Welcome to another edition of the Arizona Cardinals mailbag. We take a look at your questions sent to us on Twitter and answer them in this space. Our handle is Cover32_ARI and use the hashtag #32chat so we can see all the questions we get each week.
This week, we’re going to focus on one question since it’s a doozy. Here it is.
What might happen with Larry Fitzgerald’s contract? It doesn’t look he’ll back down from his salary. Chris in Queen Creek
Chris, thanks for the question. Fitzgerald is one of the best receivers in the game and he signed a seven year, $113 million contract. The upcoming 2014-15 season will be the fourth year of the deal, according to Spotrac.com. His cap number for the upcoming season is $18 million. That figure represents more than 10 percent of the team’s salary cap. It jumps up significantly this season with Fitzgerald’s base pay going from $5 million to $12.75 million for the upcoming season. His bonuses and miscellaneous money stay the same between last season and this season.
It’s the second-biggest contract in the league at that position, trailing only Andre Johnson of the Texans in 2013. He will be the highest paid wide receiver in the game in 2014, beating out Mike Wallace of Miami by $750 thousand for the top spot. Percy Harvin, Calvin Johnson and DeSean Jackson round out the top five. All told there are nine receivers who will be a cap hit of more than $10 million this season.
So it’s safe to say Fitzgerald is going to be up there. Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic wrote this:
The Cardinals haven’t approached Fitzgerald’s agent, Eugene Parker, about restructuring the contract, but they will. Negotiations will be interesting because Fitzgerald isn’t going to take a pay cut.
He will be open to a restructuring that might include converting salary into a bonus that can be prorated over the next few years.
Something has to give, because if Fitzgerald’s cap number doesn’t decrease, the Cardinals will be handicapped when it comes to extending other deals and signing free agents.
Fitzgerald is key to the entire offseason for Arizona. If he stays at his current cap figure it’s going to hurt the team’s ability to sign free agents. Keep in mind, Arizona has 16 free agents coming up this offseason including starters on both sides of the ball. Hopefully his agent and Fitzgerald realize this and give some thought to restructuring his deal for the benefit of the team. Fitzgerald has always come-across as a team-first guy and re-did his deal a few years back to help keep Anquan Boldin on the team.
Keep in mind the issue isn’t how much money but when it gets paid.
Arizona will also have to contend with nearly $10 million in dead money that counts against the cap as well which complicates the situation. Realistically, Fitzgerald’s contract is going determine nearly everything in free agency this season. Without restructuring his deal, he could be traded and that can be explored in another column. Releasing him would put another $10 million into dead money which would hurt the team for a couple more years.
While the actual answer is not yet known, it’s going to come quickly. Free agency opens in a little more than two months and a decision will have to be made.
Check out last week’s mailbag here.
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