Appreciate Larry Fitzgerald while you still can

Jan 19, 2016, 11:01 AM | Updated: 2:25 pm
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) celebrates his catch in the red zone to set u...
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) celebrates his catch in the red zone to set up a game winning touchdown against the Green Bay Packers during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 26-20 in overtime. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

To think that a year ago this time the Valley was concerned about the future of Larry Fitzgerald. With a $23.6 million dollar cap hit coming up we all knew there was no way that Arizona could keep its franchise face at that price. Arizona needed to renegotiate with Fitzgerald, but needed him to agree to take a massive pay cut in order to make a deal work. Two teams — Cleveland and Oakland — were willing to trade for Fitzgerald and pay him the $23.6 million because they needed credibility.

The Cardinals organization loved Fitzgerald but they viewed him as an older player who was in a steady decline and no longer capable of putting up the numbers that made him one of the game’s great wide receivers. In fact, the organization viewed him as a fourth option behind Michael Floyd, John Brown and Andre Ellington.

But Michael Bidwill was intent on getting a deal done and keeping Fitzgerald home. Home is where Fitz has two children, has endorsements with companies like University of Phoenix and Desert Schools. Home is Arizona, and for the first time in his career, Fitzgerald was open to the pay cut.

He could have hit the open market and maybe got a 3-year deal for $24 million from some team in need of a wide receiver. But he actually did better during that five-minute negotiation at Bidwill’s house. Fitz got a two-year deal for $22 million to stay in Arizona and remain the face of the franchise.

No one at that time of the signing could have imagined he would turn back the clock and put up numbers reminiscent of his prime. He had a career high 109 receptions for 1,215 yards and nine touchdowns. And then he tacked on a performance for the ages versus Green Bay in the Divisional Round playoff game on Saturday, grabbing eight balls for 176 yards and a touchdown.

Clearly keeping Fitz was the right thing to do. But it won’t be long before we are back to wondering about Fitzgerald’s future. He now has one year left on his contract and there is some thought with those that know him that next year could be his last season in the NFL. That he could retire not wanting to go through the grind of training camp, the ice tubs, the therapy. The game has taken a toll on his body and there is probably a cozy TV gig waiting for him if he decides to make 2016 his final season, plus quite a few endorsement opportunities. He could also decide to take it year-by-year and maybe play an extra season if the money is right.

Either way we know the end is near for Fitzgerald. It’s highly unlikely he would ever put on another uniform. At this point he is going to retire a Cardinal. So enjoy him while you can because this time next year we could be debating whether we have seen the last of Larry Legend.

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Appreciate Larry Fitzgerald while you still can