Larry Fitzgerald

Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald To Return

Retirement can wait. On Wednesday, Larry Fitzgerald agreed to a new one-year deal with the Cardinals, setting the stage for his 17th season in Arizona.

The new deal mirrors Fitzgerald’s 2019 pact. No. 11 will earn a base salary of $11MM for the fifth-straight year, as Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. He’ll also see a roster bonuses of $500K with $250K in additional incentives.

Fitzgerald, the NFL’s oldest active wide receiver, was on the fence about playing in 2020. At the same time, he admitted that he had more fun this past season than in previous seasons.

Fitzgerald led the Cardinals with 804 receiving yards and did not miss a game for the fifth straight campaign. With that, the 36-year-old future Hall of Famer will lace ’em up for at least one more year.

Fitzgerald entered the league as a first-round pick in 2004. Since then, he’s reached the Pro Bowl eleven times and, last year, he moved into second place on the NFL’s all-time receptions list, slotting him between Jerry Rice and Tony Gonzalez. He’s also No. 2 in receiving yards, second only to Rice.

The Cardinals are coming off of a trying 5-10-1 season, but there’s reason for hope, including star quarterback Kyler Murray. They can also carve out as much as $74MM for free agents in March and add another impact player with the No. 8 overall pick in April.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC West Notes: Cardinals, Rams, Alexander

The Cardinals are in the market for a new special teams leader. They fired ST coordinator Randall McCray, Alex Marvez of Sirius XM Radio tweets. After 26 seasons in the college ranks, McCray joined Steve Wilks‘ Cardinals staff. This was his first NFL job. Additionally, Arizona will sever ties with defensive line coach Chris Achuff, Marvez adds. Also a holdover from Wilks’ staff, Achuff had made the college-to-pro transition, with his most recent role marking his initial NFL gig.

Here is the latest from the NFC West, pivoting first to the Cardinals’ most famous player:

  • The NFL’s oldest active wide receiver, Larry Fitzgerald led the Cardinals with 804 receiving yards and did not miss a game for the fifth straight season. But yet again, the 36-year-old future Hall of Famer will take time to ponder retirement. Fitz, however, did add that he enjoyed this season more than recent ones, per Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk. The 2004 first-round pick moved into second place on the NFL’s all-time receptions list this season, currently sitting between Jerry Rice and Tony Gonzalez with 1,378. Kliff Kingsbury plans to give Fitzgerald an offseason sales pitch to return for his age-37 season.
  • While the Rams received considerably worse play from their highly paid offensive trio of Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks this season, Les Snead pushed back on the notion the recent extensions were the wrong decisions. “From a salary cap standpoint, and I assume the cap does go up, there’s a new collective bargaining agreement that’s coming that’s another variable that we don’t know about,” Snead said, via ESPN.com’s Lindsey Thiry. “We’ve shown in the past that when you have commodities that you might move on with via trade to collect draft capital that maybe the perception says you don’t have and to clear cap space.” That said, the Rams’ top-market extensions caused them to lose key role players this offseason and have Michael Brockers, Cory Littleton, Austin Blythe and Dante Fowler looming as threats to defect in March. The team soon must shape a Jalen Ramsey re-up as well.
  • Another of the Rams’ many key free agents, Andrew Whitworth is now 38. But the Rams will meet with the veteran left tackle to determine if he still fits into their equation, Thiry adds (via Twitter). Snead said Whitworth’s place on the team is “a harder piece of the puzzle.” He signed a three-year, $33.75MM deal in 2017 to head to Los Angeles and has been a key part of Sean McVay‘s three Rams offenses. Should Whitworth not be brought back, youngsters Joe Noteboom and Bobby Evans stand as successor options, per Thiry.
  • J.J. Watt‘s return from a torn pectoral muscle has prompted questions about Kwon Alexander potentially doing the same. The 49ers linebacker is eligible to return for the team’s divisional-round game, but Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area hears such a re-emergence remains unlikely. The 49ers, however, have not completely given up on their highest-paid linebacker coming back for a potential NFC championship game. (Though, Kyle Shanahan deemed this unlikely.) The 49ers have yet to use their second IR-return slot. Like Watt, Alexander missed his team’s final eight regular-season games.

Cardinals GM Steve Keim On Drake, Fitzgerald, Offseason

It was somewhat surprising when the Cardinals traded for Kenyan Drake in advance of this year’s deadline, given that Arizona was clearly not going to make a postseason run and given that Drake is eligible for unrestricted free agency in March. But GM Steve Keim saw something he liked in the former Dolphins RB and wanted to secure exclusive negotiating rights with him.

Drake has not disappointed, averaging 4.8 yards-per-carry in his six games in Arizona to go along with five scores and 22 receptions for 130 yards. Keim touched on Drake’s future with the team and several other key issues facing the Cardinals this offseason, including Larry Fitzgerald‘s future, in an interview with Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com.

On the Drake trade:

“The mindset of going into the trade, it wasn’t done because we had two backs that were injured and was sort of a stop-gap situation. If that was a the case, my mindset was I would’ve signed a guy off the street. We truly thought this was the type of player Kenyan Drake was. That’s why we made trade and hope this was the kind of success he would have.”

On his hopes of re-signing Drake, and when he might try to do it:

“As far as waiting until after the season (to re-sign Drake), that’s not necessarily the thing either. I would certainly love to have Kenyan Drake back. I think he fits in this offense and he really has given us a spark in many ways.”

On Fitzgerald’s future (for Fitzgerald’s thoughts, see here):

“We would love to have him back. We all know what he brings to the organization. But the one thing you want to do with a player like him is give him the respect he deserves. Allow him to make that decision on his own. But I will say this. This is maybe the most fun I’ve seen him have in the last four years. He’s playing at a high level. I know he likes [head coach] Kliff [Kingsbury] and I know he likes this offense. Doesn’t hurt to have a guy (in quarterback Kyler Murray) who can spin it to him like this too.”

Keim said he will look to upgrade the Cardinals’ O-line this offseason, though he thinks the team’s high sack total is partly due to Murray’s style of play:

“I think Kyler would be the first to tell you there have been quite a few sacks given up that are on him. There has been times when I thought our offensive line has given him the type of protection he’s needed.”

On Murray himself:

“[T]here is no doubt in my mind we hit it through the roof. It’s one thing to be ultra-talented, but the guys who are the great ones, just when everybody thinks they have worked hard and done enough, those guys go above and beyond. There are up late night watching film, trying to find little tells that people don’t see. Just so the speed of the game slows down.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Larry Fitzgerald Discusses Future

It’s seemingly become an annual tradition: as the regular season winds down, reporters ask Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald about his future in Arizona. It was more of the same today, as the veteran was asked if he could be playing his final home game for the organization this weekend.

“It could be,” Fitzgerald said (via Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic on Twitter). “You never know. You never know. I don’t give it much thought. I’ve told you before, I stay in the moment, man. The career will end. When it ends, it end.”

The 36-year-old answered similar questions last year, and he ended up re-signing with the Cardinals. Fitzgerald, in theory, could have tested the open market, but he has repeatedly stated that he’s only willing to play in Arizona. If the veteran wants to continue playing, the front office would presumably be willing to ride these one-year contracts.

His 100-catch, 1,000-yard seasons may be a thing of the past, but Fitzgerald has still proven to be a reliable target for rookie quarterback Kyler Murray. The receiver has hauled in 64 receptions for 669 yards and three scores this season. Fitzgerald has spent his entire career with the organization, owning franchise marks in receptions (1,367), yards (16,948), and touchdowns (119).

Surprisingly, Fitzgerald’s head coach is in favor of keeping the veteran around. Kliff Kingsbury said that the receiver could easily be part of the team’s offense in 2020.

“I’ll give him my pitch here in a couple of weeks,” Kingsbury said (via Darren Urban on Twitter).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: Gould, Gordon, Cards, Rams

Robbie Gould said this week he and the 49ers have been negotiating a contract for well over a year. Unless the sides can come to terms by Monday’s deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign extensions, he will be tethered to the 49ers at the current kicker tag rate of $5MM. He has requested a trade and been mulling a holdout.

We’ve been negotiating for 17 months and it’s been a complicated situation,” Gould said, via NBC Sports Bay Area’s Josh Schrock. “I’m at the point where my agent is going to handle it. If there’s anything I need to know about, then I’ll make a decision.”

The 36-year-old kicker has hit 72 of 75 field goal tries since joining the 49ers in 2017. The trade request Gould made led many to believe he wanted to return to Chicago, where his family resides. But the 15th-year specialist clarified that seeking a spot closer to his family does not necessarily mean solely seeking a Bears reunion. Though, the dot-connecting between Gould the kicker-starved Bears — for whom he played from 2005-15 — is rather easy.

I never said I want to go back there,” Gould said. “I just said I want to be closer to my family. That doesn’t necessarily mean (the Bears).”

Shifting to some non-kicker news, here is the latest from the West divisions:

  • Melvin Gordon‘s attempt to secure a new contract brought the Chargers into the news this week. But the team is not yet willing to publicly engage with the disgruntled running back. “We don’t publicly discuss contract negotiations,” the team said in a message sent to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Gordon is set to make $5.6MM on the fifth-year option this season; that figure is nearly $4MM less than Ezekiel Elliott would make on his 2020 option. The 26-year-old back has issued a pay-me-or-trade-me ultimatum and threatened a regular-season holdout.
  • Rams strength and conditioning coach Ted Rath was found not guilty on three misdemeanor counts of sexual battery, a Ventura, Calif., jury ruled Friday, Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com tweets. This alleged incident occurred in 2018. Rath, 35, is in his second season as a Rams assistant; he was placed on leave earlier this year.
  • Larry Fitzgerald‘s late-career move to the slot led to an uptick in his reception counts, with the Cardinals’ future Hall of Famer eclipsing 100 catches for three straight seasons from 2017-19. Kliff Kingsbury said the soon-to-be 36-year-old receiver has shown an early chemistry with Kyler Murray and will be moved to different places in formations this season, per Bob McManamon of the Arizona Republic. In a 2018 season that saw the Cardinals rank last in points and total yards, Fitzgerald posted a career-low 734 yards.
  • In the same piece, McManamon lists third-year wideout Chad Williams as being on the Cards’ roster bubble. With the team drafting three receivers to join Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk and UFA addition Kevin White, the former Bruce Arians-era third-round pick (20 career catches for 202 yards and one touchdown) may be battling uphill to keep his roster spot.

Contract Details: Fitzgerald, Cardinals, Jags

Here are the contract details on some of the NFL’s latest deals:

  • Larry Fitzgerald‘s new deal with the Cardinals includes a base salary of $11M plus incentives, a source tells Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The pact does not include a signing bonus, but he did manage to match his $11MM salary from 2018. That’s not a bad deal for the veteran wide receiver given his drop in production last season.
  • The Jaguars‘ three-year deal with safety Jarrod Wilson is worth $9MM, a source tells NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link). The contract calls for a $1MM signing bonus, $1.5MM guaranteed, and up to $1.75MM in playtime incentives over the last two years of the deal. Prior to the new deal, he was slated to be a restricted free agent this offseason.
  • Seantrel Henderson‘s new one-year deal with the Texans can be worth up to $4.5MM, but much of that sum is tied to performance incentives, as Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. He’s set to earn a base salary of $1.5MM with $1MM guaranteed, plus a $500K roster bonus in April and a $500K bonus if he’s on the 46-man roster for at least 12 games. He’ll also see a $2MM roster bonus paid out at a rate of $125K for every game he’s on the 46-man roster.

Cardinals Re-Sign Larry Fitzgerald

Larry Fitzgerald will return for his 16th season. On Wednesday, the Cardinals announced that Fitzgerald is back in the fold with a brand new one-year deal. 

No player has meant more to this franchise or this community than Larry Fitzgerald,” said Cardinals President Michael Bidwill. “In my discussions with him, it was clear that he is as driven and passionate as ever. We are thrilled he’ll be back for 2019.”

Fitzgerald was once again on the fence about retirement, but it appears that the team’s hiring of Kliff Kingsbury helped convince him to continue playing.

Hell of a coach. … Look at his resume,” Fitzgerald said this week. “He’s innovative offensively. That’s the wave of the future right now, so I’m excited for the chance to meet him.”

Fitzgerald, 36 in August, was held to just 69 catches for 734 yards and six touchdowns last year as the Cardinals’ offense sagged. If the Cardinals are able to get back on track and balance things with David Johnson, Fitzgerald will likely be able to get back to his old form. In 2017, his age-34 season, Fitzgerald managed 1,156 yards off of 109 catches with six TDs.

Fitzgerald, in theory, could have tested the open market, but he has repeatedly stated that he’s only willing to play in Arizona.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Rumors: Fitz, Raiders, Broncos, Brown

After the Cardinals trudged through their worst season in 18 years, Larry Fitzgerald‘s latest retire-or-not decision now features another new coach and offensive system in the equation — this one with no NFL coaching experience. But the future Hall of Fame receiver has not distanced himself from the process that brought Kliff Kingsbury to Arizona. Fitz has exchanged text messages with his new coach, the 35-year-old wideout told TMZ recently (via the Arizona Republic).

Hell of a coach. … Look at his resume,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s innovative offensively. That’s the wave of the future right now, so I’m excited for the chance to meet him.”

Fitzgerald played out his contract and is a free agent. While it would seemingly be tempting for the 15-year veteran to see if he could land with a team better positioned to compete for a championship, the career-long Cardinal has said multiple times he will only play for the Cards. Fitz continues to deliberate about the possibility of retiring or coming back for a 16th season.

Here is more from the West-division teams that have been working on their offseason strategies.

  • Former Broncos offensive lineman Chris Kuper will return to Denver as the team’s assistant offensive line coach. Kuper spent the previous three seasons coaching under Adam Gase in Miami. He retired following the 2013 season with the Broncos, who deployed him as a starter for most of his career. Kuper will work under Mike Munchak.
  • The 49ers are the Las Vegas frontrunners to land Antonio Brown, and The Athletic (subscription required) agrees with that assessment. San Francisco should be viewed as the clubhouse leaders to acquire the disgruntled Steelers wideout, per The Athletic’s Matt Barrows. Kyle Shanahan balked at paying high prices for this past year’s UFA crop, and Barrows writes the 49ers will not be giving up their No. 2 overall pick for a soon-to-be 31-year-old wideout. However, he cautions a team picking in the late first round may be able to outflank a San Francisco trade offer, regardless of the 49ers’ need at this position.
  • Brentson Buckner‘s position with the Raiders will be defensive line coach, Jon Gruden said Tuesday (via ESPN.com’s Paul Gutierrez). Buckner, who coached the Buccaneers’ defensive linemen last season, will replace Mike Trgovac. The latter, however, will be promoted in some capacity, per Gruden. As for the Raiders’ quarterbacks coach position — vacated by Brian Callahan‘s move to become the Bengals’ OC Tuesday — the team might wait until the Combine to fill that position.
  • Gruden believes Daryl Worley underwent shoulder surgery recently after ending his season with a torn labrum, Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal tweets. Worley, a starter this season prior to landing on IR, is expected to receive an RFA tender from the Raiders.

West Notes: Fitz, Wilson, Henry

Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald did not announce that he would return for the 2018 season until mid-February of 2018, and it appears that we could have a similar wait in 2019. Fitz told ESPN’s Adam Schefter earlier this week that he would take some time to collect his thoughts after a difficult 3-13 season, but that the team’s recent hiring of new head coach Kliff Kingsbury would not sway him one way or another. If Fitz does decide to play, he would technically be eligible for free agency, but it is impossible to imagine him playing for a team other than Arizona.

Now for more from the league’s west divisions:

  • This probably doesn’t mean much, especially in light of last week’s reports on the matter, but Kingsbury has said that he would consider drafting Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray with the Cardinals‘ No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft, per ESPN’s Sam Ponder (via Twitter).
  • The Seahawks are set to begin contract negotiations with quarterback Russell Wilson, and in a piece that is well-worth a full read, Joel Corry of CBS Sports says that Wilson’s new deal will pay him at least $35MM per year.
  • After being activated on Monday, Chargers TE Hunter Henry is expected to play in the team’s divisional round showdown in Foxborough this afternoon, per Albert Breer of SI.com.
  • We heard yesterday that Bears defensive backs coach Ed Donatell will be a top target of new Broncos coach Vic Fangio, and Mike Klis of 9News tweets that Donatell is currently deciding between staying in Chicago or following Fangio to Denver.
  • Former Buccaneers defensive line coach Brentson Buckner will join the Raiders in the same capacity, per Greg Auman of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • 49ers defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina will not be returning to the team, per Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio (via Twitter).

Cardinals, Larry Fitzgerald Haven’t Discussed Extension

Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald is scheduled to become a free agent next spring, but Arizona has yet to discuss an extension with the franchise icon, as general manager Steve Keim explained on 98.7 Arizona’s Sports Station on Friday (link via Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com).

“We don’t get into that with Larry at this point and time,” Keim said. “It’s no different than the last couple of years. We will give him that grace period to sort of reflect and see how his body feels like a lot of the vets do. Those are the conversations that will come after the season.”

Fitzgerald, of course, has flirted with retirement in recent years, and that dalliance will likely take place again this offseason. It seems incredibly unlikely that Fitzgerald — who would be entering his age-36 campaign in 2019 — would have interest in leaving the Cardinals, as he’s expressed on multiple occasions that he’s only willing to play in Arizona.

Although Fitzgerald may be open to extending his career beyond 2018, it’s unknown if he’s angling for a multi-year contract. Last November, Fitzgerald agreed to a one-year, $11MM extension that took him through the 2018 campaign. However, with the Cardinals possibly in line for major structural changes — both Keim and head coach Steve Wilks could lose their jobs in the coming weeks — it stands to reason Fitzgerald could take his time deciding on his future.

While Fitzgerald’s numbers (59 receptions, 645 yards, five touchdowns) have fallen off this season, it’s tough to lay blame at his feet, as the Cardinals easily boast the league’s worst offensive unit and quarterback play. In terms of all-time NFL records, Fitzgerald isn’t going to pass Jerry Rice in terms of receiving yardage, but he should overtake Tony Gonzalez for second in receptions if he plays in 2019.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.