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.