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Cardinals, Fitzgerald working on a new deal

Arizona Cardinals v Oakland Raiders

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 11: Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals is hit by Walter McFadden #22 of the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum on August 11, 2011 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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The return of ESPN’s Monday Night Football means the return of ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown. Which means that Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter will be sharing nuggets of info with us two or three times every Monday night.

Here’s one that isn’t really news, but it’s worth highlighting.

As we’ve previously mentioned on multiple occasions, and as Schefter reiterated on the air, Fitzgerald’s four-year, $40 million contract prevents the team from using the franchise tag to hold him in place after the deal expires. This means that, if he wants to leave Arizona and, say, return home to Minnesota in 2012, he needs to do nothing other than show up for work, finish the season, and then play the waiting game.

Given this rare leverage that Fitzgerald has negotiated, given the rare leverage that was present in the final two years of his rookie deal, which given the achievement of incentive triggers had pushed his base salaries to ridiculously high numbers, the Cardinals want to get Fitzgerald signed. G.M. Rod Graves told PFT Live two weeks ago that signing Fitzgerald to a new contract is the team’s number on priority. The goal is to get the deal done before the 2011 regular season begins.

To lay the foundation for signing Fitzgerald, the Cardinals made a huge investment of picks and cash in the hopes of stabilizing their quarterback position via the arrival of Kevin Kolb. Based on Thursday night’s preseason opener, Kolb will be force-feeding footballs to Fitzgerald in the hopes of making him want to stay in Arizona.

Until Fitzgerald signs that new contract, he holds all the cards.

It took me a few minutes to realize I’d accidentally made a pun. I’m slow like that sometimes. OK, all the time.