Source: Fitzgerald doesn’t expect to be with Cardinals next season
TEMPE, Ariz. — Larry Fitzgerald does not expect to be back with the Cardinals next season, a source familiar with the situation told FOX Sports Arizona on Wednesday. That could make Saturday’s wild-card playoff game in Charlotte, N.C., the final game of the Valley icon’s Arizona career.
"It has not crossed my mind," Fitzgerald said Wednesday after the Cardinals practice. "I’m in the midst of an opportunity that doesn’t come too often, so all my energy and everything is focused on helping my team win."
Last week, general manager Steve Keim confirmed a Pro Football Talk report that the Cardinals had no plans to cut Fitzgerald despite an unworkable $23.6 million cap number next season, which would account for about 17 percent of the projected $141 million salary cap.
"I don’t think it’s any secret that we’ve said all along it’s our intent to have Larry Fitzgerald retire a Cardinal," Keim told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. "I don’t want to get into it too deep, but with planning purposes, financially, from a cap standpoint, all those sorts of things, we have Larry’s number already baked into our numbers."
"We’ve had ongoing talks with (Fitzgerald’s agent) Eugene Parker, and we will continue to have ongoing talks," Keim added. "Even though it’s still not 2015, it’s my job to look at 2015, ’16, ’17 and years beyond, and we have to make good business decisions."
A decision likely would have to be made by March, when Fitzgerald is due an $8 million roster bonus. But Keim’s stance was clever in that it put the onus on Fitzgerald to take less money so that he doesn’t hamstring the team this offseason in its efforts to acquire more free agents and improve the roster.
But Fitzgerald is unlikely to restructure his deal again. He would have counted $18 million against the Cardinals 2014 salary cap, but he agreed to a deal that created about $10 million in cap space for the Cardinals this season by converting salary to bonus money.
Beyond that, Fitzgerald, 31, is not happy with his role on the team, the source said. He doesn’t like playing in the slot and he’s become far less of a focal point of the offense. While Fitzgerald led the team this season with 63 receptions and was second to Michael Floyd in yardage at 784, those numbers are the lowest since his rookie year, and his two touchdowns are a career low.
By refusing a big pay cut, he could force the Cardinals to trade him to a team where he’d have the opportunity to be the top receiving option again.
The Cardinals signed Fitzgerald to an eight-year, $120 million deal in 2011. He was the team’s first-round pick (third overall) in 2004 and has played his entire 11-year career here. He owns numerous franchise and NFL records.