Money problems (cont.)
Posted: Wednesday March 12, 2008 11:07AM; Updated: Wednesday March 12, 2008 2:45PM
The $40 million, four-year deal seems a bargain against that backdrop. Still, it's interesting to note that the Cardinals would have been on the hook for only $7.85 million this season (the "franchise" tender for wide receivers) if it had used voidable years in the original deal and then tagged Fitzgerald. That would have freed up roughly $6.6 million of additional salary-cap space and possibly helped them to retain some of the players they lost during the first two weeks of free agency or sign other free agents in whom they might have been interested.
"When you're drafting in that spot [third overall], there are things that are a little unorthodox that go on in contract negotiations and sometimes you end up doing things that you don't like," said the salary cap manager for another team, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "You know that if you turn in that card for the first pick [or a top-five pick], you're signing up for a bumpy ride, like it or not. You can try to twist that and mold that into something that fits your standards a little better, but those deals are going to hurt."
Graves said the Cardinals used escalators instead of voidables in part because they wanted to retain the use of the franchise and transition tags. By using escalators, they were assured of having Fitzgerald under contract in 2008 and, thus, could use the franchise designation on someone else. That player turned out to be linebacker Karlos Dansby.
Graves said the team is not against using voidable years on a megadeal in the future.
"We'll evaluate our use of contract mechanisms on a case-by-case basis," he said. "We're not locked into any particular way of doing things. In the case of escalators versus voids, in this particular case it made sense from a business standpoint. I wouldn't go so far as to say that we've drawn a line and we will never do voids. We'll just evaluate that on a case-by-case basis."
That's a step in the right direction because the Cardinals have several prominent players who are (or will be) seeking new deals. And if the team is close-minded on different ways to structure a deal, it could find itself in another uncomfortable situation with Dansby, wide receiver Anquan Boldin or safety Adrian Wilson.
It's no secret that Dansby would like to get a multiyear deal done rather than play under the one-year franchise tender, and Boldin is expected to seek a raise now that his deal averages $4.335 million a year less than Fitzgerald's. In fact, Boldin is scheduled to receive base salaries of "only" $2.5-3 million over the next three seasons. Wilson, one of the league's top safeties, also is said to be seeking a new pay hike after signing a five-year extension in 2004 that averages almost $6 million a year less than Fitzgerald's.
"That was going to happen regardless of what happened," Graves said of players looking to cash in. "It's the cost of doing business on a team that's on the rise. It's also an indication of where we are with the talent on our football team. This doesn't make us unique. I think any team that's successful has challenges from year to year trying to keep all of its players satisfied."
Doing so requires an open mind on the part of the player and the club. In this case, that means utilizing all of the tools in the negotiations box, including voidable years.
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