Jordan Hicks had asked to be traded last offseason after the Cardinals drafted Zaven Collins, only to eventually unseat the rookie from a starting inside linebacker role.
But Collins' move into the lineup was inevitable, and that was assured Wednesday when the Cardinals released Hicks with a year left on his current contract and a week ahead of free agency.
The move is not only about Collins. By releasing Hicks, the Cardinals will absorb $3 million of dead money against the salary cap, but pick up $6.5 million of cap space, according to overthecap.com.
Linebacker Devon Kennard, who was scheduled to have a cap hit of more than $9 million this season, reportedly restructured his contract in order to remain on the roster.
Hicks served as a team captain even though he went into training camp as a backup. He played in all 17 games, finishing with a career high four sacks, seven tackles for loss, five pass breakups and two fumble recoveries. His 116 tackles were second on the team to safety Jalen Thompson's 120.
"Jordan Hicks did a great job this year, especially under the circumstances he was in," general manager Steve Keim said last week at the Scouting Combine. "To be quite frank with you, I know it came out that it was my decision (last offseason to start Collins) when, to set the record straight, we made that decision on draft day (and) we made it with a defensive staff.
"Jordan was a guy that knew the defense inside and out. We benefited from that because of the complexity of some of the things that we were doing. But moving forward, there's no doubt that we have to get those young kids involved more."
The young kids are not only Collins, the 2021 first-round pick, but also 2020 first-round pick Isaiah Simmons.
"Anytime you have a first-round draft pick, we want to maximize that first-round pick," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "We love the two guys we selected. Obviously, we are hoping in the future they can play more, but we are not down on either guy."
The Cardinals may need an edge linebacker if Chandler Jones departs as a free agent. While Collins did get some practice reps as an outside linebacker late in the season and "we've talked through all those things," Kingsbury said "we see him as an inside linebacker."
That was underscored in letting Hicks go.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS TENDERS
The Cardinals extended tender offers to two exclusive rights free agents on Wednesday: wide receiver Antoine Wesley and running back Jonathan Ward. With the offers, the players are locked into coming back next season, pending them signing the contracts.