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.



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Posted in Blog | 15 Comments »

15 Responses to “The price of Fitzgerald’s future”

  1. By Cards4Ever on Jul 27, 2014 | Reply

    I’m not sure how it will get done, but I believe Fitz will retire a Cardinal. The team and Fitz have always found common ground and I don’t expect this time around to be any different. #birdgang

  2. By Daniel Sotelo on Jul 27, 2014 | Reply

    Fitz is the ambassador I can’t see him going to another team. I know it’s a business, but I think he deserves a lot from this organization. He has been a true professional on and off the field since he got drafted. He deserves a ring from this team.

  3. By jwoodaz on Jul 27, 2014 | Reply

    yeah yeah yeah, and aneas williams was always a Cardinal, an wait, what?

  4. By Dobie on Jul 27, 2014 | Reply

    And down the line he will make a great receiver coach

  5. By Dr. G. on Jul 27, 2014 | Reply

    One cannot criticize a player for going for the gold when dialing for dollars. $$$ –

    But $120,000,000 potentially? Keim accelerated some of this payment in February. .. Fitz tweeted he was helping the team get better trying to make it look like he did the team a favor. There was no pay cut! And he got more up front. Darren can explain this better. Fitz has been paid very well…the Cards take care of him..

    The 2011 agreement, with guarantees near $50 million, is by far the biggest in the franchise’s history, and was supposed to keep him with the team through the 2018 season. ((ESPN)) He and his agent caught the previous mgmt in an apprehensive and cloudy moment to get his contract.

    Fitz has been an classic standard for the Cards and the NFL…he is a fan favorite…and too, the team must continue to do what is BEST FOR THE TEAM’s success… Let’s not make this about 1 player….we have been down that road too many times…. CARDS FANS are the best!

  6. By JohnnyBluenose on Jul 27, 2014 | Reply

    No doubt Fitz wants to stay and ownership wants him to stay. He will be offered a new deal that makes financial sense for the organization, one that will allow our younger stars to be paid. I think the decision for Fitz will depend a lot on how well we do this year. If we don’t make the play-offs I would expect Fitz to want to go elsewhere where there is almost a certainty of play-off success….like his buddy Anquan Boldin has enjoyed the last four years since he and the Cardinals parted ways. Hopefully we will live up to our potential this year and Fitz will remain a Cardinal for another FOUR MORE YEARS !!!

  7. By Scott H on Jul 27, 2014 | Reply

    Well, I’m taking my cue from Fitz himself and I’m just gonna worry about / focus on getting ready for THIS season. Come Feb, I’ll start to lose sleep over what happens next. And I probably WILL be losing sleep if it looks like the two sides are not coming together. I know age is a factor, it always is. But let’s also remember that guys like TO and Reggie Wayne remained quite productive into their mid 30’s and then some. Fitz has the physical conditioning and the mental game to be able to do that.

  8. By Chuck 1 on Jul 27, 2014 | Reply


    What do the top five WRs make per year?

  9. By Darren Urban on Jul 28, 2014 | Reply

    Chuck 1 —

    RE: Top 5 WRs

    Here are the top WR cap numbers for 2015:

    Larry Fitzgerald Cardinals $23,600,000
    Calvin Johnson Lions $20,558,000
    Andre Johnson Texans $16,144,583
    Dwayne Bowe Chiefs $14,000,000
    Percy Harvin Seahawks $12,900,000
    Vincent Jackson Buccaneers $12,209,777

  10. By Cardsfan1955 on Jul 28, 2014 | Reply

    Fitz knows his legacy in Arizona and how important it is to tht team and the fans. Yes, he has been well compensated and has more than held up his end of the bargain in return. His relationship with the team is much like a good marriage – if you want it to go the distance, compromises must be made. The Cardinals should do everything in their power to ensure that Fitz retires as a Cardinal, as he has been and continues to be the best “face of the franchise” a team could hope for. Fitz knows this and should do what is necessary to secure his legacy by accepting the realities of salary caps and making the compromise to keep him in line with the team’s operating cap. He knows that in order for a team to be competitive enough to win a Super Bowl (which, let’s face it should be part of his legacy), other important team members (all of them actually) will need to be compensated. If he wants his legacy to be with the Cardinals, I’m sure he knows he must be willing to “sacrifice” whatever is necessary to help make that a reality.

  11. By Chuck 1 on Jul 28, 2014 | Reply

    Thanks, Darren.

    As you probably guessed, I was too “lazy” to look it up. 🙂

    I don’t understand why Kent Somers thinks that Fitz would agree to $6-$8M when the lowest paid of the five that you named earns $12.2M.

    Especially, when Fitz (and many others) think that he is the best WR in the NFL.

    I don’t think that he’ll agree to any salary less than double digits.

  12. By Darren Urban on Jul 28, 2014 | Reply

    Chuck 1 —

    RE: Fitz

    He may not agree. But do you think he’ll get more than that on the open market? At (what will be) going on age 32?

    And as much as I like Fitz, at his age, I am not sure he is still viewed through that prism.

  13. By Chuck 1 on Jul 29, 2014 | Reply

    His salary demand will probably depend on his stats this season and his health.
    If his stats measure up to the five WRs listed above, his agent and he might play hardball.
    I hope that Kent and you are correct that he’ll be willing to accept less than $10M.
    Otherwise Keim will have a difficult decision with many fans “demanding” that Keim sign him no matter what Fitz wants.

  14. By Darren Urban on Jul 29, 2014 | Reply

    Chuck 1 —

    RE: Fitz

    Depends. If the Cards win 10 or 11 games, the fans will be in a more forgiving mood. And it’s about difficult decisions. The fans weren’t happy he cut Adrian Wilson either.

  15. By Kevin S Mesa on Jul 29, 2014 | Reply

    Exactly as Darren says… difficult decisions. I for one was glad about the A-Dub cut, not because I wanted to see him go, but because it was the only move that made sense. Fans want a winning football team and you can’t use up your precious salary cap over-paying for guys who are no longer productive. In baseball (no cap), if the owner wants to throw megamillions at the aging star to keep the fans happy, all it triggers is the luxury tax. It doesn’t mean sacrifcing the ability to keep other guys around.

    I absolutely want Fitz to stay, but there is a dollar amount — not sure what it is yet, because I want to see him play in 2014 — above which we need to say goodbye if it comes to that. I’m hoping it won’t, but fans can’t just demand that we keep him at any cost. Maybe a slight premium due to his being a great team ambassador, “face of the franchise,” or whatever you want to call it, but not 15M plus another 8M bonus.

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