The Arizona Cardinals added to their receiver group earlier this offseason when they inked seven-time Pro Bowler A.J. Green to a contract. Yet, the question of whether or not franchise legend Larry Fitzgerald will join Green and perennial All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins come game time still remains up in the air — albeit not to some NFL executives.
While Fitzgerald remains unsigned and has yet to announce his future playing intentions, a number of execs anticipate the future first-ballot Hall of Famer will call it a career instead of returning for his 18th season, according to The Athletic’s Mike Sando.
There has been some speculation that Fitzgerald could potentially join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to make one final title run before he hangs up his cleats for good. However, the wideout has given no indication that he’d want to play for any team other than the Cardinals.
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Fitzgerald Took a Backseat in 2020
After 16 years of high-end usage, Fitzgerald was slowly cast aside this past season. Over 13 games, the two-time NFL receptions leader played just 66% of the team’s offensive snaps — the first time in his career he’s fallen below 80%.
With the aforementioned DeAndre Hopkins manning the majority of the Cardinals’ workload in the passing game and up-and-coming youngsters Christian Kirk and Andy Isabella in place to compliment him, the 37-year-old Fitzgerald saw his numbers take a sizeable dip in 2020. His 54 receptions for 409 yards and one touchdown all marked career-lows for Fitzgerald. While the former number did still rank second on the team to Hopkins’ 115 receptions, Fitz’s mere 72 targets were a far cry from his previous career average of 141 targets per season.
Cardinals Want Fitzgerald Back
While rostering a fourth receiver who contributes zero on special teams isn’t typically ideal, Fitzgerald would most likely be welcomed back with open arms by the Cardinals and play a pivotal role on a team with championship aspirations.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury reiterated that notion back in January.
“We all want him back,” Kingsbury said. “He knows that we all know he can still be a force on the field when he’s feeling good and healthy and doing what he can do. I’m not sure the exact timetable, but he’s one of the best to ever play and still can play at an incredibly high level and we want him back.”
The Cardinals have allowed Fitzgerald to take his time during this process as he continues to contemplate retirement. And by the sound of it, the organization doesn’t plan on rushing him anytime soon.
“Knowing him, he’s probably just trying to make me sweat,” GM Steve Keim told reporters in March. “But, no, I don’t know. It’s a private thing for a player, and we’ve always given Larry space and he’s taken his time, which, again, there’s nobody that deserves that more than him.”
If Fitzgerald does ultimately call it a career he’ll go down in the record books as one of the greatest pass-catchers ever. Only Jerry Rice has amassed more career receptions (1,432) and career receiving yardage (17,492) than Fitzgerald has in league history.
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