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Larry Fitzgerald should be appreciated even if Saturday is his last game with the Arizona Cardinals

No one, not even Larry Fitzgerald himself knows for sure if Saturday’s game against the Carolina Panthers will be his final game in an Arizona Cardinals uniform.

Only time will tell.

Arizona general manager Steve Keim has said all the right things about wanting Fitzgerald to return for a 12th season in Arizona.

Keim has talked about wanting Fitz to retire as a Cardinal. He has mentioned having his 2015 salary and cap number already budgeted. But Keim has never guaranteed he would come back only saying it is his intent to have him back.

The face of the franchise is scheduled to count an astonishing $23.6 million dollars against the salary cap next season. That’s a lot of money and Arizona could probably do a few things if they either cut Fitz or get him to take a massive pay cut. By cutting him before June 1, Arizona could save $9.2 million dollars on the cap and get his contract, which runs through 2018, off their books. A trade is possible but probably a longshot, although a team trading for Fitzgerald would likely rip up the current contract and give him a new deal.

Look I know its not the popular decision here but I have no problem with Arizona cutting Larry if he doesn’t want to play for what his true value is and that’s probably around $8 million dollars per year on a short-term deal. Anquan Boldin, the former Cardinals wideout, signed a 2-year $12 million dollar deal with the 49ers and although he’s two years older, he has had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and is more productive than his former teammate.

I know, I know.

How could anyone want to see Fitz playing in another uniform. He has meant so much to this organization and this community. I get it. I do. But, it’s a business and it makes NO business sense to keep the franchise’s all-time receiving leader at the money he is scheduled to make.

And let’s make no mistake about this. If Fitz leaves and plays elsewhere it does nothing to tarnish his reputation in Arizona.

He is and he always will be one of the greatest Cardinals players and one of the greatest athletes to ever play in Arizona.

He is a future Ring of Honor member and a future Cardinals Hall of Famer.

I mean, let’s be honest. It sucked that Steve Nash went to play for the Los Angeles Lakers, but he will go in the Suns Ring of Honor and always be remembered for his two MVP awards and that 7-seconds-or-less offense.

Aeneas Williams and Larry Centers, both legendary Cardinals players, both finished their careers with other organizations. Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice, Eric Dickerson, Peyton Manning, Johnny Unitas and Tony Dorsett are just a few of the greatest players in NFL history that finished their careers playing for someone other than where they became legendary.

Fitz is still good. But he is a glorified tight end in this offense. He is a slot receiver. They don’t run fade routes to him. They don’t go downfield to him. That job is now Michael Floyd and John Brown’s. He is a third option at best and his numbers show that. He is not a 1,000-yard receiver anymore, at least not in this offense.

Again, he is still good. He can help the Cardinals win games. And for 11 years he has been paid like one of the best players in the game. Now, it’s time for him to play for the pay he is worth. And if he doesn’t want to do that then you simply say “thank you” for all you have done and we will see you in a few years when we hang a banner with your name on it from the University of Phoenix Stadium rafters.