While the move to cut James was anticipated, the release of cornerback Rod Hood and defensive end/linebacker Travis LaBoy was not.
James, Hood and LaBoy were scheduled to make $10 million combined next season, but because of the $7.5 million signing bonus given to LaBoy a year ago, the Cardinals' cap savings will be several million dollars less than what the three would have earned. Still, it gives spending room to a franchise that had been just below the salary ceiling.
NFL.com's Steve Wyche reports that several teams already have contacted James' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, who said the running back could finalize a deal with another team in the near future. Rosenhaus didn't disclose what teams had reached out to him, but he made similar claims after another client, wide receiver Terrell Owens, was released by the Dallas Cowboys shortly before striking a one-year deal with the Buffalo Bills.
James had 794 carries for 2,895 yards and 16 touchdowns in his three seasons in Arizona. He topped 1,000 yards in 2006 and 2007, and his resurgence during last season's playoffs gave Arizona the running game it had sorely lacked.
Before that, however, James was benched for seven games, the first time that has happened in his 10-year NFL career, and he asked the team to release him then. The Cardinals refused, and James was reinserted into the lineup late in the season.
James again sought his release early in the free-agency period, but the Cardinals held off until after last weekend's draft, in which they chose Ohio State running back Chris "Beanie" Wells in the first round with the No. 31 overall pick. Wells and second-year pro Tim Hightower are expected to be Arizona's featured running backs next season.
James had one year left, at $5 million, on the four-year, $40 million contract that he signed with Arizona before the 2006 season. In his career, he has rushed for 15,466 yards, 11th on the NFL career list and the most among active players.
Hood appeared in 31 games, 30 as a starter, since signing with Arizona as a free agent in 2007, and he had 105 tackles and six interceptions. But Hood, a six-year NFL veteran who was scheduled to make $3 million next season, became expendable after the Cardinals signed cornerback Bryant McFadden away from the Steelers in free agency, then drafted Greg Toler out of tiny St. Paul's College of Virginia in the fourth round Sunday.
LaBoy signed a five-year, $22 million contract, with $7.5 million guaranteed, with Arizona before the 2008 season after four years with the Tennessee Titans. He played in 13 games with the Cardinals and made 38 tackles, four sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He was due to receive
$2 million next season.
"It's never easy to release veteran players who have contributed to the team's success, and these three individuals certainly fall into that category," he said in the statement. "But like every decision we make, it simply comes down to what is in the best interest of our football team and what gives us the best chance for success. We're grateful to all three of them for their contributions and wish them nothing but the best in the future."
The Cardinals open their post-draft minicamp Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.