Entering the 2016 season, the Arizona Cardinals were supposed to learn much more about the future of their wide receiving corps.
This season may or may not be the final year for the face of the Cardinals' franchise, Larry Fitzgerald, but regardless, the Cardinals already knew what they had in Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald is 33 years old yet is still far and away Arizona's most consistent receiving threat, as he's notched 31 receptions for 367 yards and five touchdowns through five games.
Fitzgerald's stats are eye-opening, but in both positive and negative ways for Arizona. Sure, the Cardinals are thrilled that Fitzgerald is still as dependable and consistent as he's ever been in the waning stages of his career. Still, Arizona must be concerned that no receiver on its roster has come close to unseating a 33-year-old as the team's No. 1 option in the passing game.
When the Cardinals drafted Notre Dame product Michael Floyd in the first round of the 2012 draft, it was Floyd who was supposed to eventually emerge as the successor to Fitzgerald's throne. While Floyd has had a few impressive seasons, he has yet to demonstrate the necessary consistency to convince the Cardinals he's the man they can count on when Fitzgerald's time is up.
2016 is a pivotal season in the grand scheme of Floyd's career, especially in terms of how his career matches up with the Cardinals' future plans. The 26-year-old is in his fifth NFL season, and is playing out the final year of a four-year, $9.971 million deal in which the bulk of his money, upward of $7 million, is scheduled to pay out this season.
In other words, it's a make or break year.
Interestingly, the Cardinals knew 2016 could be a "break" type of year for Floyd, even if he finally reached his potential and grew into the No. 1 role the franchise eventually hoped he would assume. If Floyd went out and posted a 100-catch, 1,200-yard season, it could still have been considered a "break" year for Floyd because he'd be breaking the bank in free agency where it's unlikely the Cardinals could compete for his services.
However, almost no one saw this season "breaking" the way it has so far for Floyd.
Through five games, Floyd has just 12 receptions for 170 yards and has a handful of critical drops that have stalled Cardinals' drives in their tracks. Floyd's performance against the San Francisco 49ers drove head coach Bruce Arians to replace him with wide receiver Jaron Brown, which left Floyd without a single catch in the Cardinals' Thursday night victory.
On Friday, Arians said he wasn't concerned about Floyd in the long-term, because the 5th year veteran has been pressing too much, and trying to hard to make the right play at the right time. At some point, though, Arizona has a decision to make.
The Cardinals can either ride out the year with Floyd serving as the No. 2 receiver and hope for the best, or they can demote him and acknowledge Floyd no longer has a future with the organization.
Floyd has the size, speed and potential to deliver special moments as a receiver, but perhaps the pressure of living in Fitzgerald's shadow, and now playing with the goal of earning the largest contract possible has caught up with him.
With Carson Palmer aging and Fitzgerald coming to the end of his career, the Cardinals' championship window may be closing soon. While a healthy David Johnson and a defense led by Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson could keep that window open for a few more seasons, the Cardinals need more than just one offensive playmaker to get the job done.
Entering week six, it's time to find out if Floyd is cut out for the Cardinals' future, or if the team will need to scour the free agent market or use an early draft choice on a wide receiver to pair with up-and-comer John Brown in an Arizona offense that needs firepower for the long run.null