Trading Larry Fitzgerald Makes Sense in Long Run for the Arizona Cardinals

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Trading Larry Fitzgerald Makes Sense in Long Run for the Arizona Cardinals
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Could Larry Fitzgerald be on his way out of Arizona after the season?

There's little doubt Larry Fitzgerald would be one of the most sought-after players if he were to hit the market. A trade involving him would create a stir around the entire league, as most other teams would be interested if Arizona were to make him available.

Fitzgerald didn't get moved at last week's trade deadline, but the possibility exists of him being moved this offseason. Such a transaction wouldn't surprise to Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com.

The reason it didn't happen before the deadline is rather simple. Teams don’t have the cap space sitting around to take on a player like Fitzgerald for the rest of this season, let alone the remaining five years on his contract. Let’s examine what the numbers look like, according to Spotrac.com.

This season he’s a cap hit of $10.25 million. In 2014, his contract looks to be a bitter financial pill to swallow with an $18 million cap hit under his current deal. That number swells to $21.25 million in 2015. Those numbers alone might be enough to frighten off potential suitors in a trade situation. 

When teams are done with the season, they can go through all of their respective expiring contracts and see how much cap space they have available. Then teams can decide whether to go after Fitzgerald and what compensation they would send to Arizona. The compensation could be players, picks or both.

An offseason trade could work out in one of two ways for the Cardinals.

 

Scenario 1: Fitzgerald is shipped to a team for players and draft picks.

This potentially becomes the 2013 equivalent of the Herschel Walker trade between Minnesota and Dallas. Here's an excerpt of Josh McCain's view of the Walker trade here in a Bleacher Report article from 2010:

In the end the Vikings won (if you want to call it that) and landed Walker (along with Dallas's third- and 10th-round picks from 1990, San Diego's fifth round pick from 1990, and Dallas's third-rounder from 1991), but they gave away linebackers Jesse Solomon and David Howard, cornerback Isaac Holt, running back Darrin Nelson (traded to San Diego after refusing to play for Dallas) and defensive end Alex Stewart.

Furthermore, they gave away first-, second-, and sixth-round picks in the 1990 draft, first- and second-rounders in the 1991 draft, second- and third-rounders in the 1992 draft, and a first-rounder in the 1993 draft.

 

It won't be on that scale but you see where this is going. This could be a trade that nets a lot in return for Arizona. Then again, Trent Richardson was traded from the Cleveland Browns to the Indianapolis Colts earlier this season, and all Cleveland picked up was a first-round pick for a running back drafted No. 3 overall in 2012. 

 

Scenario 2: Trading Fitzgerald nets a whole lot of draft picks but no players.

This harkens back to the New Orleans Saints draft of 1999 when they picked running back Ricky Williams fifth overall. To get that position, the Saints traded away their entire 1999 draft to the Washington Redskins. The Saints also picked up a first-round and third-round pick from Washington in 2000 in the deal. Williams bobbed his way through several different NFL teams before bowing out of the league in 2011.

Mike Beacom of ProFootballWeekly.com reviewed this deal and how Washington got a potential Hall of Famer out of it.

Historians are often unfair to New Orleans when evaluating this trade, placing potential Hall of Fame CB Champ Bailey on Washington's side of the balance sheet. It should be noted that Washington dealt a number of the picks it received from the Saints to other clubs. In its deal with Chicago, the Redskins moved back into the top 10 where the team grabbed Bailey at No. 7. But it can be argued that from New Orleans' perspective, it is fair only to judge the trade based on what became of the eight picks Ditka dealt in order to select Williams.

 

The question regarding Fitzgerald is, what is he worth? It's hard to say what teams would be willing to offer for him, but it's safe to say there would be significant value coming back to Arizona.

There's one more example of a blockbuster trade that wound up benefiting the side giving up the star player, and it comes from hockey. Eric Lindros was the first overall pick in the 1991 NHL draft by the Quebec Nordiques, but Lindros said from the get-go he wasn’t going to play there. The lack of marketing potential and the need to learn French were among the reasons he cited for not wanting to join Quebec.

Lindros wound being traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for six players, two first-round draft picks and $15 million.

Here's an excerpt from a 2010 Bleacher Report article about the trade. The cash involved is a key to the deal. 

Also, don't overlook the $15 million dollars, which was an astronomical sum at the time, when you consider the average team payroll was $8.1 million, and Wayne Gretzky led the league with a $3 million salary. Consider that Gretzky himself was traded for that exact same amount in his 1988 deal with the L.A. Kings, setting a precedent the Flyers would follow for what they clearly expected out of Lindros.

That money alone likely kept untold numbers of players with Quebec that were able to move with the team to the United States when the time came, and thus further continue to set up the team for success.

As with the Gretzky deal, most Canadian teams were cash-strapped so for them to receive that influx of cash would have been both a blessing and sad dose of reality considering how necessary it was, but that's another wedge issue that forced Quebec out.

 

A couple of the players involved were Peter Forsberg (885 points in 708 games and two Stanley Cups) and goaltender Ron Hextall (1987 award winner for best goaltender and Stanley Cup Finals MVP). The gains the Nordiques (who in 1996 became the Colorado Avalanche) made from the deal led to eight division titles and two championships.

Lindros wound up being a seven-time All-Star selection but saw his career end prematurely due to the effects of multiple concussions.

There's also the possibility of Fitzgerald restructuring his contract to make it more palatable for Arizona's salary cap. He was willing to do it four years ago to try and help Arizona retain Anquan Boldin.

The point here is that the side giving up the one star player usually winds up winning the deal in the long term. It would hurt initially losing one of the best wide receivers on the field and one of the best people off of it.

But would you feel better and say it would be worth it if the Cardinals win the Super Bowl in, say, 2017? It could happen if the team maximizes what it gets in return.

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