The immediate impact of Larry Fitzgerald’s new contract is obvious. He won’t be going anywhere, and the tension around that situation is wiped out going into the season. That’s certainly true for the organization as a whole and for the fan base. But what about the team itself? Fitz was going to play in Arizona this season, regardless. So does this change anything?
“Maybe getting Larry to pay for their dinners, it might,” coach Ken Whisenhunt cracked.
But Whiz did get serious. “Larry has been very generous with his guys,” he said, noting Fitzgerald organized a team night out at Buffalo Wild Wings in Flagstaff earlier in camp. “Larry gets it, and that’s one of the reasons it was so important we got the deal done with him. He’s been a tremendous leader, he’s grown a lot in what we want him to do. It wasn’t always easy, because understanding the burden that comes on you as a great player, it’s not something that’s natural, especially someone who shies from the spotlight like Larry.
“When you recognize what a tremendous player he is and the accomplishments he has had over the last few years, it’s goes a long way that our team and (president) Michael Bidwill recognize that and are willing to do those deals.”
Whisenhunt further praised Bidwill, not only for the free-agent moves/trades of the offseason (Face it, Fitz was probably going to test the market if the Cards had not upgraded the roster) but also for the rapid way Fitz’s new contract was completed.
(UPDATE: Here is an awesome breakdown by Andrew Brandt of not only this Fitz contract, but all three Fitz contracts).
“There was mention we were going to get Larry done, we were motivated to do that before the season starts,” Whisenhunt said. “Say what you want to say, but the deal is done. Larry is a great player, there are a lot of teams that would have liked an opportunity at him, and they won’t get it because ownership stepped up.”
The leadership aspect isn’t a small one. If you would have asked me when Fitz showed up in 2004 if he’d ever be a big leader, I’d have said no. Heck, he would have too. He wanted no part of that at the time. Things change. So too has Fitz. I can see that, and so can everyone else. We will see what the actual numbers crunch out to when Fitz’s contract leaks out (and it always does) but the Cards aren’t paying $15 million a year or whatever it is just for 95 catches and 1,200 yards. They are paying for the guy who may be among the top five recognizable faces — player-wise — in the NFL. They are paying for his profile and his good-guy image, perfect as the face of a franchise.
They are paying for his connections. We joke about Fitz having worked out with almost every guy the Cards have signed, and it’s an exaggeration, but he does know everyone. That, Whisenhunt acknowledged (plus the Cards’ willingness to pay for the right guys), can help in free agency down the road when trying to recruit players.
Plus there is the knowledge he will be here long-term (just like quarterback Kevin Kolb) and that provides some stability. Did the Cards overpay? Let’s see where wide receiver contracts go in the next couple of years before that’s judged. Besides, the Cards are getting more than just a receiver with Fitz. They needed to keep him around for a bunch of reasons.
“If anyone deserves that, it’s him,” quarterback Kevin Kolb said. “There is no doubt he is our leader.”
Tags: Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald
Posted in Blog | 35 Comments »