There's no denying Larry Fitzgerald's future place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The prolific receiver will likely be inducted in Canton, Ohio as soon as he is eligible. The only question is when will Fitzgerald be eligible, as he has to be retired for at least five years before his name will be placed on the ballot.
For now, Fitzgerald would be eligible for induction in 2026, but that's assuming that he has already played his final down in the NFL. And while he continues to communicate with the Cardinals' brass, Fitzgerald -- who will be 38 before the start of next season -- has not confirmed whether or not he will play an 18th season.
"My communication with Larry has literally consisted of golf, investments, or Phoenix Suns basketball," Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said on Thursday. "Like we mentioned before, Larry is going to decide this on his time, and he's one of the greatest players of all time, so obviously he deserves that time."
General manager Steve Keim, who was a regional scout for the Cardinals when Arizona selected Fitzgerald with the third pick in the 2004 draft, said that Fitzgerald's decision will not impact what he and his staff do during next week's draft. While they did bring in veteran wideout A.J. Green earlier this offseason, the Cardinals are expected to add another wideout to their receiving corps during the draft.
"To me, you can't have enough good players at one position," Keim said. "Obviously, Larry Fitzgerald is a great one, so you wouldn't say no to [having him] either."
While they are expected to address either their offensive line, secondary or pass rusher needs with the 16th overall pick, the Cardinals have not ruled out taking a playmaker with the pick. When asked to assess this year's top receiving prospects, Keim compared former Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith to Marvin Harrison, a receiver who overcame his smallish stature to earn Hall of Fame status. Keim compared Smith's teammate at Alabama, Jaylen Waddle, to Steve Smith, a former All-Pro with the Panthers.
Keim also said that he has met virtually with Kyle Pitts, the top-rated tight end in this year's draft. In just eight games for the Gators last season, the 6-foot-6, 246-pound Pitts caught 12 touchdown passes while averaging nearly 18 yards per catch.
"Tremendous player," Keim said of Pitts, who is not expected to last until the 16th overall pick. "Everything you hear about his character, his commitment to the game, his passion, is extremely high. Then you turn on the tape and you see a guy who can do it all. He's got unusual height, weight and speed. He's a real mismatch problem for a number of positions defensively. I haven't seen that many guys that really possess the skillset that he has."
While the Cardinals are clearly interested in adding to their receiving corps, they are also keeping the door open for Fitzgerald. The second leading receiver in NFL history, Fitzgerald was the catalyst behind the Cardinals' lone Super Bowl run in 2008. And while he is no longer the team's No. 1 receiver (that distinction belongs to DeAndre Hopkins), Fitzgerald has been a consistent target for quarterback Kyler Murray. After catching 75 passes during Murray's rookie season, Fitzgerald caught 54 passes in 13 games during the 2020 campaign.
The runner-up in the 2003 Heisman Trophy voting, Fitzgerald has more than met expectations during the course of his career. And while other receivers may have received more of a spotlight, Keim is grateful that he and the rest of the Cardinals brought him to the desert nearly two decades ago.
"There was no doubt in our minds that Larry was going to be a tremendous pro and certainly the type of receiver that he turned out to be," Keim said. "Not only was he a great one, he was as good as they get in the community and in our locker room as well."