The Arizona Cardinals top priority this preseason was to get their main man, wideout Larry Fitzgerald, under lock and key for the foreseeable future. They can chalk that up to mission completed after getting Fitzgerald to agree to an eight year contract that could pay him upwards of $120 million dollars.
The contract, which includes $50 million guaranteed, will give him an annual salary of $15 million dollars and make him the fifth highest paid player in the league. With the top four moneymakers in the game quarterbacks, that gives the 6-3, 218 lbs receiver the distinct privilege of being the highest paid receiver in the game today. The closest wideout to his pay scale is Carolina's Steve Smith, who is due $10.9 million this year.
"Growing up, since I was 7 years old, this has been the game I love and something I have been so passionate about," Fitzgerald said, "and to have to talk about it on the business side is a little bit uncomfortable. But I am really happy to put it behind us and it wouldn't be possible if it wasn't for the Bidwill family's hard work in making this thing happen."
Fitzgerald, who is the Cardinals career leader in receptions with 613 and is just 294 yards from toppling the franchise's receiving yards record , has topped 1,000 yards receiving in five of his seven NFL seasons, including the last four. While playing for one of the worst offenses in football last season, he still managed 90 catches for 1,137 yards.
With this contract, it is very plausible that Fitzgerald will finish his career with the Cardinals, who drafted him in 2004.
"It is an honor," he said of possibly only playing for one team in his career. "I am so fortunate. Not many players have that opportunity but Michael has allowed me that opportunity and I just want to repay him with great effort and winning. That is what is important."
While Fitzgerald never insisted that a new deal hinged on an improvement in the quarterback position, the message was on the wall. The Cardinals responded this offseason by trading for Philly back-up Kevin Kolb. Kolb, who many saw as a potential franchise quarterback, apparently has shown Fitzgerald enough this short preseason to make the wideout believe he can be the quarterback to lead Arizona back to the playoffs.
Photo credit – AP