Sam Acho is a bargain for the Cardinals (USA Today Sports Images)
The "Shutdown Countdown" is underway. In addition to previewing each team, "Shutdown Corner" will be taking a brief look at each team's salary cap situation heading into the 2013 season and beyond. We continue the series with the Arizona Cardinals.
2013 Adjusted Cap Number: $126.459 million (18th-highest adjusted cap number in the league)
[Related: Cardinals hope to find some offensive punch]
2013 Cap Room Remaining: $10.64 million (10th-most in the league, as of July 6, 2013)
Best Bargain: This is the third entry in this series and one trend readers will notice, if they haven't already is that thanks to rookie pay being sacrificed in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, the "best bargains" will almost always be players still on their rookie contracts. For the Cardinals, the best bargain is linebacker Sam Acho, who will earn the league minimum salary ($555,000) and count just $673,607 against the cap in the third year of his four-year, $2.51 million rookie contract.
After notching seven sacks while playing a part-time role as a rookie, Acho started 16 games and played in 92.2 percent of the Cardinals' defensive snaps last season. Acho was outstanding against the run and was a continued presence in the pass rush, totaling four sacks and tying for the team lead with 12 quarterback hits. Acho also picked up the first two interceptions of his NFL career and has become part of the franchise's defensive nucleus moving forward.
Potential Camp Casualty: Earlier this offseason, the Cardinals shed most of the players that would have found themselves on the roster bubble. Stewart Bradley, Early Doucet, William Gay, Beanie Wells, Kerry Rhodes, Adrian Wilson, Adam Snyder and, of course, Kevin Kolb. Those moves left just a few players remaining who have high salaries and high cap numbers, but there's little chance of Larry Fitzgerald, Calais Campbell, Levi Brown or Daryn Colledge (who received a $1 million roster bonus in March) going anywhere this summer. A potential, albeit unlikely cut could be Darnell Dockett, a 32-year-old defensive lineman who lost his captaincy last season and is due $4.45 million in base salary with a $7.7 million cap figure this season. Dockett was not a happy camper in 2012, but Ray Horton, the source of Dockett's frustration, is gone and No. 90 should be a happier, more productive player under Todd Bowles.
Looming Contract Issue: The base salary in wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald's mega-extension jumps from $5 million in 2013 to $12.75 million with his cap figure increasing from $10.25 million to $18 million. Fitzgerald also turns 30 in August and is coming off his least productive season since he was a rookie. Most of Fitzgerald's dip in productivity can be attributed to the quarterback play. Fitzgerald's numbers will likely improve with the arrival of head coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer, but the Cardinals will certainly look to reduce Fitzgerald's impact on the salary cap.
Secondary contractual issues the Cardinals face in 2014 belongs to Daryl Washington. The Pro Bowl-caliber inside linebacker was signed to a four-year, $32 million extension last September, but renegotiated the contract on March 12, 2013 in a move that pushed his $10 million option bonus from 2013 to 2014. Washington led the Cardinals in tackles and sacks last season, but has had some off-field issues and will serve a four-game suspension after violating the league's substance abuse policy. It appears to be a "no-brainer" at this point, but the Cardinals will also have to decide on whether or not to exercise the fifth-year option on cornerback Patrick Peterson's contract. That option is worth the transition tender for the 2014 season, which is projected to be worth just over $9 million based on a $123 million league-wide salary cap number in 2014.
Long-Term Cash/Cap Outlook: The Cardinals have around $125 million in cap commitments for the 2014 season, including $3 million in "dead" money from the "post-June 1" release of Adam Snyder, which puts them in the top half of the league. In 2015, the Cardinals are projected to have about $120 million in cap commitments, which is currently the third-highest amount in the league.
Previous salary cap outlooks
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