The deal includes $30 million guaranteed, a generous figure for a franchise that was long considered one of the stingiest in sports.
The Cardinals traded one set of wide-receiver issues for another.
After awarding wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald with a four-year, $40 million extension that includes $30 million in guaranteed money, the Cardinals' salary spotlight shifted instantly to wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who is scheduled to be paid considerably less than his receiving counterpart. More ...
The contract also includes a no-trade clause, which means Fitzgerald would have to approve any move to another team.
"This is what I wanted to happen," he said on a conference call during an airport layover. "There was a great deal of dialogue through this whole process and everybody got what they wanted."
The Cardinals wanted to restructure Fitzgerald's incentive-laden rookie contract because he had reached many of the benchmarks and was to receive $14.6 million in 2008 and just under $17.4 million in 2009.
Those figures left the Cardinals with hardly any room under the salary cap to sign free agents. In addition, the contract locks up Fitzgerald through 2011, when he still will be only 28 years old.
"Our commitment was to make sure we continue to make progress with our football team, and we feel good about the fact that we were able to keep a player of Larry's caliber," general manager Rod Graves said. "We are going to continue to do that with all our core players."
"When you have two receives the caliber of Larry and Anquan, it makes it tough to defend you," Whisenhunt said.
Fitzgerald has said all along that he wanted to remain with Arizona, the team that chose him as the third pick overall out of Pittsburgh in 2004.
"Contract negotiations sometimes can go back-and-forth a lot, but I knew in my heart that the Cardinals wanted me to stay a Cardinal and I know that they knew I wanted to be a Cardinal," he said.
Fitzgerald was a lifelong friend of Dennis Green, who was fired as Cardinals coach a year ago. But he has warmed to Whisenhunt.
The two sat together courtside at Sunday's NBA game between San Antonio and Phoenix. There were many discussions between the two, Whisenhunt said.
"It was so helpful having someone I could talk to because he really talked to me and helped me understand, from a business standpoint, where the team was," Fitzgerald said. "But then he could also relate to me as a player. ... The more and more I talk to him, he is a man I want to go out and play for because he stands for something. I am happy to go out and play for a man like that."
Fitzgerald said he was anxious to get the deal done so attention would be diverted elsewhere.
"I am a guy who doesn't like to be in the spotlight," he said. "I would rather go unnoticed and do my job and help my team where I can and kind of go under the radar."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press