Nothing cures the football doldrums more than rumors about great players joining your team. One realistic scenario I have not heard much about is Larry Fitzgerald winding up in Seahawks blue next year. Something tells me that last play in the Super Bowl would have ended differently if Seattle had just one more professional receiver lined up there. A few things need to happen for Fitzgerald in Seattle to come to fruition. None of them are outlandish.
The certain Hall of Famer is due to count over $23M against the cap this coming season for Arizona. There were stories that they were going to cut him, and then stories that they were not. The team is reportedly trying to renegotiate Fitzgerald’s deal, but and renegotiation where Fitzgerald ends up with less money would be a slap in the face for the best player franchise history.
The other aspect of that needs to be in place for a renegotiation to work is a desire by Fitzgerald to stay in Arizona. This is a guy who has been forced to play with the likes of Drew Stanton, Ryan Lindley, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb and others during his prime. There has been a lot of losing. Next year hinges on the health of Carson Palmer after another knee surgery.
Fitzgerald has also been rumored to dislike his role in the Bruce Arians offense that mimics what Hines Ward used to do. There is a lot of blocking, and not as many chances in the passing game. It is more than just realistic that Fitzgerald wants to play elsewhere. It is likely. And if that is the case, all he needs to do is refuse a renegotiation or pay cut. The Cardinals would have to move on or handcuff their team. The Cardinals are already $10M over the cap.
Step 2: Winning is Fitzgerald’s top priority
Fitzgerald could use his newfound freedom in a variety of ways. He could choose to return home to Minnesota and play for the Vikings. He could shop his skills to the highest bidder. That is not what I would expect. Fitzgerald wants to play games that matter for a team that could win it all. This will not be about money or a homecoming.
Looking at the contenders with cash space provides a decent list of options for Fitzgerald to consider. He could join Andrew Luck and the Colts, Peyton Manning and the Broncos, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, or Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. Dallas might also get in the mix if Dez Bryant walks.
Step 3: Seattle is his first choice
Playing with Luck, Manning, Rodgers or Romo would give him the best chance to catch a ton of passes. The Colts are still an incomplete team, and Fitzgerald is not the missing piece they need to get over the top. Manning showed a lot of vulnerability last year and already got blown out in a Super Bowl when playing his best ball. Joining Rodgers in Lambeau field would be tempting, especially if Randall Cobb is not resigned. Dallas still has not won much in the playoffs.
Then there is Seattle. A team that will not pad his receiving numbers that much, but the one that has been to the last two Super Bowls, and the odds-on favorite to go again. They play in a division he knows well, and would probably not require him to uproot his family. He is close with a number of players on the team, including Richard Sherman, and would be a perfect fit for what the team needs to improve their offense.
Golden Tate is good at high-pointing the football. Fitzgerald is the best of all-time. He is physical over the middle and makes quarterbacks look far better by snagging impossible passes. His skills have certainly diminished at age 31, but that is overstated. The bigger factor has been the player throwing him the football and the scheme in which he played.
Step 4: The Seahawks have to want Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald is a good blocker, a great red zone target, and a big body who can move the chains. He is clutch. He works tirelessly at his craft, and he is all class. The fit with Seattle is hand-in-glove outside of age.
It would be other opportunities that could stand in the way of Seattle finding enough money to sign Fitzgerald. Maybe this Ndamukong Suh-to-Seattle thing is real and the team decides it worth pursuing. Maybe they prefer to bring back Byron Maxwell, Marshawn Lynch and sign a veteran offensive lineman. They could choose to go with younger receiving options via the draft, but we have seen over and over again that young receivers often take a couple of years to develop.
Best guess at odds
The chances that Fitzgerald hits the open market is about 60/40 that it will happen. Should he become a free agent, the chances that there would be mutual interest between he and Seattle is 90/10 at least. Jared Allen wanted to play here last year and it did not work out, so mutual interest only goes so far. If I had to bet, I would put my money on a new #11 joining Seattle next year with no threat of in-fighting or pouting.