11:04am: Although Fitzgerald’s new deal is technically a four-year pact, it voids after two years, tweets Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. That allows the Cards to spread out bonus money over additional years, reducing the cap hits for 2015 and 2016.
10:38am: Speaking to reporters in Indianapolis today, Cardinals GM Steve Keim confirmed that Fitzgerald’s deal is done, and said it’s “essentially” a two-year agreement (Twitter links via Josh Weinfuss and Darren Urban).
10:06am: A source tells Pro Football Talk (via Twitter) that the agreement between Fitzgerald and the Cards is “done” and that it will create $13MM in cap space for 2015. Fitzgerald’s old contract has been replaced by a new one that will guarantee him $11MM in each of the next two seasons, per PFT.
8:07am: The Cardinals and receiver Larry Fitzgerald are closing in on a new multiyear contract extension that is expected to be finalized soon, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter). According to Schefter, the agreement will enable the veteran wideout – and longtime Cardinal – to finish his career in Arizona.
Fitzgerald is currently under contract with the Cardinals through the 2018 season, so the new agreement may not add any new years to that deal. However, it will certainly reduce the 31-year-old’s cap number for 2015, at least — an $8MM base salary, combined with a $7.35MM prorated bonus and an $8MM roster bonus, had Fitzgerald counting for more than $23MM on the Cards’ books for the coming year.
Fitzgerald’s production has fallen off a little during the last three years, as he has averaged only about 72 catches and 845 yards per season from 2012 to 2014, compared to averages of close to 93 receptions and 1,296 yards in the five-year span from 2007 to 2011. Nonetheless, the Cardinals wanted to keep him around, and there was also interest from Fitzgerald’s side in working out a new arrangement that would give him a better opportunity to play out the rest of his career in Arizona without fear of being cut.
Additionally, Arizona is one of just a handful of teams currently projected to be over the 2015 cap, ahead of only the Saints in terms of potential cap room (or lack thereof), per Over the Cap. As such, restructuring Fitzgerald’s deal was a top priority for the club as the free agent period approached.
A simple restructure, which involves converting base salary to a signing bonus, won’t be enough to lighten the load on the Cardinals’ cap in 2015 and beyond, so the wideout will almost certainly have to take a pay cut, though I assume he’ll be receiving some money up front as part of the agreement — converting his $8MM roster bonus into a prorated signing bonus could be part of the move, but we’ll have to wait for the full details to be reported to be sure.