Arizona Cardinals fans were bracing for the worst. They knew a trade for DeAndre Hopkins was growing more unlikely by the week, as his steep contract and age prevented serious headway from being achieved. The bitter alternative was to release the star wide receiver and make the most out of a troubling situation.

And so the organization forges ahead, already in a forced rebuild due to the ACL injury of their quarterback Kyler Murray. Hopkins' departure forebodes an even longer stay in the NFL basement for Arizona. That cold reality means taking a practical approach to limit the amount of financial consequences next year.

“It’s not a post-June 1 cut, so the #Cardinals clear $7,388,890 in 2023 cap space — eating all $22.6M in dead money now — and DeAndre Hopkins will be off the books in 2024,” NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported. He is not owed his upcoming salary ($19.45 million in 2023-24) since it was not guaranteed.

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The dead money would have been evenly dispersed throughout the next two years had Arizona released Hopkins in June. For a team with a sidelined QB and little hope on the immediate horizon, doubling down on the disaster and incurring the cap hit all at once makes the most sense. Pragmatism is probably not going to lift fans' spirits right now, though. The franchise is clearly ailing.

Now, that can quickly change if Murray comes back and fulfills his potential and a near-$160 million guaranteed contract. The Cardinals can expect to have another top draft pick as well, so reinforcements will be on the way eventually. But this new regime comprised of general manager Monti Ossenfort and head coach Jonathan Gannon will have to prove they can construct a proper rebuild.

Otherwise, releasing DeAndre Hopkins is just the first of many disappointing days fans will endure in the years to come.