Cardinals and Larry Fitzgerald Hammer Out New Contract

One of the big salary cap stories of the last two seasons has been the contract showdown that would happen between the Arizona Cardinals and future Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald.  Fitzgerald was set to count for $23.6 million against this year’s salary cap leading to the two sides to come to an agreement on a new deal. According to Pro Football Talk the two sides renegotiated the terms of the 2015 and 2016 seasons, guaranteeing Fitzgerald $22 million in the process and reducing his cap number by about $13 million.

If the $22 million in full guarantees is true it is a pretty staggering number for Fitzgerald. The only other active wide receivers to have gotten a true guarantee of that much money are Calvin Johnson, Mike Wallace, and Vincent Jackson. Fitzgerald’s prior contract also had a guarantee that large, none of whom were Fitzgerald’s age at the time if signing.

Fitzgerald was set to earn $16.25 million this year and $15.25 million in 2016, none of which was guaranteed. So it sounds as if he will take a $9.5 million pay cut in return for $22 million guranteed over the next two seasons. That’s a pretty good take for Fitzgerald, whose career contract negotiations have probably been the closest thing to perfect from the player’s perspective as is possible in the NFL.

While there are no details of the actual restructure the Cardinals had characterized the contract as a two year deal. Fitzgerald had four total years remaining on his contract and my guess would be those are now void years.  Assuming they did not add a fifth season the contract could look something like this:


The above chart assumes an $8 million signing bonus and a voidable 2017 that woud leave Arizona with $8.7M dead against the salary cap. As soon as we see the details reported somewhere or find out ourselves we will post the correct  numbers and update Fitzgeralds charts accordingly.

  • Dan Kunze

    This has to be a huge win for the other FA wide receivers.

    • The biggest one is Andre Johnson who now can make the Texans look like bad guys if they ask him for any kind of legit pay cut. Not sure how this plays out with other veterans. If Fitz hit the market he is a $6-7M guy

      • Dan Kunze

        I think I would go so far as to say that this might be the Jay Cutler deal for WR’s. I imagine all of the other GMs are cringing when they see the numbers in Fitz’s deal like they did when the Bears (my Bears, btw) did the Cutler deal.

  • Jim

    According to my estimates, he’s hauled in about $120m to date, with now $22m more guaranteed, and then potentially still have another 3-5 years of decent football left in him, it is plausible, that he could earn $170-180m in his career.

    Fitzgerald will be the richest WR to ever play the game when he retires. Not only that, it may take 20 years at 5%+ salary cap increase per year for someone else to pass him. Great timing:
    – Drafted at age 20
    – Drafted before the rookie limits
    – Cardinals have been in a closing window mode when his contract has been up for renegotiation.

    High draft pedigree, he’s a great talent, who’s always productive, has never been seriously hurt, or had character concerns. The stars have all aligned for this guy for his entire career.

    If you look at his earnings as a percentage of the salary cap, I don’t think you’ll ever see another non-QB like Fitzgerald. Suh could almost contest that, but he was 3 years older than Fitzgerald when he was drafted.

  • Kirk Vollmer

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Arizona way overpays it’s top guys. Larry Fitzgerald is still way overpaid. . . What they should have done was gotten themselves out from under this ridiculous contract and moved on. He hasn’t posted a 1000 yard season for 3 years now. So great they got him down from Aaron Rodgers level quarterback money to Jay Cutler money while loading up a declining receiver with more guaranteed money. Question if Larry Fitzgerald hit the open market given his last 3 years production what kind of contract would he get APY? I’d have to say between 7 and 8 million. . . maybe he gets a little more because he was really good once . . . so 9 million?? And here the Cardinals are paying him twice what he would be worth on the open market.

    • Jim

      I would still argue he’s still a top 5 WR in the NFL. I understand his yardage numbers, but it’s not just about the production, look at the offense he is in and what they are asking of him.

      Last three years, the Cardinals have had the following QBs with significant playing time: John Skelton, Drew Standon, Ryan Lindley, Kevin Kolb, Carson Palmer. For good measure, Brian Hoyer played most of two games as well. I submit that AJ Green, Dez Bryant and Calvin Johnson are the only guys who would put up better numbers than Fitzgerald if they switched places with him the last three years. The guy still gets open, he still makes the catches. I don’t totally buy into why the Cardinals have him running short routes all the time, but it’s not the players fault.

      You can argue he’s a bit overpaid. I really can’t see an argument that the Cardinals were better off cutting bait. What he would get on the open market is somewhat irrelevant because of all the dead money attached to him already, it’s not a fair comparison to what some other team would offer him. I also submit, that Fitzgerald is worth more to the franchise than just his on-field performance, and worth more to the Cardinals franchise than any other team.

      • Kaedwon

        What you’re forgetting is that the Cardinals are waaay over the cap ($10M prior to this move); only the Saints are in worse shape. They’re in no position to be rewarding an aging star for past service. He’s the third-best WR on his own team … a team in the same division with the defending NFC champs, the Niners who may or may not be any good and the Rams who if they ever find a QB should be very good. What Zona did is why Zona has always (except for the brief Kurt Warner resurgence) been a doormat — knee-jerk decisions based on sentiment rather than reason.

        • David J. Kubik

          They aren’t rewarding him. He took a pay cut, but in return has that money guaranteed. Its a mutually beneficial deal.

          • Ghoston

            He had 0 guaranteed though. they could have cut him and only took on dead money. But instead they gave him 22 mil guaranteed which is still like a top 5 wide receiver, which he is not.
            I have some feeling that they will rework this deal again next year.

          • David J. Kubik

            I see what you are saying, but although he had 0 guaranteed this year,
            there would have been an extra $9 million dollar cap hit, because his
            prorated money would have accelerated. He is worth the extra $2 million
            to just sign this year, because you had sunk costs anyway.

            As for next year – that may be an issue. At least they reduced his cap hit by 9m over the next 2 years. Cap is the major problem the Cards have – not Larry’s salary.

          • Kirk Vollmer

            Their cap is a major problem because they hand over too much money for their top guys. Fitz was making quarterback money, he essentially still is except they just moved some of his cap hit down the road. Patrick Peterson has the richest CB contract in the league because he got in a twitter feud with Richard Sherman, and the all important “upside” not for anything he’s done on the field (which seems to show he’s not really that good of a CB) They have cap issues because they hand out foolish contracts like this. And now they decided that instead of getting out from under a really bad contract, they kicked the can down the road.

          • ThinkerT

            The fact that you think PP isn’t that good of a CB shows you either really don’t know what you’re talking about or you have a bias against the Cardinals.

            The Cards were essentially forced into doing the deal with Fitz because of contracts done by the last GM, Graves. They either had to take a massive cap hit this year whether they kept him or released him (which would have been stupid as back to back 10+ win years shows that they’re contenders right now) or redo the deal as a manageable one that still allows them to compete even though they would be overpaying Fitz for his current production and age. They obviously made the right choice. If they were a 4-12 team last year it might be a different story.

            Other than Fitz, and PP, who numerous GMs have said is one of the top CBs in the NFL (there was an anonymous “poll” of them where several of them said they’d even take him over Sherman), who have they massively overpaid? Dockett got paid when he was one of the top DL in the league. Washington was one of the best ILBs in the NFL when he got paid, the Cards couldn’t have predicted his suspensions. Palmer has been an OUTSTANDING bargain for them, as has Veldheer. Campbell remains possibly around the 3rd best DE in the NFL. I can’t think of a single player on the team who’s gotten a recent deal that’s overpaid for his performance right now other than Fitz, who has tremendous off the field value with the fan base and community.

        • Jim

          If you think he’s the 3rd best WR on the team, I’ve got nothing else to say

      • He is nowhere near a top 5 player anymore. I dont think even he would argue that point. The way I look at it this is a salary cap related decision and the emotional attachment decision, both of which you pretty much said as well

        From their perspective I can see some logic in it. They would take a -14.4M hit to not have him or can take a (projected) $26M over the next two and have him. So the replacement option is essentially a $6M/year guy which they likely cant afford if Fitzgerald is at a 14.4 hit while off the team. So capwise they probably consider this in that $6M range which is likely his fair market value.

        Players like this are also very difficult to get rid of because of the history. For both sides its often best to keep the relationship going.

        Do I think Arizona could and should have pushed the issue more? Absoutely. But I can understand why they didnt. That said if they fall back this year to 8-8 and Fitzgerald has a 600 yard year this is going to be a big discussion after the season.

    • Kirk Vollmer

      Just wanted to clarify that I made this comment and tried to remove it after noticing I made a huge mistake in reading the article. I was under the impression that he was making 16 mil this year in salary. All that having been said I still think handing 22 million in new guaranteed money to a ageing and declining receiver is foolish.

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