Cardinals restructure OT Ross' contract
By Len Pasquarelli
Updated: June 22, 2007, 3:24 PM ET
Offensive tackle Oliver Ross, who has struggled with injuries during his two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals but is projected as a starter in 2007, has taken a $1 million reduction in his scheduled base salary for this season.
Ross agreed to trim his base salary from $2.8 million to $1.8 million. He can earn back the $1 million cut with incentives tied to playing time and performance. The final two seasons of the five-year deal Ross signed with the Cardinals as an unrestricted free agent in 2005, were not affected by the restructuring, so his salaries stayed at $2.8 million each for 2008-2009.
The adjustment of Ross' contract is in line with moves the Cardinals have made throughout the offseason, as they have attempted to rework deals to more accurately reflect a player's status with the team. Earlier this month, Arizona released three players -- defensive tackle Kendrick Clancy, guard Milford Brown and fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo -- because they were no longer viewed as starters by the new coaching staff.
Clancy and Brown were released after they declined to restructure their contracts. Arizona is tighter against the salary cap than it has been in most seasons and the Cardinals have been trying to create more spending room.
A nine-year veteran, Ross has worked most of the spring with the first unit offense at right tackle, where he started 17 games the past two years. First-year coach Ken Whisenhunt had hinted early in the spring that Ross might move to left tackle in 2007, but that switch has not occurred, and probably won't now.
The Cardinals signed former Buffalo Bills lineman Mike Gandy, and he is the presumptive starter now at left tackle. First-round choice Levi Brown of Penn State, the fifth player taken overall in this year's draft, may push Ross for the starting right tackle spot.
Ross, 32, will be playing in 2007 under Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm, his former offensive line coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and an assistant under whom he arguably enjoyed his best seasons in the league. The Cardinals are hopeful that a healthy Ross, coupled with the addition of Grimm, will allow the nine-year veteran to fulfill their expectations for him.
In his two years in Arizona, Ross has been limited to 23 appearances and 17 starts because of knee and hand injuries.
The former Iowa State standout began his NFL career in Dallas as a fifth-round draft pick in 1998. He played one season for the Cowboys and one in Philadelphia (1999), before joining the Steelers in 2000. In 2003, he became a full-time starter for the first time and he started all 16 games in 2004, probably his best season.
In the spring of 2005, Ross signed a five-year, $17 million contract with the Cardinals, a deal that included a $3 million signing bonus. For his career, he has appeared in 89 games and started in 53 of them, mostly at right tackle.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com