Fitzgerald Sounds Like a Cardinal

Vikings fans are busy looking for a glimmer of trade hope over the next month at the wide receiver position, but it sounds unlikely that will come in the form of a Minnesota native and Pro Bowl receiver. See what Fitzgerald had to say about his current situation and the details of his hefty contract.

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald Jr. sounds like he will stay exactly that – and Arizona Cardinal.

With a contract that was that is scheduled to become a salary-cap anvil in 2008, there have been rumors that the Cardinals might look to trade the Minneapolis native, sending visions of Pro Bowl receivers in purple dancing through the minds of Vikings fans.

But in two separate interviews last week with Sirius NFL Radio, Fitzgerald gave no signs of an imminent departure. Contrarily, he referred to the Cardinals as "we" numerous times and extolled the virtues of a potentially explosive offense in Arizona.

"I think it's going to be unstoppable for us. When we get rolling, when we have Edgerrin (James) back there running the ball effectively, we're hard to stop," he said.

The Cardinals finished the season with an 8-8 record, but in Arizona that is almost something of an accomplishment considering the franchise's past.

"I look at it as a stepping stone. We had a good year, a solid year. We finished with a .500 season, something that hasn't happened here since 1998," he said. "It's been a long time, so I think we're making the right moves. We're going in the right direction."

Fitzgerald entered the league in 2004 and has been a relative bargain for the Cardinals considering his production. Two of the past three years, he has produced 100-catch, 1,400-yard, 10-touchdown seasons.

For that contribution, the Cardinals have taken relatively minimal cap hits -- $2.3 million in 2004, $3.11 million in 2005, $6.1 million in 2006 and $5.5 million last year.

In 2008, however, the Cardinals would have to ante up hard if he doesn't get a contract renegotiated. While his base salary of $1.9 million and an additional $1.9 million in prorated signing bonus would be easy for the franchise to absorb, he is also scheduled to make up to an additional $13.5 million in escalators based on his production from the 2004-2007 seasons.

And it doesn't get any better in 2009. His base actually decreases to $1.4 million, but he could make up to $16 million more based on escalators, pushing his total compensation that year near $20 million with his prorated signing bonus included.

"I love Arizona. I really want to be here, but obviously I've got to get my cap number down somehow. I really want to work it out," he told Sirius. "My agent is in conversations with the team right now, so hopefully we'll try to pound something out real soon."

The Cardinals are expected to restructure his deal, according to NFL analyst Adam Caplan. But part of the restructuring should include more years on the back end of the deal, Fitzgerald said.

"I want to get a couple more years on my contract so I can be sure I'm going to be here and in the plans for the foreseeable future," he said.

His current contract expires after the 2009 season, after the two years of hefty escalators.


Fitzgerald was entertaining and insightful on several other topics during his Sirius interview:

  • On the culture of the Cardinals changing: "It definitely has changed. When we go into games, we have a clear, concise picture of what we want to do. … I think when teams get done playing us, they know they were in a fight."

  • On Randy Moss: "When I was a ballboy with (the Vikings), he did some freakish things in practice. He's still able to do those things at 30 years old that he was able to do back then."

  • On rumors of Dennis Green being considered to coach the Oakland Raiders, which Fitzgerald said he was hearing too: "I hope he gets a job. I care about Coach Green a whole lot and I just want to see him have some success. I hated to see him go out of here and not be a winner."

  • Fitzgerald said someone on the team had t-shirts made to commemorate Green's famous rant about the Chicago Bears being "who we thought they were" and crowning them. The oft-replayed rant was in response to a narrow loss to the Bears when Green was head coach of the Cardinals. The t-shirts had a picture of a Chicago Bear with a crown on his backside. One of the Sirius hosts said Green has copyrighted his phrase, "They are who we thought they were."

  • On Seahawks cornerback and scheduled free agent Marcus Trufant: "Marcus has gotten so much better over the years I've played him. He's always had, I feel, the best transition skills of anyone in the business, as far as being able to read and react to the football. But he didn't always play the football real well or make plays or make you pay for throwing the football his way. This year he was able to do that. That's what's going to elevate you to a really top player in the NFL a defensive back."

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