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Arizona Cardinals, Larry Fitzgerald Begin Contract Negotiations

Fitzgerald has been the face of the Cardinals in recent years, and is known as one of the all time great pass catchers in the NFL.
Fitzgerald has been the face of the Cardinals in recent years, and is known as one of the all time great pass catchers in the NFL.Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Luke BungerCorrespondent IIIJanuary 9, 2011

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald could be on the verge of becoming the highest paid non-quarterback in NFL history, according to reports.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports that the Cardinals have begun negotiations which look set to make Fitzgerald one of the richest men in sports. 

According to sources close to the discussions, Fitzgerald has been very open to the offers tabled and is happy to remain a Cardinal past the end of the 2011 campaign.

Some commentators had speculated that Fitzgerald may play out the 2011 season and see how much the Cardinals improve before deciding whether to extend his current deal. This follows a dismal season which saw the Cardinals finish bottom of the NFC West with a disappointing a 5-11 record. 

However, team insiders report that Fitzgerald is "all class, a real team guy" and very receptive to remaining a Cardinal by signing a long-term deal.

Early indications suggest that the new contract will contain between $40 and $50 million in guarantees, as well as performance incentives, which look set to make Fitzgerald the highest paid player at his position in NFL history and amongst the upper echelon of players at any position.

Coach Whisenhunt had previously made keeping Fitzgerald the team's No. 1 priority, and Fitzgerald had come out on record to suggest that remaining with the Arizona Cardinals was his preferred option. 

As part of the talks, the Cardinals organization have made assurances to Fitzgerald that securing the services of a quality quarterback is their next priority.

It has long been suggested that the Cardinals may attempt to draft a quarterback with their fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft.

Those close to the organisation, however, are suggesting that the team will attempt to secure the services of a veteran through free agency or trading, in addition to anyone drafted, to serve as a mentor to 2010 fifth-round pick John Skelton.

Many names have been suggested, but leading candidates amongst the fans and pundits include veteran Donovan McNabb, a friend of Fitzgerald, and Kyle Orton, who is currently trade fodder in Denver while awaiting news of who will replace ousted Broncos coach Josh McDaniels on a permanent basis.

A late resurgence in the performance of Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck has also seen his name enter the fray in recent weeks. 

There had been suggestions that the need around the NFL for quality passers may outstrip supply, and the Cardinals owners, who are not known for being the league's biggest spenders, may find themselves in a similar situation to 2010, where they were forced to watch their first choices sign with other teams.

However, this early commitment to re-signing their top receiver will make Arizona the destination of choice for veteran quarterbacks in need of a change of scenery.

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