Larry Fitzgerald won’t be a free agent until 2012, but that’s not going to stop fans from speculating upon – and drooling over – the possibility of the All-World receiver and Minnesota native becoming a member of the Vikings. When it comes to pining for players, there’s no such thing as too soon.
Here’s the reality though: Larry Fitzgerald is still a member of the Arizona Cardinals. And when his time comes to hit the market, Fitzgerald says the Cardinals will get the first shot.
“I try to put it like this,” the receiver explained. “I have one more year left on my deal, my job is to try to help the Arizona Cardinals win a championship and that’s my focus. I would like to play there. I’ve enjoyed my seven years there. If they want to keep me they’re going to have the first option to keep me.”
Fitzgerald then added, “If they don’t [want to keep me], then obviously I have to find employment elsewhere.”
And where might that elsewhere be? Obviously it’s far too early to know if the Vikings will have the inclination or money to make an offer. The 2012 off-season is a long, long way away. But if things do fall right for the Vikes to make an offer on Fitzgerald? It looks like he will be eager to listen.
“Honestly, I like coming home and just it being home,” the former Vikings ballboy said. “I go out with Adrian [Peterson] or Sidney [Rice] or Jared [Allen], guys like that, and they get mobbed everywhere they go. I see how Joe [Mauer] gets mobbed everywhere. I’m good at just coming home and being able just to blend in and just being a regular guy. I kind of like that. So if it happened, it would obviously be a childhood dream come true, but if it doesn’t then I won’t lose any sleep over it.”
The possibility of Fitzgerald donning purple is tantalizing to say the least. However, this far out, it’s impossible to say if the Vikings will even be in the market for a receiver when he hits free agency. Let’s say the Vikes retain Sidney Rice this off-season and Rice returns to his 2009 form. That would give them a legit #1 with Percy Harvin at #2. Under those conditions, would it even make sense to pursue a player like Fitzgerald?
I would say no. With two top receivers already on your roster, it would be better to spend free agent money elsewhere.
But there are other potential scenarios to consider: You lose Rice this off-season, or maybe you sign Rice and he doesn’t play like he did for that one magical year with Brett Favre tossing him the ball. Then all bets are off. When Fitzgerald hits free agency, you would have to look long and hard at signing him. Fitzgerald teamed with Harvin, Adrian Peterson and a potential Pro Bowl TE in Kyle Rudolph? That would be a potent array of weapons.
Of course there’s another factor to consider: the guy throwing the ball. We have no idea what the Vikings will look like quarterback-wise come the end of the 2011 season. Maybe Christian Ponder will have developed to the point where you can count on him for the future. And maybe not.
If the Vikings have an uncertain QB situation, Fitzgerald might not even want to come here. I certainly would be hesitant to sign a long-term contract to play receiver for a team that doesn’t know who is going to be taking the snaps from one year to the next (assuming I care about winning). Fitzgerald will undoubtedly get plenty of offers, and won’t have to settle for a situation that is less than ideal.
So if you’re a Viking fan who really wants to see Larry Fitzgerald in purple, there are two things you have to root for: Sidney Rice leaving (or not playing well), and Christian Ponder making a big splash as a rookie.
Without those two things, I don’t see Fitzgerald suiting up for the hometown team.