Cardinals Release Second Big-Name Player in Two Days
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) _ Three years ago, Garrison Hearst represented the future of the Arizona Cardinals. Now he’s a page from the past.
First-year coach Vince Tobin waived the running back Tuesday in a salary-cap gambit that allowed him to offer big money to defensive linemen Simeon Rice and Eric Swann.
Tobin unloaded defensive end Clyde Simmons the day before. That was a surprise move, because Hearst was told last week he was the one who would be cut on Monday. Tobin declined to explain why he released Simmons first and waited an extra day on Hearst.
``You don’t make your decisions until you have to,″ Tobin said. ``We didn’t have to be down to 60 players until today, and we kept all our options open.″
Even with new contracts for Rice, a record-setting defensive end from Illinois drafted No. 3 overall last April, and Swann, a Pro Bowl tackle, the Cardinals are about $1.5 million under the cap. It’s money Tobin might use to hire a tailback to spell rookie Leeland McElroy and third-year pro LeShon Johnson.
Rice, the third player selected in this year’s draft, got $6.5 million _ the second-largest signing bonus for a rookie this year _ as part of his $9.1 million, four-year contract Monday.
Swann signed a two-year, $7 million pact Tuesday and practiced with the team for the first time since early summer. The contract bars the Cardinals from naming Swann their franchise player in 1998 as they did last winter to make sure he couldn’t jump to another team.
Denver was prepared to pay Swann more than $21 million for five years as part of a trade. Steve Zucker, Swann’s agent, said the new contract pleased his client even though the average salary isn’t as high.
With a $3 million bonus, Swann will make $5 million this season.
``We couldn’t have gotten this much up front, and it’s only a two-year deal, so this deal in my opinion compares favorably to the other,″ Zucker said. ``It’s good for both sides.″
Swann and Rice ran extra laps after practice, and Swann said he was two weeks away from being in shape.
``Just being away for a long period of time was aggravating. But I knew it was going to get done,″ said Swann, whose 58 tackles, 8 1/2 sacks and three fumble recoveries in 12 games earned him his first Pro Bowl berth after five years in the NFL.
Hearst never lived up to the comparisons with Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders after the Cardinals drafted him third overall in 1993.
Pat Dye Jr., his agent, said Hearst opted to test his marketability on the waiver wire rather than take less than the $2.1 million the Cardinals were supposed to pay him this season.
Hearst’s NFL career has been difficult from the start. He left Georgia early for the draft, held out through training camp, then tore a knee ligament in his sixth game as a rookie. He didn’t make it back until late in 1994, and last season he ran for 1,070 yards but only one touchdown, a first for a 1,000-yard rusher.
The waiver was a mistake, according to fullback Larry Centers, because Hearst was on the threshold of reaching his potential.
``He’s gone through a lot of adversity and, as a result, he’s become a lot stronger, a lot more mentally tough,″ Centers said. ``I also think our young backs are capable of doing the job, although they haven’t had the experiences Garrison has gone through. I think they can help us, but we’re all going to have to pull together.″