Arizona is currently $32.1 million under the cap. They have the money and they certainly need as many warm bodies as possible along the offensive line. Why wouldn't they keep him? What possible reason could they come up with to not only decide not to keep him, but announce in advance that they didn't intend to re-sign him?
Well, there's a few reasons:
1. Matt Leinart Throws with His Left Arm:
One of the primary reasons that left tackles are such precious commodities in the NFL is that they are generally the lineman tasked with the responsibility of protecting the quarterback's blind side. That's because the bulk of NFL quarterbacks are right handed. Since Leinart throws with his left arm, the most important person on the offensive line is the right tackle.
Why spend left tackle money on a guy that isn't nearly as important as any other left tackle in the league?
2. The Cardinals Aren't the Only Team with Money to Burn:
There are 12 teams that are at least $20 million under the 2007 salary cap. There were a lot of teams in that enviable position last off-season. As a result, salaries went through the roof.
Someone is going to throw a bunch of money at Leonard Davis. The Cardinals didn't want to be that someone. Mediocre left tackles are like moderately attractive red heads at a bar. After enough time and after surveying the other available options, someone somewhere will commit the time and money into picking them up. The most recent example of this would be Jonas Jennings.
3. Arizona is Tired of Dealing with Him:
After six seasons and several position changes (seriously, anyone that was drafted 2nd overall should not play guard), the Cardinals simply ran out of time and patience. They realized that they could not motivate him to take advantage of his potential and decided to cut the cord.
It could very well be that Davis got mired down in the losing culture that has hung over Phoenix thus far this century. It could be that he's the next Corey Dillon, the next Rodney Harrison. If the Patriots sign him and win a Super Bowl with him, more power to them. And good for him. The fans, owners, coaches, and management were obviously tired of him and didn't want to deal with the yearly soap opera.
4. New Coach, New Guys:
It's true that Davis is from the regime before the Dennis Green regime. But, one of the first thing any new coach does is clean house, get rid of underachievers from the previous regime, and fill in the gaps with a bunch of "his guys."
Whisenhunt made the first such move by distancing himself from Davis. New coach, new stadium, new team, new attitude. It's amazing how much goodwill can be gained from a fan base simply by not doing something. And, inaction is always the easiest positive move to make.
5. I Told You So:
By announcing that they would not attempt to re-sign Davis, the Arizona Cardinals have officially given themselves carte blanche to play the "I Told You So" card when Davis eventually bombs in another NFL precinct. When some poor, unsuspecting team sinks $56 million into Davis over the next 8 years, Rod Graves is going to put that GM's number on speed dial. After Davis tanks the first couple of seasons with his new team and is eventually benched and cut, Graves will call that GM and say that following:
"Hi, GM from the team that signed Leonard Davis to a huge contract. I'm Rod Graves. I just wanted to say that you're a very dumb person. You signed someone to a monster deal that will cripple your available salary cap room for the next two seasons. This was a player that the Arizona Cardinals, the team with the worst offensive line in the NFL, decided not to re-sign. Not only did we choose not to re-sign him, we announced a week before free agency started that we weren't going to re-sign him. Why did you think he was worth it? It was his potential, wasn't it? Yeah. We fell for that, too. Anyhoo, just wanted to tell you that you're dumb and we're not. Yeah, that was it. Best to the wife and kids."
Mr. Graves: If you're reading this, I would be willing to make this call for you. Just an FYI.