Larry Fitzgerald walked in dressed for dinner and not a press conference, but he brought with him a pair of cleats anyway.
“When you sign an eight-year deal and you come to the boss’ office, you feel like you have to do something, so maybe I could run some routes,” Fitzgerald said with a laugh. “I was ready to. I brought them just in case.”
Team president Michael Bidwill – the boss – was sitting next to Fitzgerald, laughing at the same thing. The mood was good, after Bidwill announced the Cardinals had agreed to terms with their Pro Bowl wide receiver on a new contract that will keep Fitzgerald a Cardinal for his career – officially through the 2018 season. Terms, as usual, were not released, but the soon-to-be-28-year-old will reportedly receive a little less than $47 million in guaranteed money and has a total worth that could reach $120 million.
NFL.com reported Fitzgerald will average $17 million over the next five years.It's Fitzgerald's third giant contract, and he has already made more than $65 million in his career.
Fitzgerald loathes the idea of talking about his contracts and personal business, so a press conference to do just that was admittedly uncomfortable.
“I look over here to the right (at pictures on the wall) and see Kurt (Warner),
Fitzgerald told owner Bill Bidwill last week in Flagstaff how much he hated the business side of sports, especially with a game he loves. That didn’t stop him from agreeing to what will make him one of the highest-paid players in the NFL – including quarterbacks.
It didn’t hurt that the Cardinals made significant moves in the offseason to aid Fitzgerald’s quest to play for a winner. The Cards added quarterback
Getting Fitzgerald’s name on the dotted line figured to come only after the Cardinals made those acquisitions. Fitzgerald, however, refused to say he would have tried to use his contract situation as leverage.
“I’m not one to hold a hammer over anybody’s head,” Fitzgerald said. “This is Mr. Bidwill’s team. He’s going to do everything he can to make this organization go and we have seen it. The activity in free agency was something I hadn’t seen since I had been here. I think that’s an example of the things to come.
“I think we will continue to be aggressive but I can’t worry about that. I have to just go out and do my job.”
The Cardinals had more than $14 million in salary cap space before the Fitzgerald deal, and their space left over is under wraps at the moment. But Bidwill said the contract structured by general manager Rod Graves and Fitzgerald agent Eugene Parker benefitted both sides.
“It allows us to build the team around him and around a lot of the other core players we have,” Bidwill said. “It’s very positive for him, but it’s also very positive for the team. We’ve got a shared commitment to winning.”
In seven seasons with the Cards, Fitzgerald is the franchise’s all-time receptions leader (613) and is second on the franchise career receiving yardage list (8,204 yards), trailing only Roy Green (8,497). He has at least 90 receptions in each of the last four seasons and has four consecutive 1,000 yard receiving seasons and five total in his career. His 65 touchdowns are good for second place in franchise history behind Green (66).
The numbers on the franchise list will grow. Fitzgerald insisted he has never once wanted anything but to remain a Cardinal his whole career. He joins defensive stalwarts Adrian Wilson and
With brother Marcus and American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, a friend, among those with Fitzgerald watching from the back of the room, Fitzgerald noted how his legacy “on the field and off the field is very important to me.”
“I just want to make sure I am doing the right things and that my teammates know that’s the most important thing to me,” he added.
That’s why Bidwill was smiling despite committing such huge dollars to one player – the Cardinals understand they are getting more than just a receiver in Fitzgerald. They are getting an NFL icon, an advertising magnet and the kind of player you can take home to Mom.
“It’s been an honor he has been playing for us, and he’s been such a big part of our success,” Bidwill said. “We stated earlier this summer we wanted Larry to retire a Cardinal. He said it. We wanted to work on (a contract) and get it done before the season started.”