Cornerback Javier Arenas (35), covering tight end Kory Sperry during Wednesday's OTA, was traded to the Cardinals for fullback Anthony Sherman earlier this offseason.
After the initial minicamp under new coach Andy Reid in Kansas City, Javier Arenas didn't see a future there.
"I felt like I was put on the backburner, just to lay it out plain and simple," the cornerback said. "I voiced that to the people I needed to voice it to, in a subtle-type way."
After that, being traded wasn't necessarily a surprise. But for Arenas, the deal that sent him to Arizona "was where the shocking part came in."
Trades aren't necessarily uncommon in the NFL, but given the amount of transactions league-wide, they aren't prevalent. Trading a player for a player – as Arenas was for fullback Anthony Sherman – are relatively rare.
Most of the time, player movement in the NFL is marked two ways: Via free agency, or after a player has been outright released
(becoming, then, a de facto free agent if he has veteran status.) The reasons are simple. With the salary cap, most teams looking to rid themselves of a player would prefer a draft pick in return and load up on cheaper talent. And most teams don't want to take on a veteran salary in return anyway.
Unlike pro basketball or pro baseball, the reality of being shipped somewhere at any time doesn't really loom over the heads of NFL players. (Being cut is much more of a threat, thanks to non-guaranteed contracts.) That's why, on the Cardinals' current roster of 90, only four players have ever been traded in their career, and three of them knew it was coming because they asked to be dealt in some fashion.
Arenas arrived from Kansas City earlier this offseason. Quarterback Carson Palmer has been traded twice, most recently to Arizona after the Raiders decided to go young. Quarterback Drew Stanton was shipped to the Colts last year after spending a week as a Jet just in front of Tebow-mania. And safety Jonathan Amaya was the player the Dolphins traded to New Orleans to acquire running back Reggie Bush in 2011.
In the Amaya deal, the Saints just wanted to control where Bush landed more than chase compensation (the teams also swapped sixth-round draft picks in 2012). Amaya was blindsided though, just getting ready to make his pre-camp conditioning run after the lockout ended in 2011 when he was called into the front office.
"I had no clue, man," Amaya said. "They called me upstairs and I was like, 'What is going on?' Next thing you know, three hours later, I'm on a flight to New Orleans.
"It's definitely an experience. You never expect it even in a business where a lot of unexpected things happen to you along the way. It was an adjustment. But it helped me grow, both as a man and as a player."
As for the other traded players, there wasn't as much surprise, although that didn't take away the drama.
Palmer was famously traded first in 2011 from Cincinnati to Oakland after sitting out the first part of the season in "retirement," frustrated with the direction of the Bengals. At first, the Bengals said they would deal Palmer and it looked like he was stuck, but when the Raiders shockingly offered both a first- and second-round draft pick, Palmer was sent there. Palmer also knew he'd probably be traded again this offseason, and while being on the move wasn't a surprise, the destination was for a little while.
"There were a handful of teams my agent was telling me were making offers," Palmer said. "For a handful of hours it was, 'Really? Where? Wow.' But as things really materialized I realized Arizona was going to make it happen and that was exciting."
Stanton's trade was a shock more because of the circumstances surrounding it. He carefully sought his free-agent destination in 2012, finally settling on the New York Jets (and eschewing a visit to Kansas City) because he liked what they told him.
A few days later, the Jets traded for Tim Tebow, and Stanton correctly surmised "the landscape had changed as far as what they told me was going to happen."
Stanton called the Jets "gracious" for moving him to a place he wanted to go in Indianapolis. It turned out perfect, because Stanton forged a relationship with Bruce Arians that led to his free agent contract with the Cardinals.
"The tough thing about (being traded) is you only have so many opportunities to dictate where you will be going," Stanton said. "When you are a free agent you want to make sure you are looking at every possible situation to see which one is the best. You are in the driver's seat. The trading aspect of the thing, it was unique."
Arenas may have understood he wasn't going to be in Kansas City, but he didn't picture the Cardinals as a destination. That admittedly threw him. The Chiefs didn't want Arenas and the Cards were going to release Sherman if they couldn't find a trade partner.
The trade worked out well for the teams, and Arenas believes it worked out well for him too.
"It's one of the better things that has happened in my NFL career," Arenas said. "It makes you step back and look at the big picture. I'm fortunate to still be in the league, I have a fresh opportunity, I had a team that wants me to come over and play, so even though the trade has been shocking it's been a realization of the opportunity I have."