Larry Fitzgerald was back in Arizona Tuesday after a week at the Super Bowl and made an appearance at the team’s Tempe facility.
The Pro Bowl wide receiver made it a business visit.
With the Cardinals facing Fitzgerald’s bulky salary cap number for the 2014 season, Fitzgerald officially restructured his contract, easing the impact of his deal on the cap and giving the Cards much more flexibility in which to maneuver this offseason.
Specific details of the restructuring were not immediate available, nor how much cap space was created. However, Fitzgerald’s cap number had been scheduled to be more than $18 million, and the Cardinals were expected before a restructuring to have less than $2 million of cap space once the new league year commenced in March.
Fitzgerald had been scheduled to make $12.75 million in salary for 2014. The easiest way to create cap space would be to convert some of that into a signing bonus that could be pro-rated cap-wise over the life of the contract. Fitzgerald’s deal runs through the 2018 season.
UPDATE: Multiple reports list Fitzgerald as getting a $11.75 million bonus in March, lowering his salary to $1 million in 2014 and saving the Cardinals about $9.4 million on the salary cap. Fitzgerald's cap number for 2015 is scheduled to be more than $23 million, however, and will have to be dealt with again a year from now.
Just last week, team president Michael Bidwill had said he was confident Fitzgerald’s contract
“When those discussions come I will do what I need to do,” Fitzgerald told Arizona Sports 98.7 last week. “I have a great relationship with (GM) Steve Keim, he drafted me in Arizona. I understand his vision and what he is trying to do and the direction he is taking this ballclub. I understand at 30 years old there are things that need to change. That’s part of football, that’s part of being an older veteran.
“I want to see this team do well. I love this group of guys. Patrick (Peterson’s) deal is coming up and he needs to be compensated as the best corner in the game, which I feel he is. We’ve got to take care of
Keim was unavailable for comment.
Fitzgerald, who will be 31 before the start of the 2014 season, is coming off his eighth Pro Bowl appearance. He had a team-best 82 receptions in 2013 for 954 yards and a team-high 10 touchdowns.
Settling the contract not only gives the Cardinals the ability to sign needed free agents and re-sign some of their own players, but it also removes the distraction of Fitzgerald’s situation. His looming cap number had been a subject of constant speculation, as had the ways the Cardinals might deal with it.
During the season, one national report said an eventual Fitzgerald trade was all but inevitable. During Super Bowl week, a report surfaced that last offseason, the Patriots wanted to trade for Fitzgerald. But Bidwill and Keim had long held firm the plan was for Fitzgerald to remain a Cardinal for his entire career, and Tuesday’s news underscores that desire.
“I can tell you two things, and I want to make this clear and simple: I have not had one conversation with another NFL team regarding a trade with Larry Fitzgerald,” Keim said in October. “Number two, starting with Michael Bidwill on down, it is our intent for Larry Fitzgerald to retire a Cardinal. Period.
“If there is any grey area there, let me know, and we can get that out.”