If this were a bit busier time of year, we would likely just shake our heads and move on from the idea. Given the free time on our hands, however, it’s worth pointing out and arguing against the notion that the Kansas City Chiefs should sign free agent Larry Fitzgerald for the reason that it makes zero sense—on any level.
A recent post over at Sportscasting put forth the premise that the Chiefs should bring Fitzgerald on board for a chance to chase another Super Bowl ring before his career is officially over. To be clear, they don’t paint Fitzgerald as a savior or some major target for the Chiefs offense. Instead, they refer to him as a rotational option, a veteran player with proven hands whose experience would help on and off the field. They also note he’d be an upgrade over Byron Pringle.
Before we shoot this idea out of the sky like a beginner’s round of skeet, however, it’s important to note that we intend no disrespect toward Fitzgerald. The man is a first-ballot Hall of Famer who elevated the Cardinals offense to new heights, and his first Pro Bowl season came when Dustin Colquitt was learning how to punt as a rookie for the Chiefs. Even the fact that we’re still talking about him as a potential free agent addition at the age of 38 reveals the physical marvel he has been.
There’s also something to be said for a potential addition at wideout for the Chiefs going forward. The team has already chased a few targets in free agency to no avail—from JuJu Smith-Schuster to reported attempts to also sign T.Y. Hilton and Josh Reynolds—and a lot of fans like the idea of bringing in a proven threat at a position that looks thinner after losing Sammy Watkins to the Baltimore Ravens.
The idea of bringing in Larry Fitzgerald is a bad one for the Chiefs.
In this case, however, Fitzgerald is not the answer. In case you weren’t watching the Cardinals offense last season, Fitzgerald is a shell of his former self these days. He’s dependable if you can get the ball in his hands, but Fitzgerald is going to create any separation at this stage of his career against corners who are 15 years younger. He’s also not going to get up field all that fast, and he’s certainly not going to make defenders miss and/or bounce off for extra yards.
For a team like the Chiefs, who could use someone to excel in that WR2 role in the wake of Watkins’ absence, Fitzgerald is the opposite of what they need. At this point, he lost that role to Christian Kirk in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, and even with defenses forced to cover DeAndre Hopkins as well, Fitzgerald averaged a scant 7.6 yards/touch. That total was by far his lowest in 17 NFL seasons (his previous low was 9.4 in 2016, the only other season in which that total was in single digits).
If Fitzgerald cannot handle the load of being a WR2 at this point, then the Chiefs would be bringing him in as a reliable option down the depth chart. But are you going to ask Fitzgerald to suit up for special teams? If not, then who is going to step in his place? Those positions on the roster must be flexible enough to play for Dave Toub as well.
By signing Fitzgerald, the Chiefs would be using precious cap money to hire someone primarily for their rarely-used hands and incredible experience. They would lose some financial flexibility as well as roster flexibility and would still face the same need at the position they have now for someone who can step up and handle the targets required at the X-receiver role. They would also bury emerging players like Cornell Powell, Byron Pringle or others for the chance to bring Fitz on board.
Fitzgerald has enjoyed a fine career, and the idea of bringing him in wouldn’t have been such a bad one if this was 2015 or so. But at this stage, the Cardinals know that the presence of Fitzgerald limits their offensive capabilities given the financial and roster demands as well. Fitzgerald was a truly great player, someone who could have helped the Chiefs for most of the last two decades at any point. But taking that flyer now is just not a good move by any metric.