Suddenly it became big news again that the Cardinals can’t use the franchise tag on wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald if his contract expires after this season. But that’s always been part of the equation. The Cardinals knew it, obviously, from the time they signed Fitz to the last deal. Originally, the clause was supposed to allow Fitz to be tagged, but that if he was, he had to be paid $23 million for one season. That wasn’t allowed after the NFL reviewed the contract, since franchise tag numbers are set ahead of time based on previous years’ salaries of the top players at the position.
If you recall, at the time the Cards had to re-do Fitz’s deal to create cap space for the 2008 offseason (until it was done the Cards couldn’t make any moves, one reason they couldn’t make a run at guard Alan Faneca at the time). The contract had already been signed and turned in, and basically, changing the $23 million clause to the we-can’t-franchise clause was the only way to get the contract finalized. So that was that.
But again, it’s been known since then. It was part of the narrative last season and again right after the season when the Cards first started contract talks. Fitz has a no-trade clause too — at least one in which he has to approve any destination, but that’s a moot point. The Cards have zero interest in dealing him.
(As a side note, remember Darnell Dockett last offseason? He almost didn’t report to camp because he wanted a new contract. He was assured one was coming, so he showed to Flagstaff. He even make a comment at one point that one was coming, early in camp. That day didn’t come until September. But it came. Before the season. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.)
In the end, that’s why missing an offseason was such a big deal, because the Cards couldn’t start showing Fitz how they were going to re-build their team until about three weeks ago. That’s always been the big issue. As my cohort Kent Somers noted the other day on Twitter, Fitz wants two things: Big stats, and to play for a winner. That’s the only way he can cement the legacy he wants so much. With all that as the backdrop, that’s why the Cards are making this contract push now — this was always going to be a crucial time in the relationship between Fitz and the team. And everybody knew it.
Tags: Darnell Dockett, franchise tag, Larry Fitzgerald
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