Of course, any discussion of the Arizona Cardinals’ 2020 WR Birdgang starts with our brilliant icon, Larry Fitzgerald.
As is Fitz’s custom, at the end of the season, he will take a few weeks to make his decision as to whether he will retire or resume is extraordinary 16 year NFL record-breaking career.
One gets the sense that Fitz is very happy with the direction of the offense and that he is particularly fond of the young players like QB Kyler Murray, WR Christian Kirk, WR Andy Isabella, WR Trent Sherfield and RB Chase Edmonds who share his passion for putting in the extra time it takes to be raring and ready to go on game days.
When it comes to salary, as is the case with QB Tom Brady, there really is no figure that adequately quantifies Fitz’s value to the team, the NFL and the community.
However, at this point in Fitz’s career, his ultimate goal, despite all of the record setting and the countless accolades, continues to be to have a second crack at the Lombardi Trophy.
When Fitz and we look at the current roster—-with regard to its strengths and weaknesses—-and in mind of the $79M in 2020 cap space the Cardinals will have in their wallet—-could the Cardinals be a legitimate Super Bowl contender next season?
It may seem unrealistic at this point—-but there is no question that the Cardinals and Larry Fitzgerald are very excited and confident about the future—-and when they click on all cylinders, who knows? It could be sooner than most people think.
Thus, the question is—-if Fitz is excited to return, would Fitz be willing to give the Cardinals a team friendly discount on next year's salary? Or—-should it just be a given that the Cardinals and Fitz agree once again on a $11-12M deal, which in this case would be a 1/7th slice of the $79M pie?
If Fitz were to agree to a team friendly figure, then the Cardinals would be able to sign 2-3 more free agents at positions of need.
But—-what is so valuable about having Fitz at WR—-on a team that needs to get tougher—-he is the epitome of mental and physical toughness.
The second biggest question is whether or not the Cardinals should set their sights on drafting one of the top 3 stud WRs in the 2020 NFL Draft: Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy, Kyler Murray’s former go-to WR at Oklahoma, CeeDee Lamb or Colorado’s Laviska Shenault, Jr.?
Much may depend on where the Cardinals are picking in the first round. If they are not in the top 8-10, chances are that Jeudy and Lamb could be off the board.
Much also will depend on what the Cardinals are able to accomplish in free agency. If their primary needs have been met, then they will have the green light to select the top rated player on their board—-which, based on their current draft analytics, is likely what they are going to do, one way or another.
There has been a good deal of talk recently about Christian Kirk emerging as a true #1 WR. Kirk has been asked by the media what it would mean to him to take over Larry’s spot as the bell cow WR, and Kirk, according to HC Kliff Kingsbury, has all of the qualities that elite WRs possess: the feet, the hands, the technique, the route running, the explosion out of breaks, stunning RAC skills and most of all, as is the case with Larry, the work ethic.
Kirk has made it clear how annoyed he was to be pigeonholed by some scouts and draft pundits as a slot WR—-and thus has been on a mission to prove that he can excel not only from the slot, but equally so from the perimeter.
One could make a cogent argument that the Cardinals current young depth at WR with Christian Kirk, Andy Isabella, KeeSean Johnson, Damiere Byrd, Hakeem Butler, Trent Sherfield and A.J. Richardson, that the Cardinals are pretty much set at WR for years to come.
What’s wonderful about the young WRs is how well they compliment one another. Kirk, Isabella, Byrd and Butler bring impressive speed and RAC ability, while Johnson, Sherfield and Richardson are precise possession type receivers.
But, knowing Kliff Kingsbury, if he has the chance to add another dynamic young WR to the mix, he is apt to do it—-via the draft or free agency. As he has repeatedly said with regard to his version of the Air Raid, “you can never have enough talent at WR.”
In looking at free agent options beyond the Cardinals’ own free agents in Larry Fitzgerald and Pharoh Cooper, here are the top candidates:
- A.J. Green (CIN)—-32
- Amari Cooper (DAL)—-26
- Emmanuel Sanders (SF)—-33
- Robby Anderson (NYJ)—-27
According to Sportrac.com, Green’s 2020 market value is $16M and Cooper’s is $18M.
It would be very surprising to see the Cardinals pay that kind of money to Green or Cooper.
Emmanuel Sanders is probably looking at $12-13M.
Robby Anderson’s market value according to Sportrac is $11.7M.
It wouldn’t seem likely that the Cardinals would pay north of $10M a year for any 2020 UFA WR, other than for Larry Fitzgerald—-which is why it is far more likely that the Cardinals will draft a WR.
In the 2020 NFL Draft, the top rated WRs are:
- Jerry Jeudy, 6-1, 192, Alabama
- CeeDee Lamb, 6-2, 189, Oklaho
- Laviska Shenault Jr. 6’2, 220, Colorado
- Henry Ruggs III, 6-0, 192, Alabama
- Tyler Johnson. 6-1, 200, Minnesota
- Tylan Wallace, 6-0, 185, Oklahoma St.
- Devonta Smith, 6-1, 175, Alabama
- K.J. Hamler, 5-9, 176, Penn St.
- Justin Jefferson, 6-1, 185, LSU
- Collin Johnson, 6-5, 220, Texas
The two WRs on this list other than Jerry Jeudy (who is likely to be a top 3 pick) that stand out for the AZ-Raid are, imo, CeeDee Lamb and Lavish Shenault Jr. Here, imagine how these two playmakers would fit in Kingsbury’s style of offense:
What Lamb and Shenault have in common is—-they are home run ball magnets who also excel on jet sweeps, reverses—-and in Shenault’s care, the Wildcat in the red zone where he is a beast. They are made to order for the AZ-Raid.
With this kind of 1st round WR talent in the 2020 NFL Draft, if the Cardinals have covered their bases in free agency, tapping Lamb or Shenault with the 1st round pick is a strong possibility.
Therefore, what WRs are your top 8 choices for the 2020 Arizona Cardinals?
- Larry Fitzgerald
- Christian Kirk
- CeeDee Lamb or Laviska Shenault Jr. (assuming major needs are met in FA)
- Andy Isabella
- KeeSean Johnson
- Hakeem Butler
- Trent Sherfield
- Damiere Byrd