NFC West: Paul Lawrence
- Watershed moment: Fitzgerald's signing was a referendum on how the Cardinals are doing business. Not how they have done business in the past, but how they are doing business right now. The team made a statement by spending big for quarterback Kevin Kolb and a long list of free agents this offseason. If anything, the Cardinals have erred on the side of overpaying this offseason. I doubt Fitzgerald would have re-signed at this stage in the absence of those moves.
- A Bidwill production: Bidwill's profile has risen in recent years as he has taken more day-to-day control of the organization from his father. It was appropriate for him to be the one sitting alongside Fitzgerald at the news conference. This news conference was more about business than football. Everyone knows what the Cardinals' football people think of Fitzgerald. But when an organization commits as much as $120 million toward one of the most beloved players in franchise history, the commitment is made most significantly at the ownership level.
- Eight years is a long time: The Cardinals surely paid a premium to re-sign Fitzgerald before his contract expired and before he reached the market in the absence of any team option to trade him or name him its franchise player. Fitzgerald gave up something, as well. Signing for eight years prevents him reaching the market as the NFL negotiates new, potentially more lucrative TV contracts over the next several seasons. Those contracts will affect revenues and, by extension, player salary allotments.
- Incentives could be a factor: The fine print on Fitzgerald's new deal remains difficult to verify until the deal is on file with the league and NFL Players Association, at which point details figure to filter out. Initial reports suggest roughly $50 million of the $120 million comes with some measure of guarantee. I wonder to what degree incentives might influence how much Fitzgerald receives later in the deal. Did the Cardinals secure protections in case Fitzgerald's production declines significantly?
- Lawrence mention: Fitzgerald credited various people inside and outside the organization for helping get this deal done. Paul Lawrence was one of the people Fitzgerald mentioned by name. Lawrence, one of his agents, died unexpectedly while playing basketball back in February. He was close to Fitzgerald and Cardinals teammate Adrian Wilson, among others. "I just feel like the work that was put in behind the scenes was tireless, and I am appreciative of that," Fitzgerald said.
- Good news was welcome: The Fitzgerald contract agreement gave the Cardinals a welcome bounce after the team lost rookie running back Ryan Williams to a season-ending knee injury during its preseason game against Green Bay.
- New WR pecking order: Carolina's Steve Smith had been the NFL's highest-paid wide receiver by average per year. The deal he signed in 2007 averaged $10.9 million per year. Fitzgerald's previous deal averaged $10 million while allowing him to hit free agency earlier. Calculating averages for extensions can be trickier than doing so for new contracts. It's also tough to know for sure how much any player will wind up receiving; backloaded deals produce misleading averages because teams can release players without paying future salaries. It's possible Fitzgerald's average will exceed $15 million by some measures.
- Heavy lifting finished: The Cardinals have no more high-profile contracts requiring immediate attention. Their quarterback and star receiver are under contract for years to come. Their head coach and general manager are signed through 2013. By my count, 38 of the 89 players under contract have deals expiring after the 2011 season. The team holds rights to quite a few of them beyond 2011. Jay Feely and Deuce Lutui head a modest list of players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents.
- Boldin retrospective: The Cardinals traded longtime receiver Anquan Boldin last offseason in part because Boldin wasn't happy with his contract situation relative to the market Fitzgerald had set with his previous deal. Imagine how Boldin would have felt if the Cardinals had done this $120 million deal with Fitzgerald before they traded him.
- Whether Arizona overpaid: The price for Fitzgerald was only going up as his contract neared its completion. Arizona paid a premium, as noted. In general, it's OK to overpay for quarterbacks. I'd create another category for "franchise icons who remain in their primes" because losing Fitzgerald would have set back the organization significantly. The Cardinals had to re-sign Fitzgerald. They knew it. Fitzgerald knew it. What's a few million dollars extra among friends? Letting this situation drag into the season would have complicated efforts to get a deal done.
- It's about the money, sort of: Fitzgerald had plenty of money before signing this contract. For players in Fitzgerald's situation, it's often less about the money than it is about what the money represents. Making Fitzgerald the highest-paid wide receiver by a wide margin told Fitzgerald all he needed to know about where he stood in the organization's mind. Think back to Kurt Warner's situation a couple of years ago. The Cardinals wound up paying him handsomely, but they weren't willing to overpay for him. Warner took a somewhat undignified trip to San Francisco, visiting with 49ers brass in an effort to leverage a better deal. He wound up re-signing with the team, but I wonder, in retrospect, if he might have hung around for the final year of his deal if the Cardinals had made a stronger statement to him with a deal even more lucrative. It's a debatable point, but one worth considering, at least.
That's all for now. I'm boarding a flight from St. Louis to Seattle in a few hours and will likely check in from 30,000 feet, wireless permitting.
Also from Maiocco: notes from 49ers camp, where Manny Lawson remains absent.
Kevin Smith of Niner Insider says Smith appears more comfortable.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Tony Wragge is working at center with the 49ers' second-team offensive line. Also: "With Nate Clements and Shawntae Spencer absent, the starting cornerbacks continue to be Karl Paymah and (Tarell) Brown. Their backups today were (Phillip) Adams and Keith Smith. Newcomer Will James is still picking up the defense and was an observer only for today's session."
Also from Barrows: Veteran 49ers safety Michael Lewis says cornerback Nate Clements might surprise people when he reports to the team after an offseason of conditioning work in Arizona.
More from Barrows: Half the 49ers' defensive starters were not in attendance Monday. I don't necessarily think this is a bad thing for the team. More in a bit.
Cam Inman of Bay Area News Group says Tedd Ginn Jr. had problems with dropped balls in practice Monday. Inman: "He didn't have as many drops on punt returns as he did as a receiver Monday. He cleanly fielded his first few punts and darted upfield about 30 yards. But when he failed to catch one punt near his waist, it wasn't good -- other than it was only mid-May and he wasn't in Candlestick Park."
Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat details why various players weren't present at 49ers camp. Mike Singletary: "Obviously as a coach, you always want to see the guys, but it's just like last year. There were some guys that were not here last year, and I told Nate and Shawntae, 'Hey, guys, you're men. You do what you have to do. You know what we are trying to get done here, and I trust that.' Some of the guys will not be here at all for the OTAs and some of the guys will get maybe half of them. ... They have to know what we are doing here, and when we get ready for training camp they have to know that the competition is going to be there, and I trust their decision making."
Also from Barber: Ginn was among those returning punts for the 49ers.
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Vernon Davis appears unfazed entering the final year of his contract. Davis: "I’m here because this is what I do. I like to work."
David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says rookie offensive linemen Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati lined up with the 49ers' second-team offensive line.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com offers notes from the team's latest OTA session, including one about Aaron Curry's improved confidence. Curry: "I'm having so much more fun this year rushing the passer than I did last year, because this year I had a whole two or three months of pass-rush preparation. So I actually have a plan when I go into the rush and I actually know what I’m doing."
Rod Mar of seahawks.com provides photos from the session, including one of receiver Mike Williams elevating over cornerback Kelly Jennings to make a one-handed grab. Williams' continued surprising play stands out as one of the more intriguing developments for Seattle this offseason.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Seahawks coach Pete Carroll likes what he sees from Red Bryant at defensive end. Carroll: "Of all the little things that we've looked at, trying to experiment and stuff, that's the one thing that looks to be really, really positive. We have a chance to find a lot of plays out of Red."
Also from O'Neil: Leroy Hill faces a pretrial hearing Wednesday.
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says rookie seventh-round choice Jeremy Konz has moved from receiver to tight end. That makes sense. Seattle has 16 wide receivers if Konz counts at that position. Johns: "Konz is an intriguing athlete who posted some incredible predraft workout numbers at Kent State, including a whopping 46-inch vertical leap and running the 40 in 4.41 seconds. But he spent his first three seasons at Kent State as a linebacker, then suffered a season-ending ankle injury one game into his senior season after being moved to wide receiver. He gained an extra year of eligibility and came back last year at more of an H-back position, catching 21 passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns."
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune quotes Carroll as saying Charlie Whitehurst has "a sense" for the quarterback position, but Matt Hasselbeck clearly remains the starter.
Also from Williams: Could the Seahawks cut Hill?
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with veteran Seahawks safety Lawyer Milloy, who is looking forward to an expanded role in the defense. Milloy: "If I didn’t have a fire for the game, I wouldn’t be doing this. I don’t have to be doing this. But I’ve got a passion for the competition and a passion for the game, and I feel I can still do it at a high level. You saw when I got on the field last year, I got after it; I wasn’t backing down from any hits." Milloy was arguably the Seahawks' best hitter last season.
Liz Mathews of 710ESPN Seattle says Seahawks tight end John Carlson is used to change. Carlson: "This is my third year, third staff, third offense and third position coach. This is routine to me -- starting over. We have a lot of time to meet and work with each other on the field -- the transition isn't all that bad."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals running back Tim Hightower has switched agents, hiring Paul Lawrence of Maximum Sports. Somers: "That agency, which includes Eugene Parker and Roosevelt Barnes, represents several of the Cardinals biggest stars: safety Adrian Wilson, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Lawrence is listed as the lead agent for Hightower and Wilson."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says tight end Ben Patrick can relate to what rookies are going through as they get acclimated to the Cardinals. Urban: "Patrick, one of the few veterans to show Monday, tried to do his part. He went outside as the rookies were about to run when rookie seventh-round pick Jim Dray -- also a tight end -- came over to ask Patrick if he was going to watch them work. Patrick told him he came out to run with Dray and show some support."
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch takes a look at the Rams' inexperience at wide receiver. General manager Billy Devaney in December: "My brothers in New Jersey, they follow it, and they'd say, 'Aren't you going to sign a receiver?' And I'm like, 'Give me a break. We have this list (of needs) that's a mile long. We're going to fill as many as we can.' " Coats: "Two wideouts acquired through the draft have yet to appear in a regular-season game. (Mardy) Gilyard, of course, is a newcomer. Brooks Foster, a fifth-round pick in 2009, missed his entire rookie season after ankle surgery." The Rams can be OK at receiver if Donnie Avery and Laurent Robinson are healthy. Keeping both players healthy will be a challenge, however. Both have had injury problems.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Somers' information -- that Dansby plans to hire agents Eugene Parker, Roosevelt Barnes and Paul Lawrence -- matches what an NFL source told me as well. NFLPA rules require a five-day waiting period between firing one agent and hiring another, so nothing will become official until that period passes, presumably later in the week.
This move will set back negotiations in the short term, but if Dansby wasn't happy with what Wood was putting together, he probably wasn't going to sign a deal anytime soon.