One big reason why Arizona Cardinals need to extend James Conner's contract

Unless there is a major injury that comes into play, the Cardinals need to bring back James Conner beyond 2024.
New York Giants v Arizona Cardinals
New York Giants v Arizona Cardinals / Christian Petersen/GettyImages

When the Arizona Cardinals signed running back James Conner in the 2021 offseason, they were getting a power back who needed to prove that he can be the main weapon in the backfield. The Cardinals had only signed Conner to a one-year deal after an up-and-down career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2018, Conner had his best season with Pittsburgh with 973 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. The next two seasons, Conner rushed for a combined 1,185 yards and 10 touchdowns. 

The Cardinals would then bring Conner to the desert, away from his home of Pennsylvania. His one-year deal was a bargain, as he ran for 752 yards and a career high 15 rushing touchdowns that helped the Cardinals make the playoffs. Conner earned himself a three-year extension with Arizona but is now heading into the final year of that contract extension.

The 29 year old back is coming off a career year in terms of rushing yards (1,040) in just 13 games played. Arizona was among one of the top rushing teams last season and there should be no reason why they can’t finish as a top ten rushing team once again. Kyler Murray is back under center who can take off from the pocket and the offensive line is improved compared to last season. 

The Cardinals drafted running back Trey Benson out of Florida State who was looked at as a top three back in this draft class and could easily replace Conner as the starter next season. However, even if Benson does indeed become the starter, the Cardinals need to bring back Conner for atleast one more season beyond the 2024 season.

Leadership is important to a young team…

The Cardinals have one of the youngest teams in the NFL in which leadership will be a key component for development. Conner is one of the few notable veterans on this team that brings experience and a leadership aspect to the locker room. Even if the Cardinals do not have the best season record wise, if they prove that they can play hard and bring a game to the wire, Arizona will be recognized as a tough team to play against. All of that starts with leadership. 

Arizona needs to bring back Conner beyond the 2024 season. Even if it is on a one-year deal, it still adds one more year of leadership to a young team that needs it.