, who isn’t a big, bruising blocking fullback, simply never had a spot in Whisenhunt’s offense.
Brown’s salary-cap hit shrunk from $3.1 million to $1.13 million (with another $1.13 million hit in 2008). Clancy’s cap number went from $2 million to $750,000 (both this season and next). Ayanbadejo, who was scheduled to make $720,000 on the final year of his contract this season, will cost $130,000 against the cap.
But the salary cap was not why the players were released, Whisenhunt said.
“We are doing different things offensively and defensively, and out of respect to Kendrick and Milford I didn’t want to have it come to the last cut,” Whisenhunt said.
Clancy and Brown, who were told by Whisenhunt the plan Monday, did not attend Tuesday’s workout. Ayanbadejo did practice — he was still giving pointers to undrafted rookie fullback BranDon Snow as they walked off the field — before being informed of his release.
Ayanbadejo knew from the time Whisenhunt was hired he had an uphill battle to make the team. Free agent signee Terrelle Smith, a natural blocking fullback, is the team’s starter. And running back J.J. Arrington is slated be a third-down back, another of Ayanbadejo’s strengths.
Brown was replaced as the second-string right guard Tuesday by undrafted Louisiana State rookie Brian Johnson. Elton Brown is the backup left guard, while tackles Mike Gandy and Oliver Ross can also play guard, Whisenhunt said.
Watson, meanwhile, has shed some 38 pounds to get into shape and earn a chance to start. Currently weighing 336 pounds, the team wants him to eventually get to 330 pounds. Watson said his target is more like 320 or 325.
“(The 3-4) plays into my strength,” Watson said. “Losing so much weight … my technique is better, my recovery is better.
“I have been working for this. Now I get the chance to show it.”
EXTRA POINTS: The Cardinals hired Reggie Terry to be their director of football administration. Terry, who has spent the last seven years working for the Syracuse University football program, will inherit some of the duties that had been done by the departed John Idzik. Idzik, who had been the senior director of football operations, left in February for a job with the Seattle Seahawks. …
Safety Terrence Holt returned to voluntary work Tuesday.