Where Will Fitzgerald Sign?
By: Drew Feinberg
Larry Fitzgerald is a living, breathing first-ballot Hall of Famer. Since being selected third overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2004 NFL Draft, he has amassed 17,492 career receiving yards, which ranks second in NFL history, behind the legend, Jerry Rice (22,895).
Among holding several other NFL records, Fitzgerald is regarded as one of the greatest wide receivers of all time. His consistent, technical play has led him to 11 Pro Bowls, and nine 1,000-yard seasons. Now at the age of 37, the future of Fitzgerald is being questioned.
If you were to ask Fitzgerald about the thought of retirement today, however, chances are you wouldn’t get the answer you were looking for; or any answer for that matter.
The thought of signing a soon-to-be 38 year old may not be on the top of some fans’ free agency wish lists, but the idea of having Fitzgerald in your locker room goes far beyond the hash marks. Known for being one of the hardest workers in the entire league, Fitzgerald would bring an immediate veteran presence to any team he is on. The two questions that remain, however, are: will Fitzgerald retire? And will a team be willing to take a chance on an aging superstar?
The answer to the retirement question can only be answered by one person: Fitzgerald himself. You can tell that he still has a passion for the game, and the guy can still hold his own in this league. However, the addition of star receiver DeAndre Hopkins in 2020 led to a down year for Fitzgerald, where he posted:
- 72 Targets
- 54 Receptions
- 409 Yards
- 1 Touchdown
2020 was the first season in which Fitzgerald finished with less than 100+ targets. That being said, Fitzgerald is only three years removed from his last 1000-yard season, and I believe he can still contribute to a team in need of his services. Here are three teams that should look to sign Fitzgerald, barring a retirement announcement.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in a bit of a cap space struggle going into the 2021 NFL offseason. With roughly $22 million to spend, and many key pieces to re-sign, including wide receiver Chris Godwin, the idea of Fitzgerald signing on to catch passes from Tom Brady seems far-fetched.
However, what I wouldn’t count out is the fact that the Bucs are Super Bowl favorites going into the 2021 NFL season, and Fitzgerald has never won the illustrious Lombardi Trophy.
I’m not saying that Fitzgerald needs to win the Super Bowl in order to cement his legacy, because that would just be false; the man would be a first ballot Hall of Famer even if he retired five years ago. However, the thought of finishing his career with a Super Bowl victory might just be what entices Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians to bring Fitzgerald aboard (Arians coached Fitzgerald in Arizona from 2013-2017).
Currently, Mike Evans is the only wide receiver worth noting on the Buccaneers books, with Antonio Brown and Godwin entering 2021 as unrestricted free agents. My guess is that Godwin will be re-signed, leaving Brown’s role pretty much open. If Fitzgerald wants his chance at securing a Super Bowl ring, his best shot may just be down in Tampa Bay.
Having been born and raised in Minnesota, the Minnesota Vikings have always been a highly-rumored destination for “Larry Legend” to finish off his historic career.
With the “Randy Moss-esk” emergence of rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson during the 2020 season, the Minnesota Vikings will look to continue their strong receiver play with the pair of Jefferson and Adam Thielin in 2021.
However, this team could desperately use a number three receiver. Even in a run heavy offense, such as Minnesotas, wielding Olabisi Johnson and Chad Beebe to compliment your two star receivers is not a recipe for success.
Minnesota doesn’t need a superstar to be their third receiver next season. The one thing that the Vikings complimentary receivers lack is consistency, and that one thing that you are sure to get out of Fitzgerald is consistency.
Even if his consistent production has taken a slight decline, Fitzgerald’s ability to break tackles and gain yards after the catch (YAC) cannot be understated. Oh, and he is one of, if not the most reliable third down receiver the game has ever seen.
Due to his age and production in a contract year, I could imagine that Fitzgerald would be willing to sign a one year, one to two million dollar contract, which could help the cap-struggling franchise who just recently cut veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph. It would make for a nice ending to a legendary career.
If it were up to Fitzgerald, I believe he would want to finish his career exactly where it started. He is the greatest Arizona Cardinal to ever play in the uniform, and his impact on and off the field cannot be talked about enough. He is a Cardinals icon, and he knows it.
Unfortunately, the Cardinals are now in an extremely tough position going into the 2021 offseason. While I’m sure owner Michael Bidwill and general manager Steve Keim would love to bring the legend back, the Cardinals team has many other glaring weaknesses. Not to mention, the team just signed star defensive end J.J. Watt to a two-year, $31 million contract.
It was clear in 2020 that there was a new alpha in town (Hopkins), but Fitzgerald could still be that rock steady player for quarterback Kyler Murray to turn to on short yardage situations. If Fitz were to want to come back to Arizona, he would surely have to take a massive pay cut. Will he do that, however?
While a return to Arizona may be out of the cards for Fitzgerald as a player, this would be the storybook ending to the storied career of Fizgerald, and the way I think we all thought he would go out. One last ride in the red and white is the way the Larry Fitzgerald chapter deserves to end.