James Conner listed as Arizona Cardinals best free agent signing since 2018

Jan 1, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner (6) on the sideline
Jan 1, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner (6) on the sideline / Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

James Conner has been solid for the Arizona Cardinals since they signed him in March 2021. Can he keep up his pace in 2023 and beyond?

Last week, we talked about the Arizona Cardinals worst free agent signing since 2018. Now, let’s talk about the best: James Conner.

When Arizona signed Conner in 2021, fans were divided. Some were glad to see the former Pittsburgh Steeler wearing cardinal and white. Others, not so much. 

But so far, Conner has been a solid pickup for Arizona. During his first season in the desert, the then 26-year-old racked up 752 rushing yards, 15 rushing touchdowns, 37 receptions, 375 receiving yards, and 4 receiving touchdowns. The effort earned Conner his second career trip to the Pro Bowl. 

Last season, he struggled early with production and injuries, but eventually turned things around. Conner finished the season with 782 rushing yards, 4.3 yards per carry, 7 touchdowns, 46 receptions, 300 receiving yards, and a receiving touchdown. 

Arizona Cardinals best free agent signing since 2018

Do the math, and Conner has 26 total touchdowns and 2,209 yards from scrimmage since joining the Cardinals. With Big Red likely reverting to a backup quarterback for at least a portion of 2023, look for him to at least share the rock in the backfield, likely with a newcomer acquired via free agency. 

Conner has been injury-prone, an issue dating back to his time with Pittsburgh. However, when healthy, he is one of the league’s more productive backs. And with a solid RB2 in place, Conner could shine in a timeshare. 

He will be an integral part of an Arizona Cardinals team looking for redemption in 2023. So you can look for another productive season from the soon-to-be seventh-year back. 

Overall, the Cards have had a few solid pickups during what was then the Steve Keim era, with Jordan Hicks ranking as a close second to Conner. But productivity-wise, the running back wins this round, and it’s going to be interesting to see him continue the pace he has played at in 2023. Hopefully this time around, he will stay healthy all year. 

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Source: NFL free agency: Best, worst signings for every team since 2018 by NFL Nation, contributions by Josh Weinfuss, ESPN.com