When Larry Fitzgerald agreed to his last contract, he had been out eating at a local restaurant and had to be summoned to a press conference. Fitz loves getting his contracts but truth be told, he’d rather not have to talk about them. That part is something he’d rather keep behind the scenes. But this is professional sports, where the public knows what you are making and also, when what you are making becomes an issue that must be accounted for when it comes to building a team.
The recent new deal for Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford highlights the reality of the NFL: Sometimes, a player’s salary cap number becomes (or will become) so unwieldy it must be addressed. There’s no way to know how the Cardinals see Fitzgerald’s current deal in that light, but there are decisions that have to be made over the next year or two — decisions Fitz and his agents certainly understood when they signed this pact in 2011.
This season, Fitzgerald has a salary cap figure of “only” $10.25 million. It’s not insignificant, yet it is much smaller than what is to come. In 2014, that cap figure jumps to $18M. In 2015, it jumps again to $21.25M. That’s a pretty big chunk of cap to eat up when most believe there will be no significant leap in the cap space in the next couple of years. (There are various opinions on that, given the new TV contract that will eventually kick in, but my understanding is that the cap will go up slow and steady rather than in one fell swoop.) Both cap hits are scheduled to be the largest in the league in that year for any wide receiver, even more than Calvin Johnson, who signed a mega-deal after Fitz’s.
The Cardinals worked hard to clear cap space this year for the future and have more non-Fitz choices to make again next season. Given how many free-agents-to-be they will have after this season, they can deal with Fitz’s hefty 2014 number. Will they want to? Can they again in 2015? Right now, the only large extension coming down the road is one for Patrick Peterson, who is eligible for a new deal as soon as this season ends. I’ve heard from fans wondering/concerned if they might trade Fitzgerald, but that doesn’t seem practical for a couple of reasons. One, dealing Fitz in 2014 would saddle the Cards with $13M in dead cap space (and doing it for 2015 would be $8M in dead space.) Besides, barring a massive dropoff in play, he just means so much to the franchise both on and off the field. They certainly won’t just release him.
That leaves a couple of options. One is to play it out. It will hamstring some of the flexibility of GM Steve Keim, but it’s tough to know exactly where this team is going to be year-to-year and you don’t have to make any decisions now. There is also the possibility of reworking Fitzgerald’s deal — again — to make it more team-friendly. What does that mean? It would mean Fitz would get another hefty upfront payday, something he wouldn’t turn down. That, of course, would push the Fitz cap issue further into the future. But that’s how it works. The last time Fitz talked about his contract, he and Michael Bidwill talked about Larry eventually retiring as a Cardinal. I’m sure that’s still the plan.
Tags: contract, Larry Fitzgerald, salary cap
Posted in Blog | 27 Comments »