The Arizona Cardinals are the best team in the NFL that didn’t advance into the 2013 postseason. First-year head coach Bruce Arians got the most out of this franchise last season and the future looks promising for the Cardinals. it appears however that there could be a contractual issue arising with one of the team’s most dynamic offensive weapons, WR Larry Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald is due $12.75 million next season and will count $18 million against the team’s salary cap. While one of the most physical receivers in the league, Fitzgerald is slated to earn starting quarterback money at the wide receiver position. Something will have to give and it seems as if the receiver is not open to playing for anything less next year. Will he remain a member of the Arizona Cardinals in 2014?
According to azcental.com, the team is expected to approach the receiver about the possibility of restructuring his current deal, perhaps moving salary money into a bonus situation that can be spread out over a few seasons in order to free up money to give the team flexibility in the offseason.
Fitzgerald has seen his production drop off in recent years due to poor quarterback play in Arizona. While he didn’t lead the Cardinals in receiving yardage, he did lead the team in targets and receptions while scoring double digit touchdowns for the first time since the 2009 season.
The receiver inked a new deal in 2011, an 8-year $128 million dollar deal and as the backend approaches, it is costing the Cardinals a mountain of money. In 2015, Fitzgerald will be due $8 million in salary with another $8 million due in roster bonus money. He then pulls down nearly $15 million a year through the remainder of his contract which runs through 2018.
Fitzgerald has been the consummate professional in Arizona, sticking around through some very bad teams and would ideally like to return to the Super Bowl once again. The 2013 Cardinals team was the best club he’s played on since Arizona appeared in Super Bowl XLIII.
Despite the fact he will turn 31 prior to the start of the 2014 season, he is still in remarkable physical shape and playing at an elite level. Could the Cardinals trade him? Sure, but not with his current contract. The asking price in a trade would likely be a first-round pick and perhaps more, but what team would be willing to invest that much and absorb a quarterback style salary?
He would be a perfect fit in New England but I don’t see the Patriots investing that kind of juice for a receiver, especially after they captured another division title this season with the rag tag bunch they fielded every Sunday this year.
Fitzgerald holds the leverage in this process. He could help the Cardinals by renegotiating this offseason, freeing up some team money to extend contracts or add a few free agents. The Cardinals were very close to reaching postseason in 2013 and there is no reason to think that they can’t be right there again next season. If he wants out, then again, he’ll have to be open to renegotiate his contract with another club. He was overpaid in his contract extension and the deal just doesn’t work in the economics of the NFL currently. The Detroit Lions will face the same situation in coming years after the extension they gave WR Calvin Johnson.
After receiving $50 million guaranteed with a $10 million dollars signing bonus and a first-year roster bonus of another $8 million, you would think Fitzgerald might be a little flexible.