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Larry Fitzgerald’s future

Posted by Darren Urban on January 2, 2015 – 9:14 am

Larry Fitzgerald is a Cardinal. And he could stay a Cardinal. That’s really about as far as anyone can go right now with the question of the future of Fitz in Arizona.

As the season reaches its end – every game now could be the last for the Cards, unless it’s not – it’s easy to understand why the future of the team begins to leak into the conversation. That’s natural. It’s also natural to wonder what might happen with Fitzgerald, whose contract has made late February/early March of 2015 the tipping point of what happens with him with this team.

First, the details. Fitzgerald’s salary isn’t crazy for 2015. He makes “only” $8 million in his base pay. But he also stands to receive an $8 million roster bonus in early March, right before free agency – and that’s the key. It’s in his contract to specifically create this kind of decision. He’s not the only player to have such a device. If he gets that money, his cap number shoots up, and when you add in prorated bonus money already paid and workout bonuses, that’s how you end up with the gigantic cap number of $23.6 million in 2015. (The overall salary cap for each team in 2015 is expected to be around $140 million, before team-by-team adjustments.) Having one player take up that much cap space probably isn’t a great idea.

To not pay him the roster bonus means you are severing the contract, and releasing him. So, between the looming roster bonus and that cap number, it’s been basically understood something was going to happen with Fitz this offseason. Fitzgerald himself acknowledged such before the season.

“The cap number is what the cap number is,” Fitzgerald said in September. “I could go out this year and get 2,600 yards and that cap number is still going to have to be addressed, know what I mean? It doesn’t matter how well I play or how bad I play, it’s going to be addressed. I don’t even think about it.”

Fitz is still not thinking about it. Of course, he didn’t get 2,600 yards. He didn’t even get 800 yards, and that probably is something that must be taken into account too – Fitzgerald wants to win a Super Bowl, but he also wants to get into the Hall of Fame, and his numbers haven’t been gaudy of late as a Cardinal. He isn’t going to be the focal point of this offense, not when Bruce Arians wants to make sure the ball moves around. Fitzgerald will never say anything publicly, because it isn’t his way. When he does note such things, they are cloaked in his comments, like when he said earlier this season worrying about targets are “champagne problems.”

General Manager Steve Keim recently said Fitz’s cap number is “baked in” to the budget for 2015, and while I’m sure that’s true, different decisions on the roster will have to be made if that number must be accounted for or not. (If Fitz is released or traded, the Cardinals will still have $14.4 million of dead cap space with which to absorb.) Keim also said it is the Cardinals’ intent to have Fitz retire as a Cardinal – although “intent” gives everyone some leeway. Fitz leaving impacts both sides. The Cardinals don’t want to lose an icon. Fitzgerald, even as a star, probably wouldn’t stand upon the same pedestal in any other city with any other team than the one he lives upon in Arizona, where fans adore him. (Maybe Minnesota, where he’s from. Maybe.)

In the end, this is an evolving thing. Keim and Fitzgerald’s agent Eugene Parker I’m sure are talking. Fitzgerald, who will be 32 in August, has restructured before for the Cardinals to lower cap numbers, including before this season. But in NFL parlance, restructuring just means moving money around to help the cap and any savings are just pushed down the road on the cap. At this point, it seems likely the Cards would look for a pay reduction rather than restructure.

So that’s the scenario as it stands now. I don’t think anything has been decided by either side. As with any negotiations, deadlines create action and we are still weeks away from March and Fitzgerald has other things on his mind – like Saturday’s playoff game in Carolina. Sweating the details at this point seems premature. But this isn’t out of nowhere. This is exactly how this was always going to play out, perhaps going back to when Fitz signed this extension in 2011. Such is the business of the NFL.

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Posted in Blog | 41 Comments »


41 Responses to “Larry Fitzgerald’s future”

  1. By gbrim on Jan 2, 2015 | Reply

    Darren–

    How could they declare him a June release to stretch the cap impact, but still not pay the March roster bonus? Seems like they are stuck with a one-year cap hit unless there is an out in the cap rules.

  2. By Darren Urban on Jan 2, 2015 | Reply

    gbrim —

    RE: Cap hit

    Good point.

  3. By krehbieo14 on Jan 2, 2015 | Reply

    Darren-

    Great summary! I think a key factor in this decision is Fitz’s role within the Arians offense. IMO, if he leaves it will be primarily because of his dissatisfaction regarding that issue. Money can be moved around or negotiated, but his role is static.

  4. By sbrown on Jan 2, 2015 | Reply

    Larry’s past seasons results are directly tied to the QB woes that the Cards have struggled through.
    Back in 2012 in a 5 win season with four starting QB’s Fitz only had 71 receptions for 798 yards.
    Then in 2013, with Palmer at QB, after the offense got the hang of the BA playbook, Fitz had 82 receptions for 954 yards.
    Now in 2014, again with four starting QB’s, Fitz had a drop in numbers down to 63 receptions ( which did lead the team ) for 784 yards.
    IMO, if the team can rework the huge cap number, and Palmer is back 100%, Larry can still be a top WR in the League.

  5. By georgiebird on Jan 2, 2015 | Reply

    Darren,
    This isn’t the 1950s when a guy played his career with the same team. Even HOFs like Joe Montana and Aeneas Williams (among many others) played for another team(s).
    Larry is an icon with the Cardinals but this is a business and the team comes first.
    Steve Keim is also building his own body of work. In the last two years, the Cards’ record has been great and Keim gets high marks.
    Keim has done well to get BA, Palmer, Stanton and a group of other starters on short term deals. He has done just ok on the past two drafts and the PP deal will haunt him long term.
    The Cards haven’t dominated this year even with CP playing. The winning margins have been slim.
    Larry must go – he can’t be replaced but Floyd has to step up. This gives us a chance to bring more speed into the WR group.
    Like Boldin, I hope Larry gets a ring with the Pats, Broncos or Saints. But the Cards have to move on and Keim needs a lot of defensive players to make it back to the playoffs. Slim margins work both ways.

  6. By clssylssy on Jan 2, 2015 | Reply

    Fitz is the epitome of class and of what a Hall-of-Famer should be. That he has been the face of the Cardinal franchise, has been a source of enormous pride that many of us could celebrate, and I can’t for the life of me understand why you want to get this very demoralizing thread started when we should be celebrating the playoffs and putting all our energy into supporting the team?

  7. By IO on Jan 2, 2015 | Reply

    If the Cards accept his current cap #, would it continue to be that high, or would it drop the season after?

  8. By Darren Urban on Jan 2, 2015 | Reply

    IO —

    RE: Future cap numbers

    His cap numbers drop to a little over $17M over the next three years of his deal.

  9. By Richard L on Jan 2, 2015 | Reply

    Darren,

    I understand there was a players only meeting this week. Did you get any information on the outcome or content of the meeting?

  10. By Darren Urban on Jan 2, 2015 | Reply

    Richard L —

    RE: Meeting

    Will have a mention in my “Friday before,” which I am writing now.

  11. By jme on Jan 2, 2015 | Reply

    enough of this stuff, dumb Fox started this all, go figure… Its Playoffs and every article needs to be as such (Beating the Panthers!!!) The Red D has got to show up!! Mend those wounds from last two games and show the nation who the Cardinals are (TEAM of Champs!!!)

  12. By jme on Jan 2, 2015 | Reply

    Lindley will have a Super Game!!! I just feel it, know it!!! Cards dont loose 3 in a row and when they lost two in a row I just know we are looking at WINS the next few games!!!!!! Lets go RED Lets do this!!!!!

  13. By Kurt on Jan 2, 2015 | Reply

    Consideration for the NFL down the road. If the NFL allowed each team one contract exemption that would not apply to the CAP then these decisions would be all about the money. This would also keep them from being forced to make these very unpopular decisions for the fans sake.

  14. By Mark in Chandler on Jan 2, 2015 | Reply

    Another contract to watch is Docket’s. His balloons up as well and the Cards will have to have him take a reduction as well.

  15. By clssylssy on Jan 2, 2015 | Reply

    Larry’s stats are a direct result of the Arians/Keim design and have nothing to do with his skill level or value to the team. We all saw how well we performed without Fitz in Atlanta and Seattle and despite efforts to promote Patrick Peterson, Michael Floyd, Calais, and others to a more prominent role, Larry is still the face of the Arizona Cardinals. It’s real hard to rack up the yards if you don’t get targeted or are played in the slot. And, do we ever hear him complain…no, he is always a team first guy who is the model of what we want football players to be on and off the field.
    Keim has steadfastly sworn that Fitz would retire a Card as his contract has been restructured so that the team could pay other players and achieve the success we’ve had. Everyone is trying to make this all about Fitz’s wanting to get paid, and I’m 100% behind him! If anyone has earned a payday it’s Larry Fitzgerald! I’m just saddened that the Cards aren’t exhibiting the same class as Fitz but are trying to welch on their word while trying to make it the other guy’s fault! Geez…and fans wonder why we still get no respect?

  16. By sbrown on Jan 2, 2015 | Reply

    talking cap numbers, I think SK will need to do something with D. Washington, I believe he is now due his 10 million bonus, that the Cards deferred last spring. That, Docket and Fitz are three big cap issues as well as resigning / extending any current Cardinal players…but first bring home a W from Carolina, Go Cards !

  17. By John The Draft Guy on Jan 2, 2015 | Reply

    jme,

    I think Darren is just pointing out that this could be Larry’s last game as a cardinal.
    Or maybe one more.

    After watching Fitz since 2004, These playoffs could be bitter sweet.

  18. By superbowlcards on Jan 2, 2015 | Reply

    Let me get it out there, Fitz is the man!! The face of the Cardinals, and one of my all time favorites!!
    That said, no player , not Fitz, not PP, not even JJ Watt, (the best player in the NFL) is worth not only $23mil, but he also has very large cap hits after that as well. Just way to much money for 1 player, north of 30 (even though he keeps himself in the very best shape) even with Palmer at QB, Fitz numbers will go up since Carson targets him more, but even 2,000 yards and double th TD’s is still not justif%cation to pay that hu6e cap hit!! If Fitz would agree to drop the $8mil roster bonus, I still dont thin; its enough, maybe a contract that takes him to a 10mil cap hit works, that gives the Cardinals $12mil (guessing on the cap hit, but think it is ballpark) but the $12mill could resign Cromartie and allow an excellant big name free agent, or two very solid above average rotat%on defensive players, or a big name offensive lineman, and a proven veteran Workhorse RB!! Brady took a $24mil paycut for his team, now its time for Larry to take one for the team and at the least, cut that roster bonus and a tad more so the Cardinals can add some key players and get Fitz a ring’….as a Cardinal, of course!!!!
    As for Docket, someone mentioned his salary balloons in 2015, I thought he was due around $9mil? If that is accurate, I wouldnt say that is “ballooning”, $6-7mil for all that DD has done is a true bargain, he has been underpaid most of his time in the league, I would say $9mil is fair, although they could probably get him for the $6-7mil I mentioned above. Of course, I’m not employed by the Cardinals, so strickly just laying out my opinion, thanks.

  19. By Steve on Jan 2, 2015 | Reply

    Darren: Contract issues aside, just based on ability alone what do you think the Cards could get in return for trading Larry? Does a 2 and a 4 sound about right regarding picks?

  20. By Darren Urban on Jan 3, 2015 | Reply

    Steve —

    RE: Trade

    Problems with a trade:

    1) Fitz’s contract stays the same, meaning some team would have to be willing to take on $16 million or so in cash for 2015.
    2) In order for it to work, Cards will have a five-day window between when they can start trading and when they have to pay the roster bonus. After that, they have to pay the bonus and then in a trade, that’d mean they’d have to eat the $8M (which won’t happen.)
    3) The Cards, for a soon-to-be-32-year-old, won’t get two draft picks for him. I’m not sure they can even get a second for him, given his contract.

  21. By Scott H on Jan 2, 2015 | Reply

    Let’s get back to Fitz when the season is over and the issue will move to the forefront. We got a playoff game tomorrow!

    Let’s focus.

  22. By superbowlcards on Jan 2, 2015 | Reply

    I’m in shock at the lack of faith and respect that our Cardinals are getting, cant recall any so called expert, or any NFL fans picking the Arizona Cardinals to beat Carolina!!
    Outside of die hard Cardinal fans, seems nobody is giving us a chance!! I realize injuries have decimated this team, it is not the same team at all due to injuries, and we have had far more Injuries to key players than any other team bar none, but Carolina has a losing record for christ sake!!! Hopefully this lack of respect will fire our guys up, and they come out and lay an ass beating on Carolina!!
    Hopefully if Lindley plays like the typical Lindley, BA will pull him and turn the reins over to Thomas to try and secure victory- it is lose and go home, so pulling one QB for another isnt that drastic in this situation!!

    Look…nobody gave Ohio St a prayer in hell, Alabama, was the best team from the best conference, so OSU was beaten before they even took the field, and we all know the outcome of that game!!
    Oh, and most of you already know this, but for those who dont follow college football…Ohio St QB is their 3RD STRING QB!!!

  23. By Dr. G. on Jan 2, 2015 | Reply

    clssy…. Your Fitz loyalty is admirable…. But, this is hardly a demoralizing thread. It has been the subject of discussion the entire year…or two… To me it points to an incompetent decision when the contract was extended. Let us keep Larry…and let’s have sensibility about it…be well

  24. By dave on Jan 2, 2015 | Reply

    Fitz time in Arizona is done time to come home to minnesota

  25. By Eazy E on Jan 3, 2015 | Reply

    I don’t understand for the life of me why this is really a question?! The hot mess that is our QB position and you expect Fitz to put up better numbers than he have, you are deluded! Fitz has given his all to the ARIZONA CARDINALS and they haven’t done the same at QB! Also, while I love the ”Mad Scientist” Bruce Arians, Fitz should be the top #1 All Everything WR like Dez, Calvin, A.J., Demaryius, Julio, Roddy, Jordy, Antonio Brown, T.Y., Steve Smith Sr., Torrey Smith, etc. He can still be that great and dominant! If we don’t realize that, another team will gladly! I would so strongly dislike seeing the picture of Fitz in another jersey, but if we continue his sortive diminished role compared to in the past and the past being a couple years ago, I’d rather him get his money, a ring or rings, and in my opinion a surefire Hall Of Famer!

  26. By joe.holst on Jan 3, 2015 | Reply

    anything over 10 million for him is overpaying and bloated contracts do not win championships.

  27. By Dr. G. on Jan 3, 2015 | Reply

    Darren… Remind us of the window dates please… March?

  28. By Darren Urban on Jan 3, 2015 | Reply

    Dr. G —

    RE: Window

    My understanding is bonus must be paid by 5th day of league year. League year starts March 10.

  29. By Carson Palmer on Jan 3, 2015 | Reply

    I SEE LARRY WITH LIGHTENING BOLTS ON HIS HELMET VERY SOON.

  30. By dude on Jan 3, 2015 | Reply

    Bad play calls should put in rookie bowles dont deserve head coach job despite injuries Arian’s needs better judgment on qbs there’s others out there at same money

  31. By woodmanone on Jan 3, 2015 | Reply

    I see the numbers and understand the cap problems. However, there are players that are worth more than the money they get or is charged to the team. Larry is what all football players should be. He never complains, reference the clown act of QB’s since Werner and before Palmer. That fiasco was caused by Rod Graves and Ken Wehisenhunt and yet you never heard a word of complaint from Larry; he just played and gave it his all.

    I probably wouldn’t be a good business man with a football team because I think character and leadership is more important than money concerns.

    If Larry decides to leave I don’t feel it will be about money. He deserves a chance to show that he is still one of the best receivers in the game.

    We hope he will stay with the Big Red but if he leaves we will continue to root for him and follow his career.

    Thank you Larry for all you’ve meant and hopefully will mean to we the fans. Best of luck sir.

    Woody Leach

  32. By dylan on Jan 3, 2015 | Reply

    keep larry u won’t get anyone better and jersey $ will drop because thats the only jersey i see from the cardinals in town

  33. By Kevin Thompson on Jan 3, 2015 | Reply

    I don’t think voters would have ever voted to approve the Cardinal stadium if Larry Fitzgerald wasn’t on the team.

  34. By Darren Urban on Jan 3, 2015 | Reply

    Kevin —

    RE: Stadium

    The vote for the stadium was in 2000.

    Fitzgerald wasn’t drafted until 2004.

  35. By cardsfan89 on Jan 3, 2015 | Reply

    Thoughts from the Cardinals perspective. Losing Larry isn’t going to be a huge impact in regards to the fan base and although losing an icon sucks for all of us, we understand it’s a business. As long as he is replaced with a WR that can go over the middle and get exactly 10 yards when you need him to (ie. A Boldin type) then we will be ok. A huge part of our offense was missing when he was out putting that much more pressure on the QB.
    From Larry perspective…. if he wants to win, it may be worth it to stay with Arizona, lessor role or not. We should have an excellent team next year and make another run. Especially if we resign Dan Williams or find an equal replacement and get some guys back.

  36. By Ottis Anderson Fan on Jan 3, 2015 | Reply

    I think Larry would like to play elsewhere next year given his reduced role in BA’s offense. But if Fitz does want to return, would Carson Palmer be willing to take a pay cut instead of Larry if doing so could make Larry affordabe?

  37. By tyman on Jan 3, 2015 | Reply

    The call on the backwards pass was so messed up. Sounded like some tuck rule bull. If the pass was backwards it should have been a fumble.
    Didnt really matter. Lindley wasnt the answer, and that wasnt hard to tell.
    Whats his TD to INT?

  38. By JillAnne Avoledo on Jan 4, 2015 | Reply

    Moving here from Detroit I wasn’t much of a football fan. Fitz is the reason I started watching football again. His personality shines, he can make you a believer. Losing him would be worse then Detroit losing Barry Sanders. He’s not just a player he defines the Arizona Cardinals, never give in attitude. They are good peep’s. He like the rest of the team deserve a ring. Let’s keep him here and get it for him.

  1. 3 Trackback(s)

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