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Is Larry Fitzgerald Expendable?



Larry Fitzgerald has been the face of the Cardinals since he arrived there in 2004, but can the emergence of Michael Floyd, potential stars in the draft and a big cap hit put his job at risk?
When you think of the Arizona Cardinals, the first thing you think of is Larry Fitzgerald. He's been there through it all: from the Super Bowl in 2008, to the 12 game losing streak in 2012. He's been a staple on that Arizona Cardinals offense, but can his job be at risk? There are several factors that indicate that his job could be at risk.

The first main factor is the fact that Michael Floyd has emerged this season and has as good, if not better numbers than Fitzgerald. Here's a comparison of the two:

Michael Floyd: 56 catches, 886 yards & 4 TDs
Larry Fitzgerald: 67 catches, 774 yards & 10 TDs

Floyd blows Fitzgerald out of the water in terms of yards per receptions and has 100 more yards than Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald does have 11 more catches and 6 more touchdowns. Those numbers prove that Floyd can be a #1 receiver on this team and in this league.

The 2nd thing that hurts Larry Fitzgerald is that he's regressed and is getting up there in age. Fitzgerald is 30 and will be 31 next offseason. In terms of production, there has been a regression in recent years. Fitzgerald used to put up 1400 yards with ease. He broke the 1400 yard barrier 4 times in 7 years ('05, '07, '08, '11), as well as at least 1000 yards two other times. He failed to reach 1000 yards 3 times in his career: once in his rookie season, another in 2006 (where he would have broken 1000 yards but missed 3 games due to injury) and finally last season.

Speaking of last season, it was the worst season of his career. He put up the worst numbers in his career (67, 758, 4 TDs) and was lifeless on the field. He was consistently shut down by worser players and had almost no impact on offense. This year is different, but he's still on pace for less than 1000 yards. It's obvious he's taken a step back in terms of production.

A third factor that hurts Fitzgerald is that there is always talent in the draft. As mentioned earlier, Floyd is proving to be a worthy #1 receiver on the Cardinals, and if the Cardinals don't think Andre Roberts is a suitable #2, they can draft a receiver in this year's draft. This draft has many great receivers in the first few rounds. They could get a guy like Marqise Lee or Mike Evans in the first round, or maybe aim for a guy like Brandin Cooks or Jarvis Landry in the 2nd round. They have many options in the draft and there are definitely guys there that can fill the #2 receiver void that would be on the team (without Fitzgerald). The draft threatens Fitzgerald's job security.

The Cardinals also have some capable guys on the roster. I mentioned Michael Floyd, who has impressed this season, but there is also Andre Roberts, who has been a #2 receiver on this team before. Last season, Roberts (as the #2 receiver) had 64 catches for 759 yards and 5 touchdowns. Those are almost identical numbers to that of Larry Fitzgerald's. Roberts is also young and continues to improve. If given a bigger role, he can potentially produce.

Finally, the 5th and probably the biggest factor that threatens Fitzgerald's job security is his gigantic cap hit. In 2011, Fitzgerald signed an 8 year 126 million dollar contract. His cap hit this season is 10.25M, which is doable, but in the next two season, that cap hit will reach 18M and 21.25M, respectively. Those are numbers that would make him a top 4 player in the league in terms of cap hits, and he's definitely not among those players (anymore). The 3 seasons following that will have a cap hit of 15M each. Unless he takes a paycut, the Cardinals will be in some trouble in terms of the salary cap. His cap hit next season (18M) will be about 14% of the team's total salary cap, which is insane for a non-allstar-quarterback.

If the Cardinals go forward with this cap hit, they'll be potentially hurting their future in terms of keeping other valuable players. He either needs to take a paycut, or they'll need to cut him. If they cut him next season, they'll save 8M, so keeping him next year isn't insane, but if they cut him the year after, where he's due to make 21.25M, they'll save about 16M. It's something they need to consider going forward, because his salary numbers are just insane.

As mentioned earlier, Larry Fitzgerald has been a staple on that team for years, is the leading jersey seller on the team and is a reason why fans go to games. If you're a fan of Arizona, it will be hard trying to think of the Cards without Larry Fitzgerald, but it will definitely become a reality sooner than you think. The Cardinals have been trying to shop Fitzgerald around which is a start, but no team will want to pick up his salary unless he agrees to a paycut. Larry just isn't that important anymore.



16 Comments

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Seth Keysor
Dec 12 2013 02:33 PM

Couldn't agree more.  Fitz is getting paid WAY too much at this point.  He was a great, great receiver, but that doesn't seem to be the case as much anymore.

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Lucas Polglaze
Dec 12 2013 03:01 PM
Larry has talent. To be able to put up those numbers that he did last year with those QBs throwing him the ball...wow.
He still has great skills. But the alternatives are younger and cheaper.
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John Wenker
Dec 12 2013 04:11 PM

Maybe you can find cheap wide receiver alternatives in the draft, but you are not going to find another Larry Fitzgerald in the draft. The guy was the best wide receiver in the NFL until Calvin Johnson came along, and he still has tremendous skills. Until last season, he consistently put up huge numbers despite having one of the worst quarterback situations in the league every season, save the few he had with Kurt Warner.

 

If you think that because Michael Floyd is putting up numbers close to Fitz's, that qualifies him as a number 1 wide receiver, you could not be more wrong. He is in the exact same situation as Alshon Jeffery in Chicago; a very talented wide receiver who benefits greatly from having one of the best wide receivers in the NFL commanding extra attention, and leaving him in single coverage. This isn't to say Floyd won't turn into a great NFL player, but he is still a raw talent who cannot be the best receiver on a good team yet.

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Lucas Polglaze
Dec 12 2013 05:28 PM

Maybe you can find cheap wide receiver alternatives in the draft, but you are not going to find another Larry Fitzgerald in the draft. The guy was the best wide receiver in the NFL until Calvin Johnson came along, and he still has tremendous skills. Until last season, he consistently put up huge numbers despite having one of the worst quarterback situations in the league every season, save the few he had with Kurt Warner.

If you think that because Michael Floyd is putting up numbers close to Fitz's, that qualifies him as a number 1 wide receiver, you could not be more wrong. He is in the exact same situation as Alshon Jeffery in Chicago; a very talented wide receiver who benefits greatly from having one of the best wide receivers in the NFL commanding extra attention, and leaving him in single coverage. This isn't to say Floyd won't turn into a great NFL player, but he is still a raw talent who cannot be the best receiver on a good team yet.

A thousand times this.
    • John Wenker likes this
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Andrew Aziz
Dec 12 2013 06:58 PM

Maybe you can find cheap wide receiver alternatives in the draft, but you are not going to find another Larry Fitzgerald in the draft. The guy was the best wide receiver in the NFL until Calvin Johnson came along, and he still has tremendous skills. Until last season, he consistently put up huge numbers despite having one of the worst quarterback situations in the league every season, save the few he had with Kurt Warner.

 

If you think that because Michael Floyd is putting up numbers close to Fitz's, that qualifies him as a number 1 wide receiver, you could not be more wrong. He is in the exact same situation as Alshon Jeffery in Chicago; a very talented wide receiver who benefits greatly from having one of the best wide receivers in the NFL commanding extra attention, and leaving him in single coverage. This isn't to say Floyd won't turn into a great NFL player, but he is still a raw talent who cannot be the best receiver on a good team yet.

 

I'm not saying Michael Floyd will be like vintage Larry Fitzgerald. I'm saying that now will Larry's best days behind him, Floyd is slowly taking over the top spot. Larry has a big impact in that offense and does command a lot of attention, but Floyd is becoming a big threat too. I do agree that he is still a bit raw, but when you think about it, that's pretty scary.

There may not be a guy like vintage Larry in the draft, but I can tell you that there are guys $14M cheaper that can be on similar levels with the current Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals have to think about their cap going forward.

Let me know when defenses start doubling and rolling help to Floyd.

 

I agree that the cap number comes into play, but replacing a guy like Fitz isnt as easy are you are intimating.

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Seth Keysor
Dec 12 2013 07:20 PM
Fitz has been beating rolling coverage and double teams for years. The fact that he isn't anymore (at least to the same extent) is a pretty good indicator that his days as a top 3 receiver are over.

Considering the contract, you can't have anything less than top production fro Fitz.
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John Wenker
Dec 12 2013 07:47 PM

I'm not saying Michael Floyd will be like vintage Larry Fitzgerald. I'm saying that now will Larry's best days behind him, Floyd is slowly taking over the top spot. Larry has a big impact in that offense and does command a lot of attention, but Floyd is becoming a big threat too. I do agree that he is still a bit raw, but when you think about it, that's pretty scary.

There may not be a guy like vintage Larry in the draft, but I can tell you that there are guys $14M cheaper that can be on similar levels with the current Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals have to think about their cap going forward.

 

I think Fitz is still worth the money. With the way the NFL is progressing, teams will be spending more and more on their receiving core, and less and less on running backs, due to the fact it is turning into a passing league, and running backs are fairly easy to find and replace (i.e. Fitz's teammate, Andre Ellington, 6th round). Replacing a guy of Fitz's ability will be much more difficult.

 

Another reason Fitz is still worth the big bucks is because without the success of the Cardinals passing games, they would be a pretty bad team. They are 26th in the NFL in terms of rushing yards per game. As a Vikings fan, I can tell you when there is no threat in the passing game, the running game suffers. Take away Fitz, and Mendenhall and Ellington's production will suffer too.

 

I understand the cap hit is unattractive, but Fitz is still playing at an extremely high level. I don't think he is expendable for the Cardinals.

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Ryan Sesler
Dec 12 2013 08:10 PM
18 mil is way too much, but those contracts never hit the big last couple years. There's some stat on all the 100 million dollar contracts signed, Favre got the closest and got like 60 of it. If he's not willing to renegotiate, he should be let go.

But at 10 million? I'll trade you my Chiefs 10 million dollar receiver for yours!
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Andrew Aziz
Dec 12 2013 11:07 PM

I think Fitz is still worth the money. With the way the NFL is progressing, teams will be spending more and more on their receiving core, and less and less on running backs, due to the fact it is turning into a passing league, and running backs are fairly easy to find and replace (i.e. Fitz's teammate, Andre Ellington, 6th round). Replacing a guy of Fitz's ability will be much more difficult.

 

Another reason Fitz is still worth the big bucks is because without the success of the Cardinals passing games, they would be a pretty bad team. They are 26th in the NFL in terms of rushing yards per game. As a Vikings fan, I can tell you when there is no threat in the passing game, the running game suffers. Take away Fitz, and Mendenhall and Ellington's production will suffer too.

 

I understand the cap hit is unattractive, but Fitz is still playing at an extremely high level. I don't think he is expendable for the Cardinals.

 

It's 18M next year and 21.25M the year. It's hard to argue that vintage in his prime Larry is that good. Only Calvin's cap hits are that much, and they will only be that much in a few years. Current Larry is not in the same league as Calvin.

 

I'm sorry but today's Larry is not worth that much money, even with the progression to a passing league.

 

The threat in the passing game comes because you throw the ball, and partly because of the receiving threats. If you throw the ball 40 times a game, it'll give you chances in the running game. Throwing the ball 40 times a game means that the defense, especially the secondary, needs to stay on their toes and play conservatively. If you throw the ball 23 times a game, but have Larry Fitzgerald, defenses will still be aggressive and try and stop the run.

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Andrew Aziz
Dec 12 2013 11:07 PM

18 mil is way too much, but those contracts never hit the big last couple years. There's some stat on all the 100 million dollar contracts signed, Favre got the closest and got like 60 of it. If he's not willing to renegotiate, he should be let go.

But at 10 million? I'll trade you my Chiefs 10 million dollar receiver for yours!

 

If he intends on finishing his career as a Cardinal, he must take a pay-cut.

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John Wenker
Dec 13 2013 12:09 AM

It's 18M next year and 21.25M the year. It's hard to argue that vintage in his prime Larry is that good. Only Calvin's cap hits are that much, and they will only be that much in a few years. Current Larry is not in the same league as Calvin.

 

I'm sorry but today's Larry is not worth that much money, even with the progression to a passing league.

 

The threat in the passing game comes because you throw the ball, and partly because of the receiving threats. If you throw the ball 40 times a game, it'll give you chances in the running game. Throwing the ball 40 times a game means that the defense, especially the secondary, needs to stay on their toes and play conservatively. If you throw the ball 23 times a game, but have Larry Fitzgerald, defenses will still be aggressive and try and stop the run.

 

I think the disagreement we may be having is that being overpaid and expendable are two different things. Fitz is the best player on that particular offense, and therefore I do not view him as expendable.

 

With that being said, the amount of money he is being paid is greater than the return he is providing, and the Cardinals would have to strongly consider freeing up that cap space if they had the chance.

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Evan Massey
Dec 13 2013 07:19 AM

The Cardinals have already made it fairly clear, at least to me, that they plan on trading Fitzgerald this offseason. They're comfortable with Michael Floyd taking over the #1 wide receiver duties, and rightfully so. One team I'd love to see make a move for him would be the Green Bay Packers. With James Jones likely heading another direction this offseason, the Green Bay offense would be upgraded in a major way with the addition of Fitzgerald. I also think the Colts would be a good destination for him.

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Kenneth Goit
Dec 13 2013 12:27 PM

The Cardinals have already made it fairly clear, at least to me, that they plan on trading Fitzgerald this offseason. They're comfortable with Michael Floyd taking over the #1 wide receiver duties, and rightfully so. One team I'd love to see make a move for him would be the Green Bay Packers. With James Jones likely heading another direction this offseason, the Green Bay offense would be upgraded in a major way with the addition of Fitzgerald. I also think the Colts would be a good destination for him.

Fitz + Rodgers... Ew. That scary.

I would suspect the Packers have bigger needs than adding another WR (especially with his contract). Even with losing Jones, Cobb, Nelson and Boykins leaves plenty in the cupboard.

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Andrew Aziz
Dec 13 2013 08:20 PM

The Cardinals have already made it fairly clear, at least to me, that they plan on trading Fitzgerald this offseason. They're comfortable with Michael Floyd taking over the #1 wide receiver duties, and rightfully so. One team I'd love to see make a move for him would be the Green Bay Packers. With James Jones likely heading another direction this offseason, the Green Bay offense would be upgraded in a major way with the addition of Fitzgerald. I also think the Colts would be a good destination for him.

 

 

With pending free agents like Vontae Davis, Antoine Bethea, Pat McAfee and a few others, the Colts cannot afford to bring in a guy that counts for 18M against the cap. If he brings his number down substantially, then it's different.

 

Also, the Colts will have Reggie Wayne returning next year, they already have TY longterm, and who knows, Da'Rick Rogers and Lavon Brazill showed that there is a future in that Colts WR core.

 

I don't think it's in their best interest to trade for Larry. 

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