WR Boldin rewarded after outplaying initial contract

Working to secure the long-term future of one of the team's emerging young stars, the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday reached agreement with third-year wide receiver Anquan Boldin on a four-year contract extension, ESPN.com has confirmed.

The deal represented the culmination of months of negotiations between Cardinals vice president of football operations Rod Graves and agent Drew Rosenhaus. Team officials had conceded months ago that Boldin, the league's rookie of the year in 2003, outplayed the original contract he signed as a second-round draft choice.

Boldin had two more seasons remaining on his original contract at base salaries of $380,000 and $450,000, the NFL minimums. The extension adds four seasons, through 2010, thus creating a six-year contract with a total value of $23.5 million.

Significant is that Boldin will earn a total of $13.25 million in bonuses and salaries for 2005-2006. Had the former Florida State star simply played under his existing contract for those two seasons, he would have pocketed just $830,000. In the first three seasons of the new deal, Boldin will earn $15.25 million. So in terms of so-called "new money," the contract is worth $22.67 million, or an average of $5.67 million for the extension years.

Dealing only with the four seasons that represented the extension, Boldin's average is one of the highest in the league.

Boldin, 24, had skipped part of the Cardinals' offseason program while he sought to have the contract upgraded. He eventually reported for team workouts, in part as a good faith gesture, and because negotiations seemed to be moving in the right direction.

Under the deal completed on Sunday, Boldin will receive a $5 million signing bonus and then an additional "second-tier" option bonus of $5 million next spring. The base salaries are $1.5 million (2005), $1.75 million (2006), $2 million (2007), $2.5 million (2008), $2.75 million (2009) and $3 million (2010).

Starting in every game as a rookie, Boldin posted 101 catches for 1,377 yards and eight touchdowns. He established a new NFL record for most receptions by a rookie and his yards were the second most ever for a first-year player. Boldin suffered a knee injury in training camp last summer that sidelined him for the first six regular-season games. He started the final 10 games and had 56 receptions for 623 yards and one touchdown.

The Cardinals chose Boldin in the second round of the '03 draft, with the 22nd pick in that round, after his stock dropped because of pedestrian 40-yard times in workouts. But it did not take the physically imposing Boldin long to establish that he was a big-time player, and he now leads a trio of top-shelf wide receivers in Arizona that could certainly help the team contend for a playoff spot in 2005.

For the ubiquitous Rosenhaus, the extension marked a second straight day on which he finished a contract for a player who still had two seasons remaining. On Saturday, he consummated a three-year extension for New Orleans cornerback Mike McKenzie, on a deal whose value totaled $22 million.

It is believed that Boldin's extension is the first negotiated for a player who had two years left on his original rookie contract since Rosenhaus fashioned a landmark deal for Clinton Portis. The Redskins signed the tailback to a blockbuster contract after acquiring him in a trade with the Denver Broncos, and despite the fact his contract had two years to run.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click hereInsider.