Less than 15 months after signing L.J. Shelton to a pricey five-year contract extension, the Arizona Cardinals appear willing to part ways with him, as the team has granted permission for the veteran offensive tackle to discuss possible trade scenarios with other franchises.
The move is hardly surprising, since many observers felt Cardinals coach Dennis Green would undertake sweeping roster changes following his first season with the team and assumed that discarding Shelton would likely be among those alterations.
Shelton, 28, joins at least four other veterans around the league -- tailbacks Travis Henry (Buffalo) and Reuben Droughns (Denver), wide receiver Rod Gardner (Washington) and cornerback Patrick Surtain (Miami) -- who have been granted permission to seek trades. Under such a scenario, a player's agent generally contacts other teams to gauge their interest and, if he finds a potential suitor, then apprises the incumbent team.
Given his relatively young age for an offensive lineman, and the fact Shelton has been a starter most of his NFL career, there figures to be a market for the six-year veteran.
"A number of teams have expressed interest," said agent Eric Metz. "We look forward to (having Shelton) starting anew someplace else."
The former Eastern Michigan standout was the second of Arizona's two first-round selections in the 1999 draft. He has appeared in 82 games with the Cardinals, including 77 career starts, and has started in 14 or more games in four of six seasons.
In 2004, Shelton reported to mini-camps in questionable condition, Green felt, after coming off ankle surgery in the offseason. He lost his starting job at left tackle to guard Leonard Davis, another former first-rounder, and then earned the No. 1 spot at right tackle in October. But he played in just 12 games and started only nine contests, the fewest starts since his rookie campaign. Shelton ended the season on injured reserve with a sprained knee.
Arizona would need to garner a high-round choice for Shelton to recoup just some of the investment in time and dollars that the Cardinals made in the lineman.
In November 2003, Shelton signed a five-year contract extension that immediately boosted his base salary for that year by $2 million and also paid him a $5 million signing bonus. Shelton earned a base salary of $3 million for 2004, meaning the Cardinals have paid him more than $10 million in roughly 15 months.
Shelton is signed through the 2008 season is his base salary for each of the next four seasons is scheduled to be $3 million. It appears that Shelton is as prepared to move on as Green is to have him play elsewhere in 2005. Metz said his client, who most still regard as a starting-caliber player, has no preferences for where he continues his career.
"He just wants to play football," Metz said. "He's on the right side of 30 and he has proven that he can excel at this level."
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.