This time of year, NFL teams are forced to hang their financial dirty laundry out to dry for all to see. It is embarrassing to some, but it's puzzling to most.
How do these teams get into such untenable financial fixes?
They get lucky once in awhile and land a great talent, such as WR Larry Fitzgerald, but they always somehow seem to turn that fortune into misfortune.
The Cardinals structured Fitzgerald's rookie contract with lucrative clauses that they did not forsee him fulfilling. But, as luck would have it, he has become a perennial Pro Bowl WR and has exceeded all of his initial contract's incentives.
Now the Cardinals are scratching their heads, trying to figure out how they are going to pay Fitgerald and still field a team.
Fitzgerald, the third overall pick in the 2004 draft, will make $14.6 million this season and could make $17.4 in 2009. There is no way the Cardinals can afford to pay one player this much money and still expect to compete.
They most likely will have to trade him. What a shame.
How did this happen?
According to Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic: "They've known for years that they could face this situation. It's the price teams pay for picking high in the draft. Fitzgerald was the third overall pick in 2004, and he signed a deal laden with incentives that would pay him handsomely if he became an elite player.
Included in that rookie contract were clauses that would bump his 2008 salary by $10 million should he chosen for two Pro Bowls in his first four years, and by $11 million in 2009 for other achievements.
Those clauses were designed to get the two parties back to the bargaining table after four years. Now, Parker (his agent) is seeking another four-year deal that would pay Fitzgerald between $25 million and $30 million in guarantees."
This is not just an Arizona-centric problem, but it's the type of problem better organizations avoid.
Somers summed it all up by writing: "The impact of the Fitzgerald situation reverberates throughout the organization. It calls into question Fitzgerald's sincerity and commitment to winning, Rod Graves' acumen as a general manager and owner Bill Bidwill's willingness to write a check with a lot of numbers to the left of the decimal point."
Too bad the Cardinals aren't in the NFC East anymore...