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Blogs

Cap space gained as Palmer deal restructured

Posted by Darren Urban on March 12, 2015 – 5:26 pm

Remember that contract restructuring that Carson Palmer said recently he had given, only to clarify that it hadn’t been finalized yet? It was officially finalized Thursday.

Palmer was due a roster bonus of $9.5 million, and it was converted into a signing bonus. What it means is that the bonus money can be prorated over the life of his current contract, dropping his salary cap number $7.1 million (and clearing that space for the Cardinals.) That’s a big help in trying to maneuver through free agency. His cap number for 2015 dropped from more than $14 million to $7.4 million.

(This is the classic NFL restructure as opposed to any pay cut; it impacts Palmer zero. He gets all the money he was going to get anyway. It’s just the way the Cardinals account for it with their cap.)

Of course, that also means the rest of that prorated bonus balloons his future cap numbers. Palmer now has a cap number of $19 million in 2016 and $22.7 million in 2017 (including some heavy dead money if for some reason he isn’t playing.) That will be something GM Steve Keim will have to deal with at some point, you would think. In the short term, however, the Cardinals have more flexibility right now, especially after the release of center Lyle Sendlein created another $3 million of cap space. No way to know how much room they currently have, but the Palmer/Sendlein moves alone freed up around $10 million for Keim to continue to reshuffle his roster.

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Clarifying Palmer’s (near) restructure

Posted by Darren Urban on March 6, 2015 – 9:42 am

Carson Palmer raised some eyebrows when he mentioned Thursday he had restructured his contract to help the Cardinals create salary cap space. It wasn’t that the idea was a shock — indeed, the notion was out there — but the fact Palmer said it was done.

Turns out, Palmer wasn’t quite on point, of which he was informed after the fact. Palmer has indeed agreed to a restructure — which likely would include turning an option bonus into signing bonus, clearing about $7 million of cap space — but it has not yet been executed. So the Cardinals still figure to have around $14 million of cap space heading into next week. What it does mean is that the Cardinals and GM Steve Keim have some reserves in their back pocket if the team were to need more cap space during free agency. (And there are probably a couple of other players who might also be in that position to restructure if needed too.) If the Cardinals don’t need the space, they would hold off on doing the restructure, because any restructure would push dead money into future caps, and you want to avoid that if possible.

The question becomes, just who might the Cardinals be eyeing on the market that Keim would want to have such flexibility? That’s where these next couple of weeks turn fun. Let the speculation begin.

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Cards have some room as 2015 salary cap set

Posted by Darren Urban on March 2, 2015 – 11:59 am

Free agency officially begins March 10, when the NFL’s new league year starts. Now, the parameters of how that period will play out have been set, now that the salary cap has been set by the NFL for 2015. This year’s cap is officially $143.28 million per team, a jump of about $10 million from last season. That alone is helpful. But the Cardinals also carried over about $4.2 million in cap space from 2014, and have other adjustments (according to an NFL players association release) that give them almost another $1 million in room. So, according to the NFLPA, the Cardinals’ official salary cap for 2015 is $148,515,866.

That number places the Cardinals somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of the cap this season (The Jaguars, through carryover and a lack of committed contracts, have a cap of a whopping $168.5M to top the NFL.) As for the Cardinals’ cap space, overthecap.com has the Cards with about $133.6M for their top 51 contracts as of Monday morning. That means the Cardinals have about $15 million in cap space coming. (In the offseason, only the top 51 cap numbers on the roster count toward the cap; that changes to everyone on the roster, including IR and practice squad, once the regular season arrives.)

That’s not a small amount of space and it should allow GM Steve Keim to be aggressive in free agency as promised, although most teams have a lot of cap space if they want to do FA damage. Ken Whisenhunt’s Titans, for instance, will reportedly have around $43M of cap space. That also would change if players are signed between now and the start of free agency — for instance, if the Cards brought back Darnell Dockett, whose agent said Monday he expects Dockett to have a new contract by the end of the week.

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Possible Palmer restructure as Cards cut cap

Posted by Darren Urban on February 25, 2015 – 4:10 pm

Carson Palmer didn’t even get to play a full game after signing his contract extension late last season. Now, before the first season of that extension kicks in, Palmer reportedly could be restructuring it to ease his salary cap number of $14.5 million. Mike Jurecki first reported Palmer the possibility.

Palmer is due a roster bonus of $9.5 million (in addition to a $1M salary) this season. Add in his current $4M of bonus proration of $4M, and that’s his $14.5M cap hit. If the Cardinals were to turn the roster bonus into a signing bonus — which would then be distributed evenly over the remaining four years of the contract in terms of the cap — it’d take his cap number all the way down to about $7.4M for 2015. Of course, that also pushes more dead money on to future caps as well.

These are the choices a team makes, however, especially when it feels it can compete — as long as everyone stays healthy. Like Palmer. We’ll see if his contract gets an update. With more and more players getting released around the NFL and the market already flooded with players, there will be opportunities to sign contributors for reasonable prices. That’s why the Cardinals are trying to loosen more cap room. Neither General Manager Steve Keim or president Michael Bidwill has been shy of sharing the concept of the Cardinals being aggressive in free agency.

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A nice career on the money side for Fitz

Posted by Darren Urban on February 25, 2015 – 9:55 am

Larry Fitzgerald may be taking less money than was on his original contract, but many have noticed that the $22 million he’s getting guaranteed over the next two seasons is a great deal. That was Andrew Brandt’s theme as he analyzed the situation in a MMQB.com piece. Brandt’s thoughts — “With NFL finances clearly tilted towards management, there are few outliers who have ‘won’ on the business side like Fitzgerald” — took me back to something Fitz said during training camp.

It was the day Patrick Peterson had his press conference for his new lucrative contract, and Fitzgerald — as a veteran around the team — was asked his opinion of where the Cardinals were in terms of spending money.

I for one can tell you the Cardinals are not a cheap organization,” Fitzgerald said. “I will stand on a table and say all day long they are not. We can put that to bed.”

Indeed, Fitz has made around $120 million already from the Cardinals on his various contracts since 2004. That doesn’t include a dime he’s made in endorsements, just the cash he’s gotten from the team. Now he gets another $22M guaranteed. It also dovetails nicely with the first part of Brandt’s column, which explains how the salary cap — in the end — doesn’t have to kill a team in terms of getting players.

You want cap space, but in the end, when asking about a marriage between a player and a team, just know that if the team wants the player bad enough, it can happen — regardless of the cap space or how expensive the player might be. Now, there is a give and take. You might be causing cap complications down the road, or the player you want may want more than you are willing to give him. But it’s rare that a player simply can’t be fit under whatever cap you might have.

Bringing it back to Fitz, it would have been interesting to see what Fitzgerald might have been able to get on the open market. Conventional wisdom says it wouldn’t have been as much as the Cardinals gave him, but it was important on many levels to keep Fitzgerald around. The two sides made it work. The Cards are trying to do the same with Darnell Dockett — and GM Steve Keim said those talks are ongoing.

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Narrowing down where Cards are with cap

Posted by Darren Urban on February 24, 2015 – 11:37 am

The Cardinals have saved about $15.3 million in cap space for 2015 with just two moves thus far this offseason: Re-doing Larry Fitzgerald’s contract and releasing Ted Ginn. More moves are inevitable (the Cardinals are talking with Darnell Dockett now in an effort to re-do his deal and lower his cap number.)

Where are the Cards cap-wise? Right now, it’s kind of a moot point.

We still do not know what the salary cap will even be in 2015. Most estimates put it around $143M, but it won’t be finalized until we come upon the new league year March 10. (In 2014, the cap was $133M.) On top of that, the Cardinals will carry over about $4.2M of cap space from last season, meaning their cap number for 2015 (assuming the $143M number is correct) will be slightly north of $147 million.

When the league year opens, it’s only the top 51 cap numbers on the roster that count. That’s how a team’s cap number is determined until we get to the first week of the regular season (when everyone, even on the practice squad and injured reserve, counts on the cap.) In the always murky world of constantly changing cap numbers, the Cardinals apparently are going to have about $139M or $140M in their top 51 as of today.

Again, that’s before any other moves — before a Dockett decision is reached, before any other players are cut and before any free agents on the street right now (there was a report tight end James Casey, cut by Philly, will visit the Cardinals) might sign prior to March 10. Team president Michael Bidwill reiterated the Cardinals plan to be aggressive in free agency, so freeing up more cap space seems a foregone conclusion.

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Sorting out Dockett’s status

Posted by Darren Urban on February 22, 2015 – 9:54 pm

General Manager Steve Keim said last week he would be talking to defensive lineman Darnell Dockett (and his agent) about his contract, which has one year left to run and is scheduled to pay Dockett $6.5 million this season. It made sense, with Dockett carrying a $9.8M cap charge in 2015 and with he being a candidate, like Larry Fitzgerald, to re-do his contract in one way, shape or form.

“We will have conversations with Darnell moving forward,” Keim said.

The next day, Keim said in a radio interview that conversation was coming by the weekend. Now, Dockett has tweeted a couple of things in the past couple of days that indicate the talks have started, and may have left in question Dockett’s status for 2015. The latest came Sunday night:

We’ll see how this might play out. Like Fitzgerald, it can always play out a little differently with each player when it comes to contract negotiations. Dockett has made clear how he feels he has been loyal to the Cardinals and wants to be here. Dockett is going to be 34 in May and is coming off a major knee injury and a pay reduction would likely be in play. One way or another, this — like Fitz’s situation — figures to be sorted out by March 10 when the new league year begins.

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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.

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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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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.

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