The Arizona Cardinals have agreed to a new contract with star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. The decision extends the veteran's 11-year stint with the organization and likely ensures he'll end his career in Arizona.
General manager Steve Keim confirmed the news, per SI.com's Doug Farrar.
Joel Corey of CBS Sports reported the details of the deal on Friday:
The Cardinals selected Fitzgerald with the third overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft. He had little trouble living up to the sky-high expectations associated with going that high in the draft. He's been one of the most dependable receivers in football for the past decade.
The University of Pittsburgh product racked up 909 catches for more than 12,000 yards and 89 touchdowns across 11 seasons in Arizona. His numbers dropped off during the last three seasons, but that had more to do with the team's poor quarterback play than diminishing skills.
It was clear his contract situation would come to a head this offseason, though. The 31-year-old wideout was scheduled to count for more than $23 million against the cap in 2015. That would have put serious restraints on the team's offseason plans.
Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk noted comments from Cardinals president Michael Bidwill made during an appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM a week ago. He said they were hopeful of working things out, but he pointed out it takes two to tango:
Well, I think, immediately, we've got to address Larry Fitzgerald's contract. We've talked about that. We've been working hard on trying to make sure that he's got a contract that compensates him appropriately. I think Steve [Keim] and his group have been doing a great job, [including director of football administration] Mike Disner. But, it takes two to come to an agreement. So, I think that's the first order of business.
It appears the two sides found enough common ground to satisfy everybody. As a result, Fitzgerald is remaining with the team.
ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss believes that the move was the right one:
First, as has been well-documented, is Fitzgerald's ability on the field. One reason his numbers declined last season -- the eight-time Pro Bowler had 784 receiving yards and a career-low two touchdowns in 2014 -- was his role in Arians' offense. Fitzgerald blocked more and was the Cardinals' second most-targeted receiver on third downs in 2014, even though he caught more passes on third down than any of his teammates.
But he still has it.
Fitzgerald took a 4-yard pass over the middle 80 yards for a touchdown in Week 8 against the Eagles. He may not be as quick, but he is just as reliable. He had a drop percentage of one this past season.
Having Fitzgerald on the field will instantly make defenses wary. If they ease off Fitzgerald, he can make them pay. If they double or bracket him, then there's another receiver open. Even though he's a surefire Hall of Famer, he's still used as a decoy. And it works.
Fitzgerald should continue to play a prominent offensive role for the Cardinals despite entering his age-32 season. He still has the talent necessary to make a major impact—perhaps not at the same level as a handful of years ago but relatively close.
For Arizona, this ensures it will retain one of its veteran leaders and faces of the organization. Perhaps with more stability under center in 2015, Fitzgerald can have a big season and help the Cardinals make another postseason push.