Larry Fitzgerald reworks contract to give Cardinals cap flexibility
New deal reduces $18 million cap hit, gives team maneuverability to upgrade roster.
Though he fell short of 1,000 yards for a second consecutive year, Larry Fitzgerald led the Cardinals with 82 catches and 10 touchdowns.
Mark J. Rebilas / USA TODAY Sports
By Craig MorganFOX Sports Arizona
TEMPE, Ariz. -- It wasn't a surprise that it happened, but it sure happened fast. Upon returning from the Super Bowl in New Jersey on team president Michael Bidwill's private plane, Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald announced via Twitter that he restructured his contract Tuesday.
Back in AZ from #SB48 & the 1st order of business this AM was signing a restructured contract to help the @AZCardinals get better for 2014!
Details of the reworked contract were not available, but FOX Sports 1's Mike Garafolo reports that it converts a chunk of Fitzgerald's 2014 base salary to a signing bonus and will free about $8 million in salary cap space.
The move was critical for the Cardinals' offseason plans. Fitzgerald's cap number for 2014 was slated for more than $18 million, leaving the team less than $2 million in salary cap space.
Fitzgerald said on numerous occasions that he was willing to restructure his deal (but not take a pay cut). In addition to signing some of their own free agents and others available on the market, the deal could free up room for the Cardinals to sign cornerback Patrick Peterson to a long-term deal.
Peterson's rookie contract expires after the 2014 season, but the Cardinals could invoke a fifth-year option in 2015 and then use the franchise tag Peterson in 2016, so there is no great urgency, just the concern over bruised feelings.
Fitzgerald is coming off his second consecutive season with fewer than 1,000 yards, but he did go to the Pro Bowl for an eighth time and his production increased, like many of the offensive players, once the personnel became familiar with Bruce Arian's offense. He caught a team-best 82 passes for 954 yards and a team-high 10 touchdowns.
The restructuring may finally put to bed the rumors that the Cardinals would look to trade Fitzgerald in the offseason to free up cap space — a move that would be a PR disaster for the franchise, given Fitzgerald's iconic status in the Valley.
It will be interesting to see what Fitzgerald's reworked deal looks like because there are challenges inherent in it, like an $8 million roster bonus that would be due in March 2015 and would have brought his cap hit to $21.25 million.