Larry Fitzgerald under contract for 2018, but it doesn't mean he'll play

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The ink on Larry Fitzgerald's one-year extension with the Arizona Cardinals is in the process of drying, but the news of him being under contract through 2018 doesn't mean he'll actually be on the field next season.

It just means that if Fitzgerald returns, it'll be in Arizona.

But retirement is still a possibility.

Fitzgerald is 34. He has hinted in the past that he might not hang around long enough to catch Tony Gonzalez for second on the all-time receptions list. And he's been pretty clear that he wants to retire and not be retired. When it happens, however, he'll just disappear. He won't go through a season-long farewell tour or make a tear-filled announcement at a news conference, which made his decision to sign a one-year extension somewhat revealing.

If Fitzgerald thought, for sure, he was going to retire after this season, why sign the contract if he wants to just ride off into the sunset? He had the ideal cover story built in. He could've taken some time to decide his future, just like he did last season. His original 2018 contract was a voidable, hollow year. All he had to say was he'll figure it out after the season and just quietly retire.

Instead he signed a one-year extension Friday, which likely shows that he's either undecided about his future and wanted an option for next season or he plans to return.

Fitzgerald has shown few signs of becoming an aging, ineffective receiver. He led the NFL with 107 catches last season. He's second in the league -- and first in the NFC -- with 60 catches this season.

However, if he does come back next season, Fitzgerald will have an opportunity to secure his place as the second-best wide receiver in NFL history behind Jerry Rice.

He's on pace for 107 catches this season, which would put him 93 behind Gonzalez for second on the NFL's all-time receptions list. Another 100-catch season in 2018 would give him sole possession of second place. Fitzgerald is also on pace for 1,204 yards in 2017, which would place him third on the all-time receiving yards list at the end of the season, putting him 191 behind Terrell Owens for second. Fitzgerald could pass him early next season.

Though seeing Fitzgerald on an NFL field in 2018 isn't a guarantee, if it happens, he'll have plenty to play for besides a Super Bowl.