As the season went along, it became more apparent that Larry Fitzgerald would not play in Arizona in 2014 under his current contract. The Arizona Cardinals have limited salary cap space and a number of pending free agents, and Fitzgerald's $18 million cap hit was too large. The Cardinals were going to have to rework the deal, trade Fitzgerald or even release him. Despite recent trade rumors, Arizona chose option No. 1, agreeing to a restructured contract.
Fitzgerald broke the news on Twitter:
The restructure was fairly simple with the Cardinals converting some of Fitzgerald's 2014 base salary into a signing bonus. He was scheduled to earn $12.75 million in base salary next season. Arizona could reduce that number -- all the way down to the league minimum -- and convert the difference into a signing bonus. The Cardinals could then pro-rate the new signing bonus over the remaining years of the contract. Fitzgerald's deal runs through 2018. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the move will clear nearly $10 million in cap space next season.
Although the move is good for the short-term, it will have a long-term impact. By adding value to the later years in the deal, Fitzgerald's future cap hits -- and dead money to release him -- will increase. He remains a productive player, but at 30 years old his play may not live up to the cost of the later years of the deal. He is scheduled to have an $8 million roster bonus in 2015, according to Spotrac.
Before the deal, Arizona was slotted to have less than $2 million in salary cap space. The restructuring will give them some much-needed flexibility. Linebacker Karlos Dansby, defensive end Frostee Rucker, right tackle Eric Winston and others are scheduled to become free agents in March. The Cardinals can also negotiate a new contract with cornerback Patrick Peterson now that he has completed his third year.