In the end, football is a business

September, 7, 2008
9/07/08
12:28
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Johnson

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic sheds light on the Cardinals' reasoning for placing center Al Johnson on injured reserve. Johnson's knee wasn't recovering as quickly as hoped. The Cardinals sought to reduce his salary. Johnson thought their demands were unreasonable. The team placed him on injured reserve, ending his season.

The Cardinals signed Johnson in March 2007 despite known knee issues, paying him $7 million in first-year compensation. Why would they place him on injured reserve given depth concerns on the offensive line? Among the potential reasons:

  • Johnson's knee troubles could be such that the team might not expect him to contribute much this season;
  • The team might not see a substantial drop in performance from Johnson to backup Lyle Sendlein;
  • Johnson's $3.5 million base salary this season would have become guaranteed in full had he remained on the 53-man roster for opening day;
  • Sendlein is earning $295,000 this season, making him a much more cost-effective alternative.

Left guard Reggie Wells would most likely move to center if something happened to Sendlein. Yes, the Cardinals signed center Pat Ross from the practice squad to the 53-man roster in time for the opener at San Francisco. Asking Ross to man the center position in a game situation would carry huge risk given Ross' inexperience. That's why I would expect the versatile Wells to slide over one spot in an emergency.

A statement from general manager Rod Graves read in part:

"It's fair to say the play of Lyle Sendlein was a factor in the decision. Lyle's ability to start and play at a high level certainly gave us the flexibility and confidence to make this move. When deciding the the make-up of the 53-man roster, one challenge is whether we need to carry a player without knowing when he might be able to contribute or how long he might be able to. That was another factor."

Elton Brown, who challenged for a starting job at right guard this summer, would be a candidate to replace Wells at left guard if Wells moved to center. Wells might also be the Cardinals' most capable backup at the tackle positions.

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