The Arizona Cardinals won 10 games this past season, yet it wasn't good enough to make the playoffs in the competitive NFC.
In order to give general manager Steve Keim more flexibility in acquiring assets, upgrading the roster and aiding the franchise's efforts to take the next step, superstar wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has restructured his current contract.
Fitzgerald broke the news himself Tuesday, Feb. 4, on his official Twitter account:
Kent Somers of AZCentral provides details on how this will impact the Cardinals' bottom line:
per 2 NFL sources, Fitzgerald's is a simple restructuring. converted salary to bonus, created around $10m of cap space.— Kent Somers (@kentsomers) February 4, 2014
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport offers slightly different numbers:
My understanding of #Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald’s contract situation is that it was a simple restructure. Saves about $8M in cap space— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 4, 2014
After making $5 million in base salary this past season per Spotrac.com, the 30-year-old veteran's pay was slated to increase to a whopping $12.75 million under the stipulations of his seven-year, $113 million deal that expires after the 2018 campaign.
Darren Urban of the team's official website points out that the Cardinals would have had less than $2 million in cap space to work with once the new league year commences in March if not for Fitzgerald's commitment to restructure.
Albert Breer of NFL.com believes this won't lead to any sort of trade out of Arizona:
And to anyone thinking this move leads to a Fitz trade -- No chance. Cards likely converted base into bonus $, cut him a check NOW for 2014.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) February 4, 2014
In a radio interview with Arizona Sports 98.7 last week, Fitzgerald was selfless in acknowledging that the other players currently part of the team's nucleus are younger in most cases and deserving of their paydays, per Urban:
...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 Karlos Dansby, Frostee Rucker, there are a lot of guys that deserve to be compensated for their play. And I understand that.
With such a competitive division featuring the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, NFC-championship representative San Francisco 49ers and the rising St. Louis Rams, Fitzgerald seems to understand the need for his team to improve.
How far can the Cardinals go in 2014?
That ultimate prize is something Arizona hasn't captured, either, and Fitzgerald is doing whatever he can to help the cause by reducing the massive cap figure he was about to incur.
The loyalty Fitzgerald has shown to the organization that drafted him No. 3 overall in the 2004 NFL draft has been admirable despite all the losing the Cardinals have done—especially in recent years.
A necessary revitalization took place with a new regime in 2013, headlined by Keim and head coach Bruce Arians. Fitzgerald sees the potential for this team to ascend to even greater heights and be a legitimate championship contender next season and beyond.
With some minor upgrades, the hopeful return of rookie phenom Tyrann Mathieu from a torn ACL and continued development throughout the team, Arizona could be in for something special in the immediate future.