The only way the Cardinals were going to be able to be truly aggressive this offseason -- and they have been, at this point -- was to work some magic on the pandemic-hampered salary cap (a cap which is at $182.5 million but would have been as low as $166M, according to NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, had the PA and NFL not agreed to spread out the hit over multiple seasons.)
Some of that meant basic contract manipulation, such as adding voidable years. Some of that meant asking players to take a straight reduction in pay, or cutting a player, which is always a difficult chore. (Or even making choices with money when it comes to free agents, which is why Patrick Peterson eventually left.)
"It's not fun," Cardinals GM Steve Keim said. "Again, I get to live out a dream every day, but there are parts of the job that come with a lot of pressure and a lot of stress. And telling a guy he's not going to remain with the team or asking him to take a pay reduction is tough, because of the great deal of respect I have for the guys in our locker room, the amount of work they put in, the passion they have.
"Anytime you have to tell someone their job is no longer or again, you're going to reduce their pay, it can seem like it becomes personal, particularly to them. I understand that, which is why I try to handle it the way I do. But I'd be lying if I didn't tell you it was a difficult process."
The Cards haven't had to do much outright releasing. (Cornerback Robert Alford was cut, but re-signed soon after for a minimum salary in 2021.) Part of that is because they have had veterans who were willing to take such reductions. Justin Pugh recently let it be known he had, and now, according to both the NFLPA website and overthecap.com, linebacker Jordan Hicks also was willing to take a cut and restructure his deal. According to OTC, Hicks reduced his salary from $5 million to $2 million this season, as well as shifting $750,000 of his $5M salary in 2022 into a roster bonus.
The sites also show the Cards restructured Rodney Hudson's deal, adding a void year and turning some salary into a signing bonus allowing his 2021 salary to drop all the way to $1.1M and to a salary cap number of only $2.86M.
Given the moves, OTC has the Cards with about $15M of current cap space (minus the incoming deals signed this week, although none are expected to have large cap numbers.) The NFLPA puts the Cards just north of $16M in cap room.