Former Steelers RB James Conner Agrees to 1-Year Contract with Cardinals

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistApril 13, 2021

Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (30) carries the ball during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Free-agent running back James Conner agreed to a contract with the Arizona Cardinals, the team confirmed Tuesday.

Arizona Cardinals @AZCardinals

Welcome to the Valley, @JamesConner_! We have agreed to terms with RB James Conner on a one-year contract.

Jay Glazer of Fox Sports first reported the agreement. Adam Schefter of ESPN added the deal contains a $500,000 signing bonus and a guaranteed salary of $1.25 million, bringing the total deal to $1.75 million. 

Conner spent his first four NFL seasons with the Steelers after starring at the University of Pittsburgh. This will be the first time he's played for a football team outside of Pittsburgh since he was a high school senior.

A 2017 third-round pick, Conner emerged as a Pro Bowler in 2018 after Le'Veon Bell sat out the season because of a contract dispute. His last two seasons have been disappointing in comparison, as Conner missed nine combined games and struggled to replicate his per-carry production.

Conner had 721 rushing yards and six touchdowns while adding 215 receiving yards on 35 receptions in 2020. His lack of burst makes him better as part of a platoon in the long term, allowing Arizona to work in Chase Edmonds as well after Kenyan Drake made his way to the Las Vegas Raiders earlier this offseason.

Conner will probably get the first opportunity to start, or at least be in some type of 50-50 timeshare.

That Conner was not given a huge free-agent contract is of little surprise, given the production at running back across the NFL and the Steelers' seeming desire to keep their options open at the position.

Bell was the NFL's most productive running back during his stint in Pittsburgh, and the Steelers were steadfast in their desire to not lock up huge money in the position. The Steelers drafted Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland Jr. in successive years, seemingly preparing themselves for change at the position when Conner became a free agent.