WR Larry Fitzgerald (Otto Greule Jr./Getty)
Negotiations to restructure receiver Larry Fitzgerald's contract continue. The Cardinals are desperate to get a new deal done, even though they insist they can fit Fitzgerald's $14.6 million salary in 2008 under the cap.
That would have serious implications over the rest of the roster. The club would be hard pressed to sign any outside free agents, much less retain their own, including outside linebacker Calvin Pace.
The team reportedly is offering a six-year deal with guarantees between $25 million and $30 million. Larry Fitzgerald's agent, Eugene Parker, prefers a four-year deal. And the salary in that fourth-year is so high it would drive the Cardinals back to the bargaining table after three seasons.
Team officials aren't going to do that. The two sides apparently are discussing a five-year deal now, but no agreement is imminent.
Fitzgerald has a considerable amount of leverage in negotiations since he's due $32 million over the next two years: $14.6 this year and $17.4 in 2009. It's going to take a ton of guaranteed money to get him to agree to a new contract.
The Cardinals are appealing to his professed desire to stay in Arizona and turn the organization around. To do that, they have told the 24-year-old receiver that he should become a team leader and help the organization out by accepting a restructured deal.
One thing is for sure: Fitzgerald will never get the $17.4 million in 2009. The team is willing to pay him this year, but it will trade or cut him before paying his present 2009 salary.
Notes from the Nest
--The Cardinals are interested in free-agent guard Alan Faneca, who is close to line coach Russ Grimm and coach Ken Whisenhunt. He played for them in Pittsburgh. The club would have to clear some cap space to sign him. If Faneca came to Arizona, he was to stay at his customary left guard spot with Reggie Wells moving to right guard and Deuce Lutui heading to the bench.
--There has been much speculation that the team might release Edgerrin James, but it's doubtful the running back is going anywhere. The only way that would change is if the club took a running back with the 16th pick. Still, James has value. He gained more than 1,200 yards last year on a team that lived and died with the pass.
--QB Matt Leinart's recovery from a broken left collarbone is progressing well and he's starting to throw at the team's Tempe facility. He was seen working out last week with receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
--With the 16th pick, the Cardinals have less of an idea what player they will take in the first round than they did last year at No. 5.
"I think you prepare the same," coach Ken Whisenhunt said, "but you have a little bit better feel of who would be there with the fifth pick because obviously it's much closer to the first one. But as far as how you prepare, I don't think it changes that much."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm not going to say we're not going to have a big signing or go after somebody. You always have to keep those options open, but I think it gives us the flexibility to take our time and evaluate these kinds, instead of having the pressure to sign a number of guys early and be involved with competing with so many other teams." -- Coach Ken Whisenhunt on the team's improved depth from a year ago.
TEAM NEEDS/OFFSEASON STRATEGY
Most of the Cardinals' efforts now are focused on re-signing Larry Fitzgerald and linebackers Karlos Dansby and Calvin Pace.
Fitzgerald is the lynchpin to the team's off-season plans. If they are able to lower his cap figures the next two years ($17 million in '08 and $19.25 in 2009), the club will be able to sign some help in free agency.
If Fitzgerald's deal is delayed, however, the club will have a hard time even shopping the bargain bin in free agency.
1. Pass rusher: Bertrand Berry and Chike Okeafor are coming off injuries and the club needs someone to help Darnell Dockett.
2. Cornerback: Antrel Rolle's move to free safety makes an already thing position thinner.
3. Offensive line: The club needs an infusion of young talent at guard and tackle.
MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: LB Karlos Dansby (tendered at $8.065M).
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--DL Rodney Bailey has the ability to play inside and out adds to his value.
--P Mitch Berger didn't secure the job in the final weeks of '07.
--CB Ralph Brown is a decent No. 4 corner who is always prepared.
--S Oliver Celestin is a good special teamer.
--QB Tim Hasselbeck could stay as the No. 3 QB, depending if the team drafts a quarterback.
--LS Nathan Hodel is a solid player, but the club might want to look at TE Troy Bienemann to save a roster spot.
--WR Bryant Johnson is liked by the coaches, but the club likely won't have the money to re-sign.
--S Bhawoh Jue could provide depth.
--DT Ross Kolodziej was banged up last year, and he probably won't return.
--OLB Calvin Pace is coming off his best NFL season, and the team needs to re-sign him.
--QB Tim Rattay is a solid backup but likely will seek a No. 2 job elsewhere.
--DE Joe Tafoya is a good special teamer who shouldn't play much on defense.
--OL Keydrick Vincent is a decent backup who could re-sign.
--S Matt Ware is just an average guy.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--LB Darryl Blackstock (not tendered as RFA) still hasn't proven to be an every-down player.
--TE Tim Euhus (not tendered as RFA) is average at best and could return as a camp body.
--LB Brandon Johnson (not tendered as ERFA).
--WR Ahmad Merritt (not tendered as RFA) looked good before getting hurt and he can return kicks and punts.
--DE Bo Schobel (not tendered as ERFA) was a late-season addition who didn't get much of a chance.
--WR Jerheme Urban (not tendered as RFA) looks good in practice but had too many drops in the regular season.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--OT Elton Brown (tendered at $927,000 with 4th-round pick as compensation) is a good backup who is showing improvement.
--CB Eric Green (tendered at $2.017M with 1st-round pick as compensation) is a solid player.
--DE Antonio Smith (tendered at $2.017M with 1st-round pick as compensation) is a starter who should only improve.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
--CB Michael Adams.
--TE Troy Bienemann.
--WR Jamaica Rector.
--DT Chris Cooper (released).
--S Terrence Holt (released).
--OT Oliver Ross (released).