Arizona Cardinals Owe It to Larry Fitzgerald to Trade Him to a Contender

Zachary KruegerCorrespondent IIDecember 18, 2012

Larry Fitzgerald and the Arizona Cardinals are on the verge of their second losing season in the last three years.
Larry Fitzgerald and the Arizona Cardinals are on the verge of their second losing season in the last three years.Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It's no secret that the Arizona Cardinals have been one of the biggest train wrecks in the NFL this season.  Having started off the season 4-0 including wins over the Seahawks, Patriots and the then 2-0 Eagles, the Cardinals appeared to be on their way to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.  

Then the real Arizona Cardinals showed their ugly head.

Since going 4-0 to start the season, the Cardinals went on to lose nine straight games before defeating the Detroit Lions this past week.  Over that nine-game losing streak, the Arizona Cardinals started three different quarterbacks in Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley.  

The combined numbers between these three quarterbacks over the Cardinals' nine-game losing streak are about as brutal as they come (1,907 yards, 3 touchdowns, 14 interceptions).  To go along with the passing numbers, the Arizona Cardinals offensive line has done little to protect whoever is behind center on any given Sunday, allowing a league-high 52 sacks on the season.

Now enter Larry Fitzgerald.  Fitzgerald is arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL; his stats speak for themselves.  Fitzgerald is undoubtedly the best wide receiver on the Cardinals 2012 roster.  

This season, Fitzgerald has been held at bay, mostly because of his quarterbacks' inability to get him the ball.  Fitzgerald is on pace to have his worst statistical year since his rookie season in 2004 and has posted only one 100-plus yard game in the 2012 campaign.  

Since entering the league in 2004, Fitzgerald and the Arizona Cardinals have been to the playoffs only twice (2008, 2009).  In 2008, the Cardinals even went to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Santonio Holmes' game-winning catch.

Both seasons the Cardinals made the playoffs, they were led by quarterback Kurt Warner, and the Cardinals do not appear to be replacing Warner with a franchise quarterback anytime soon.

Granted, the Cardinals have tried.  In 2011 the Cardinals made the trade for Kevin Kolb and promptly signed him to a five-year, $65 million deal.  However, Kolb has not worked out, and the quarterback market appears slim this upcoming off-season.   

What does this mean for Larry Fitzgerald?

The Arizona Cardinals owe it to Larry Fitzgerald to trade him to a contender while he still has time to be an elite receiver.  At the start of the 2013 NFL season, Fitzgerald will be 30 years old.  Given his age, Fitzgerald likely has about three or four years left to play at an elite level before he could start to show any kind of decline.

Not only could Fitzgerald benefit from a trade to a contender, but the Cardinals would likely acquire some top draft picks for a player of Fitzgerald's caliber that could help their immediate future.

The Cardinals do not have enough parts in place to rebuild and compete in the NFC West anytime in the near future.  The success of the Seahawks and 49ers over the past few seasons will likely only improve over the next several years.

As mentioned before, Arizona's offensive line is brutal, and their talent for evaluating quarterbacks appears to be minimal.  Beanie Wells has been an injury-prone half back since coming into the league, hindering him from achieving his full potential.  

On the defensive side of the ball, Patrick Peterson is a stud, making an impact from the cornerback position and on special teams.  Darnell Dockett has built a solid career for himself; however, his numbers this year suggest a decline could be looming for the three-time Pro Bowler.  His future with the team also appears uncertain after a mix-up with fellow teammate Kerry Rhodes in the loss against the Jets a few weeks ago.  

Fitzgerald holds high trade value to any team looking for a physical playmaker at wide receiver.  The Cardinals would be smart to look for trades for Fitzgerald this coming off-season that would allow him opportunities to go to the playoffs and compete for a Super Bowl—and give the Cardinals an opportunity to rebuild a team that has much to repair.

Contact Zachary Krueger on Twitter at @NFLWaterCooler