How Fitz wears the cap

Posted by Darren Urban on July 12, 2013 – 10:42 am

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.

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27 Responses to “How Fitz wears the cap”

  1. By Chris B on Jul 12, 2013 | Reply

    I know it’s been said before, but when a player gets a chunk up front, the dollar amount is pro-rated over the years of the contract? Example: 15 million chunk would be 5 million each year if the deal was for 3 years? Which, I think, is what Adam Snyder is costing the cards for his 3 years deal.

  2. By Darren Urban on Jul 12, 2013 | Reply

    Chris B –

    RE: pro-rating

    It can get more complicated based on what the bonuses are and when the player gets them, but generally, yes, that is correct.

  3. By a kill3r kr3w on Jul 12, 2013 | Reply

    im already dry heaving, Im sure all of the true fans would rather never have to hear about any possibility of larry getting traded.

  4. By Alicia on Jul 12, 2013 | Reply

    I would love for him to retire as a cardinal he is why I even like any football team .

  5. By shannon robinson on Jul 13, 2013 | Reply

    The Cards have eight million left approximately to get us through the rest of this year to deal with any injury problems or other unexpected emergencies. That figure was one of the goals Steve Keim must have been working toward since the first contracts he completed – an example is the 900 Thousand to Yeremiah Bell, a prudent number, high value player who solved a big need. Also I don’t feel bad about the 5 1/2 million that goes to Daryn Colledge this year – his value in experience is evident when he’s able to make the switch effectively to the right side of the line. Both players bring leadership. Those two contracts are like savings accounts to spend next year to negotiate a new contract for Patrick P. I’m not hoping that Bell is in his last year nor am I saying that Colledge is set up to move on, however player acquisition at their positions indicates their contract values may be designed to come free in 2014.

  6. By NYCardinals212 on Jul 13, 2013 | Reply

    Not my money. SPEND AWAY!

  7. By Greg L on Jul 13, 2013 | Reply

    The first picture on Throwback Thursday is wrong. That is Jim Bakken and Mel Gray, not Jim Otis and Terry Metcalf.

  8. By Darren Urban on Jul 13, 2013 | Reply

    Greg L —

    RE: Picture


  9. By John The Draft Guy on Jul 13, 2013 | Reply

    As I stated before, here are the issues I see with the Fitz contract.

    At 18 and 21 mil cap hits, a restructuring , IMO, must happen.
    – But there are a lot of ifs that must be played out.
    1) What if Fitz says no and pay me. We just watched Boldin do that to the Ravens. If Palmer is not the answer, Larry may want out.
    2) What if Fitz gets injured or has a bad year. We saw that with Revis. Tough to come up with his value.
    3) What if Floyd blooms into a star. A new contract in 2015 will need to happen. At the same time, Fitz will have a 21 mil cap hit. Tough to pay Floyd in that case.

    I disagree with Darren about the dead money. 13 mil dead money vs 18 mil cap means a trade or release clears 5 million of cap space since that 13 million is spent either way, but the 5 million is optional.

  10. By Darren Urban on Jul 13, 2013 | Reply

    JTDG —

    RE: Dead money

    Obviously, you are right on the math. But clearing $5M isn’t worth giving up on a good player and keeping $13M of dead space.

  11. By John The Draft Guy on Jul 13, 2013 | Reply


    I think a restructuring happens. If I was GM, that is what I would do. Fitz would retire as a card.

    But, I dont think the dead money would prevent the team from moving Fitz. Especially, 2015, when 21 million cap and 8 million dead money hits and Floyd is in his last year. Just saying.

    BTW, did you hear the Campbell interview?

    I’m glad finally a player has come out and stated the obvious.

  12. By Eazy E on Jul 14, 2013 | Reply

    Don’t even talk to Fitz about no damn restructuring. After the BS the Arizona Cardinals organization has put him through for most of his time here. We should be thankful, grateful and blessed he still wants to play here. A guy like A-Wil or Kerry is bad enough and Kerry wanted no parts of a lowered deal and rightfully so but the greatest Cardinal ever easily. #Hell Naw #Hell Give him more for the crap he deals with

  13. By William Barry on Jul 14, 2013 | Reply

    Let us hope Larry retires as a Cardinals, and the FO finds a way to restructure his contract.!!!!!!!! Lets hope we dont end up like the Boldin fiasco.

  14. By Cards Season Ticket Holder on Jul 14, 2013 | Reply

    !!!! Bring back the “CARDIAC CARDS” !!!!!!

    The team that had “FIGHT and BELIEF in each other” to make it to the SUPERBOWL. No matter who their opponent was. We can be the division champs this year, in 2013. Just BELIEVE it.
    I believe in the “CADIAC CARDS” !!!!
    We have all the right players we need in all the positions now. Great roster and great coaching.
    LET’S GO Red Birds !!!

  15. By John The Draft Guy on Jul 14, 2013 | Reply

    Easy E,

    Im not saying give him less. In fact usually these deals pay the player much more guaranteed money.
    The issue is the cap. If Larry wants to win, it will be difficult with him taking up 1/6th of the cap. Restructuring usually is done when you know a player is going to continue to perform,so you tack on more years and guaranteed money, so the cap is less of a hit now and more down the road.
    (which is what Fitz has done on his last two contracts.)

    Remember 2010, he had a no trade clause and had a huge cap hit. The cards desperately redid his contract. Paid him big bonuses and guaranteed money. Now his contract is hitting that same stage. In 2014 and 15, the cap hit will cause the cards to go cheap on some spots. Maybe College or Brown (or both) will be moved to save some money, but it could affect a lot of players.

    Many think Floyd, Housler, and Massie will have breakout years. Over the next 2 years, these guys will need new contracts. You have PP needing a big payday soon.

    The cap is a tricky thing and there are many factors that come in to play when signing a player long term. None of ever think Fitz will leave. I’m sure a lot of Jets fans thought the same about Revis. As many of you have pointed out about ADub or Boldin, the cards are not afraid to move a popular player. I just think the elephant is in the room and someone will need to address it next off season. (hopefully, with a new restructured deal for Fitz to remain a card)

  16. By cardinals4life on Jul 20, 2013 | Reply

    Can’t compare Fitz to Revis…

  17. By samir on Jul 15, 2013 | Reply

    isnt a trade out of the question, i remember a no trade clause as part of his contract?

  18. By Darren Urban on Jul 15, 2013 | Reply

    Samir —

    RE: Fitz no-trade

    He had a no-trade clause in his previous deal. He does not have one in his current contract.

  19. By clssylssy on Jul 15, 2013 | Reply

    I’m with Easy E! PAY FITZ! He has earned every single cent of that contract, and,
    if anything the Cards should be paying him interest on the years he’s squandered in Arizona when he could already have a SB ring like Boldin. He has been the face of this franchise and kept ticket sales alive, whether the GM wants to admit it or not. There is such a thing as INTEGRITY and it boils down to the plain fact that Cards offered him a contract, gave their word that they would pay him over a period of time, and Fitz has more than kept up his end of the bargain. Management knows where the money is committed and it’s just plain tough if they can’t live within the budget…that’s NOT the problem of the player and we’ve all seen how honorable this organization isn’t when they have a dedicated player renegotiate his contract one year and then get kicked to the curb the next…a la Adrian Wilson. Everyone complains that the NFL has deteriorated and perhaps if franchises would be a little more ethical in honoring their committments instead of trying to worm their way out of contracts they would be sending a message of a higher code of conduct. It’s as simple as not making committments that are not possible to honor. The Cards have sold out every home game since moving into the new stadium and the reason for that is Larry Fitzgerald. Losing isn’t quite so painful if you’ve ever had the thrill of being in the stands when Fitz made one of his insane catches and scored a TD. The Cardinals are the oldest continuously run professional football club in the United States and you would think they would have figured it out by now! Playing creative finance is not going to get us to the playoffs again; it’ going to take quality players like Fitz who put in everything as though he were dead broke and trying to make the team!

  20. By jason on Jul 16, 2013 | Reply


    Thanks for that Campbell interview link. It’s what I’ve been screaming to all of my friends, family and co-workers all summer. We were wining with Kevin Kolb playing average QB for the first 4 games of last year and we were competitive in several other games with less that average to abysmal QB play. It’s hard to get anyone to pick us to compete for division and that’s fair because as of right now we haven’t proven anything. I think it is a good sign that there have been several people to say we could be a surprise team…of course they follow that up with too bad they play in the NFC west. All I know is that I have this huge irrational confidence that our team is going to be good this year…really good. I think we are going to compete with all of the top dogs and take care of business against lesser competition.

  21. By clssylssy on Jul 17, 2013 | Reply

    The Arizona Cardinals have always been full of surprises and play best when they are the underdog. Because most “Arizonians” are not originally from Arizona but transplants, the fan base for the Cards shifts like the sand dunes at Glamis shifts constantly with few longtimers (ten years or more). While it’s always refreshing to see enthusiasm for the season, old timers temd to be more cautious and even a little jaded. Probably one of the best articles I’ve read that accurately assesses the situation in Arizona was by Seth Cox @ SB Nation/Revenge of the Birds:
    Whatever the season holds, it is always foolish to relegate the Arizona Cardinals as a “slam dunk” easy win. This team has great talent, great leadership models like Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson and others. And while the Cards have improved in some areas that will help, the fact remains that there are still many weak and vulnerable positions and in week 16 it will come down to who has the best men still standing and able to beat the competition. The Arizona Cardinals are probably the best group of individuals on one team but that doesn’t mean that they are the toughest. The Rams lost their teeth when they lost Jackson and Amedola and if we can’t beat the Rams we won’t have a prayer against the 9ers or Hags.

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