The Arizona Cardinals announced Monday that they re-signed tight end Darren Fells to a one-year contract.
Fells' two-year, $930,000 contract expired after the team's NFC Championship Game loss to the Carolina Panthers, making him a restricted free agent, according to Spotrac.
It's been quite a journey for Fells, whose first-choice sport was basketball. According to Craig Morgan of ArizonaSports.com, Fells played basketball in college at California Irvine and played professionally in Argentina, Mexico, Belgium, Finland and France from 2008-2012.
He signed with the Cardinals as a 27-year-old practice squad player in 2013 and worked his way up to become the team's No. 1 tight end this season. He was given that chance after John Carlson retired and 2014 second-round draft pick Troy Niklas had trouble acclimating to the level of play in the NFL, per Darren Urban of the team's official website.
Fells even beat out veteran tight end Jermaine Gresham for the starting job in the process.
He took advantage of his opportunity, posting 311 receiving yards on 21 catches (good for a 14.8 yards-per-catch average), backing up a comment from head coach Bruce Arians at the beginning of the season when he spoke with Morgan:
People worry about our tight end room and I’m like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. This is one of the best tight end rooms I’ve ever been a part of in my 20-some years. Darren has come along like gangbusters. Once he adopted the idea that ‘I’m a blocker’ he became a really good football player because you know he can catch. He could always catch. He’s so big he can just box out the defender.
At 6'7", 281 pounds, Fells looks like he can move mountains with hands as soft as a piano player's, as he has become a reliable target for quarterback Carson Palmer.
He is just a part of an explosive receiving group in Arizona that includes wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown, both of whom recorded over 1,000 yards in 2015. But he can also lay out opposing defenders when it comes to blocking or breaking tackles.
With another year guaranteed with the Cardinals, Fells has more time to settle even further into the Arizona offense. If he continues to build on his chemistry with Palmer and Co., another career year could be in the cards for the tight end.
Stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com