Alright Cardinals fans, now that we are firmly entrenched in the uneventful malaise of the NFL offseason months of May and June (even though the NFL is trying it’s hardest to make the NFL year-round and complete their world domination plan), it is time to address the 3000 lb Elephant in the room: Larry Fitzgerald’s future with the Cardinals beyond the 2014 season.
I know this is blasphemy even talking about Larry Fitzgerald playing in anything other than a Cardinals uniform (and I feel like I need a cold shower even talking about it), but the reality is with impending mega contract extension of Patrick Peterson (Richard Sherman just got a four-year $57 million extension with $40 million and Joe Haden got a five-year $68 million extension with $45 million guaranteed), and the fact that Fitzgerald has anywhere in the range of $66 to $80 million remaining on his seven-year, $117 million dollar contract beyond 2014 including a potent $23 million dollar cap hit in 2015, that Fitzgerald’s days zooming around the field with his beautiful long locks and million-dollar smile may be numbered.
Fitzgerald has been very cooperative the past few seasons in restructuring his contract to allow the Cardinals to create more cap space to improve the roster, including having only $1 million in base pay this year and a manageable $8.6 million total cap hit, but the Cardinals have exhausted that avenue and at some point Fitzgerald will have to take a pay cut in order for the Cardinals to afford him.
Another reason trading Fitzgerald in the offseason (my fingers are stinging as I type this) may be warranted is his dip in production the past two seasons.
Here are Fitzgerald’s stats the past three seasons:
2011: 80 receptions, 1,411 yards, 8 TD’s
2012: 71 receptions, 798 yards, 4 TD’s
2013: 82 receptions, 954 yards, 10 TD’s
Now here is Andre Roberts stats in 2012 and Michael Floyd’s stats in 2013:
2012: 64 receptions, 759 yards, 5 TD’s (Roberts)
2013: 65 receptions, 1,041 yards, 5 TD’s (Floyd)
You could make a great argument that Fitzgerald was still their best and most dependable and productive receiver the past two seasons because of his higher number of touchdowns and receptions and his very similar yardage numbers. You could also be completely justified in completely throwing out a horrific 2012 season in which the Cardinals had a high turnover at the quarterback position and one of the worst seasons at the position in NFL history. You could also say that Palmer was also pretty bad the first seven games of last season and Fitzgerald was often double teamed in a sputtering offense with little punch the first portion of the season last year. But you have to at least acknowledge the fact that Fitzgerald’s on-field production has dipped and as someone who is making an average salary of $16 million per year, that he should easily be the most productive and dominate receiver on his team.
Don’t get me wrong I am a humungous Larry Fitzgerald fan and firmly believe he is already the greatest Cardinal of all-time. I will also always cherish and be in awe of his legendary playoff performance in 2009 postseason, and I am aware of the fact that he was the most productive wide receiver in NFL history before the age of 30, but the NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” league and his sliding production doesn’t justify his salary, especially when it could potentially hurt the Cardinals ability to re-sign others players on their roster or improve it moving forward.
To reference a bit from Louie C.K.’s standup routine entitled “Of Course….But Maybe…” (check out the video of the routine below). Of course the Cardinals should do whatever they can to keep Larry Fitzgerald a Cardinal for the rest of his career, he is the face of the franchise, a great figurehead for the Cardinals organization to the community, and has earned the right to be a Cardinal as long as he wants to be by any means necessary to make that happen…. But maybe save for a return to his top-tier production at the wide receiver from a few years ago, considering the fact that they may have a blossoming star at wide receiver in Michael Floyd, as well as the fact that he will be 32 by the time the 2015 season starts and that his cap hit will be a potentially crippling $23 million, the savvier move may be to trade him while he is still relatively in his prime and has value to other teams and get whatever draft picks you can.
We are still a full NFL season and eight or nine months of real time away of this discussion really heating up and the impending Fitzgerald situation with the Cardinals coming to the crossroads. Until then I like many other Cardinals fans am perfectly fine with turning the other cheek and not acknowledging theproverbial elephant in the room, and living in a blissful world where Fitzgerald will be a Cardinal for at least five more years. Regardless of what I’ve said in this article I still have hope that there is a way that this can happen that makes sense for the organization and Fitzgerald, only time will tell. But to make you feel better while I go to a confessional to ask for forgiveness for the Cardinal sin of writing this article, here is a seven minute video of Larry Fitzgerald highlights to try and smooth it over.