Larry Fitzgerald will play again for the Arizona Cardinals, for at least one more season.
The veteran wide receiver has decided to return for a 16th year by signing a one-year contract this week with the team, ending for now the speculation about his future. ESPN reported the deal was for $11 million plus incentives -- a salary similar to the one he had played for on one-year deals in 2017 and 2018.
On his Instagram account, Fitzgerald wrote: "A fire burned inside of me my rookie year. A desire, over all else, to be great. To excel on the field. To impact the lives of others off of it. I’m grateful that the fire still burns just as bright today, and that this organization has let me chase that fire for well over a decade. Nothing excites me more than continuing to chase greatness with everyone here on and off the field. Let’s get to work!"
Fitzgerald, who will turn 36 at the end of August, remains the top receiver on the team and a crucial leader at a position that is young and inexperienced. While his statistics sunk in 2018, it was due to the entire unit’s struggles more than Fitzgerald’s own dip in play. He still led the team in receptions (69), receiving yards (734) and receiving touchdowns (6).
"No player has meant more to this franchise or this community than Larry Fitzgerald," team president Michael Bidwill said in a statement. "In my discussions with him, it was clear that he is as driven and passionate as ever. We are thrilled he'll be back in 2019."
Fitzgerald has consistently said he wanted to take time to decide if he wanted to return for another year – as he had done the previous two seasons – but even with all the difficulties the Cardinals had this season, he sounded like someone leaning toward a return.
“I've dedicated my life to it," Fitzgerald said prior to the season finale. “I started playing tackle football when I was 6 years old on the 8-year-old team. This time of the year this is all I have done. When you dedicate your life to something, put in this much time and effort, I wouldn't say I need it, but I really enjoy it.
“To be able to roll out of bed every day, I don't have to set my alarm clock. My feet hit the ground and I know it's time to go to work. I'm excited about it and I understand this is something I've always wanted to do.”
Making the announcement now also provides clarity for Fitzgerald as he inevitably spends time during Super Bowl week doing multiple interviews for various sponsors.
He comes back to a team with its third head coach in three years, although the addition of newly hired Kliff Kingsbury should boost the passing offense considerably – and help Fitzgerald trend back toward the production he had been at despite his veteran status.
Prior to 2018, Fitzgerald had posted three straight 100-catch seasons.
Fitzgerald’s return means more records will fall in his name. In his first regular-season appearance this September, he will become the player with the most games played in franchise history. Fitzgerald is currently tied with former kicker Jim Bakken at 234. Fitzgerald also has 227 straight games with a reception, second in NFL history to Jerry Rice’s 274.
After surpassing Terrell Owens for the second-most receiving yards in NFL history this year (Fitz is now at 16,279), he has a chance to catch Tony Gonzalez for the second-most receptions all-time. Fitzgerald, at 1,303 receptions, needs 23 catches to make that happen.
Rice, in first place in both categories, is likely unreachable in both catches (1,549) and yards (22,895).
Fitzgerald joins a receiving corps that includes second-year players Christian Kirk, Trent Sherfield, Jalen Tolliver and Malachi Dupre, as well as third-year wideouts Chad Williams and Pharoh Cooper. The Cardinals added CFL product Bryant Mitchell after the season. J.J. Nelson is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.