With NFL free agency around the corner on March 16, the Arizona Cardinals will have to make their minds up soon on what path they want to take.
The Cardinals will have Chandler Jones, James Conner, Christian Kirk, Chase Edmonds, Zach Ertz and A.J. Green enter free agency. There will be plenty of competition to bring back members who had much to do with the Cardinals making the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
While the Cardinals would like to keep their own talent, there is a familiar face from outside of the organization that has been linked to the team.
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Cardinals Linked to All-Pro LB
Eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker Bobby Wagner was officially released from the Seattle Seahawks on March 9. The release was corresponding to the team trading beloved franchise quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos on March 8.
By releasing Wagner, the Seahawks cleared $16 million in cap space and are second in the league in cap space heading towards the new league year.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Wagner is drawing interest from the three other NFC West teams, which includes the Cardinals.
“Do not be surprised if he actually stays in the division,” said Rapoport. “There’s already interest in Wagner from three teams that he played against twice a year when he was in Seattle.”
The Cardinals made a decision of their own that was similar to the one the Seahawks made with Wagner. On March 9, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the Cardinals released veteran linebacker Jordan Hicks, who was under contract for one more season. The Cardinals will now save $6.5 million in cap space while carrying $3M in dead cap.
Wagner and Hicks were also team captains for their respective 2021 clubs. While releasing Hicks certainly paves the way for 2021 first-round pick Zaven Collins to obtain the starting linebacker role, the Cardinals have seen Wagner’s All-Pro play from up-close. Despite being 31-years-old, Wagner racked up a career-high 170 tackles in 2021 all while missing all but one snap of the last two games.
The Cardinals also restructured Devon Kennard’s $9 million cap hit in 2022, although the particulars haven’t been released yet. According to Spotrac, the Cardinals have just under $7M in salary cap space following the release of Hicks. There should be more space for the Cardinals in the near future and could possibly use it towards Wagner.
Beware of Other Two NFC West Teams
The Cardinals have signed a player who was previously cut from their former teams in three straight years (Robert Alford, Devon Kennard, J.J. Watt). Could Wagner be the fourth name?
Not so fast.
The Rams and 49ers are the other three teams interested in Wagner’s services. The lure of winning another Super Bowl in Los Angeles could be enough for Wagner, who won a Super Bowl in 2013. But Jourdan Rodrigue of TheAthletic reports the price tag for the Rams would be $4 million to $5 million. That likely won’t be enough for the eight-time All-Pro.
The 49ers are an intriguing option for Wagner, who could replace Dre Greenlaw who’s entering the final year of his contract in 2022. Pro Bowl linebacker Fred Warner and Bobby Wagner would be a force to be reckoned with. At the same time, Warner would have to play more snaps at the outside linebacker position since Wagner has played the inside linebacker role for his whole career.
The Niners have $2.9 million in cap space and are currently in a worse position in the cap department than the Cardinals. Wagner is estimated to be worth around $9.4 million for his 2021 play according to Over the Cap. But the 49ers can trade QB Jimmy Garoppolo, which frees up over $25 million.
But the 49ers are in no rush to trade Garappolo according to NFL Network’s Peter Schrager.