Free agency could provide the Arizona Cardinals offensive unit with a top-echelon ball-carrier who can tote the rock for the squad in 2024.
For the past two seasons, Arizona Cardinals fans have had the pleasure of watching James Conner perform. The 6 foot 1, 230 pounder is a bulldozer of a ball-carrier who has made running over would-be tacklers an art form. From all indications, Conner will be a featured part of offensive coordinator Drew Petzing's scoring attack during the upcoming campaign.
But while Conner is slated be a huge part of the Cards' plans this coming fall, the team could roll with an entirely new first-string running back in 2024. In spite of the team's fondness for him at the present time, the truth of the matter is that the 28-year-old was not brought in by the new regime. Arizona can get out of the final year of Conner's current contract next offseason, while leaving just $3 million in dead salary-cap cash behind.
If the Redbirds do decide to upgrade at running back, general manager Monti Ossenfort could look to the NFL's free-agent market for a replacement. The organization will have a ton of cap space to work with, so money will not be an issue. Take one look at the free-agent options who could potentially be available, and it's not difficult to see why the Cardinals would entertain the idea of moving on from the well-liked Conner.
Arizona Cardinals could have several attractive running backs to choose from next year
The most intriguing name among next offseason's group is Derrick Henry, the three-time Pro Bowler from the Tennessee Titans. Even at 29 years of age, the 6 foot 3, 247 pound workhorse has shown zero signs of slowing down. In 16 starts last fall, Henry rushed for 1,538 yards and 13 touchdowns, and added another 398 yards on 33 catches for the Titans offense.
Another star back that could pique the interest of the Cards is Las Vegas Raiders stud Josh Jacobs. It just so happens that the 5 foot 10, 220 pounder is fresh off of the most productive performance of his four-year pro career. In his 17 appearances last fall, the 26-year-old Jacobs rumbled for 1,653 yards and 12 scores, and also contributed another 400 yards on 53 receptions for the Raiders.
Following a pair of subpar campaigns, New York Giants ball-carrier Saquon Barkley bounced back with a sensational year in 2022. The 26-year-old tallied 1,312 yards on the ground, and hauled in 57 passes for an additional 338 yards for the "G-men". Barkley was slapped with the non-exclusive franchise tag back in March, and will be paid $10.091 on the one-year deal in 2023.
A large contingent of the Arizona fanbase would be jumping for joy if Ossenfort could convince Los Angeles Chargers favorite Austin Ekeler to flock to the desert. The 28-year-old is a dual-threat weapon who's one of the league's most versatile backs. In 89 career contests (54 starts), the 5 foot 10, 200 pound Ekeler has racked up 3,727 rushing yards, 3,448 receiving yards and 63 total scores for the Chargers attack.
(Statistics provided by Pro Football Reference)