"Show me the money!"
It was a phrase made popular by fictional Arizona Cardinals receiver Rod Tidwell in the movie Jerry Maguire.
Well, now some of the real Arizona Cardinals are saying it, and the franchise might have some tough choices to make because of it.
Among the financial decisions facing the team this month are (1) what to do about receiver Larry Fitzgerald's $16.5 million salary-cap number, (2) whether to put an $8 million franchise tag on linebacker Karlos Dansby, and (3) whether to pay Kurt Warner a bonus he barely missed.
The Cardinals already have decided what to do in the last case. Warner's contract included $500,000 bonuses for reaching four different incentives. He was paid $1 million for reaching two of them, but he fell just short of the 90.0 passer rating that would have earned another $500,000.
Warner's agent would like the team to pay the bonus because Warner finished with a rating of 89.9, but general manager Rod Graves doesn't plan to set precedent by paying a bonus that wasn't actually earned.
"We're proud of everything that Kurt has accomplished, but we're focused on abiding by the contract," Graves told reporters. "There are other areas where we're pressed into using our resources."
Those other areas start at receiver, where Fitzgerald needs a new contract by the time free agency begins Feb. 29. If they can't agree on a long-term deal that will lower that $16.5 million cap number, the Cardinals will have trouble keeping some other guys.
The team also plans to use the franchise tag on Dansby, which will cost over $8 million against the cap. That's $24.5 million of a $116 million cap for two players. And if the Cardinals end up going into free agency with those deals on the books, they will be forced to let a few players go while being unable to re-sign others.
Defensive end Calvin Pace and receiver Bryant Johnson are the team's top pending free agents, and running back Edgerrin James could be a casualty because of his $5 million salary and $6.75 million cap number.
Graves said the Cardinals have not considered cutting James, but the GM also admitted Fitzgerald's contract could be a deal-breaker for him and/or others.
"We'll have to see how the landscape develops as we try and get these contracts signed," Graves said. "I think a lot will depend on Larry Fitzgerald's deal, whether or not we can get something in place that will allow us some flexibility."
"If not, we could very well be faced with some very tough decisions down the road. We haven't talked candidly about where those tough decisions might be. We know if this deal is not restructured, it will entail us having to make some tough moves."