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RayJayinTBay

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: March 07, 2008, 01:33:51 PM

http://www.azcentral.com/sports/cardinals/articles/0307cards0307.html

Larry Fitzgerald says he doesn't want to leave Arizona. The Cardinals say they don't want him to go.

That, however, is an awful small plot of common ground in negotiations between two sides that seem to agree on little else.

The restructuring of Fitzgerald's contract appears no closer to fruition than it was a month ago, and the rumblings of frustration are growing within the organization.

Without a contract agreement, a day of reckoning is coming for the Cardinals.

They are going to face the prospect of trading Fitzgerald or losing him a year from now, when they might have to cut him rather than pay his 2009 salary of $17.4 million.

So far, both sides are saying all the right things. The Cardinals insist Fitzgerald will play for them in 2008, even at a salary of $14.6 million. Fitzgerald's agent, Eugene Parker, said team officials have reassured him that Fitzgerald is going nowhere, even if a new deal isn't reached.

That hasn't prevented other teams from trying to trade for him. The Eagles have talked to the Cardinals about acquiring Fitzgerald, with cornerback Lito Sheppard and receiver Reggie Brown rumored to be part of the offer.

The Cardinals have little interest in either player, and they are not eager to part with Fitzgerald, who made two Pro Bowls in his first four seasons.

Sheppard also has been to the Pro Bowl twice, but there are questions about his durability and he's unhappy with his contract. The Cardinals aren't eager to trade for someone else's problem.

It's hard to tell what would pique the Cardinals' interest at this point. Their primary desire is to keep Fitzgerald for several more years, even though that would cost them dearly.

But they've known for years that they could face this situation. It's the price teams pay for picking high in the draft. Fitzgerald was the third overall pick in 2004, and he signed a deal laden with incentives that would pay him handsomely if he became an elite player.

Included in that rookie contract were clauses that would bump his 2008 salary by $10 million should he chosen for two Pro Bowls in his first four years, and by $11 million in 2009 for other achievements.

Those clauses were designed to get the two parties back to the bargaining table after four years. Now, Parker is seeking another four-year deal that would pay Fitzgerald between $25 million and $30 million in guarantees.

Parker's motive is to get Fitzgerald, 24, a third lucrative contract before the receiver turns 30.

The Cardinals would prefer six years at a similar level of guaranteed money, because they abhor the idea of going through all of this again in three or four years.

Fitzgerald holds most of the leverage in negotiations, although the Cardinals are trying to appeal to his professed desire to win.

If Fitzgerald is serious about that, team officials say he should accept a restructuring, creating additional cap space that would allow to team to attract free agents and to keep key players.

Parker won't address the Cardinals cap concerns directly, but Fitzgerald said in a recent radio interview that he doesn't think his present contract prevents the Cardinals from being active in free agency.

The impact of the Fitzgerald situation reverberates throughout the organization. It calls into question Fitzgerald's sincerity and commitment to winning, Rod Graves' acumen as a general manager and owner Bill Bidwill's willingness to write a check with a lot of numbers to the left of the decimal point.

The answers to at least some of those questions will come in the next few weeks.


Badabing

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#1 : March 07, 2008, 01:56:44 PM

Owner Bill Bidwell...could we possibly include Josh Bidwell in the trade and they could maybe overvalue him?

gharen

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#2 : March 07, 2008, 02:34:20 PM

I just don't know what the Bucs could offer them.
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