When the Cardinals surprisingly cut receiver DeAndre Hopkins on Friday, many assumed they did so with the post-June 1 designation. Per multiple reports, they didn’t. (Apparently, they couldn’t; J.J. Watt and Rodney Hudson already received the post-June 1 designation, and teams are limited to two per year.)
But the Cardinals could have simply waited until next week, cutting Hopkins after June 1 and splitting the cap hit evenly between 2023 and 2024, $11 million each year. Instead, the Cardinals removed the Band-Aid now, taking the full $22 million cap charge.
Despite what folks directly or indirectly on the team’s payroll are saying, there’s no reason to take their lumps now, unless they’re tanking. They could have saved $11 million in 2023 cap space by waiting one more week. And they could have rolled all of it over until 2024, if they had decided not to spend it this year.
Cutting him or trading him makes no difference. A pre-June 1 trade would have cost $22 million against the cap this year. Post-June 1 would have caused $11 million to hit the cap this year, and $11 million next year. They ultimately didn’t trade him because no one wanted to absorb his contract.
By cutting Hopkins now, the Cardinals removed the ability to spend the $11 million this year. It’s a pre-emptive exercise in parsimony. Cover for cheapness. No one will expect them to spend the $11 million if they don’t have it to spend, and they don’t have it to spend because they cut Hopkins this Friday instead of next Friday.
That’s the only explanation for it. They’re deliberately tightening the belt. They’re trimming $11 million off the top of their current-year cap allocation. They know they’re not going to be competitive this year, and they’re accepting it.
It’s no different than 2018, when they knew they were going to be bad and they accepted it — sinking to the bottom of the standings and rising to the top of the draft order. If they do it again, the 2024 offseason will become very interesting, with Kyler Murray potentially traded and Caleb Williams potentially drafted to be the latest would-be savior of the team.
Regardless of where it goes from here, there was no reason to tie their hands with the full Hopkins cap hit. No one knows who else might become available between now and Week One. The Cardinals aren’t interested. They don’t want to be interested. Otherwise, they would have waited a week and kept $11 million available, just in case.
Bottom line? They’re willing to be very bad in 2023, in the hopes of getting very good draft position in 2024, when they finally try to turn it around — again.
But, hey, at least they have new uniforms this year.