Cardinals Release Team Captain Prior to Free Agency: Report

Jordan Hicks

Getty Images Jordan Hicks looks on during warm ups against the Cleveland Browns in 2021.

After seeing the Seattle Seahawks freeing cap space by releasing linebacker Bobby Wagner on March 8, the Arizona Cardinals have made a similar move prior to free agency.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the Cardinals have released veteran linebacker Jordan Hicks, who was under contract for one more season. The 29-year-old was a team captain for the Cardinals in 2021 and had 116 tackles, which was second on the team.

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The Cardinals will now save $6.5 million in cap space while carrying $3M in dead cap. This paves the way for 2021 first-round pick Zaven Collins to obtain the starting role. Hicks had asked to be traded last offseason after the team drafted Collins, only to re-obtain his starting role.

Hicks signed a four-year, $36 million contract with the Cardinals in 2019 and accumulated 384 tackles in three seasons. General manager Steve Keim spoke highly of Hicks’ efforts during a chaotic offseason at last week’s Scouting Combine.

“Jordan Hicks did a great job this year, especially under the circumstances he was in,” Keim said. “To be quite frank with you, I know it came out that it was my decision (declaring Collins the starter in the offseason) when, to set the record straight, we made that decision on draft day (and) we made it with a defensive staff.”

Now, the former Eagles Super Bowl champion will be a free agent and should have numerous interested suitors.

Cardinals Make More Moves

In addition to the release of Hicks, the Cardinals also announced the tenders of exclusive rights free agents RB Jonathan Ward and WR Antoine Wesley.

Wesley caught 19 passes for 208 yards in 15 games in 2021 while Ward totaled 67 yards in 2021 and appeared mostly on special teams.

According to Spotrac, the Cardinals have just under $7M in salary cap space following the release of Hicks. It’ll be tough sledding for Keim to keep a free-agent-filled group of edge-rusher Chandler Jones, running backs James Conner and Chase Edmonds, wide receivers Christian Kirk and A.J. Green and tight end.

Jones wasn’t given the franchise tag prior to the deadline on March 8 and should get plenty of interest.

But releasing Hicks likely won’t be the first and last cut from the 2021 team. ESPN Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss wrote an article on February 21 naming offensive lineman Justin Pugh and defensive lineman Jordan Phillips as cut candidates.

The Cardinals also have more than $40 million of cap space worth of “simple” restructures, per Cardinals’ reporter Darren Urban.

There is certainly wiggle room to keep certain free agents while also bringing in outside talent to a team that made the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

With the offseason drama concerning quarterback Kyler Murray and extensions to coach Kliff Kingsbury and Keim, winning is paramount.

Veteran Restructures Contract

The Cardinals’ future at the linebacker position is officially now in the hands of Isaiah Simmons and Collins, who were drafted in the first round in back-to-back years.

Arizona also made another decision in their linebacker group, but this time a player wasn’t released. According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, veteran linebacker Devon Kennard restructured his contract as he’s in the final year of his three-year contract.

It’s unclear how reduced Kennard’s cap will be as his original cap hit was $9 million in 2022.

With Jones entering free agency, Markus Golden and Kennard are the only two outside linebackers on the Cards roster.

Kennard played 15 games and had just 24 tackles for the Cardinals in 2021.

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