Those ramifications are being felt this week.
Both contracts ballooned in value without voiding, forcing the Cardinals to make decisions on the players' terms. The team will be without receiver Anquan Boldin this season largely as a result, and Rolle might not be back, either.
I broke down Rolle's situation earlier in the week. I'll explain the tie-in to Boldin below.
Fitzgerald's rookie deal became so untenable that the organization had little choice but to give him a four-year, $40 million deal before the 2008 season. Paying $10 million per season to Fitzgerald would have been fine on its own because Fitzgerald is a great player, but deals do not exist on their own. They exist in the context of a payroll. One player's deal affects other players' future deals.
The $40-million deal for Fitzgerald made it virtually impossible for the Cardinals to satisfy Boldin. Fitzgerald commanded that level of compensation because he had extreme leverage after $13.5 million in escalators pushed his 2008 cap number past $16 million; the Cardinals had to give him a cap-friendly extension or release him to finance a competitive team.
If the Cardinals had signed a voidable deal with Fitzgerald, they could have franchised him and/or worked out a less extravagant deal for him under more favorable circumstances. That would have left them in better position to work out an extension for Boldin. Perhaps both receivers could have continued their careers in Arizona for years to come.
Instead, the Cardinals never could satisfy Boldin, a situation that ended with Boldin's trade to the Ravens.
The Boldin trade itself wasn't a bad deal under the circumstances. The decision to release Rolle this week wasn't a bad decision under the circumstances. The circumstances were the problem, and they were avoidable.