James Conner has found a new home as the 25-year-old career has agreed to enter into an agreement with the Arizona Cardinals on a one-year deal, the team announced Tuesday. This signing comes off the heels of Conner, who flies in to visit the team on Monday, leaving his back clearly impressed during his one-on-one time with the club. This signing also puts an official end to Conner’s time in Pittsburgh after spending the first four years of his career with the Steelers following his selection in the third round of the 2017 draft.
Arizona was in the market for a runback after losing starter Kenyan Drake to the Las Vegas Raiders earlier in free agency. As previously stated, Chase Edmonds was considered the potential Week 1 starter at the position, but the addition of Conner now gives the club another back with starting experience to absorb some of the carries Drake left behind. Conner has started 33 regular season games throughout his career, and when he is healthy, he has proven to be a strong piece to a offense.
This marriage between Conner and the Cardinals has some intimacy on both sides thanks to running backs coach James Saxon. The longtime assistant had the same role with the Steelers from 2014-18, which coincided with Conner’s best year as a pro. During this 2018 Pro Bowl season, Saxon watched as Conner totaled 1,470 yards and 13 touchdowns from scrimmage, while averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Touch. Given the past success under Saxon, Conner likely sees Arizona as a strong landing spot to reset his career after back-to-back seasons in 2019 and 2020 that did not live up to expectations.
Injuries put a stretch in Conners previous two seasons, hurting his efficiency. In 23 games played over this stretch, he averaged 1,185 yards on the ground with an average of 4.2 yards per carry. His 1,651 yards from scrimmage over the two-year stretch almost edges out the career season he enjoyed in 2018.
This offseason, Conner continued to fight the foul. According to Ian Roport of the NFL Network, the back was reviewed to repair a very moderate injury to the grass foot toe. The procedure took place earlier in the offseason, and Conner is said to have suffered injuries while driving in a recreational vehicle. Given that Conner had to undergo a physical with the Cardinals, the injury does not hurt to have caused any speed bump in his signature, repeating Roport’s characterization of the injury, which is minor. He also noted that Conner is expected to achieve full recovery.
With the pure state of health and this reunion with Saxon, Conner is well positioned to enjoy a bounce-back season with the Cardinals in 2021.