Larry Fitzgerald's future is uncertain, but he's already among best wide receivers of all time

Richard Morin
USA TODAY Sports Plus

In what is starting to become an all-too-familiar trend for Arizona Cardinals fans, Larry Fitzgerald is uncertain he will return to the NFL in 2021.

Fitzgerald, already considered one of the greatest wide receivers of all time, has suited up in each of the last 17 seasons for the Cardinals, who drafted him third overall in 2004.

The Cardinals already boast one of the most exciting offenses in the NFL behind head coach Kliff Kingsbury, third-year quarterback Kyler Murray and superstar receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

Fitzgerald played the 2020 season on a one-year, $11 million contract, but it remains unclear whether he intends to go for another round in 2021 or retire.

Larry Fitzgerald warms up before the Arizona Cardinals' game against the Philadelphia Eagles in December 2020.

Kingsbury said he had nothing new to report about Fitzgerald's future with the team during Cardinals OTAs, other than he was likely enjoying the success of his basketball team (Fitzgerald is a minority owner of the Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns).

As there has been in the past, speculation has swirled over the summer regarding a move back to his hometown of Minneapolis to play for the Vikings. But there has been no concrete evidence to suggest Fitzgerald, who turns 38 in August, is looking for a change of scenery.

There has also been talk about how Fitzgerald might fit into a crowded Cardinals offense. Greg Moore, a columnist with The Arizona Republic, suggested there might even be a fit for Fitzgerald as a tight end in Kingsbury’s system.

Regardless, a Fitzgerald return would only boost his Hall of Fame resume that sees him rank second all-time in receptions and receiving yards.

Here is a look at some of the other top wide receivers in NFL history:

Randy Moss, 1998-2012

Randy Moss was a four-time First Team All-Pro, played in six Pro Bowls and holds the NFL record for most touchdown receptions in a season (23).

From the time Moss posted 17 touchdowns as a rookie, it was clear the Marshall product was headed for a storied career.

Moss was an absolute menace for defenders through the first decade of the 21st century. Teams had no answers for the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Hall of Famer who posted more than 8,000 receiving yards and 77 touchdowns during his first six years in the league.

Had his production not dropped during his time with the Oakland Raiders and in the twilight of his career, we might be talking about a receiving career that rivals the absolute best in the game’s history.

Don Hutson, 1935-45

Back when Hutson was playing, there were no receivers who could compare to the three-time NFL champion and Hall of Famer.

As a 29-year-old in the 1942 season, Hutson made an eye-popping 74 receptions for 1,211 yards and 17 touchdowns. No player would touch Hutson’s career record 99 receiving touchdowns for nearly half a century after he retired.

Sure, Hutson played in a vastly different NFL than what we see today. But there is no denying his greatness relative to his peers.

Terrell Owens, 1996-2010

Terrell Owens in action during the Philadelphia Eagles' loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX.

T.O. is sometimes remembered more for his antics (remember the popcorn?) or for the fact that he played for five different teams than the truly elite statistics he logged during his NFL career.

Still, Owens could play with anyone. He averaged more than 100 yards per game on two separate occasions — and with two different teams — and tucked away a 16-touchdown season in 2001.

Yes, Owens had a personality that at times distracted from his on-field exploits. But he still ranks third all-time in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He belongs on this list.

Lance Alworth, 1962-72

Alworth at his best is hard to match. He logged nearly 3,000 yards between the 1965 and 1966 seasons with the San Diego Chargers and put up 27 touchdowns in those two campaigns.

Despite Alworth not producing quite to that level later in his career, his body of work is still remarkable. He still logged over 10,000 receiving yards and pulled in 85 touchdowns. 

Alworth’s statistics might not be as eye-popping as some of his modern peers, but the seven-time Pro Bowler still needed to be included here.

Jerry Rice, 1985-2004

Jerry Rice in action during the San Francisco 49ers' divisional round win over the Minnesota Vikings on Jan. 1, 1989.

And then there’s the best to ever do it. 

First in catches, first in touchdowns, first in receiving yards, Rice also ranks second in playoff games started and fifth in regular-season games started.

Rice’s longevity and performance is simply unmatched. He also had an untouchable prime; in 1987 he pulled in 22 touchdowns in just 12 games!