ARIZONA CARDINALS

Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians: Larry Fitzgerald can still be a big part of offense

Jan 5, 2015, 9:26 PM | Updated: Jan 6, 2015, 4:30 pm

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As soon as the Arizona Cardinals’ playoff loss at the Carolina Panthers on Saturday was complete, speculation about the future of wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald ramped up.

Last month, general manager Steve Keim said he wants Fitzgerald to retire a Cardinal. But the 11-year pro may prove to be unaffordable, as he’s set to count $23.6 million against the salary cap in the 2015 season.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said the 31-year-old can still be an important part of the offense.

“I love Larry. I think he brings a ton to the table, a lot of energy and a lot of leadership. The more we have success offensively, the more balls there are to go around. But to think of him of the days 10 years ago with 120 catches and all that, I’m sure those days are gone,” Arians told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Monday.

“Eighty catches and a big part of the offense? Yeah, he’s still a big part of that.”

After posting five consecutive 80-catch, 1,000-plus-yard seasons from 2007-11, Fitzgerald’s numbers have taken a dive from 2012-14. He’s averaging 72 catches for 845 yards per season during that span.

This season, Fitzgerald missed action for the first time since 2007 when a knee injury sidelined him for two games in late November. He hauled in just 63 catches for 784 yards and two touchdowns in the 2014 regular season.

Arians credited Fitzgerald with playing at a high level until the knee injury, but he guessed Fitzgerald was just 70 to 80 percent healthy thereafter.

“He was playing really, really well until he hurt that knee,” he said.

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