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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.

FitzcheapblogUSE


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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.

Capbloguse


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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.

Fitznumbersuse


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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.

Fitzdetailsbloguse


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Cards feel the cost of injuries

Posted by Darren Urban on December 17, 2014 – 10:55 am

The Cardinals are not the most injured team in the league, although there has been little argument they have been undercut by the players they have lost. In the NFL, of course, anytime you lose a starting quarterback, that automatically puts you near the top of the list.

Quantifying that compared to other teams in virtually impossible. There are dozens of ways to look at it. But here is one. Spotrac.com has compiled a list that adds up the salary cap hits each team have sitting on injured reserve, and, no surprise, the Cardinals have landed in the top five. The Cards are fourth, with eight IR’d players taking up $28.8 million in cap space. The three teams ahead of them: the Giants with $34.7M, the Rams at $30.6M and the Bears at $29.9M. The Giants are there in part because they have a whopping 22 players on IR. The Rams have one less player on IR than the Cards, but with QB Sam Bradford’s huge contract ($17.6M himself) the total is slightly ajar.

The eight Cardinals on IR: Carson Palmer, John Abraham, Darnell Dockett, Troy Niklas, Ed Stinson, Dave Zastudil, Andre Ellington and Eddie Whitley. That total doesn’t include linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, who was out eight weeks when he was on IR/designated to return.

You can argue that the money could be weighted — the Bears, for instance, just put wide receiver Brandon Marshall on IR — but the overall totals do speak to the “importance” of the players on IR, because you figure the guys with the highest cap numbers are usually the most crucial.

As for the full list of walking wounded Cards, here are the guys who have missed games this season because of injuries, with the total games they have sat out thus far:

DT Dockett (14)
LB Abraham (13)
P Zastudil (12)
LB Shaughnessy (8)
QB Palmer (8)
TE Niklas (7)
DT Stinson (5)
S Tyrann Mathieu (3)
LB Alex Okafor (3)
LB Glenn Carson (3)
WR Larry Fitzgerald (2)
LB Desmond Bishop (2)
DE Calais Campbell (2)
RB Stepfan Taylor (2)
G Paul Fanaika (2)
RB Ellington (2)
DE Frostee Rucker (1)
TE Rob Housler (1)

We’ll see if the final two games bring any more surprises.

EllingtobloginjuryesUSE


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The price of Fitzgerald’s future

Posted by Darren Urban on July 27, 2014 – 9:43 am

For awhile, Larry Fitzgerald was the only one on the field.

It was Friday, and the Cardinals were scheduled to have their conditioning test in a matter of minutes and Fitz was out, warming up by his lonesome. Turned out that the strength and conditioning staff had their own warmup planned, and the Cardinals were going to come out on the field together led by Bruce Arians. But Fitz didn’t know that yet and he wanted to make sure he was ready to run. In the end, he didn’t have to run as much as the other receivers — those long-time vets were subtly pulled out by Arians — but Fitz was ready. He is still driven to be as good as he ever was, and that includes running at the outset of camp.

But the NFL isn’t just about work ethic and talent. It’s about business and the salary cap and the puzzle that is a pro roster. So the months are going by and Fitzgerald’s future in Arizona is coming to a watershed moment. This is a subject that has been touched on many times, by myself and others. Kent Somers has a quality, detailed breakdown of Fitzgerald’s bulky contract right here.

Next year, Fitz’s salary is more than $15 million. He also is due a roster bonus in early March of $8 million, a mechanism used in many contracts in large part to force a decision by the team. Something will have to happen by then. Those two numbers are how his cap figure  jumps to more $23 million next year. (A trade isn’t happening, by the way. The Cardinals absorb more than $14 million in dead cap money whether they trade him or cut him, but a trade means the new team has to inherit that contract. I don’t see anyone taking on such a contract.) Kent suggests a new deal paying Fitz between $6M and $8M could make it work. I guess the question would be what Fitz might make on the open market.

None of this is new news, really, other than the passage of time. This was created not just when Fitz signed his last contract extension in 2011 but also when he got his previous one in 2008 and even when he signed his rookie deal. That the Cardinals will have made it through 11 seasons is impressive in itself. The new CBA of 2011, which flattened the cap, and the reality of Fitz simply getting older also are factors.

So much depends on what Fitz will want to do. I don’t see a scenario other that a pay reduction in which Fitz stays in Arizona. I think it’ll matter how he does this season, his second in Arians’ offense. I think how the team does will matter. I truly believe the decision won’t just be about money with him. Once, I don’t think I would have said that. But he is and always will be a megastar in Arizona, regardless of what happens on the field, and if he went elsewhere, it wouldn’t be the same.

The Cardinals want Fitz to stay around. I think Fitz wants to stay around. I think Fitz would rather think about where his name might be emblazoned in University of Phoenix Stadium for the Ring of Honor rather than his contract. We’ll see. There’s a season to play, and Fitz is focused on getting ready for that. But the future eventually becomes the present.

FitzBySelf

 


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Colledge move now frees cap space

Posted by Darren Urban on June 2, 2014 – 7:12 am

This is one way you can maneuver through the salary cap as long as you are patient and have a little flexibility. The news came out March 8 that the Cardinals would be releasing Daryn Colledge a couple of days from then and designating him a June 1 release. Teams are allowed a couple of the pre-June 1 “June 1” cuts every year if they so choose. What it means is that the team can release a player immediately but still spread the “dead money” cap hit over the next two years. The catch is that the team has to carry the player’s entire 2014 salary cap charge — or at least, what it was going to be — until actually June 1, before the benefit kicks in.

In Colledge’s case, the Cardinals were carrying his 2014 cap charge of $7.275 million all the way through June. (Since June 1 was Sunday, the “June 1” cut didn’t become official until today.) With the arrival of June, Colledge now costs the Cardinals only $2.275 million on the cap this year, and will cost another $2.275M of dead money in 2015. That means just by time passage the Cardinals pick up another $5 million of cap space today (which Jason at overthecap.com covers nicely here.)

The NFLPA website listed the Cards at around $4.5 million of salary cap room going into the weekend, so the Cardinals should be around $9.5 million of cap space now. They still have to sign No. 1 draft pick Deone Bucannon, but there is a decent amount of wiggle room to make whatever moves necessary — including, you’d figure, the addition of a veteran inside linebacker in light of the Daryl Washington suspension.


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Cutting Washington doesn’t make sense now

Posted by Darren Urban on May 30, 2014 – 4:14 pm

There is a lot to digest with today’s Daryl Washington news and, as I have seen via Twitter and the comments on the blog, many questions. The biggest is what this all means for Washington’s future with the team. Not surprisingly, there are many who have said Washington should just be released.

That seems a little knee-jerk, at least sitting here today. A suspension means the Cards aren’t going to have to pay Washington in 2014. If nothing else, that buys time to survey the situation and see exactly what all the options are. Besides, as bad of a spot as Washington has put the team with his absence, releasing him — at least now — puts the Cardinals in an uglier situation in terms of money and the salary cap.

If the Cardinals cut Washington now, that creates a dead money hit of $7.5 million on the current cap. Absorbing that, even after the money the team will clear on the cap next week as Daryn Colledge’s June 1 designation on his release kicks in, will create a serious cap crunch. (According to the NFLPA site, the Cards have around $4.5 million in cap space currently, and should clear around $5 million or so with the Colledge situation).

More importantly, the collective bargaining agreement includes the ability for teams to get back portions of bonus money paid when a player violates league policies, and the Cardinals are planning on exercising that right. If the Cards cut him now, they no longer can try and get back any money. That’s a crucial piece of information given the huge option bonus the team recently decided to give Washington ($5 million this year and another $5 million is due early next year, when Washington would still be under suspension.)

Any suspended player, per the rules in the Substance Abuse policy, has a contract that is “tolled” during a year-long suspension. In simple terms, Washington’s contract freezes at this point. He doesn’t get money, he doesn’t advance another year toward the end of the contract. It picks up when and if Washington is reinstated (meaning, for instance, his 2014 terms would move to 2015, etc.) Given that reality — and those listed above — there no reason to rush any decision. Again, Washington very well could be released down the road. But it makes little sense for it to be now.


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