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On Larry Fitzgerald: "We'll Hope He's Back"

Contract likely to be addressed with veteran wide receiver

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Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald shakes the hand of Panthers defensive back Josh Norman after Saturday night's loss.


Larry Fitzgerald did not come through the locker room Sunday morning during the final media availability of the season, which has been his custom over the years.

The wide receiver's locker remained untouched prior to the final meeting of the season for the team. What's left up in the air is whether Fitzgerald will be operating out of that space next season.

Perhaps the biggest unknown going into the Cardinals' offseason will be Fitzgerald's future. His salary cap number in 2015 is scheduled to be $23.6 million, and he is due a decision-forcing $8 million roster bonus in early March.

Coach Bruce Arians was asked Sunday where Fitzgerald fits into the Cardinals' future plans.

"He's right where he's always been," Arians said. "I don't control money and caps and all that crap. I just coach the heck out of him and he's a great kid. I look forward to having him next year."

General Manager Steve Keim is the one who controls the money and cap, however, and there is not a simple answer. Fitzgerald has long been the face of the franchise and he still is playing at a high level. He finished with fewer than 1,000 yards receiving for a third straight season, but he was on pace for such a year before quarterback Carson Palmer got hurt and then suffering a knee injury himself.

After missing two games, he finished with a career-low two touchdowns and his 784 yards and 63 catches were the lowest totals he has had in a season other than his rookie year. Fitzgerald turns 32 in August.

Keim has said Fitzgerald's cap number is "baked in" to the budget for 2015 and the "intent" is for Fitzgerald to remain. But

Fitzgerald could be traded, or the team could see if Fitzgerald is willing to take a cut in pay.

Fitzgerald insisted he wasn't thinking about whether he had played his last game as a Cardinal following Saturday night's loss in Carolina.

"The taste of defeat is the only thing I can think about right now," Fitzgerald said. "That's all that's on my mind. I'm just proud of the guys in this locker room. It's been a great season competing with these fellas and this coaching staff. That's all I'm thinking of at this point."

At one point, Fitzgerald talked about the Panthers' game as a total team loss, saying "we have to find a way to regroup and come back next year."

Now the Cardinals and Fitzgerald will see if Fitzgerald is a part of that.

"Everybody in this locker room wants Larry back, the fans want Larry back, but there are some business things that I am sure will happen and need to happen," Palmer said. "We'll hope he's back."



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