Larry Fitzgerald may have played his final game as a member of the Arizona Cardinals Saturday as the Carolina Panthers bounced his team out of the postseason.
Fitzgerald is due $8 million next season plus an $8 million roster bonus due in March, totaling a cap hit of $23.6 million, which is about 17 percent of the team's cap space, so his chances of remaining in the desert have grown increasingly slim.
If the future Hall of Fame wide receiver does not accept a pay cut to remain in Arizona, there will be no shortage of suitors. Here are five potential spots where Fitzgerald could land in 2015:
1. New England Patriots
Some call it New England, others refer to it as a meeting place for veterans nearing the end of their careers who want to make one more run at the Super Bowl. Fitzgerald fits that bill, and even a 37-year-old Tom Brady might be the best quarterback he's ever had a chance to haul in catches from.
With a revolving door under center for the Cardinals, Fitzgerald was still the best receiver on the team. The Patriots' offense lacked a receiver of his caliber, having to rely on big plays from tight end Rob Gronkowski and smaller pickups from Brandon Lafell and slot receiver Julian Edelman.
If New England releases Danny Amendola, it'll have more than enough money to lure Fitzgerald into town. The Patriots' window is closing as Brady gets up there in age, and having Fitzgerald at his disposal increases the team's chances of remaining a top seed in the AFC, not to mention add a much-needed element to the passing game that's been lacking since Randy Moss left town.
2. Minnesota Vikings
A Minneapolis, Minn. native, Fitzgerald could decide to end his career back with his hometown team. He's already beloved in the city, not to mention was a ballboy for the team when Cris Carter was the star wideout.
The Vikings have a dire need for wide receivers, as Greg Jennings led the team in both receptions (59) and yardage (742). Cordarrelle Patterson is one of the more talented athletes in the NFL, but that athleticism has not yet translated into being an elite wide receiver. Fitzgerald could be a mentor to Patterson as well as youngsters Jarius Wright and Charles Johnson.
Teddy Bridgewater wouldn't exactly be the best quarterback Fitzgerald has had to play with, but he's an up-and-coming player who progressed steadily in 2014. The Vikings' record doesn't indicate just how vastly they improved, and with Fitz could very well be in the playoff hunt.
3. Carolina Panthers
Didn't Fitzgerald just lose to these Panthers? Well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
The talk heading into 2014 was that the Carolina front office did nothing to help Cam Newton out in the receiving corps except draft rookie Kelvin Benjamin. Well, Benjamin was a hit, but around him Newton relied on journeymen Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant, as well as youngster Philly Brown.
A young nucleus of Benjamin and Brown is promising, but as we saw in Baltimore, Steve Smith's presence added a new element. Fitzgerald could offer a similar impact to Carolina and help boost the team's mediocre passing game.
Like Benjamin, Fitzgerald is a big-framed wide receiver that can mentor the young talent. Together, the Fitzgerald-Benjamin tandem would resemble that of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery or Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson.
4. Baltimore Ravens
If Torrey Smith leaves in free agency, the Ravens are going to be very much in the market for a wide receiver.
An offseason ago, they landed Steve Smith, showing they are not shy about bringing in older talent. As a result, they're heading to the AFC Divisional round, so their strategies are clearly working out.
The tandem of Smith and Fitzgerald may be old in age, but a look at their numbers and their impact in 2014 for their respective teams gives us solid enough reason to believe that for the next year or two, Baltimore may be able to keep its perch atop the AFC and continue to vie for Super Bowl titles.
The Ravens are notorious for being one of the NFL's classiest organizations, making Fitzgerald a likely fit as one of the league's most well-respected players.
5. Oakland Raiders
James Jones should not be the best wide receiver on an NFL roster, but such is the case in the "Black Hole" where wide receiver talent is at a distinct premium.
The Raiders have a young quarterback in Derek Carr, but this season he was hindered by the talent around him. The Raiders need a lot more help reshaping their roster, and Fitzgerald would be a solid veteran to help make that transition possible.
A new head coach may be able to convince Fitzgerald to come to the Bay Area and be a part of the team's turnaround, depending on who winds up being selected.
The most glaring issue in this scenario is Oakland's recent history, which likely deters Fitzgerald at this juncture in his career.
Rodgers calf the only issue as Packers look to punch their ticket to NFC Championship
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For more sports coverage, visit XNSports.com and follow Sam Spiegelman on Twitter: @samspiegs
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