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Cardinals creating cap room

There once was a time, in the not so distant past, when the Arizona Cardinals had no desire to touch an existing player’s contract.  That meant no extensions for a player whose deal might be ending.  The team’s thinking has changed, with the Cardinals making sure players like Anquan Boldin, Adrian Wilson, Neil Rackers and Darnell Dockett were under contract before hitting free agency.  Now, the Cards are working the flip side of the business model.

It’s not as if the franchise has never done it before – for example, then-coach Buddy Ryan asked receiver Gary Clark to take a pay cut back in 1994 – but it’s an available resource the Cards have been extremely reluctant to use.  “It is a tool, in terms of salary cap management, we should consider,” Vice President of Football Operations Rod Graves said to the East Valley Tribune.  The Cardinals are believed to currently have between $7 million and $8 million in cap space available, and they have other avenues in which they can create more room.

For instance, backup quarterback Kurt Warner is making $4 million this season.  While it is unlikely the Cards would ask him to take a straight pay cut, the team could turn some of the salary into signing bonus and spread out the cap hit.  But Warner’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, said the team has not approached Warner about any kind of contract restructuring.  Apparently, not all contract restructurings were created equal.  Graves declined to talk about offensive tackle Oliver Ross’ situation and Ross’ agent has not returned phone messages.  But an NFL source has confirmed that Ross, whose salary was sliced from $2.8 million to $1.8 million, has incentives built in to recoup his money should he start.

The decision was easier for defensive tackle Kendrick Clancy. His agent, Ron Del Duca, said the Cards asked Clancy to go from a $1.5 million salary to the minimum — which for Clancy would have been $595,000.  Del Duca said he was also upset his client was told the news about the possible pay cut by coach Ken Whisenhunt instead of Graves calling the agent.  “The coach shouldn’t bring it to the player,” Del Duca said.  “That’s my job as an agent, that’s their job as a front office.  We are the buffers.”

Graves said telling the players first is the organization’s choice because it allows the team to deliver its unfiltered message.  “Otherwise, the situation has the potential to go bad,” Graves said.  “It’s part of the business,” Del Duca said.  “Sometimes the team has the upper hand.  Sometimes the player has the upper hand.”  Fortunately for Clancy, the situation worked out.  He signed a new three-year, $5.2 million contract with New Orleans.

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