The NFL trade deadline is today, but don't expect any sort of move by the Arizona Cardinals to ship off receiver Larry Fitzgerald and his huge contract.
It was Adam Schefter that stirred the pot a bit, tweeting that the Cards would be "on the clock" with the Fitz situation and that a split between the team and player was anywhere between "possible and inevitable."
General manager Steve Keim quelled the rumors that Fitz would be moved before today's trade deadline in an interview on Arizona Sports 620. He also spelled out the intent for the team regarding their star receiver.
"I can tell you two things, and I want to make this clear and simple: I have not had one conversation with another NFL team regarding a trade with Larry Fitzgerald," Keim said. "Number two, starting with Michael Bidwill on down, it is our intent for Larry Fitzgerald to retire a Cardinal. Period.
"If there is any grey area there, let me know, and we can get that out."
The contract is still an issue, though. He has an $18 million salary cap number next season, and that is huge, especially considering the production he has had the past season and a half. he currently is on pace for just under 1000 yards, which is not what you want from a guy you are paying that much.
Now, Arizona fans have heard this song and dance before. The Phoenix Suns organization was also very "intent" on keeping Steve Nash until he retired. However, the money got in the way. They did not and really could not pay him $9 million per year and try to build for the future. In the end, he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.
However, Keim went a step beyond the fact that the team is intent on keeping him, which could simply mean they want him here on our terms and if he leaves then it would be because he wants the money rather than help the team win. "Larry Fitzgerald is a Cardinal and will remain a Cardinal," he said, hammering the point home.
The issue remains that if the Cards want to build a championship type team, that number has to go down.
Clearly, it looks like he isn't going anywhere this season. That is understandable. However, trading him in the offseason doesn't really help things. If the team cuts him or trades him, he will still have a $10 million hit to the salary cap.
So, you could redo his deal and then trade him, but why? If you are going to redo his deal to make it so you don't get the huge salary hit, why not keep him. Cutting him also doesn't make sense.
Simply put, the only real option is to restructure the contract. That doesn't necessarily mean taking a pay cut, as Fitz deserves to be paid and quietly believes in getting paid. (There was a quote I remember he said regarding how Hines Ward would be willing to take a massive pay cut to stay with the Steelers -- $1 million or more -- and Fitz commented on how that was a whole lot of "green" to give up. Fitz is a mercenary, and that is not a bad thing. You have to get paid in the NFL while you can.)
There is the issue of future cap implications if the money is simply shifted forward more. It could potentially cause problems down the road. However, if they can manage to actually push the hit far enough away that he does retire with Arizona, then the salary cap hit doesn't matter.
Additionally, in the next couple of years, the salary cap should get a bump with new TV revenues.
The point is that while it certainly is possible that this is Fitz' last season here, it definitely is not probable. Schefter saying between possible and inevitable is not accurate. It really is only possible.