Far too often in sports today we see aging stars hang around at any cost just to get some marginal playing time, before facing reality and entering the world of retirement. We see players with Hall of Fame careers take on reduced roles with teams that just feel odd in their later years, and it never feels quite right. Sometimes it even becomes a bit sad to witness as you watch your favorite players going through this process.
This is why the news out of Arizona on Friday morning is so uplifting and inspiring to see. The Arizona Cardinals have announced a one-year contract extension for veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
It’s official: The #AZCardinals signed WR Larry Fitzgerald to a contract extension that puts him under contract through 2018. If he plays next year, it’ll be with the Cardinals.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 17, 2017
The contract extension overrules the previous terms of Fitzgerald’s contract that included a voidable 2018 season to satisfy salary cap restrictions, according to Pro Football Talk. So the Cardinals didn’t have to work out a new deal with their best receiver in franchise history, but they decided to do it anyway and remove any doubt about where Fitzgerald would be playing a year from now, assuming he is still playing. While the topic of possible retirement has been floated around over the last year, although those conversations have centered more on Fitzgerald saying he knows the time will come at some point but that date was not yet in view for him.
Fitzgerald is currently in his 14th season in the NFL, which would make the 2018 season his 15th. He is still producing at a good level for the Cardinals, on pace for a third-straight 1,000-yard season, but historic trends in the NFL indicate his production will be on the decline, and his catch percentage over the last three seasons in part supports that trend at this time. He is moving closer to moving past Terrell Owens for second place on the NFL’s all-time receiving list, and he should manage to do that in a Cardinals uniform as long as he does not succumb to an injury.
Fitzgerald’s legacy has also been cemented with the Cardinals. Already considered a Cardinal for life, this contract only brings that thought closer to reality. Even if Fitzgerald does end up suiting up for another team, nothing will remove the idea that Fitzgerald is a Cardinal and will always be considered a Cardinal. Of all of the receivers in NFL history to record at least 15,000 yards, Fitzgerald is the only player to accumulate all of his yardage in one team’s uniform.
Jerry Rice, for example, will always be known for being a San Francisco 49ers, but he finished out his career with some time with the Oakland Raiders and one year with the Seattle Seahawks. Terrell Owens and Randy Moss played with five different teams in their career. Other players like Tony Gonzalez and Steve Smith latched on with another team toward the end of their careers.
Fitzgerald finishing his career in a Cardinals uniform would be unique in an age where we saw Michael Jordan retire as a member of the Washington Wizards or Ichiro Suzuki playing some of his final seasons in a Marlins uniform or Karl Malone in a Lakers uniform and so on. If there is any hope for purity in the sports world, the Cardinals will make sure Fitzgerald plays out his career in Arizona.