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Fitz Deal All But Done


 The language of the Larry Fitzgerald contract is almost sorted out and general manager Rod Graves said he hoped the contract would be official Friday.

Tie loosened, Cardinals general manager Rod Graves sat late Thursday afternoon waiting to hear back one final time from agent Eugene Parker on the in-limbo Larry Fitzgerald contract.

Normally, the deal would have been done that same day Fitzgerald signed his name on the dotted line while sitting at an airport Starbucks.

But, thanks to the looming possibility of season without a salary cap in 2010 because of potential NFL labor unrest, morphing contract restrictions get complicated – and that has been the holdup of the deal announced with such fanfare more than a week ago.

"The money we have been talking about has never changed," Graves said. "But we have had to figure out, because of those rules of capped years versus uncapped years, how we preserve the intent of what we had in the agreement."

Graves said without the threat of an uncapped year, the contract would have been finalized the day Fitzgerald left.

Barring any more unforeseen hiccups, Graves said he expects the deal to be made official by the NFL sometime Friday. (EDIT: The contract was finalized late Friday night).

That will then clear the millions in salary cap space the Cards have been waiting for, allowing them to re-sign between eight and 10 of their own free agents.

Other free agents will be signed at some point in the offseason, Graves said, likely between six and eight other veterans.

The Cards currently have 48 players under contract. Graves said the team plans to add 16 to 18 players on draft day, between draft picks and undrafted rookies.

Graves declined to say exactly how much salary cap room the Cardinals have available, but did say he was comfortable with the amount going forward in the offseason now that Fitzgerald is signed.

The Cards can gain more cap room if they can get linebacker Karlos Dansby signed to a long-term contract. The team placed the franchise tag on Dansby, a tender offer that eats up more than $8 million in cap room right now. Dansby has yet to sign the tender, a salary that will be guaranteed once he does so.

The team has until July 15 to get Dansby under a long-term deal once he signs the tender. If no deal is done by then, the two sides can't negotiate a new contract until after the 2008 season.

Graves said he has traded messages with Dansby's agent, but he hasn't had any real talks while trying to finish the Fitzgerald contract.

"(Dansby's extension) is the next major item to get to," Graves said.

As for other contract issues, Graves said it was "possible" those will be addressed in the short-term, including one with wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

The pressure to re-do Boldin isn't nearly as powerful as it was with Fitzgerald, since Boldin is under contract through 2010 with palatable salaries.

"Our intent is to keep our core players together and we recognize Anquan is a significant member of our core group," Graves said. "Really, it gets down to determining the right timing of the deal. We are faced with a number of constraints in trying to determine that time.

"We want to have him happy, but there are others who want their first bite at the apple. It's not an easy solution."


Graves addressed the missed opportunity to sign free-agent linebacker Brandon Chillar, who signed with Green Bay Wednesday. Graves said while the Cards needed cap room to bring in Chillar, it wasn't the reason Chillar ended up with the Packers.

Chillar told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that since the Cards had some "in-house issues" trying to fix the Fitzgerald contract, "once Green Bay offered this kind of contract, I didn't want to miss out on the opportunity."

Graves had ongoing discussions with Chillar's agent, trying to ascertain Chillar's value. The two sides didn't agree on numbers, especially when the Cardinals were unsure if Chillar would eventually win a starting role.

"The cap situation didn't really affect (the outcome)," Graves said. …

A pair of exclusive rights free agents, receiver Jamaica Rector and cornerback Michael Adams, have signed their one-year tender offer. * * * Contact Darren Urban at Posted 3/20/08. Updated 3/22/08.

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