New Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians continues to poach players from his old AFC North stomping grounds. On the same day the Cardinals signed former Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that former Browns return specialist and wide receiver Josh Cribbs will head to Arizona:
Josh Cribbs to Arizona, source told Pd.— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) March 14, 2013
UPDATE: Thursday, Mar. 14, at 9:58 a.m. ET by Brandon Galvin
My understanding of what's happened with Josh Cribbs: He decided he wants to go to #Cardinals. But no deal has been struck or negotiated yet— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 14, 2013
---End of update---
UPDATE: Wednesday, March 13, at 10:54 p.m. ET by Tyler Conway
It looks like there are conflicting reports on Cribbs' deal being done. According to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, the deal is "not even close" to being done yet:
Contrary to reports, Josh Cribbs not only doesn't have a deal with the Cards, I'm told it's not even close. He is still playing the field...— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 14, 2013
---End of update---
After the deal was announced, Cribbs took to Twitter and Instagram to post his heartfelt thoughts about Cleveland, his only professional home:
It's been a blessing to be in Cleveland, wishing the best to the city & the Team. If I could stay I… instagr.am/p/W0go4DtItb/— Josh Cribbs (@JoshCribbs16) March 14, 2013
Though he seemed pretty torn up about leaving the Browns, Cribbs' move out west has been expected. FOX Sports' Alex Marvez reported earlier on Wednesday that the 29-year-old was "most likely" to sign with Arizona.
By signing Cribbs, the Cardinals hope he can reinvigorate a return game that cratered during the 2012 season. Running backs William Powell and LaRod Stephens-Howling handled the kick return duties for the most part, but their effectiveness waxed and waned as both were thrust into vital offensive roles due to injury.
What’s more, the team's biggest special teams disappointment was star cornerback Patrick Peterson. A revelation during his rookie campaign returning punts, Peterson floundered in his second season, averaging just 8.4 yards per return and failing to score a touchdown.
Overall, Arizona was one of 14 teams to not score a return touchdown in 2012 and fared even worse metrically. According to Football Outsiders' measurements, the Cardinals' return game cost them 11.8 points over the course of the season.
If he continues his performance from Cleveland, Cribbs should be the elixir to Arizona's ills. Cribbs averaged 27.4 yards per kick return (fourth in the NFL) and 12.0 yards per punt return (sixth) in 2012, making his third career Pro Bowl in the process. While Arizona's special teams cratered last season, Cribbs' return-game excellence was responsible for creating an 11.8-point positive return for Cleveland, per Football Outsiders.
Though the days of expecting Cribbs to become a great receiver are over—he made just seven receptions for 63 yards last season—he should be a good addition for Arizona in the locker room and on special teams going forward.