Did Arizona Just Lose Their Winning “Edge”?

Greg RiotAnalyst IAugust 27, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 22:  Quarterback Kurt Warner #13 of the Arizona Cardinals runs out to teammates during introductions to the preseason NFL game against the San Diego Chargers at the Universtity of Phoenix Stadium on August 22, 2009 in Glendale, Arizona. The Chargers defeated the Cardinals 17-6.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

In some of the quieter NFL news from earlier this week, Edgerrin James has signed a $2 million deal with the Seattle Seahawks. “Edge” sat out in free-agency for months hoping to resign with the Arizona Cardinals, who never even considered handing him a fruitful deal. The 31-year-old tailback is at the crest of his NFL peak, and will likely not be able to play past this year. But veterans have a strange effectiveness in the NFL, and what is the Seahawks gain could be the Cardinals major loss.

Let’s talk about this move for the Seahawks first. In short, it’s a smart move. Edgerrin was one of the best tailbacks left on the free-agent market, and Seattle is in desperate need of whatever leadership it can get. Having guys like Houshmandzadeh setting the tone for the receivers is a positive mark, but bringing Edgerrin in to bolster the leadership in the locker room is big benefit for Matt Hasselbeck.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Hasselbeck is mentally exhausted from the injuries and challenges of last year. Relieving him of the sole responsibility of leading this team out of its 2008 4-12 SU gutter is imperative. Now Hasselbeck can concentrate on being a quarterback first and foremost.

You can say what you will about Edgerrin James, but he’s still a proven force in the NFL. In 10 seasons as an NFL veteran, James has averaged 4.1 yards per carry, and amassed 80 rushing touchdowns. Last season, the Cardinals went with Tim Hightower instead, cutting Edge’s carries by nearly two-thirds. Hightower finished the season with 10 touchdowns, just one game over 100-yards and eventually lost his starting job back to Edge later in the season.

It’s Edge’s production at that point that has me less concerned about the Seahawks, and more concerned about the Cardinals. Hightower accumulated 10 more carries than Edge over the regular season, but had 115 yards less on the ground. It was Edge’s performance in the playoffs that brought attention to his versatility, as he posted two games of 73-yards, managed one touchdown in four games and was pivotal in the playoff success of the Cardinals. Hightower was nothing more than an after thought (unless you were the idiot fantasy football manager who traded for him).

Consistency is key for NFL success. Team’s need to be successful year in and year out, and there are fewer teams that enjoyed bounties last season that are heading in to the 2009 NFL betting season with bigger questions than Arizona. Add “Can Officer Hightower be a feature back?” to the list of questions that already include, “What the hell is happening to Anquan Boldin?” and “How old is Kurt Warner again?”.

For Seattle, they got a grizzled, consistent veteran on the cheap. Edge has had well over 300 carries in seven-of-ten NFL seasons, and he’s posted 1,100+ yards in each of those seasons. He’ll split the load with Julius Jones, but those in Seattle and Dallas already know that Jones is not starter-worthy (despite his awesome haircut). Arizona may not know it now, but they have just given a decided Edge in the NFC West to their only division rival.