NFL Execs Reportedly Expect Larry Fitzgerald to Retire Before 2021 Season

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistApril 3, 2021

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) during the first half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

NFL executives reportedly believe longtime Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will retire rather than return for an 18th NFL season in 2021.

According to Mike Sando of The Athletic, execs think Fitzgerald will choose retirement "rather than rejoin a receiving corps now headlined by DeAndre Hopkins."

With Hopkins and Christian Kirk ahead of him in the pecking order last season, the 37-year-old Fitzgerald finished with career lows across the board, recording 54 receptions for 409 yards and one touchdown.

Fitzgerald is a free agent, and he has given no indication that he would want to play for a team other than the Cards.

With Arizona signing former Cincinnati Bengals veteran wideout A.J. Green to complement Hopkins, Kirk and Andy Isabella, the Cardinals may not have room for Fitz in 2021 even if he wanted to return.

Last year's production was a far cry from what fans have grown accustomed to with Fitzgerald over the years. The 11-time Pro Bowler has recorded 100 or more catches in a season and double-digit touchdowns in a season five times each, and he has reached the 1,000-yard receiving mark nine times.

Fitzgerald is unquestionably one of the greatest wide receivers of all time and a first-ballot Hall of Famer, as he ranks second in career receptions with 1,432 and second in career receiving yardage with 17,492 behind only Jerry Rice in both categories.

While Fitzgerald is no longer an elite receiver like he once was, one executive suggested to Sando that his potential retirement could be a huge blow to the Cardinals in terms of leadership.

The exec said: "It's going to be an interesting transition for that team from an accountability standpoint as Larry steps aside. Hopkins decides what he wants to do practice-wise, and if Larry had any influence there, that is gone."

Arizona is mostly a young team on the offensive side of the ball with quarterback Kyler Murray, Kirk and running back Chase Edmonds being among those who will lead the way.

If Fitzgerald does retire, it will be up to Hopkins and Green to set a good example and hold the rest of the offense accountable during a 2021 season in which the Cards are expected to take the next step by reaching the playoffs.