James Conner

RB James Conner Aiming To Remain With Cardinals Beyond 2024

James Conner is entering a contract year, and a repeat of his production from 2023 could help his free agent stock next offseason. If the veteran running back has his way, though, he will remain in Arizona for years to come.

The 29-year-old earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2021, his debut Cardinals campaign. That landed him a three-year, $21MM deal, an investment which has proven to be worthwhile on the team’s part. Conner has served as the team’s lead back when healthy, and in 2023 he eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career.

The former Steelers third-rounder averaged five yards per carry last season, a figure which also marked a personal high. That success will be countered by his age and the underwhelming valuation of running backs compared to other positions around the league. In any case, a new Cardinals pact is still on Conner’s radar.

“It would be awesome to finish my career here, but nothing changes,” he said when speaking about his 2024 approach (via Darren Urban of the team’s website). “If anything, it’s time to turn it up even more going into the last year of my deal. I’m thankful I got to see the last year of it… We’ll see what happens next year, hopefully [I] stay, but I understand it’s a business.”

Veteran backs have generally not fared well with respect to landing multi-year deals in recent years, and even a strong season for Conner could merely set him up for a move to a new team via free agency. Arizona added to the backfield this offseason by drafting Trey Benson in the third round. The Florida State product was one of the top RB options in this year’s class, and after logging 310 carries across two Seminoles campaigns he has experience serving as a clear-cut lead back.

Conner and Benson will likely share reps this season, but an impressive rookie showing by the latter could incentivize the team to move on from the former. Benson is under contract through 2027, and he will no doubt have a notable role throughout much of that time. Conner’s free agent stock could be buoyed by the speed with which teams signed running backs this March, but it will be interesting to see if his desire for another new contract is reciprocated.

Cardinals Activate RB James Conner From IR

Arizona is getting more than one key pieces of its offense back this weekend. With quarterback Kyler Murray already set to return as the starter in Week 10 for the Cardinals after being activated from injured reserve this week, Arizona will also be returning starting running back James Conner, who has been out since suffering a Week 5 knee injury.

Cardinals staff writer Darren Urban informs that Conner will officially be activated off of IR today with the intention of playing him against the Falcons this Sunday. “(Conner) is our workhorse in the run game, and it will be good to get him back,” head coach Jonathan Gannon said about the running back’s return to the field. “It helps not only Kyler, it helps our team.”

In Conner’s absence, Arizona has mostly relied on the legs of undrafted rookie Emari Demercado. With Demercado reportedly out this week, though, Conner isn’t the only addition the team is making to the running backs room. After waiving him just two days ago, the Cardinals are bringing back Tony Jones Jr. on a practice squad deal. In order to make room for Jones on the practice squad, the team released offensive lineman Vitaliy Gurman.

Jones will be one of two standard gameday elevations from the practice squad for this week’s game. He and Keaontay Ingram will be tasked with backing up Conner in his first game back from IR. The team’s other gameday elevation will be utilized to promote practice squad tackle Jackson Barton for the weekend.

Cardinals Designate RB James Conner For Return

Eligible to be activated from IR this week, James Conner will take the necessary step of returning to practice. The Cardinals will see how their top running back looks Wednesday, designating him for return.

Arizona has three weeks to gauge Conner’s readiness before activating him. While the team used all three weeks of Kyler Murray‘s practice window before bringing the quarterback off the PUP list Tuesday, Conner is unlikely to have a similar timeline. The Cardinals had planned an extensive ramp-up period for Murray, whereas Conner profiles as a more standard return-to-work player.

Conner suffered a knee injury in Week 5, and the Cardinals opted for IR. It is unclear exactly what type of knee injury Conner has rehabbed over the past few weeks, but the seventh-year running back is moving close to a return to game action. The Cardinals have used two of their IR activations this season, though with the team holding the NFL’s worst record (1-8), that is not exactly a pressing matter. But Murray and Conner playing together will provide a bonus for Drew Petzing‘s offense, which is coming off a historically bad outing in Cleveland.

Neither the Arizona/Phoenix or St. Louis Cardinals had produced a yardage total worse than the 58 the team compiled in Week 9, which was the franchise’s worst since a 1955 Chicago Cardinals effort. After announcing Josh Dobbs as the Week 9 starter, Jonathan Gannon backtracked — just before the team traded its season-long signal-caller to the Vikings. That ended up playing a key role in Minnesota’s Week 9 fortunes, and it left fifth-round rookie Clayton Tune overmatched against a formidable Browns defense. But Murray is in line to return against the Falcons, providing some optimism amid this rebuilding season.

Murray and Conner have spearheaded the Cardinals’ backfield together since 2021, and the ex-Le’Veon Bell backup has made steady contributions with his second NFL team. The former Steelers third-rounder delivered a surprising 18-touchdown effort in 2021, earning a three-year, $21MM contract in 2022. The NFL shifted course again on running backs this offseason, but Conner remained on his midlevel deal. None of 2023’s RB free agents collected what Conner had in 2022, and while the Buccaneers ditched their $7MM-per-year Leonard Fournette contract, Conner remained in place and played well to start this season.

Conner rushed for 364 rushing yards in five games, leaving Week 5 early, and he is averaging 5.4 per carry. The Cardinals have used rookie UDFA Emari Demercado, 2022 sixth-rounder Keaontay Ingram and veteran in-season addition Damien Williams in Conner’s absence. Conner topped a 70% snap share in Weeks 1 and 2 and was over 60% in Weeks 3 and 4. This points to the Cards keeping at least one of their backups in the fold upon activating their starter, but Conner will undoubtedly remain the team’s preferred option behind Murray.

Cardinals To Place RB James Conner On IR

2:48pm: This will end up being Arizona’s course of action. Conner is headed to IR, per NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero. Conner cannot be activated until Week 10; the Cardinals’ bye does not arrive until Week 14. Although injuries have sidelined Conner regularly, he has not been on IR since his 2017 rookie season.

2:31pm: A central cog in what has been a surprisingly effective Cardinals offense, James Conner will be shut down for a bit. The Cardinals are expected to be without their starting running back for multiple games, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

Conner sustained a knee injury in Arizona’s Week 5 loss to Cincinnati. With the Cardinals already without backup Keaontay Ingram due to a neck injury the second-year player sustained, they are starting to make other plans. The exact injury Conner sustained is unknown, but Schefter adds an IR stint is in play. Jonathan Gannon also said during an appearance on Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo this week Conner could miss “a little bit” of time.

Rewarding the Cardinals after their decision to extend an offer in free agency two years ago, Conner has continued to battle injuries with his second NFL team. The former Steelers third-round pick missed four games last season and was down for two games during his pivotal 2021 campaign. The cancer survivor also missed 14 games during his four-year Pittsburgh career. This will deliver a blow to the Cardinals’ backfield, which Conner has effectively led since 2021.

Although Chase Edmonds operated as Arizona’s nominal starter that year, Conner broke through with 18 touchdowns. The Cards then re-signed him to a three-year, $21MM deal. Conner, 28, enjoyed good timing by hitting free agency in 2022. He and Leonard Fournette scored matching accords. But the Buccaneers bailed on Fournette’s $7MM-per-year pact this offseason; he remains unsigned. While several developments dinged the RB market in the spring and summer, Conner stayed on his Cards contract. His ability to come back from this injury will certainly impact if the organization keeps him on that deal in 2024.

The former Le’Veon Bell Steelers successor’s 18-TD season came on just a 3.7-yard rushing average. Last year, Conner’s YPC checked in at 4.3. Through five games this year — behind a Cardinals O-line that generated a number of questions at the season’s outset — Conner is at 5.4. Next Gen Stats’ rush yards over expected metric places Conner 10th. The Cards’ Josh Dobbs-directed offense has enjoyed 364 Conner rushing yards this season.

Ingram’s neck injury has cost him the past two games, but the 2022 sixth-rounder is not on IR. The Cardinals claimed Tony Jones Jr. off waivers from the Saints on Monday, and they have Damien Williams stashed on their practice squad. When Conner went down, rookie UDFA Emari Demercado became the next man up. Kendre Miller‘s former TCU backup totaled 57 scrimmage yards and a touchdown against the Bengals.

Cardinals RB James Conner To Return In Week 9

The Cardinals have been without their top running back for the past three weeks, but their ground game will receive a boost today. James Conner is among the notable players who will be active for Arizona’s Week 9 contest against the Seahawks, as noted (on Twitter) by team reported Darren Urban.

Conner suffered a rib injury in Week 5, and it was expected to cause a multi-week absence. That dealt a blow to the Cardinals’ running game, as the 27-year-old had once again operated as the lead back following his highly-productive debut Arizona season last year. The former Steeler was named a Pro Bowler after scoring 18 total touchdowns and recording 1,127 scrimmage yards.

Things have not gone as well in 2022, however. Conner had yet to top 55 rushing yards in a game prior to the injury, averaging 3.7 yards per carry and finding the endzone just once. Overall, the Cardinals’ offense underperformed during the early portion of the season, as DeAndre Hopkins remained sidelined due to his PED suspension. That led head coach Kliff Kingsbury to acknowledge that he would consider ceding play-calling duties.

Since then, backup Darrel Williams has suffered an MCL sprain, and is currently on IR. That, coupled with Conner’s absence, opened the door to former seventh-rounder Eno Benjamin taking on lead back duties. He totaled 223 scrimmage yards over the past three weeks, but a healthy Conner would likely provide a boost to an Arizona offense averaging 116 yards per game on the ground, ranking them mid-pack.

Conner was limited throughout the week, leading to his being listed as a game-time decision on the weekend. That, in turn, suggests that he will have a limited role for at least today’s game while splitting snaps with Benjamin. Still, his return will be a welcomed sight as the Cardinals look to move out of the NFC West basement. After missing last week’s contest, left tackle D.J. Humphries will also be active.

Cardinals RB James Conner Could Miss Multiple Weeks

The Cardinals could be without their top running back for a bit. Sources tell Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com that James Conner is expected to miss Sunday’s game against the Seahawks and “perhaps additional time.”

Conner suffered a rib injury in Week 5 that limited him to only 35 percent of his team’s offensive snaps. The veteran RB started each of Arizona’s first five games, collecting 303 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown on 68 touches. This came a season after Conner finished with 18 total touchdowns.

It’s unfortunate timing for the Cardinals, as backup running back Darrel Williams is currently sidelined with a knee injury. The team also recently placed RB Jonathan Ward on injured reserve after he suffered a hamstring injury, leaving the team with a depleted depth chart at the position.

Eno Benjamin should get the bulk of the snaps at running back. The second-year player has seen time in all five of Arizona’s games this season, collecting 233 yards from scrimmage and one score. The team also recently added Ty’Son Williams and Corey Clement to the practice squad, and there’s a good chance at least one of those players will join the active roster for this weekend’s contest.

Contract Details: Crosby, Gregory, Campbell, Conner, Jensen, Dissly, Glowinski

Here are the details from the latest agreed-upon contracts around the league:

  • Maxx Crosby, DE (Raiders): Four years, $94MM. The Raiders gave Crosby a $13MM signing bonus and have fully guaranteed his 2022 and ’23 base salaries ($3.5MM, $10MM), Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes. Crosby’s 2024 base ($19MM) will become fully guaranteed in 2023. Crosby’s 2025 and ’26 salaries ($21MM apiece) are nonguaranteed. There are $200K-per-year incentives included for All-Pro nods as well.
  • Randy Gregory, OLB (Broncos): Five years, $70MM. Denver is giving Gregory a $10MM signing bonus and has the pass rusher attached to $4MM and $14MM base salaries in 2022 and ’23, respectively, per Brad Spielberger and Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus (on Twitter). Both years are fully guaranteed, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. Gregory’s deal includes $1MM roster bonuses in 2025 and ’26.
  • De’Vondre Campbell, LB (Packers): Five years, $50MM. Green Bay is giving Campbell a $15MM signing bonus and has backloaded the base salaries. Campbell’s first two salaries check in at $1.1MM and $1.45MM, Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com tweets. They spike to just north of $7MM by 2024. A $3MM roster bonus is also due on Day 3 of the 2023 league year, with a $2.9MM roster bonus due at the same point on the 2024 calendar.
  • Ryan Jensen, C (Buccaneers): Three years, $39MM. Jensen will see $23MM fully guaranteed, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com tweets. His 2022 breakdown goes $1.5MM base salary and $12.5MM roster bonus. $9MM of Jensen’s $12.5MM 2023 base salary is fully guaranteed, and the other $3.5MM shifts to a full guarantee on Day 5 of the 2023 league year.
  • Will Dissly, TE (Seahawks): Three years, $24MM (max value). The deal includes a $9.3MM signing bonus but is light on guaranteed salary. Dissly’s $1MM 2022 salary is fully guaranteed, while Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets the 2023 base ($5.64MM) is guaranteed for injury. The injury-prone tight end’s 2024 base ($6.49MM) is nonguaranteed.
  • James Conner, RB (Cardinals): Three years, $21MM. Conner’s deal includes $13.5MM guaranteed, per Kyed and Spielberger (on Twitter). Conner’s 2022 and ’23 base salaries ($1.75MM and $5.75MM) are fully guaranteed.
  • Mark Glowinski, G (Giants): Three years, $18.3MM. The Giants included a $4.5MM signing bonus, and Glowinski will have cap figures of $3.35MM (2022), $7.75MM (2023) and $7.2MM (’24). Glowinski is due a $1MM roster bonus in 2023 (Twitter links via The Athletic’s Dan Duggan).

Cardinals, James Conner Reach Agreement On Extension

With Chase Edmonds headed to Miami, the Cardinals faced an increased need to retain James Conner. They have done just that, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. The sides have reportedly come to an agreement on aa three-year deal worth $21MM, including $16MM over the first two seasons (Twitter link). 

[RELATED: Dolphins To Sign Chase Edmonds]

Conner formed an impressive duo with Edmonds in Arizona, where he landed the chance to be a No. 1 back after leaving Pittsburgh. The former third rounder earned a second Pro Bowl appearance in his debut campaign in the desert, recording 1,127 scrimmage yards and 18 total touchdowns.

That production gave the Cardinals reason to keep both Conner and Edmonds if it was possible. Conner was always the more likely to be the team’s priority, though, and they have secured him throughout the remainder of his prime. Eno Benjamin – who is a more natural replacement for Edmonds, based on his skillset – is now in line to become the backup tailback.

The $7MM-per-year average is quite a raise compared to the $1.75MM he played for in 2021. Before the deal was announced, Arizona had roughly 11MM in cap space; while they can therefore afford this new contract, it eats up a portion of the space available for keeping Chandler Jones. Nevertheless, the team’s RB situation has been resolved before the new league year officially begins on Wednesday.

Cardinals Want Both James Conner And Chase Edmonds Back

Regardless of how the Cardinals handle quarterback Kyler Murray‘s contract situation, they have big decisions to make at a number of other positions. One of those is running back, where the possibility exists for both James Conner and Chase Edmonds to leave in free agency. If he has his way, though, general manager Steve Keim would bring back the pair. 

[Related: Conner Interested In Returning To Arizona]

When speaking to the media, Keim said “it’s no secret, having James and Chase, in a perfect world, we’d want them both back”. He was quick to add, however, that “it’s a business and we’ll see what happens”. Conner has indicated a willingness to stay with the Cardinals, something that the team should make a high priority, given his success last year.

After getting a second chance to be a starter, the former Steeler put up 752 yards on the ground, along with 375 yards in the passing game. More notably, he scored 18 total touchdowns, ranking him second in the league behind only Jonathan Taylor. That makes him the likelier tailback to be given a new deal, one which would probably be worth more than the $1.75MM he played for in 2021.

As for Edmonds, he posted a career-high 903 scrimmage yards in 2021, despite missing five games. Injuries limited the amount of time both he and Conner were available simultaneously, but the tandem would have plenty of potential if both were to be re-signed. With Eno Benjamin on the roster, though, the Cardinals may already have Edmonds’ successor in place.

Ultimately, Keim reiterated his desire to keep the known commodities at the position, adding “I understand that analytically, it tells you that the best backs come as a whole in rounds three through six, but at the same time, when you have one that is a difference-maker or you think is special or brings something to the table like leadership and toughness, it’s hard to put a price on those guys”.

Cards’ Owner Bidwill On Kyler Murray

With everything starting to appear copacetic between the Cardinals and quarterback Kyler Murray, the team’s owner, Michael Bidwill, addressed the 24-year-old’s future in Arizona, as reported by Jeremy Cluff of The Arizona Republic. As Murray heads into the fourth year of his rookie contract, Bidwill discussed the possibility for an extension. 

“The window has just opened for a contract extension. Certainly he’s part of our long-term plan,” Bidwill said of Murray. “Most of the big ones are done further down the road, I think Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen were done in the summer time. Others were done in the summer time. So we’ve got time, but they’re complicated.”

In respect to the turmoil surrounding the quarterback, Bidwill claimed he and Murray have had “good conversations non-stop.”

While expressing the desire to give Murray an extension out of his rookie contract, Bidwill also acknowledged that the team has other priorities, as well, namely bringing back some key free agents. He recently expressed his wishes to retain two-time All-Pro linebacker Chandler Jones, which Jones appeared scoff at. Newcomers to the desert, running back James Conner and tight end Zach Ertz, have both made it known that they would be more than happy to consider re-signing.

Other Cardinals headed to free agency include running back Chase Edmonds, wide receiver Christian Kirk, veteran wideout A.J. Green, and tight end Maxx Williams. While the Cardinals’ owner is looking forward to finding a way to keep Murray long-term, he and his front office have some work to do in the meantime.