While Larry Fitzgerald re-established himself as Arizona’s top receiving target for a handful of games this season he was still a shell of his former self over the past three years. Fitzgerald, once a lock for 1,200 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, has seen his production drop off dramatically since 2011. From 2012-2014, Fitzgerald averaged only 845 yards and five touchdowns per season.
Fitzgerald will count $23.6 million towards the salary cap in 2015 and is due an $8 million roster bonus in March. As much as Fitzgerald has meant to the organization over the years, that’s some serious money for an aging receiver with declining productivity. The future Hall of Famer has probably played his last game in a Cardinals uniform but there is a chance Fitzgerald restructures his deal to stay in the desert.
As for the rest of the Arizona receivers, the potential loss of Fitzgerald wouldn’t be all too impactful. The Cardinals offense hasn’t relied on Fitzgerald near as much as it has earlier in his career. Fitzgerald’s primary role had deteriorated into a possession receiver, targeting him mainly on underneath routes which limited his impact against opposing defenses.
Michael Floyd was expected to take a major step forward in 2014, but that didn’t happen. Floyd is still too inconsistent and tends to disappear in critical moments when he’s needed most. That said, Floyd did manage to make several big plays this season and the Cardinals’ revolving door at quarterback certainly didn’t help his potential breakout campaign.
John Brown has a good chance to end up starting opposite of Floyd in 2015 and he’s someone to keep a close eye on. Brown is filling the same role that T.Y. Hilton is with the Indianapolis Colts, who’s emerged as one of the NFL’s best receivers. Brown has a similar skill set and has a chance to make the same leap Hilton did over his first three years in the league.
During his rookie season in Indianapolis, Hilton caught 50 passes for 861 yards and seven touchdowns. Brown’s rookie stat line wasn’t all too far off as he reeled in 48 passes for 696 yards and five touchdowns. Hilton went on to surpass 1,000 yards in each of his next two seasons and similar production from Brown would certainly be welcomed by the Cardinals offense.
Assuming that Fitzgerald leaves, Floyd or Brown could emerge as the Cardinals' true No. 1 wideout in 2015, but for now I’d consider them 1a and 1b at the position.
Cardinals' wide receiver outlook cloudy
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