Sunday, January 9, 2011
Sources: Larry Fitzgerald talks begin
By Chris Mortensen
The Arizona Cardinals and Larry Fitzgerald are having preliminary discussions about extending the wide receiver's contract that will likely pay Fitzgerald between $40 million and $50 million in guaranteed money, according to sources.
Fitzgerald, who turned 27 last month, signed a six-year, $60 million contract after the Cardinals drafted him third overall in 2004. After his performance triggered significant escalator clauses during his fourth year and presented salary-cap challenges for the Cardinals, Fitzgerald then signed a new four-year, $40 million deal in 2008. Fitzgerald will enter 2011 in the final year of that contract and his new deal could make him the highest-paid nonquarterback in NFL history.
Fitzgerald has expressed his frustration with the Cardinals' dismal season in 2010. He still caught 90 passes for 1,137 yards as the Cardinals juggled quarterbacks throughout the season. But Fitzgerald's frustration was tied to the team's 5-11 record, raising some doubt about whether he would reject the team's overtures on a new contract.
However, team sources said Fitzgerald has been "all class, a real team guy" and "very receptive" to remaining with the team beyond 2011. The Cardinals have communicated to him strongly that securing a quality quarterback is a priority.
Even if the Cardinals choose another young quarterback with the fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft, they are expected to pursue a veteran through free agency or trade. Two pending veteran free agents who may be attractive would be the Seahawks' Matt Hasselbeck and Ravens backup Marc Bulger, whom the Cardinals failed to land this past offseason.
Hasselbeck is an intriguing option because the Seahawks outbid the Cardinals in a trade for former Chargers quarterback Charlie Whitehurst last offseason.
Other quarterbacks expected to be available through free agency or trade include Donovan McNabb, Kyle Orton, Vince Young and Kerry Collins.
Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb has one year remaining on his contract but the team has no plans to trade him unless there is a deal that would possibly include two first-round draft picks, sources said. Michael Vick is scheduled to be a free agent, but the Eagles plan to restrict him with a franchise tag if they cannot get him signed to a long-term contract, according to sources.
Chris Mortensen is ESPN's senior NFL analyst.