Cardinals Mailbag: If the contract Fitz…


After yesterday’s news, this week’s mailbag addresses the obvious question.

How much does it help the Cardinals to have Larry Fitzgerald restructure his contract? –Derek in Glendale

I was pleasantly relieved to hear the news that Fitzgerald has agreed to a restructure of his contract to help free up salary cap space. The new terms of the deal weren’t immediately released so it’s difficult to assess how much of an impact the move will have.

They were released later in the day, according to multiple media reports. Josh Weinfuss of breaks it down for us.

 According to multiple reports, Fitzgerald’s base salary was reduced to $1 million and he received an $11.75 million signing bonus. That shrunk his cap hit to $8.6 million for 2014, but, at the same time, increased his annual cap hit by $2.35 million each year.

Fitzgerald is scheduled to receive an $8 million roster bonus in 2015. The $120 million contract he signed in 2011 is set to expire in 2018, but the final two years are options.

While making the media rounds at the Super Bowl last week in New York, Fitzgerald said, “I’ll do what I need to do” to help the Cardinals alleviate the stress of his cap numbers. He was scheduled to make $12.75 million base salary in 2014 with the $18 million cap. In 2015, an $8 million base was to be accompanied with an $8 million roster bonus and a $21.25 million cap hit.

In 2016, Fitzgerald was scheduled to earn a $15 million base with an $18.25 million cap number. And in 2017, the final year of his $120 million contract, Fitzgerald was expected to earn $14.75 million base, which came with a $15 million cap hit.

Wow! Just wow!

He dropped his base salary by $11.75 million and freed up nearly $10 million under the cap with a few signatures. This is a nice short-term fix but his cap hit goes up in each of the remaining years on his deal. That puts his cap figure at $23.6 million next season so it will be very interesting to see what happens in 2015.

Ah, there’s the rub. Keep that figure in the back of your mind for next season.

Hopefully, it could motivate some of the other big cap hit guys on the team to pull a similar maneuver for the benefit of the team. Calais Campbell and Carson Palmer are each going to be more than $10 million against the cap next season. Imagine for a second if one, or both, of those guys did the same thing. The Cardinals could become major players in the free-agent market.

The bigger picture here is that Fitzgerald shows he really is a team-first guy and is committed to winning. He knows that he can’t win games by himself and it takes 53 guys on the roster to get there. The move has been universally lauded by fans and it’s nothing but positive from here on out.

The next question that comes up is who the Cardinals might bring back with that new-found cap space. Linebacker Karlos Dansby seems like a painfully-obvious choice. We’d have to take a wait-and-see approach to find out what kind of deal he might get and how it impacts the cap.

The other great thing about this news is when it was done. This comes out less than 48 hours after the Super Bowl so it gives the Arizona brass more time to decide how to spend their money. Ideally, they can retain another soon-to-be-free-agent in the same way they got punter Dave Zastudil to re-sign for two more years.

Free agency is still five weeks away but this is a very promising start.

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See the original breaking news story here.

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