It was surely a fait accompli, but it became official Thursday when the Cardinals re-signed restricted free-agent linebacker Dennis Gardeck and exclusive-rights free-agent linebacker Kylie Fitts.
There were some raised eyebrows in March when the Cardinals tendered Gardeck $3.384 million at the start of the league year, a total that would command a second-round pick as compensation if he signed an offer sheet with another team and the Cardinals elected not to match it.
They could have tendered him at $2.133 million, which would have given them right of first refusal but no compensation because Gardeck entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent.
The Cardinals obviously didn’t want to take the chance he might command an offer despite the torn ACL he suffered on Dec. 20 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
When asked about the tender decision last month, general manager Steve Keim said, “I don't think there's any question that Dennis's reputation around the NFL with special-teams coaches and defensive coordinators is at a high level. I know; I've had many comments from different guys across the league, how impressed they are with the way he plays on ‘teams’ with the heart and the passion that Dennis brings to the field.
“So to me, that was an easy decision. And his health is continuing to trend in the right direction. I don't think there's anybody on our team that works any harder than Dennis Gardeck and (we) expect him to be at full strength next season.”
Gardeck had 7.0 sacks, 10 quarterback hits and seven tackles for loss in run defense last season in only 93 defensive snaps and also added nine tackles on special teams.
As for Fitts, exclusive-rights free agents have fewer than three accrued seasons and when tendered at the league minimum salary, they are unable to negotiate with other teams.
Fitts does have an unusual situation in that he has two accrued seasons, but three credited seasons. Accrued seasons determine free-agent eligibility, while credited seasons set salary and pension eligibility.
An accrued season is earned by being on the roster for at least six games in a season while three are necessary for a credited season. Fitts played three games for the Cardinals in 2019, so that counted as a credited season but not an accrued one.
His salary is $920,000 instead of the $850,000 it would be for two credited seasons.
If Fitts had three accrued seasons, he would have been a restricted free agent, but the Cardinals might not have tendered him at more than $2 million.