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Guaranteed money and playing time led Lorenzo Alexander out of Washington

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(UPDATED 8:29 a.m. Thursday, March 14)

Lorenzo Alexander didn’t want to leave the Redskins, but the Arizona Cardinals offered him two things he couldn’t refuse: $1.6 million more in guaranteed money and a chance to start at linebacker.

So Washington’s co-captain on Tuesday made what he described as an “emotional” decision to leave the team that gave him his first opportunity almost seven years ago. He signed with Arizona a three-year deal worth $9.5 million and $3 million guaranteed.

Alexander, in a phone conversation Wednesday night from the Bahamas where he currently is attending NFL Players Association meetings, said he harbored no hard feelings toward the Redskins after they reduced the amount of guaranteed money in their offer from $2.6 million to $1.4 million hours before free agency began on Tuesday afternoon.

He shared upper management’s frustration that the Redskins didn’t have enough salary cap space to keep him when he finally decided where to continue his career.

“It wasn’t that they did me dirty,” Alexander said. “They just ran out of cap space.”

Tony Wyllie, Redskins senior vice present, communications, on Thursday denied Alexander’s claim the Redskins lowered their offer before free agency.

Alexander, when told the Redskins disputed his version of events, said: “That’s fine.”

Alexander said team owner Daniel Snyder personally expressed his desire to keep the Pro Bowl special teamer, but Alexander, who turns 30 in May, saw the guaranteed money in Arizona’s offer as long-term financial security for his wife and three children.

Washington initially offered three years, $7.5 million with $2.6 million guaranteed, Alexander said. He was determined to test the market but maintained he would re-sign with the Redskins if their offer was competitive.

It was competitive until about 2 p.m. Tuesday, he said. The Redskins lowered the amount of guaranteed money, and it equaled less than half of what Arizona eventually offered. The team told him the reduction resulted from their dearth of cap room caused by the $18 million penalty.

Arizona also presented Alexander with a chance to start at outside linebacker. That attracted him, considering he was a reserve in Washington.

Alexander said he likely will move his family to Arizona, at least during the football season. He is deeply involved in community service in the D.C. area and owns a Pilates studio in Ashburn, which complicated the decision to sign with another team.

Ultimately, he is at peace with the bittersweet decision to leave, he said. He thanked the fans for their long-running support, and he is looking forward to the next chapter of his career and life.

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