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Blogs

The price of Fitzgerald’s future

Posted by Darren Urban on July 27, 2014 – 9:43 am

For awhile, Larry Fitzgerald was the only one on the field.

It was Friday, and the Cardinals were scheduled to have their conditioning test in a matter of minutes and Fitz was out, warming up by his lonesome. Turned out that the strength and conditioning staff had their own warmup planned, and the Cardinals were going to come out on the field together led by Bruce Arians. But Fitz didn’t know that yet and he wanted to make sure he was ready to run. In the end, he didn’t have to run as much as the other receivers — those long-time vets were subtly pulled out by Arians — but Fitz was ready. He is still driven to be as good as he ever was, and that includes running at the outset of camp.

But the NFL isn’t just about work ethic and talent. It’s about business and the salary cap and the puzzle that is a pro roster. So the months are going by and Fitzgerald’s future in Arizona is coming to a watershed moment. This is a subject that has been touched on many times, by myself and others. Kent Somers has a quality, detailed breakdown of Fitzgerald’s bulky contract right here.

Next year, Fitz’s salary is more than $15 million. He also is due a roster bonus in early March of $8 million, a mechanism used in many contracts in large part to force a decision by the team. Something will have to happen by then. Those two numbers are how his cap figure  jumps to more $23 million next year. (A trade isn’t happening, by the way. The Cardinals absorb more than $14 million in dead cap money whether they trade him or cut him, but a trade means the new team has to inherit that contract. I don’t see anyone taking on such a contract.) Kent suggests a new deal paying Fitz between $6M and $8M could make it work. I guess the question would be what Fitz might make on the open market.

None of this is new news, really, other than the passage of time. This was created not just when Fitz signed his last contract extension in 2011 but also when he got his previous one in 2008 and even when he signed his rookie deal. That the Cardinals will have made it through 11 seasons is impressive in itself. The new CBA of 2011, which flattened the cap, and the reality of Fitz simply getting older also are factors.

So much depends on what Fitz will want to do. I don’t see a scenario other that a pay reduction in which Fitz stays in Arizona. I think it’ll matter how he does this season, his second in Arians’ offense. I think how the team does will matter. I truly believe the decision won’t just be about money with him. Once, I don’t think I would have said that. But he is and always will be a megastar in Arizona, regardless of what happens on the field, and if he went elsewhere, it wouldn’t be the same.

The Cardinals want Fitz to stay around. I think Fitz wants to stay around. I think Fitz would rather think about where his name might be emblazoned in University of Phoenix Stadium for the Ring of Honor rather than his contract. We’ll see. There’s a season to play, and Fitz is focused on getting ready for that. But the future eventually becomes the present.

FitzBySelf

 


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Dock’s unique (*@!%) perspective on Fitz

Posted by Darren Urban on July 25, 2014 – 4:44 pm

Darnell Dockett was talking Friday about being a veteran and whether the window was closing on players like himself and Larry Fitzgerald, both of whom are going into their 11th season. “The position I play is the most physical position on the field,” Dockett said. “Can’t do it 20, 21 years.”

Then Dockett decided to have a little fun at Fitzgerald’s expense, punctuated with a few words that won’t be able to be played over the air.

“Larry, that’s a different position,” Dockett said. “He plays wide receiver. Play that (expletive) as long as you want. Jerry Rice played, what, 18 years? Larry is always in shape, Larry will probably be 20 (seasons) in the (expletive) league. He never gets hit, he always falls down, he don’t get tackled.”

Dockett was smiling and he got chuckles from those listening. Someone chimed in that Fitz was also everybody’s friend in the league too, which may or may not help him from taking the particularly nasty hits.

“Of course, he gets Pro Bowl votes, (and) with 600 receiving yards he’s the starting wide receiver in the Pro Bowl,” Dockett continued, smile still in place. “He’s the friendliest guy I’ve ever (expletive) met in my life.

“My position, you ain’t gonna have no friends. You shake hands after the game but during the game you’re trying to kill each other. I’m fortunate to be playing the position at the highest level. I don’t look at the years as far as the window closing. I look at it the opportunities to play the snaps. I’m blessed. Unfortunately I’m not 185 and 6-3 and run and catch fade routes all game. I do the dirty work. I’m all good. I’m thankful. Somebody’s got to do it.”

DockForBlog


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Fitz in MLB all-star softball game

Posted by Darren Urban on July 14, 2014 – 10:12 pm

Larry Fitzgerald is at home in Minnesota for a few more days, leading the way in his annual summer workouts at the University of Minnesota. So, given the fact Fitz puts on his own celebrity softball game every spring, why wouldn’t Major League Baseball invite Fitz to play a little left-centerfield for the National League in Monday’s celebrity and legends softball game paired with the Home Run Derby.

Larry Fitzgerald

Not sure about Fitz’s actual line, but his N.L. team won, 14-4, and I saw Fitz ground a single up the middle when ESPN replayed the game late Monday night and my sons for some reason had the game on TV. I’ll give Fitz this, he’s come a long way from when he took BP with the Diamondbacks a couple of years ago.


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Larry Fitzgerald takes part in MLB Celebrity Softball Game

Posted by since1898 on July 14, 2014 – 10:17 am

 

BACK TO #since1898


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Fitzgerald as an Angel — and Holy

Posted by Darren Urban on July 10, 2014 – 10:08 am

Randomly found this video the other day that works well for a #throwbackThursday: Larry Fitzgerald high school highlights and interview from his time in Minnesota playing for the Academy of Holy Angels — even before he had chosen to play at the University of Pittsburgh. Funny, the way he talks and acts, he’s not a whole lot different some 14 years later. Speaking of Minnesota (and a throwback), here’s a story I did a couple years back on Fitz’s Minnesota roots.


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Fitzgerald’s body, and his obsession

Posted by Darren Urban on July 8, 2014 – 8:38 am

As promised, the ESPN Magazine called “The Body Issue” has been released and Larry Fitzgerald is one of the featured athletes. A video and interview with Fitz can be found here, and while I’m not going to break down any photos of Fitz au naturel (there is a pic from the magazine below), there were a couple of answers in the interview that caught my eye. (Other than the line about how random older ladies occasionally grab his butt in the mall.)

One, that Fitz wears gloves — post practice. Usually, in practice, he just tapes up his thumbs. “Every day after practice I put gloves on — they are these really tight, stiff mitts, and they make you work extremely hard to close and open your hands,” Fitz says. “It strengthens my hands, especially the thumbs — your thumbs are really what control your grip.”

The other isn’t as much of a surprise as a confirmation of where Fitz’s mindset is even a decade into his NFL career. “I’m obsessed with my craft,” he said. “I just want to squeeze every single drop out of the lemon that I possibly can. I don’t want to have any regrets, and to this point I can sleep at night.”

mag14_bww_larryfitzgerald02_576x733


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For what it’s worth in June, offensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 27, 2014 – 1:00 pm

Offensively, the Cardinals need to take a step forward this year. They need to so they don’t pressure the defense as much as last year (especially after some unknowns with defensive changes) and they need to so they can keep up in the NFC West arms race. Good news – there is a confidence there it will happen. Who are the guys who will be at the forefront of that plan? Here’s my guess, at least for the regular-season opener. (If you want to see the defensive picks, click here.)

QB – Carson Palmer. Biggest question around Palmer at this point? What happens in 2015, considering Palmer is scheduled to be a free agent after the season. But he is the guy the Cards will ride or die with this season.

RB – Andre Ellington. No-brainer. He’s earned the right, and we’ll see about the touches per game, which I will guess will be 20 to 22 a game.

WR – Larry Fitzgerald. Big year for Fitz, who scored last year like he once did but is still searching for his first 1,000-yard season since 2011 and who is coming to a crossroads – along with the franchise – with his contract in 2015.

WR – Michael Floyd. He’s a star on the rise. He played well last year, and he should be better this season. The third wide receiver should be Ted Ginn, but I fully expect John Brown to at least have a chance to play a role in the offense.

TE – John Carlson. This is assuming he stays healthy, but Carlson has looked good in the offseason and could prove to be a very nice bargain.

TE – Jake Ballard. At some point – maybe not until 2015 – this will be Troy Niklas’ spot. The rookie is far behind right now. Rob Housler still has a chance to work his way into the lineup. But right now, Ballard is feeling good with his knee and he is closer to the blocker that Arians likes.

LT – Jared Veldheer. The left tackle they have always wanted.

LG – Jonathan Cooper. He’s going to be back to health. Time for the 2013 first round pick to get his time on the field and show why the brass so believes in him.

C – Lyle Sendlein. Old reliable is what they want in the middle.

RG – Earl Watford. Paul Fanaika has been running first unit and there is also veteran Ted Larsen lurking as a possibility. But the Cardinals are hoping Watford comes around and takes control of a job he was drafted to have.

RT – Bobby Massie. Another wide open spot. There’s always a possibility of a late-summer free agent signing. Bradley Sowell isn’t go to go away. But Massie has looked better in the offseason work and in a lot of ways, this is probably his last chance to take ahold of the place he held as a rookie.

So that’s that. There will be a lot of time and practices between now and the opener. Injuries happen. Battles will be won or lost. We will see how this guesstimate (educated as it might be) holds up.

BreakHuddleblog


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Peterson at 22 in Top 100 list

Posted by Darren Urban on June 26, 2014 – 8:31 am

The Cardinals have their third and (likely) final player in the NFL Network’s Top 100 of 2014 after Wednesday night’s unveiling of cornerback Patrick Peterson at No. 22 on the list. He follows linebacker Daryl Washington at 96 and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald at 38.

Peterson has made a steady climb. He was 55th in 2012 after his rookie season, 33rd last year and now 22. In the constant chatter of who is better, Peterson will end up lower ranked than Seattle’s Richard Sherman, who has yet to be picked (but is certain to fall in the top 20 after his 2014 season.) But he is ahead of Darrelle Revis (37) and Joe Haden (39). Whatever and however people might want to pick at him this offseason, clearly many of his peers feel he’s pretty good. That’s clear in the video.

With everything that’s been said about Peterson this offseason, it will be interesting to watch how he plays this season – and whether Peterson can climb higher on the list next June.


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Fitz’s body on display for all to see

Posted by Darren Urban on June 25, 2014 – 9:19 am

Every year, ESPN the magazine puts out “The Body Issue,” their answer to Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue — the difference being ESPN uses athletes and does not use swimsuits. Just … well, their bodies. And this year, one of the bodies happens to belong to Larry Fitzgerald.

There are no photos out there yet. The issue is due to hit newsstands July 11 (and mailboxes right before that.) But in a video ESPN did to tease the issue, you indeed see a brief clip of Fitz during his shoot. I managed to capture a screen shot off the web video, which you can see here (Sorry it’s a link and not posted at the bottom, but this is a family website after all). I am a little surprised Fitz decided to do something like this, but he said in a text message this morning “It’s tastefully done.”

Certainly, Fitz is a guy who keeps in excellent shape. He’s in Minnesota right now, about to train as he always does in the dead time before camp. He may be heading directly toward his 31st birthday, but his conditioning and frame are as good as they always were.

There was one funny thing that struck me about the video. At the tail end, as the music fades, you hear one comment: “I can’t believe I’m doing this.” I’ve heard that voice a million times over the years. It was Fitz.

POSTSCRIPT: After I posted this, @CPDizzle on Twitter shot me this link from an ESPN Magazine ad circa 1998. I had to laugh.

tempFitzCamp--nfl_mezz_1280_1024.BandSitupsUSE

 

 


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Fitz still impresses peers for Top 100 spot

Posted by Darren Urban on June 18, 2014 – 10:15 pm

For the same reason Larry Fitzgerald keeps making the Pro Bowl — vast respect from his peers — is the same reason the Cardinals receiver again got into the top 40 of NFL players even though his numbers have been down the last couple of years. The NFL Network is again doing their “Top 100″ countdown over the summer, and Fitzgerald clocked in at No. 38 Wednesday night. He’s the second Cardinal to make this year’s list (we won’t talk about who else has already been named.)

Fitzgerald has been falling over the years. In 2012, he was seventh. Last year. he was 22nd. (He was 14th on the initial list in 2011.) There are some high-profile receivers that are behind Fitzgerald on the list, although despite his “low” yardage total of 954 this past season (still much better than 2012’s 798) he did have 10 touchdowns and as you can see on the video, opponents still worry about him. We’ll see if Fitz can find a way to climb up again after this season, with a second year in Bruce Arians’ offense.

The Top 100 list has now reached the top 30. Patrick Peterson should make it in at some point — I’m not sure he tops Richard Sherman again this year, but it’ll be interesting wherever he ends up.


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