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Wide Receiver Setup Getting Clearer, But Larry Fitzgerald Future Still Fuzzy

With A.J. Green addition, Christian Kirk likely headed to the slot

The playing future of WR Larry Fitzgerald (left) could have an impact on WR Christian Kirk.
The playing future of WR Larry Fitzgerald (left) could have an impact on WR Christian Kirk.

The Cardinals signed A.J. Green in free agency last week, which brings some clarity to the wide receiver position.

The perennial Pro Bowler will primarily line up opposite DeAndre Hopkins, giving quarterback Kyler Murray a pair of veteran options to target on the outside.

As the roster is currently constructed, that would put fourth-year wideout Christian Kirk in the slot, a position that many believe is optimal for his skillset.

The caveat, of course, is the future of Larry Fitzgerald, who has yet to announce if he will play in 2021.

Fitzgerald has manned the slot since 2013, and general manager Steve Keim said the Green signing "doesn't have any effect on where (Fitzgerald) would line up."

It remains to be seen how the playing time would be divvied up if Fitzgerald returns, but Keim would consider the wide receiver quartet a luxury, not a problem.

"The more talent you can have at any position, the more depth, the more playmakers we can acquire, certainly excites us," Keim said.

Keim said he and Fitzgerald have traded some text messages lately, but not about the prospect of retirement. While Fitzgerald has been a regular at Suns games this offseason – he has a minority ownership stake in the franchise – he has been mum on his football intentions.

Regardless of Fitzgerald's decision, the addition of Green gives the Cardinals another pass-catching option after a consistent No. 2 target failed to materialize behind Hopkins in 2020.

Green had the worst statistical output of his career with the Bengals a year ago, catching 47 passes for 523 yards in 16 games, but Keim believes those numbers were misleading.

"It all starts with the tape, and I don't think his stats are really telling a great story about the type of player he still is, in my opinion," Keim said.

Keim said that, according to the Cardinals scouts and coaches, 38 of Green's 118 targets a season ago were uncatchable. Green will be 33 when the 2021 season begins, but if he can find that old magic, the Cardinals' passing game would likely take a marked step forward.

"He's still got a lot left in the tank, in my opinion," Keim said. "He runs great routes, really strong in traffic. I think he was the third-best receiver in the NFL this past year with catching balls int traffic. Really strong hands and still has the vertical speed."

Images of wide receiver A.J. Green signing his one-year deal with the Cardinals.

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