We continue our look at the best and worst veteran contracts on each team with the Arizona Cardinals
Best Contract: John Abraham
Only four players from the 2000 draft remain active in the NFL. Three of them—Tom Brady, Sebastian Janikowski, and Shane Lechler—play positions at which longevity for high performers is not unusual. The fourth, Abraham, has been a model of health on the back end of his career, playing in 110 of his teams’ last 112 regular season games at a more physically rigorous position.
Last off-season, Atlanta decided that despite coming off a ten-sack season, and despite 32.5 sacks over the previous three seasons combined, Abraham did not merit his scheduled $7 million in compensation. Several teams showed interest, but he ultimately inked with Arizona for a meager $4.6 million over two years.
For that paltry investment, Abraham put opponent quarterbacks on the ground 11.5 times last year, the fourth-highest sack total of his illustrious career. Despite modest escalation of his 2014 compensation to $3 million plus makeable incentives—and despite a potential suspension due to pending DUI charges—he represents great value yet again if he can dip into that fountain of youth one more time.
Worst Contract: Larry Fitzgerald
Believe me when I say that it breaks my heart to pick Fitzgerald in this spot. He was without a doubt the greatest athlete I witnessed as a student at the University of Pittsburgh, and when his NFL career finally winds down, the Hall of Fame surely awaits. Moreover, Arizona has doled out a number of iffy deals over the years, and I’d much rather write about almost any other.
But that seven-year, $113 million extension is too nutso to overlook, and it was from the moment he signed it. At the time, the top of the wideout market touched maybe $11 million per year; Arizona not only reset the bar for the position by nearly half over again, but they managed to create a new class of contracts for all elite non-quarterback players. It’s one thing to do that for a player like Calvin Johnson just entering his prime, and another for a veteran with as much wear on his body as Fitzgerald. It seemed clear at the time that he wouldn’t play out more than a few seasons at best before the dollars grew out of whack with his ability to stay productive.
Yes, he possessed all the leverage in negotiations going back to his ill-configured rookie contract, which led to a no-franchise clause in his robust second contract, which led to the insanity of his current deal. Yes, following the 2010 season he put on display maybe the most dominant postseason performance that I’ve ever witnessed by any player at any position. Yes, he is the best thing to happen to Arizona Cardinals football since the founding of the State of Arizona, the invention of the sport of football, or the evolution of the cardinal. Those details fade when a combination of age and surrounding talent reduce his performance to the merely mortal, and the baggage of his contract looms heavy over the present and future roster composition of his team.
2013’s Best and Worst Cardinals Contracts:
2013 Best Contract: Daryl Washington (facing suspension)
2013 Worst Contract: Larry Fitzgerald (see above)