Larry Fitzgerald recently signed an 8-year $120 million dollar contract that will keep him in an Arizona Cardinals uniform through his 35th birthday. While Fitzgerald is now slated to be part of the bird gang for the rest of his career, many feel that he was overpaid due to the fact that he is a wide receiver and makes more than most quarterbacks in the league.
Now we finally get a preliminary look at what his contract will look like and how it is structured.
Fitzgerald has an option before the beginning of next season that the club will have to pick up. If not, Fitzgerald would make $20 million in 2012 and would become a free agent after that. The Cardinals will pick up the option, so rest assured. When that happens, Brandt states that Fitzgerald will be making $40 million over the next two years, second only to Peyton Manning. That takes care of 1/3 of the contract within the first two years.
Brandt points out that if Fitzgerald were to be injured, the $50 million guaranteed money would cover that. If however, his skills dwindle and the team were to cut him, only $20 million dollars of the guarantee would cover that. Again, this is all contingent upon Fitzgerald's skill level declining, which is unlikely to happen in the near future.
This is all a way for the team to protect themselves if Fitz's skills begin to decline with age and the team figures that they cannot continue paying for his services. It is also good for Fitzgerald, as he receives the bulk of his deal within the first five years ($75 million). After 6 years (3/4 the length of his contract) he will receive 3/4 of his money ($90 million).
One thing in the contract that could prevent Fitzgerald from collecting a full paycheck is basically a performance clause. I'll let Mike Florio explain:
The deal contains up to $8 million in de-escalators tied to Fitzgerald's receptions in 2016 and 2017. If he's under 80 in either season, some of the money rolls back to the Cardinals in 2017 and 2018, respectively. The highest amounts go away if he's under 70.
The deal makes sense for both sides, which is why it was able to get worked out before the Cardinals play the Panthers during week one of the NFL regular season. Fitzgerald is confident in his skills as much as we are, which is why he agreed to sign a contract with de-escalators in it. He realizes that the team has to have something in the way of protecting itself.
All in all, I am happy with the whole arrangement. Fitzgerald gets paid like the great player he is and the Cardinals get to keep a great playmaker and the face of their franchise. Sounds like a win-win to me.