Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder has gotten plenty of criticism for his play recently, and deservedly so, for the most part. But the absence of Percy Harvin (ankle) in recent weeks has thinned an otherwise mediocre group of pass catchers and adding some talent at wide receiver should be at the top of general manager Rick Spielman’s checklist when the season ends.
The Arizona Cardinals have lost nine straight games since a 4-0 start this season as injuries and ineffective play have led to a quarterback carousel and an impotent offense. Even star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has not been immune because he has just 57 receptions for 652 yards and four touchdowns this season. Recently, things have been particularly dismal, with just six catches for 67 yards over the last four games and just one touchdown in his last seven contests.
That has led to speculation Fitzgerald should ask the Cardinals to trade him, but that would be against his character and he has yet to publicly criticize any of the team’s putrid quarterbacks. But Minnesota could be a good fit for Fitzgerald in a lot of ways if Cardinals general manager Rod Graves is willing to make him available. Should the Vikings consider making a trade offer?
Fitzgerald was born in Minneapolis and attended high school in the state before going to the University of Pittsburgh. He grew up a Vikings fan, including being a ball boy for a time as a kid, and his father (Larry Sr.) is a member of the local media. Fitzgerald also hosts well-attended offseason workouts in the Twin Cities area every year, so he appears willing to spend time back in his home state.
A major roadblock to any potential trade involving Fitzgerald, for the Vikings or any other team, is his contract. He signed an eight-year, $128.5 million deal ($50 million guaranteed) in August of 2011 and is under contract through the 2018 season. His base salary for 2013 is not exorbitant at $5 million, but he is due a $10 million option bonus next March 15. Fitzgerald’s base salary increases greatly for 2014 ($12.75 million) before going back down for 2015 ($8 million, with an $8 million roster bonus as well) and increasing again in the final three years of the deal.
It would likely take a first-round draft pick as well as a later round pick to acquire Fitzgerald, and since the Vikings should find themselves picking in the middle of the first round next April, they would not be giving up a top tier pick to get him. Fitzgerald will turn 30 just prior to the start of next season, so his best years could be behind him despite the fact he keeps himself in excellent shape.
That said, the Vikings need to upgrade their wide receiver group and should pursue all possible avenues to do so. Without that it won’t matter who is under center, be it Ponder or someone else, as they will continue to have an anemic passing game in 2013. I think adding Fitzgerald would be worth the overall cost and his presence would make Harvin and running back Adrian Peterson more effective players during the best years of their careers.