There was speculation that former Pitt star Larry Fitzgerald might retire this offseason, but on Wednesday, the Arizona Cardinals announced that the veteran wide receiver had signed a one-year contract with the team and committed to playing in his 16th season in the National Football League.
”No player has meant more to this franchise or this community than Larry Fitzgerald,” Cardinals president Michael Bidwill said in a statement. “In my discussions with him, it was clear that he is as driven and as passionate as ever. We are thrilled he’ll be back for 2019.”
As recently as Jan. 15, Fitzgerald was non-committal about a potential return to the team. Shortly after former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury was hired, the receiver was asked about his thoughts on the hire, and while he had positive feedback regarding Kingsbury, he also told TMZ that he was still taking some time to figure out his own situation.
Given that hire and the Cardinals’ apparent commitment to grooming quarterback Josh Rosen as their future star, it isn’t surprising that the team made a push to keep Fitzgerald in the fold for what could be a pivotal year in the UCLA product’s development. The team also brought in former Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements this offseason, and he is known for helping Aaron Rodgers along in his developmental years.
Fitzgerald provides Rosen with an elite target capable of making plays. However, the signal-caller didn’t take full advantage of the receiver’s presence during his rookie campaign, as he targeted him just 112 times. As a result, Fitzgerald finished the 2018 season with just 734 yards -- the lowest single-season total of his career. Rosen also struggled in general, as he threw 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions over the span of 14 games while the Cardinals went a disappointing 3-13.
With that in mind, it might be somewhat surprising that Fitzgetald decided to return for another go-round with the inexperienced quarterback under center, but a quote from the star pass-catcher from the end of last season shed some light on his rationale.
“I’ve dedicated my life to it,” Fitzgerald told reporters back in December. “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.”
Fitzgerald also ranks second all time in receiving yards, with 16,279, and third all time in receptions, with 1,303, and an additional season will give him an opportunity to surpass Tony Gonzalez on the all-time receptions leaderboard. At this point, he's only 22 catches away from tying the former Kansas City Chiefs tight end, but his ascent up the rankings may stall out after that, as Jerry Rice ranks first with 1,549 career receptions over 20 years.