The wide receiver is scheduled to make $15 million in base salary and occupy $23.6 million of the Cardinals' 2015 salary, a figure that the team cannot reasonably stomach. In order to salvage their financial roster capabilities, Arizona wants Fitzgerald to restructure his contract so that he can remain a Cardinal.
How badly do they want this?
"We definitely, desperately want him to stay," coach Bruce Arians said Friday, via the team's official website. "He knows that. It's really his decision."
Fitzgerald's current predicament is the type of situation that often results in either a redone deal or a release of a fan favorite who still ranks among the league's top collection of wideouts, at least in reputation. Fitzgerald showed in February 2014 that he is willing to sit down and manipulate numbers to keep him in red and white, but as the team website's ominously reads in its post detailing the wideout's restructuring last offseason, this will have to be dealt with again.
Statistically, Fitzgerald had his worst output since his rookie season. The 11-year pro caught 63 passes for 784 yards and two touchdowns in 2014, his lowest amount of trips to the end zone in his career.
But in his defense, he had Drew Stanton, Ryan Lindley and Logan Thomas throwing to him for half of the season after starter Carson Palmer went down with a torn ACL. An otherwise promising season for the Cardinals was hindered by ineptitude at the quarterback position, so the onus doesn't fall strictly on the shoulders of Fitzgerald.
The Cardinals are about as well prepared to move on from the franchise icon as they'll ever be, though. Michael Floyd has continued to prove he was worth the high draft pick and was joined by rookie John Brown, who wowed many with long touchdown receptions and one crazy celebration. Their collective performances were partially to blame for Fitzgerald's lower statistics.
We'll see if the finances prove that to be possible.