Let’s start by stating some obvious facts about Cardinal wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
- The former third overall selection out of the University of Pittsburgh (2004) is unquestionably the greatest Arizona Cardinal in the history of the franchise.
- The Minnesota native currently sits second all time with 17,083 receiving yards.
- Fitzgerald is also second in all time receptions at 1,378.
- Since entering the league, he is an 11x Pro Bowler and a member of the All Decade Team.
- Finally, Larry Fitzgerald turns 37 this coming August.
Now here’s something, in my opinion, that’s not as obvious but should be.
- Larry Fitzgerald is going nowhere.
Right after Arizona capped their 2019 season with a road loss in LA on December 29th, Fitzgerald waited less than three weeks before announcing his intent on planning in 2020.
Compare that to the previous offseason, in which Fitzgerald waited an additional week following Arizona’s season finale before opting to resign with the Cardinals.
Maybe that doesn’t mean much on the surface, but I’d encourage you to take a closer look.
The Cardinals went through two head coaching changes in the span of three years. First it was Bruce Arians opting to “retire” in 2017 followed closely by starting quarterback Carson Palmer soon after.
One would assume, if the then 34 year old Fitzgerald was mulling reitrement, he’d had done it then.
But as we know, Fitzgerald returned for the one and done season of both head coach Steve Wilks and rookie quarterback Josh Rosen. That was a 2018 season that saw Arizona secure the number one overall selection after sporting a historically poor offense not seen since the early 80s.
Yet Fitz returned.
Now, more than a year later, Fitzgerald is still making a seven figure salary and has the benefit of catching passes from the reneiging Offensive Rookie of the Year in QB Kyler Murray.
He’s also entering his second season under Kliff Kingsbury, who despite going 5-10-1 as a rookie head coach, took dramatic strides in improving the previously ranked 32nd offense.
So much so that, with the addition of All Pro WR DeAndre Hopkins last month, Arizona is a being helmed as an NFC dark horse contender.
So why, when Fitzgerald is still being paid a premium, would he walk away from an ascending team with a chance to compete for the next 3-5 years?
Which is why, when I hear about the upcoming NFL Draft and potential interest from Arizona to bolster their receiving core (perhaps even at pick 8), I question that it would be done so as a precursor to Fitzgerald’s eventual retirement.
I remember hearing similar proclamations following 2012 and the arrival of then first round pick Michael Floyd.
Understand that Team President Michael Bidwill will undoubtedly continue to cut big money checks for Fitzgerald as long as he opts to accept them. Fitzgerald’s impact for the Cardinals, both on and off the field, cannot be understated. No matter what you think of his play and production entering year 17, outside of a dramatic injury, there is no scenario in which he is not welcomed back.
Fitzgerald is all about legacy and winning. His selfless play over his tremendous career is a testament to that, which is why he deserves an opportunity to be a part of this upcoming era of Cardinal football.
He deserves one last window of opportunity to secure a Super Bowl ring.
Sure, the finances could get a little dicey and perhaps Fitzgerald opts to take slightly less as the years go by. But anyone who watched this team a year ago saw his importance to this offense and I don’t see that dramatically changing (at least in 2020). The arrival of Hopkins should allow Fitzgerald to feast on second and third corners in route to another production season.
So when you’re putting together your dream receiving core for 2021, make sure you have number 11 firmly cemented in the slot underneath.
What that means for folks like Christian Kirk and Andy Isabella remains to be seen. If the Cardinals do in fact pull the trigger on a prospect like CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy, I would greatly expect one of the former to be dealt this time next year.
Regardless, I’m done planning ahead to a post Larry Fitzgerald world that doesn’t appear imminent anytime soon.