In the shortened, frenzied free agency period this offseason there were several lucrative deals bestowed upon several players as well as some historic contract extensions. The fortunes thrown around haven’t equated to victories on Sundays.
The Arizona Cardinals made wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald the highest paid wideout in league history as they came to terms on an eight-year, $120 million contract extension with $50 million in guaranteed money.
“It allows us to build the team around him and around a lot of the other core players we have. We’re excited that Larry was able to work with us and allow us to structure this in a way that allows it to be very positive for him, but also very positive for the team,” said Cardinals President Michael Bidwell.
The always humble Fitzgerald spoke softly at his press conference and handled the contract negotiations in the same manner, opting not to negotiate through the media.
“I’m really uncomfortable up here talking about this type of thing to be honest with you,” Firzgerald said at his press conference.
Through six games Fitzgerald has 31 catches for 505 yards with a pair of touchdowns. That puts the 28-year old, five-time Pro Bowler on pace for an 82-catch, near 1,350 yard campaign. Although those numbers are on pace with his yearly stats from his likely Hall-of-Fame career, Fitzgerald’s team has just one victory.
“Right now, teams are saying, ‘Fitzgerald is over here, we’re not going to let him beat us. We’re going to do whatever it takes to hold him down and not allow him to do that,'” explained the former Pittsburgh Panthers star.
Meanwhile, in Larry Fitzgerald’s hometown of Minneapolis, the Minnesota Vikings are going through a similar situation with star running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson waited until Titans running back Chris Johnson inked his four-year, $53 million extension and then made the Vikings pay with a seven-year, $100 million deal that will pay him $40 million over the first three seasons.
“Today is an incredible day,” Peterson tweeted after signing his extension. “Minnesota’s where I want to be and I’m excited to keep playing for you.”
The Vikings have received solid production from Peterson as he leads the NFL with 712 yards rushing through seven games and is third in the league in yards from scrimmage. Peterson’s eight rushing touchdowns lead the NFL and he’s tied for second among offensive players in scoring with 48 points.
Peterson is second to Maurice Jones-Drew in the NFL in carries but some feel he’s been underutilized by his head coach.
“I have to remind myself of this: Even if Adrian gets stopped for negative gain or two yards because they’ve got so many people at the line of scrimmage, he’s such a great player that even against eight-man fronts he can still make something happen,” Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said. “You can’t ever forget that.”
Adrian Peterson will be instrumental in the growth of Vikings first-round pick Christian Ponder as they hope he can be a legitimate franchise quarterback. Not only does Peterson make life easier on Ponder by often drawing an eighth man to the line of scrimmage, but he protects the young quarterback as he’s one of the best in blitz pickup.
“I take a lot of pride in it,” Peterson said when asked about his blocking. “That’s one of the main focuses as a running back is making sure you are on the same page and protecting the quarterback, especially when you have a young guy back there. You don’t want him to take too many blows.”
Whereas Adrian Peterson is doing all the right things on the football field, the Vikings find themselves in last place in the NFC North with a 1-6 record.
Unlike Titans running back Chris Johnson and Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, both of whom signed large contract extensions, the Cardinals and Vikings are getting production from their stars. Still, the highest contracts in the history of the wide receiver and running back positions have equated to just two victories this season so the question must be asked, “Is $220 million in contracts with approximately $90 million in guaranteed money worth some great stats and a combined 2-11 record?”
To be fair, the Arizona Cardinals are receiving horrific play from quarterback Kevin Kolb and the Vikings have had problems in their secondary and at quarterback, and those factors certainly figure in to their respective teams poor records. With that said, it’s tough to consider Fitzgerald and Peterson great investments when neither team can get victories on Sundays.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPNFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie