James Conner

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.

RB Conner Interested In Returning To Arizona

Running back James Conner‘s one-year tryout with the Cardinals worked out pretty well for both parties, and, according to Josh Alper of NBC Sports, Conner has expressed interest in returning to Arizona after helping the Cardinals to their first playoff berth in six years.

The third-round Pennsylvania-native spent his first four NFL seasons rushing for the in-state Steelers. His best season came his sophomore year when he had 1,470 yards from scrimmage along with 13 total touchdowns in only 13 games. His time in Pittsburgh saw him miss at least two games each season, missing six games in 2019.

While Conner still missed two games this year, the 18-week season allowed him to play in a career-high 15 games. He totaled 1,127 yards from scrimmage and finished third overall in the league in total touchdowns with 18, behind only Austin Ekeler (20) and Jonathan Taylor (20).

Arizona will see back up running back Chase Edmonds hit free agency, as well, after playing out the last year of his rookie contract. This leaves second-year back Eno Benjamin, out of nearby Arizona State, as the only running back remaining on the roster.

With the cupboard starting to run bare, the Cardinals most likely will be interested in bringing Conner back. Conner has expressed interest in seeing what free agency has to offer, and knowing the Cardinals are in need should leave him in a favorable bargaining position.

James Conner Wants To Stay With Cardinals 

James Conner seems to have found a home with the Cardinals. As he plays out his one-year contract in the desert, the running back says he has little reason to leave.

Man, I want to win a Super Bowl here,” Conner said (via Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic). “I love the weather and everything this team has going and my teammates out here and the coaching staff. I don’t see why not, why I wouldn’t want to be here. We have all the resources and everything we need to be successful. We’re going to take it one week at a time first. We’ve got a big game against Chicago coming up. But after the season, I’ve got a lot of love for the Cardinals, so we’ll see what happens.”

Conner, 27 in May, has found paydirt eight times over the last five games, giving him a total of 13 touchdowns on the year. Through eleven games, that’s already enough to match his previous single-season best. Now, he has a chance to leapfrog Chris Johnson‘s all-time franchise record of 20 TDs.

Conner admitted that his “options were limited” when he agreed to join the Cardinals in the spring. Now, his one-year, $1.75MM contract stands as one of the best values in the NFL. There’s no doubt that Conner will get a big pay bump in 2022 — ideally, he says he’d like to make it happen in Arizona:

I just came, and I wanted to play my best football. My options were limited. This is the plan. It’s the Cardinals. And I wouldn’t want to be nowhere else right now.”

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/12/21

Here are Thursday’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

  • Signed: CB Dominique Martin
  • Waived/injured: LB Randy Ramsey

Indianapolis Colts

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

  • Re-signed: WR Darece Roberson
  • Waived: CB Bryan Mills

Tennessee Titans

  • Signed: LB Reggie Floyd
  • Waived: WR Kalija Lipscomb
  • Waived/injured: OL Adam Coon

Latest On Cardinals RB “Competition”

The Cardinals running back competition might not be much of a competition after all. Adam H. Beasley of ProFootballNetwork.com writes that the “battle at running back might be a battle in name only,” with Chase Edmonds expected to earn the starting gig.

Edmonds, a 2018 fourth-round pick out of Fordham, had a career season in 2020, finishing with 850 yards from scrimmage and five total touchdowns. However, he mostly platooned with Kenyan Drake, and while the veteran may have left Arizona this past offseason, the team still replaced him with former Steelers starter James Conner.

However, Conner dealt with a long list of injuries during his stint with Pittsburgh, and sources tell Beasley that the free agent addition was already banged up at the beginning of minicamp. While it was assumed that Conner would be replacing Drake, his injury concerns could result in him serving primarily as a backup in 2021. Plus, as Beasley notes, the organization’s decision to pass on a running back during this year’s draft (coupled with Conner’s low salary) is a strong indication that they’re committed to Edmonds as their starter.

Really, the competition in the Cardinals running back room will come toward the end of the depth chart. Behind Edmonds and Conner, the likes of Jonathan Ward, Eno Benjamin, Tavien Feaster, and Khalfani Muhammad are competing for only a couple of roster spots.