Tagged in: depth

Arizona Cardinals sign ex-Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner

The Arizona Cardinals added much-needed depth in the backfield on Tuesday when they agreed to terms on a one-year deal with former Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner.

Conner, 25, will be paired with Chase Edmonds to form the Cardinals’ 2021 backfield. It’s expected that they’ll share reps and responsibilities in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense that asks running backs to be both rushers and receivers.

Conner will reunite with Cardinals running backs coach James Saxon, who was his position coach in Pittsburgh in 2017 and 2018. He received a one-year, $1.75 million contract, including a $500,000 signing bonus and $1.25 million salary fully guaranteed, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

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Connor went to the Pro Bowl in 2018 under Saxon’s guidance after rushing for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns, tied for the third most in the NFL that season, and while catching 55 passes for 497 yards and a touchdown in 13 matches.

Arizona was in need of another running back after letting Kenyan Drake go in free agency. He signed with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Conner, 25, joins the Cardinals after spending the past four campaigns with the Steelers. In 50 career games (33 starts), he rushed for 2,302 yards and 22 touchdowns on 532 carries (4.3-yard average) and caught 124 passes for 963 yards and four touchdowns.

A third-round pick out of the University of Pittsburgh who was named to the Pro Bowl in 2018, Conner becomes the latest well-known veteran to join the Cardinals.

The team previously signed edge rusher J.J. Watt, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, wide receiver A.J. Green, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, cornerback Malcolm Butler, a two-time Super Bowl champion, along with kicker Matt Prater, guard Brian Winters and safety Shawn Williams.

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New York Giants to re-sign franchised Leonard Williams to three-year, $63 million deal

The New York Giants and twice-franchised defensive lineman Leonard Williams reached agreement on a three-year, $63 million deal that incorporates $45 million fully guaranteed on Tuesday, sources tell ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The Giants placed the franchise tag on Williams before the March 9 deadline, the second consecutive year that Williams was tagged. He was scheduled to make $19.4 million for the 2021 season on the franchise tender without an extension, which the two sides had until July 15 to agree upon.

The Giants entered the negotiating period approximately $4 million under the salary cap. Their flexibility to make moves was going to be contingent on striking a long-term deal with Williams.

The first-year cap hit in this deal is expected to land in the $11 million range, a source told ESPN. That provides the Giants an additional $8 million in cap space in addition to a restructuring of the contract for veteran offensive tackle Nate Solder.

The Giants immediately went to work with the newfound flexibility and agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $2.5 million with $1 million guaranteed for former Cincinnati Bengals first-round pick John Ross, according to a source.

He provides the Giants with some much-needed speed and depth for a thin wide receiving corps.

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Williams is coming off a career-best campaign in which he ended with 11.5 sacks and 30 quarterback hits, good for third in the NFL. His 41 quarterback pressures was seventh among interior defensive linemen, according to NFL NextGen Stats data.

It was quite the turnaround for the 2015 first-round pick of the New York Jets in his first full season with the Giants. He thrived under coach Joe Judge and in the defensive system of coordinator Patrick Graham.

Williams, 26, was credited with half a sack the previous season, which he split between the Giants and the Jets. It was the latest in an unspectacular first five seasons in the NFL after being the sixth overall selection out of USC.

Regardless, the Giants traded a pair of middle-rounds draft picks for Williams midway through the 2019 season, just months before he was set to become a free agent. They placed the franchise tag on him last offseason, and he played on the one-year deal worth $16.126 million.

With his first double-digit sack season, Williams proved he was worth that and much more as one of the NFL’s most productive defensive linemen. His previous high for sacks in a season was seven in 2016.

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