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Blogs

Fitzgerald contract details emerge

Posted by Darren Urban on February 20, 2015 – 7:11 am

Former agent Joel Corry, who writes for the National Football Post and CBSsports.com, released the details on the Larry Fitzgerald contract on Twitter this morning. The key parts: The Cardinals picked up $12.75 million in salary cap space for 2015. And the deal, while it’s technically through 2018, will automatically void the final two seasons (2017 and 2018, on paper right now as $16M salaries for each year). The voidable years are added to help with prorating the cap numbers.

That means Fitzgerald will be a free agent after the 2016 season. We may not be done with stories of the Cardinals, Fitzgerald and contract talks just yet. Fitzgerald won’t even have turned 34 yet by the time his new deal ends — and I don’t see him retiring at that point. Fitzgerald also got a no-trade clause in the deal, although he could waive that if he so chose.

Fitzgerald’s cap number, which had been $23.6M for 2015, dropped to $10.85M. His money is pretty straightforward. A fully guaranteed roster bonus of $10 million on the second day of the league year (March 11) plus a salary of $1 million in 2015, and a fully guaranteed $11M salary for 2016.

His cap number for 2016 should be about $15.85M (still a hefty number, but not as bad as $23.6M). His dead money left in 2017 after the contract voids (which the Cards must still deal with, regardless of what happens to Fitz at that point) will be about $9.7M.

Fitznumbersuse


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With Fitzgerald done, next on to-do list

Posted by Darren Urban on February 18, 2015 – 2:10 pm

The first thing the Cardinals needed to get done was re-doing Larry Fitzgerald’s contract. That’s done. Cap space has been cleared. But the Cardinals probably will look for more.

GM Steve Keim said today he will be talking to DT Darnell Dockett about his contract, which has one year left and a cap number of $9.8 million. That’s lofty anyway, but especially for an older player who is coming off major knee surgery. Ted Ginn, who sunk to the fifth receiver by year’s end, is another player who seems likely to be looked at, contract-wise. There are other veterans with higher cap numbers who could get a look from Keim. But there are lines to walk; CB Jerraud Powers is due more than $4 million in salary this season, for example, but if Antonio Cromartie leaves in free agency, you have to make sure you have the depth you want. A total of 13 Cardinals carry cap numbers of more than $3 million for 2015, including Powers ($5.3M), C Lyle Sendlein ($4.3M), Ginn ($4M), and QB Drew Stanton ($3.9M).

Keim’s point that the Cardinals, with Fitz’s new contract, will allow the Cards to be active in free agency is crucial. There is little doubt the Cardinals need to upgrade, but what will the market bear? I could see the Cardinals looking heavily at running back, at linebacker (both inside and outside), perhaps interior offensive line. If Cromartie doesn’t return, they could look at cornerback. And one of the quieter stories of the offseason is the potential loss of nose tackle Dan Williams and what the Cards do if Williams does not return.

Fixing the Fitz situation was important. But it wasn’t the only thing in front of Keim that needs tending.

“There are some additional tough decisions we will have to make,” Keim said.

Steve Keim


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Fitzgerald, Cards deal done

Posted by Darren Urban on February 18, 2015 – 7:53 am

Here’s one way to start the Scouting combine: The Cardinals and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald are moving closer to a new contract that will ease the $23.6 million salary cap hit Fitzgerald is scheduled to have in 2015. It’s good news, especially since General Manager Steve Keim has been trying to get this done. Multiple reports have noted this (and an NFL source confirmed), and it looks like the Cards will be able to adjust their Fitz cap issue well ahead of the March 10 deadline. It was first reported by Adam Schefter.

UPDATE: Keim announced the contract is set. It is “essentially a two-year deal,” Keim said.

Until details emerge, it’s hard to know what Fitzgerald and the Cardinals were each willing to do to get this done. Fitzgerald had already been under contract through 2018, but his $8M salary and $8M roster bonus, plus other dead money was untenable. But there is no question the Cardinals winning of late and Fitzgerald’s deep ties to Arizona after 11 seasons helped in talks.

This will also allow the Cardinals to have some ability to chase free agents March 10 when that time comes. Even once Fitz is resolved, there is more work for Keim — defensive tackle Darnell Dockett carries a $9.8M cap number for 2015, for instance.

Keim is addressing the media here in Indianapolis at 11:30 a.m. (9:30 a.m. Arizona time). I’m guessing this will be a topic (the only topic?). More to come as soon as he speaks.


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At combine, Cards’ braintrust on the schedule

Posted by Darren Urban on February 17, 2015 – 4:40 pm

Let the Scouting combine begin. There’s snow on the ground (hey, that’s unique for someone like me) and we’ll quickly get to a talk with General Manager Steve Keim. Keim is speaking on the podium at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday (9:30 a.m. Arizona time). Interestingly, he’s sandwiched between two guys with Cardinals ties. Before him, good friend and former Cardinals VP of player personnel Jason Licht, now the Buccaneers GM, talks. After Keim, it’s former Cardinals coach and current Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt.

Just to add to the Cardinals’ flavor Wednesday, Jets coach and former Cards defensive coordinator Todd Bowles speaks at 2:30 p.m. (12:30 p.m.) Wednesday as well.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians talks at 10:15 a.m. Thursday (8:15 a.m.)

Keim is also supposed to be speaking with Larry Fitzgerald’s agent while both are here in Indianapolis. While I continue to get questions about where negotiations might be, I don’t think anything is about to happen yet. We still have a lot of time before the league year starts March 10.

Combineonthegrounduse


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Larry Fitzgerald, his contract and “it takes two”

Posted by Darren Urban on February 12, 2015 – 1:45 pm

Back in 2008, Bertrand Berry was asked to take a pay cut to remain with the Cardinals. He decided to do so. In 2012, Adrian Wilson was asked to take a pay cut to remain with the Cardinals. He did so (and that didn’t save him from being released after the season.) The only leverage either player had was to say, “I’ll leave” if they didn’t like the offer. It’s not ideal, but it was reality.

That’s where we are with Larry Fitzgerald and the Cardinals. This is not a surprise, not with a $23.6 million salary cap number, an actual payout of a scheduled $8M salary and another $8M roster bonus due in about a month. Not with the Cardinals, even with a carryover of $4.2M from last year’s cap to tag on to a projected $140M salary cap for 2015, around $11M over the cap at this point (according to ESPN) and needing to get to at least even by March 10. Regardless of specific numbers, the Cards need to slice some cap money.

Again, none of this is new.

I’ll be honest – I listened to Michael Bidwill’s interview Wednesday morning on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 and nothing stood out. When he talked about bringing Fitzgerald back and working out a contract, it was the things you’d expect to hear.

At one point, Bidwill did say “it takes two” to reach a deal. That raised eyebrows. But should it? At some point, the Cardinals and General Manager Steve Keim were going to want to harness the salary cap, and that was going to start with Fitz’s current deal. I thought for a while that might come last offseason, but instead, the Cards — and Fitz — kicked the can down the road a season with a simple restructure to buy cap space. We have come to the rip-the-band-aid-clean-off stage of this thing.

There are 10 wide receivers right now averaging at least $9M on their contracts. Only three — Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson and maybe Vincent Jackson, given all the Buccaneers’ cap space — aren’t serious candidates to renegotiate/restructure/get released this offseason (and Johnson, as good as he is, is headed that way in the next year or two himself, given his cap numbers.) Fitzgerald’s situation, especially at his position, is not unique.

Like Berry, like Wilson, the ball will be in Fitz’s court, basically. Yes, there are salary numbers to figure out — as always — but the Cards aren’t going to change their thought process. Carson Palmer was asked to do something similar in Oakland; he declined and was traded to Arizona. Maybe that’s what Fitz will want to do. Maybe a new deal will work for him, and maybe the other benefits of being in Arizona on a personal level make it worth an agreement. Maybe a different opportunity is more intriguing, or maybe the numbers just won’t be good enough, and Fitz uses what leverage he has. But there are really no new angles that can come out on this thing. It’s not hard to analyze.

FitzBlogagain


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Posted in Blog | 74 Comments »

Cards will take Washington absence into account

Posted by Darren Urban on January 29, 2015 – 3:19 pm

One of the many things the Cardinals must sort through this offseason is what to do with suspended linebacker Daryl Washington if and when he returns — and how to plan for the season with his status in limbo for the next few months. Washington’s suspension, which is for a year before he can request NFL reinstatement, lasts until late May. That’s after free agency, and it’s after the draft. Until this suspension ends, it seems unlikely the NFL will hand down whatever suspension Washington might get for his assault conviction from last year.

That’s a lot of uncertainty, and why team president Michael Bidwill said Thursday the Cardinals are going to go through the offseason ready to not have Washington available — and if he is around, the Cards will be that much better off.

“He’ll be facing the issue with the domestic violence and there has been no determination of what happens there,” Bidwill said. “He was only suspended for the drug issue, so we want to make sure we understand what that (other punishment) is. Last year, we learned about his suspension after free agency. This year we are going to plan to make sure we address all the issues not knowing whether Daryl will be back for part of next season or all of next season. ‘Next man up’ is real but we have to make sure we’ve gone into free agency and addressed that situation.”

— Bidwill reiterated once again he is optimistic the Cardinals and Larry Fitzgerald will come to an agreement on a new contract.

“Larry and I have met about it, just he and I talking about it, and I know he’s interested in getting something resolved,” Bidwill said. “After the playoff game, he got away, left the country. He’s back now, it’s a busy week this week and we’ll start working on this next week. I think we’ll get this all worked out.

“He’s such a great person and a great player, he’s got many years left and I want to see him retire as an Arizona Cardinal. I want to see us move past getting this contract resolved and move forward.”

— The other Cardinal facing legal issues, running back Jonathan Dwyer, had his case play out Thursday. The running back, who had been arrested in September, pled guilty to a misdemeanor of disorderly conduct. He was sentenced him to 18 months probation and community service. Dwyer is scheduled to become a free agent in March.

— Bidwill said again he plans on giving General Manager Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians contract extensions soon.

BidwillWashBlogUSE


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Fitzgerald: “Hopefully we can get something done”

Posted by Darren Urban on January 13, 2015 – 3:00 pm

Larry Fitzgerald said before the season he knew something had to be done with his $23.6 million salary cap number for 2015. The wide receiver didn’t talk about it specifically during the season — or right after the Cardinals were eliminated in the playoff loss at Carolina — but his mindset clearly hasn’t changed.

“This is the only place I have ever played,” Fitzgerald said during a Tuesday appearance on ESPN’s “NFL Live.” “I have enjoyed my time in Arizona. Working for the Bidwill family has been great, playing for the Cardinals. Hopefully we can get something done. The business part of football is not something I always enjoy, but it’s something we need to address.”

The question posed to Fitzgerald was whether he would be playing for the Cardinals this season, and obviously (and smartly) Fitzgerald didn’t answer it directly. He wouldn’t want to give up any leverage he has during contract talks. But there remains optimism around the team that there can be something worked out to keep the multi-time Pro Bowler around. Either way, with the Super Bowl descending on Arizona very soon, my guess is this isn’t the last time Fitzgerald speaks on the subject.

Fitzaddressblog

 


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Fitz, his contract and the Super Bowl firing line

Posted by Darren Urban on January 8, 2015 – 1:08 pm

The “deadline,” such that it is, comes on the fifth day of the NFL’s league year — which begins March 10 at 2 p.m. Arizona time. That’s when, if Larry Fitzgerald is still on the Cardinals’ roster and still has his current contract in place, he is owed $8 million. That’s the real date at which everyone is focused to see what happens with the wide receiver and whether he stays with the Cardinals and if so, what kind of contract he has.

GM Steve Keim has long acknowledged he has had ongoing discussions with Fitzgerald’s agent about redoing the contract and fixing that bloated $23.6 million salary cap number Fitz carries with him. There have been a couple of reports out there that the conversations toward a new deal have been positive. That’s good, although as we all know, something like this isn’t done until it’s done, and just because someone hasn’t hung up on someone else doesn’t guarantee anything.

Still, you start to think about that March deadline, and one other potentially artificial one: Super Bowl week.

Fitzgerald is usually a regular on radio row at Super Bowl week. Whether it’s for the company EAS or someone else for which he might be a spokesman, that’s the week where the sponsors want to capitalize on having the big name doing their work. When Fitz does a bunch of TV and radio interviews heading into the NFL’s biggest game, he’s answering a lot of questions.

And while Fitz always handles himself and his answers like a pro — he’s really, really good at that part of his job — it’s not always his favorite thing to talk about the more controversial of subjects (like, in years past, the chaotic quarterback situation with the Cardinals.) So what happens when he sits down for interview after interview and the first (and probably not the only) question he is asked is about whether he’ll be a Cardinal? His contract situation, which I know he’d rather not talk about, could end up taking up the entire segment.

(Except for the one EAS question at the very end, right?)

I’m not saying anything is going to get done with the Cardinals and Fitzgerald by Super Bowl week — to me, the only thing that would be done that quickly would be a way to keep him in Arizona, because a trade can’t happen until March 10 and they aren’t releasing him at that point — just because he’ll be doing some interviews. But it’s something to think about.

FitzTalkBlog


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Larry Fitzgerald’s future

Posted by Darren Urban on January 2, 2015 – 9:14 am

Larry Fitzgerald is a Cardinal. And he could stay a Cardinal. That’s really about as far as anyone can go right now with the question of the future of Fitz in Arizona.

As the season reaches its end – every game now could be the last for the Cards, unless it’s not – it’s easy to understand why the future of the team begins to leak into the conversation. That’s natural. It’s also natural to wonder what might happen with Fitzgerald, whose contract has made late February/early March of 2015 the tipping point of what happens with him with this team.

First, the details. Fitzgerald’s salary isn’t crazy for 2015. He makes “only” $8 million in his base pay. But he also stands to receive an $8 million roster bonus in early March, right before free agency – and that’s the key. It’s in his contract to specifically create this kind of decision. He’s not the only player to have such a device. If he gets that money, his cap number shoots up, and when you add in prorated bonus money already paid and workout bonuses, that’s how you end up with the gigantic cap number of $23.6 million in 2015. (The overall salary cap for each team in 2015 is expected to be around $140 million, before team-by-team adjustments.) Having one player take up that much cap space probably isn’t a great idea.

To not pay him the roster bonus means you are severing the contract, and releasing him. So, between the looming roster bonus and that cap number, it’s been basically understood something was going to happen with Fitz this offseason. Fitzgerald himself acknowledged such before the season.

“The cap number is what the cap number is,” Fitzgerald said in September. “I could go out this year and get 2,600 yards and that cap number is still going to have to be addressed, know what I mean? It doesn’t matter how well I play or how bad I play, it’s going to be addressed. I don’t even think about it.”

Fitz is still not thinking about it. Of course, he didn’t get 2,600 yards. He didn’t even get 800 yards, and that probably is something that must be taken into account too – Fitzgerald wants to win a Super Bowl, but he also wants to get into the Hall of Fame, and his numbers haven’t been gaudy of late as a Cardinal. He isn’t going to be the focal point of this offense, not when Bruce Arians wants to make sure the ball moves around. Fitzgerald will never say anything publicly, because it isn’t his way. When he does note such things, they are cloaked in his comments, like when he said earlier this season worrying about targets are “champagne problems.”

General Manager Steve Keim recently said Fitz’s cap number is “baked in” to the budget for 2015, and while I’m sure that’s true, different decisions on the roster will have to be made if that number must be accounted for or not. (If Fitz is released or traded, the Cardinals will still have $14.4 million of dead cap space with which to absorb.) Keim also said it is the Cardinals’ intent to have Fitz retire as a Cardinal – although “intent” gives everyone some leeway. Fitz leaving impacts both sides. The Cardinals don’t want to lose an icon. Fitzgerald, even as a star, probably wouldn’t stand upon the same pedestal in any other city with any other team than the one he lives upon in Arizona, where fans adore him. (Maybe Minnesota, where he’s from. Maybe.)

In the end, this is an evolving thing. Keim and Fitzgerald’s agent Eugene Parker I’m sure are talking. Fitzgerald, who will be 32 in August, has restructured before for the Cardinals to lower cap numbers, including before this season. But in NFL parlance, restructuring just means moving money around to help the cap and any savings are just pushed down the road on the cap. At this point, it seems likely the Cards would look for a pay reduction rather than restructure.

So that’s the scenario as it stands now. I don’t think anything has been decided by either side. As with any negotiations, deadlines create action and we are still weeks away from March and Fitzgerald has other things on his mind – like Saturday’s playoff game in Carolina. Sweating the details at this point seems premature. But this isn’t out of nowhere. This is exactly how this was always going to play out, perhaps going back to when Fitz signed this extension in 2011. Such is the business of the NFL.

Fitzdetailsbloguse


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Fitzgerald shows off his Marshawn Lynch

Posted by Darren Urban on December 31, 2014 – 2:29 pm

If you’re wondering about whether the Cardinals are loose heading into their first playoff game since the 2009 season, this is how Larry Fitzgerald opened his media session as everyone crowded around his locker today:

Q: It’s been a long time, how does it feel to be back in the playoffs?

Fitz: “Thank you.”

Q: How do you feel?

Fitz: “I appreciate it. Thank you very much.”

By then, it drew laughs. It echoed the postgame comments Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch gave reporters after the Seahawks played the Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. No firestorm here, though. (I’m sure he’s learned through the years from Cards’ VP of media relations Mark Dalton, with whom Fitz is pictured below.) Fitz couldn’t keep it up. Before there was too long of a pause, Fitzgerald interrupted with a “no, no, no” and proceeded to answer questions normally. Most of the time. A few questions and legit answers later came this:

Q: You guys are the underdogs again. You expect anything less than that now?

Fitz: “Thank you,” bringing out the laughter of everyone around.

“Ah,” Fitz said, “I’m just messing with you, man.”

He then answered the question, like he always does, in polished, Fitz-like fashion.

FitzMDUSE


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Posted in Blog | 25 Comments »
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