The Arizona Cardinals reached an agreement with franchise receiver Larry Fitzgerald on an eight-year, $120 million deal with $50 million guaranteed. The new deal makes "Fitz" the highest paid receiver and non-quarterback player in NFL history.
"Larry Fitzgerald has been one of the most dynamic, if not the most dynamic, football player in Cardinals history," said team President Michael Bidwill. "We're excited about what the future holds, not only for Larry and the Cardinals, but to see him retire as a Cardinal some day. Hopefully, not any time soon."
Fitzgerald's value certainly warrants such a deal. The third overall pick in the 2004 draft, Fitzgerald has been selected to the Pro Bowl in five of his seven seasons. He leads the franchise in receptions (613), is second in receiving yardage (8,204) and set multiple playoff receiving records during Arizona's run to the Super Bowl in the 2008 season.
Fitzgerald has at least 90 receptions in each of the last four seasons and has four consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons (five total in his career). His 65 touchdowns are good for second place in franchise history behind only Roy Green (66).
Coming into the final year of his current contract, the Cards have been in talks with the Minneapolis native and his agent, Eugene Parker, since the end of the lockout. Fitzgerald's extension was an underlying reason for some of the team's activity in free agency – to prove to their franchise player they were serious about winning.
"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," he continued. "I have to just go out and do my job."
Fitz came to the press conference looking to do just that, with a pair of cleats in hand.
"When you sign an 8-year deal and you come to the boss's office, I had to feel like I was doing something," Fitzgerald said, sporting his trademark smile. "Maybe he wanted me to go out there and run routes today and I brought them just in case."
Accompanied by his brother, Marcus, father, Larry Sr., and American Idol winner Jordin Sparks (a friend), Fitzgerald stressed the importance of the game and how his legacy both on and off the field is important to him.
"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.
The Cards have shown a commitment to re-signing their franchise cornerstones with Fitzgerald joining Darnell Dockett and Adrian Wilson as players the team has extended in recent years.
"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."
With the part of the game he loathes out of the way, Fitzgerald can focus on what he loves: playing football.
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