6:40pm: Fitzgerald converted $11.75MM of his $12.75MM deal into a bonus, saving Arizona about $9.4MM against the salary cap, tweets Albert Breer of NFL Network.
5:40pm: Fitzgerald’s deal is a simple restructuring that converted part of his salary to a bonus, two NFL sources tell Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic (via Twitter). Somers figures that the move will give the Cards about $10MM in space.
4:04pm: Larry Fitzgerald said last week that he’d be open to the possibility of restructuring his contract, and it didn’t take him long to back up those comments. Fitzgerald sent out a tweet today announcing that his “first order of business” upon returning to Arizona after the Super Bowl was to sign a reworked deal to help improve the Cardinals’ flexibility for 2014. Though specific numbers aren’t yet known, Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com confirms that the star receiver has officially restructured his contract.
Fitzgerald, who was set to enter the fourth year of the eight-year extension he signed with the Cardinals back in 2011, had been slated to earn a base salary of $12.75MM this year, with bonuses bringing his total cap number to $18MM. Assuming the 30-year-old didn’t accept a pay cut, the simplest way for the Cardinals to create cap space for 2014 would involve converting most of his base salary to a bonus that can be spread across the remaining five years on the deal. Such an agreement would increase the amount of guaranteed money owed to Fitzgerald, and increase his cap number in the contract’s later years. We’ll have to wait for the actual figures to be reported, but by my calculations, Arizona could create up to about $9MM in 2014 cap room in the move.
Given how quickly the Cardinals and Fitzgerald reached an agreement, it seems as if the two sides are committed to continuing the relationship, which should quiet trade rumors for now. A recent report suggested that the Patriots contemplated the idea of pursuing Fitzgerald in a trade last offseason, but now that the Cards have reduced his cap number, Arizona is no longer under any immediate pressure to move him. Of course, by putting off their financial commitments to Fitzgerald, the Cardinals will eventually face a similar cap crunch, perhaps as soon as next season, when his cap number was already projected to be over $21MM.
For now though, with their newfound cap flexibility, the Cardinals can turn their attention to retaining some of their prospective free agents, which includes a list of 15 players headed for unrestricted free agency. The team also figures to discuss a long-term deal for Patrick Peterson, who is extension-eligible for the first time this offseason.