Decision to take full DeAndre Hopkins cap hit in 2023 proves one thing: The Cardinals are tanking

NFL: AUG 12 Preseason - Cardinals at Bengals
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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.

73 responses to “Decision to take full DeAndre Hopkins cap hit in 2023 proves one thing: The Cardinals are tanking

  1. As a Cardinals fan and former season-ticket holder, I hate Michael Bidwell with every fiber of my being. His buddy-buddy relationship with Steve Keim and not holding him accountable to do his job for so many years is what got us into the mess we are in today.

  2. Bidwell has been a terrible “owner” since getting the keys from his daddy… it’s not hard to believe they are unscrupulously tanking.

  3. Why the heck would you want to not take the full cap hit now? Murray is sitting for much of the year and they weren’t good with him last year. This is a wasted year and it makes all the sense of the world to clear the books for ’24. This is a chicken/egg thing. What is causing what. You claiming it’s one thing isn’t necessarily true. It’s not a tank, it’s a cleansing. Miami did it in ’19 and actually didn’t tank, getting the 5th pick.

  4. So they’re going to Rosen the guy they Rosened Josh Rosen to get?


  5. Deciding to take the cap hit all this year doesn’t mean they’re tanking. It’s the smart decision since 11 million in cap space this year is unlikely to be as valuable to the franchise as it will be in 2024 or 2025. Doesn’t mean they’re trying to lose in 2023. That being said, they’re very unlikely to make the playoffs so if you’re a Cardinals fan you probably want them to be 2-15, as opposed to 7-10. Both the NBA and NFL reward teams for being real bad. Worst thing in either league is perpetual mediocrity.

  6. It’s not just for draft position. It also gives them more cap space in 2024 for free agents and to keep anyone they want.

  7. I agree that the Cardinals are tanking and will try to trade Murray. But who would trade FOR him? Carolina has been pretty dumb about QBs. After Tagovailoa ends up in traction Miami might be too far out of the top 3 to get one they want as a replacement. Washington is probably also aiming for a top 2 pick, so not them. Nashville, maybe? Good enough to be out of the top 5, not good enough to stay married to Tannehill. Atlanta will probably stink, Oh yeah, the Rams. Stafford getting old, not terrible enough to go top 2. Probably the Rams.

  8. Yes they are tanking.
    But you said they might look to trade Murray.
    Go ahead and copy this sentence from your article:
    “They ultimately didn’t trade him because no one wanted to absorb his contract.”
    Because you might be writing that again next year at this time.

  9. How about the owner making sure the GM does not spend HIS money on a bad team? That isn’t necessarily tanking. It would be tanking when you take the QB out. GMs do it all the time, to try and save their skin. I know they have a new GM but the checkbook was just removed, just in case.
    I also think when they are 1-14, the fans will be watching who develops while hoping they lose. 11M guarantees nothing. Not winning, losing or even a better team. That’s a back-up QB and a one year contract for a decent Guard who may or may not be any good anymore.

  10. What is their absolute best-case scenario this season, even if they had an extra $11 million available? In a QB-driven league, rolling with Colt McCoy at the top of your depth chart is not going to lead to a successful season. It’s okay to recognize that this won’t be your year and take all your lumps at once.

  11. I’ve always questioned the post June 1 cut philosophy. By your theory here, there is some player out there in free agency worthy of $11M this year. There simply isn’t anyone worth a major contract this late in the off season. I don’t think it says anything about the cardinals tanking this year. Maybe they don’t want to show cap space so the cheap owners can say they spent to the cap, but there’s not a player worth the cap space available so it really makes no difference and could help a ton next year if they want to spend in free agency and try to win.

  12. Monty Python and that clown Gannon who didn’t do his job preparing the eagles defense in the Super Bowl report to Kyler Murray and all 3 of them will be fired in a year or 2. The Cardinals have gone all the way back to what they always were. Losers and a joke.

  13. Perhaps. It would depend on how much cap room they have. If there is plenty of room, why not take the pain all at once.
    So you are in better shape next year.. More money to spend.

  14. Using that logic the same can be said about Tampa Bay taking Brady’s hit. I think its smart by the Cards to cut him take the hit while they rebuild this and next yr. They will have plenty of cheap rookie options with all those draft picks to use. Without sacrificing future cap by drawing it out over yrs. Just my opinion yeah he has a few decent yrs left what maybe 2 or 3 left decline plus injuries startung to show up. Didnt mention the ped issue yet. Thats also a very high concern for whatever reason. Dont can even if Allen slipped him a roofy in the marahmellows. Still a issue.

  15. It is the right move. Their QB who is questionable to begin with is hurt and the back ups won’t win very often in this league. Why keep the hit around? Lets not act like this is somehow wrong to be smart under the cap Want to get rid of tanking? Get rid of the salary cap, otherwise this is just how you play the game.

  16. I appreciate the factual part of the analysis of the decision, but the “cover for cheapness” and “no reason…” comments are what earn you that tinfoil badge you so proudly covet. There is 100% a reason to do what they did – they now have $11 million more NEXT year, when they could actually be competitive. What player(s) could they have brought in for $11 million this year that get them into the playoffs in the NFC? Wouldn’t someone that impactful have been already signed at this point?

  17. It doesn’t matter. If they tried to win, they would only have a ceiling of 2 wins this year. If they tank, they would only have a ceiling of 2 wins this year.

  18. I just wonder who will trade for Kyler next year? Teams that might need a QB – Commanders, Rams, Buccaneers, Falcons, Jets, Titans, Bears, Packers, Raiders, Vikings, Lions…

  19. New Arizona GM Ossenfort is going to bring the Patriot way to Arizona and that build your team with more above average talent but, not highest paid super stars will take them as far as their QB will take them. Good luck because the Tom Brady type of QB that can decipher a defensive in less than 40 seconds is very rare.
    How many more ex-Patriot personal will we have to see fail using the same strategy?

  20. Remember when Bill O’Brien got fired for trading Hop for a 2nd round pick…

  21. They are starting to remind me of the Browns inability to draft a decent QB. I think they should just ask the Cardinal fans to vote on who they think the Cards should draft as their future QB. Fans couldn’t do any worse.

  22. Or it means they are finally treating this “game” as a business. Not a Cards fan but smartest move they’ve made in 15 years.

  23. Well they have Houston’s 1st and 3rd in addition to their own, and those figure to be high picks. A top of 2nd talent wise isn’t much different than a low 1st (except the 5th year option), either. They are going to be bad regardless, and creating $11m in cap space in June won’t change that. Might as well free it up for 2024.

    But if they are going to tank with a view to the 2024 draft, I do find it somewhat amazing that they either couldn’t or wouldn’t buy a 3rd or 4th via a trade by agreeing to eat a portion of Hopkins’ 2023 salary, though. He doesn’t turn 31 until next month. He should be worth that to somebody.

  24. They’re more than a few players away so why not take the hit this year, makes sense to me

  25. “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”. Actually, they couldn’t. The NFL limits that stretch provision to two contracts at a time and they’re already doing that with the contracts for Rodney Hudson and JJ Watt.

  26. Is this really surprising? Tanking can also be called by its kinder version of rebuilding. So every year there are several teams that are retanking. Nothing to see here…

  27. The post-June 1 designation can be used for two players who are cut before June 1. After June 1, it can be used for any player. Because it’s . . . after June 1.

  28. They could still have it next year, if they don’t use it this year. The excess carries over. Why surrender the $11M when maybe a difference-maker becomes available between now and September? By banking the $11M for 2024 now, they’re telling the world they don’t care about adding a potential difference maker for 2023, if he suddenly is out there.

  29. Because cap space automatically carries over, a team that deliberately eats more than it needs to in the current year is admitting that they’re never going to spend it this year, no matter what. They don’t have to use it this year, but at least they have it if the opportunity should arise to use it. Also, the Bucs had no choice but to take the full cap hit this year on Brady, because he wasn’t going to sign a dummy contract that allowed them to kick a large chunk of it to next year.

  30. How does anyone know who will or won’t be cut? Veterans get cut all the time in August/September. Why not have the cap space available to sign a guy who makes the team better? Unless the truth is the powers-that-be have no interest in using that cap space to make the team better this year. That’s the clear message the Cardinals sent by not waiting a week to do this.

  31. They would still have that cap space next year if they ultimately didn’t use it this year. Why tie your hands prematurely on a chance to get a player who makes you better this year?

  32. THANK YOU FOR SPEAKING THE TRUTH! lol when the eagles GM called Florio a conspiratory theorist: nobody in the game wants to criticize the game. This is spot on and the Cards are straight up tanking

  33. I’ve never seen the Ravens tank, as a fan it would drive me insane, I can’t imagine the staff at the organization ever going for that. Pretty alarming symptom for a franchise imo.

  34. The Cardinals made bad deals for DeHop, Kyle Murray and Marquis Brown without remorse. Tanking is thier only strategy and it still won’t help this year over year dumpster fire. They need new ownership.

  35. The only player out there worth the 11 mil they could have saved is the guy they just cut, so why wouldn’t they just get it out of the way now?

  36. They just hired a new coach and GM and Kyler is gonna miss half the season and they’re trying to clean up the mess that was left for them and not be in cap hell next year and beyond. Nobody is tanking you sound insane. Take your meds.

  37. In other news. Water is wet, rocks are hard and the sun rises in the east.

  38. Actually, aren’t the Cardinals one of the teams that don’t need to make an extra effort to tank? It’s in their franchise DNA.

  39. Its Bidwells toy and he can do what he wants with it,if fans dont like it they can stay away from the stadium.

  40. I think it was a wise move. If you’re trying to change the culture, actions speak louder than words. You can’t win with guys like Hopkins. This sends the right message to the guys that want to work hard and be winners. I mean, they couldn’t get rid of this guy fast enough. Talk about a breath of fresh air.

  41. The reason Cardinals dump Hopkins was because they are trying to build a culture there and they don’t want a unhappy player talking crap about the QB. This is not complicated.

  42. quite a lip to go from the cardinals making a sound decision to – the cardinals are tanking.
    the big wave of free agency has long been over, and they don’t have any pressing extensions or big new deals to do this year.
    given that cardinals still have over 24million in cap space and rank third overall it would have general manager malpractice to absorb any of hopkins’ contract in 2024. i hope this was a clickbait take and not what you actually believe.

  43. I’m sick of tanking. The draft should be changed to a snake draft. Teams that tank should not have the top pick in every round.

  44. Unmentioned in this missive: the Cardinals created $8 million in cap space with the move.

    Hopkins had a $29 million cap number this year. The Cardinals lowered his cap number with the move.

    They now have $18 million in cap space this year. Would $29 million be better, or would it make no difference?

    Other people have hit it on the head: who would they sign at this point for $11 million that would change the fortunes of the Cardinals this year? Yes, they are tearing it down. But they would be doing that anyway regardless of the timing of this move. Might as well get it over with, which is why they did it now.

    It always seems the arguments from PFT are that every team should spend as much money as possible every year and max out their cap. They must love the Saints. That’s a bad philosophy for building a consistent team over the long-term.

    Also unmentioned: the trade they did with Houston is brilliant. That will set the Cardinals up for success. Houston, on the other hand, made a colossal mistake. So I think the Cardinals, while certainly making a bunch of mistakes under the Keim regime, appear to be on the right path. There’s a lot to fix, but it seems they are making the tough decisions, and the right ones.

  45. 1) NFL Teams DO NOT have to spend the whole cap. They have to spend 89% of the 4 year value of the cap over the 4 years. Essentially they could spend 90% of that year’s cap each year and meet the requirement.

    2) If you don’t think you are going to be competitive for a playoff spot in year “X” (and the Cards aren’t) then it makes a GREAT deal of financial sense to eliminate whatever dead cap space you can in order to be ready for the next season and to get players that will get you to the playoffs.

    3) And despite media say pundits WRs (like RBs) are plug and play (as the Patriots proved for years). A good group of receivers (including you TE) is much better than one highly paid “great” WR.

  46. As a Cardinals fan since 1982 in StL…we’ve had a lot of bad years. Had a few good years, made it to the Super Bowl once! It’s actually a great move. Ossenfort is doing exactly what needed to be done. He was hired to clean up a previous GMs mess. Bidwell knows he allowed it to happen. This is new territory for us Cardinals fans. I see a better future. Yes…it sucks at the moment but I am excited to see how an outsider GM with no ties to the Bidwells can bring a culture shift to the organization. I really don’t know if Kyler is the answer but he isn’t the worst Qb in the league. The Cardinals aren’t tanking..just cleaning up a mess and trying to get better. Gotta hit rock bottom before you get better. We are definitely at rock bottom at the moment! Go Cards!

  47. The current definition of “Tanking” – When a team understands its potential and dares to think that there’s a benefit in trying to build a good team over the next 2 or 3 seasons instead of selling all future assets in order to move from this season from the 32nd best team in the League to the 24th best, at most.

  48. Doesn’t mean they’re tanking it means they want the cap space next year to load up. If they spread it out it hurts their cap next year so get it over with this year and reload. Ossenfort is cleaning up Keim’s mess.

  49. You realize that saying they could save 11 million in cap space this year and even if they don’t use it, could roll it into 2024, is the same thing as taking the 22 million cap hit this year. If they do it after June 1, they’re putting an 11 million cap hit INTO next year, which will be offset by the rolled over cap space of 11 million for a net of zero space gained or lost in 2024….. which is the same effect on the 2024 cap that taking the whole hit in 2023 will have. Working hard to make a story out of nothing here.

  50. I wouldn’t call this move tanking. It’s smart. By now, the rosters for most teams are pretty much set, why worry about the cap space this year if you can just eat it? Save it for next season when Murray is back or if he’s traded and they draft a new QB. Just makes sense to do it now.

  51. Most people here feel it isnt a tank move…

    Because its not…

    The Cardinals FINALLY did something smart, but thats not how it was depicted.

  52. Oh goodie. There must be another under sized QB in next year’s draft. Or they can trade that #1 to Carolina so they can some competition between two under sized QBs to see who can have the most passes batted down.

  53. They can’t get a receiver as good as D-Hop anywhere, so why is cutting him anytime a good move? Accept that this will probably be a lost year with Murray hurt and keep Hopkins arround so Murray has at least one receiver to throw to when he gets back. Great receivers like D-Hop can play till their mid-30s.

  54. Tanking or not, is Murray no longer their long term plan at QB? If they’re in the top 10 in next year’s draft (and it seems likely they will be) I’m sure they’ll be considering a QB. Murray has talent, but he lacks maturity and, it appears, a strong work ethic.

  55. Because the league is a cartel that shares revenue, there isn’t the right amount of financial pressure to win. Sure, there are in-stadium purchases and tickets and things that tilt the revenue toward more popular or competitive teams, but it doesn’t amount to much in comparison with the revenue-sharing horde.

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