The biggest NFL news after the Super Bowl was Larry Fitzgerald restructuring his massive contract in what initially seems like an effort to give the Arizona Cardinals more salary cap space with which to work in 2014. However, the latest batch of NFL trade rumors suggest this was a move by both the Cardinals and Fitzgerald to prepare for a possible trade with the New England Patriots.
The biggest offseason buzz thus far has been the “unlikely scenario” of Fitzgerald being traded to the Patriots to become Tom Brady’s new best friend. However, his lucrative contract and New England’s lack of salary cap space seem to be standing in the way…until now.
Details of the restructure haven’t been released, but you can bet that Fitzgerald’s previous cap number of $18 million will be lowered by a large margin, likely converted into a signing bonus that will be prorated over the life of the deal. Entering the 2014 offseason, the Patriots have just under $8 million in salary cap space with which to work for the upcoming season.
One can only assume that a deal to acquire Fitzgerald would include Danny Amendola either being sent to Arizona or cut altogether. The former would rid the Patriots of his $4.575 million cap number for 2014 and that, plus an estimated drop of $8 million in Fitzgerald’s cap number, would allow the deal to take place while leaving the team with nearly $3 million in cap space for the remainder of the offseason. In addition, the Patriots would undoubtedly include a lot more than just Amendola in a trade for a player of Fitzgerald’s caliber and that money could go toward other free agent moves and/or signing 2014 NFL Draft picks.
This is all just speculation at this point, but all the pieces fit together perfectly: Fitzgerald’s restructured deal will create just enough room for him to be shipped to New England this offseason. From a personnel standpoint, it makes perfect sense as the Patriots already have a solid underneath receiver in Julian Edelman, who is a free agent but can likely be re-signed without breaking the bank and who would only become more effective with a big, proven, healthy target like Fitzgerald with which to pair. Even if Edelman can’t be kept, Fitzgerald’s presence would immediately increase the effectiveness of the Patriots’ other young receivers like Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Austin Collie. In addition, New England could get rid of Amendola, other players and their cap numbers without penalty.
The kicker for the Patriots would be Fitzgerald’s contract and cap numbers in 2015 and beyond, but if New England wins the Super Bowl next year, it won’t really matter. One ring would make the entire deal (and future headache) worth it and you better believe Bill Belichick could find a way to make it happen.