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Cardinals agree to terms with RB James Conner on one-year deal

James Conner's first free-agent visit of the week proved to be his last.

Conner has agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals, the team announced Tuesday.

Conner visited Arizona on Monday, drawing his first public interest during free agency after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Evidently, he was sold on what he saw and will be joining a team in which he can occupy an important role in the Cardinals' backfield as its bigger, bruising running back.

"I was looking forward to the change. There was no real desire to leave, but … certain people talk about being in their hometown and I just feel like this is an opportunity for me to grow, for me to be out here, to meet new people, to see this side of the world," Conner said Tuesday in a virtual news conference, via the Arizona Republic's Bob McManaman. "It's something new and so I was looking forward to that and I feel I will continue to grow."

The former University of Pittsburgh star will share the load with smaller spell back Chase Edmonds in a unit quarterbacked by Kyler Murray and headlined by players like DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green.

"I think Chase can do it all, and I believe I can do it all," Conner said Tuesday of his expectations playing alongside Edmonds. "His decision-making, his speed, he runs hard too. He's got that dawg mentality, just like I got. So we're just gonna roll."

Conner will be expected to contribute from the outset, as Arizona has clearly demonstrated it is all-in for 2021.

That will, of course, require being available. Conner's greatest hurdle has been his own health in his career, playing at least 10 games in each of his four professional seasons, but never more than 14. Following his Pro Bowl season of 2018, Conner wasn't able to establish a rhythm in 2019 or 2020 while also running behind a declining Steelers offensive line.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport also reported Monday that Conner underwent surgery to repair a turf-toe type injury this offseason. A full recovery is expected for Conner by June, Rapoport added.

Conner's journey west also mirrors that of former Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall, who spent his first five seasons in Pittsburgh before heading to Arizona for a one-year stint with the Cardinals, which ended with his retirement in March 2014. While both have suffered significant knee injuries in their careers, Conner's is long behind him, and he seems to be better positioned to make an impact than Mendenhall -- never the same following his January 2012 ACL tear -- was by the time he moved west.

Conner gets a fresh start over 1,000 miles from his home of western Pennsylvania, where he grew up, attended college and began his NFL career. A change of scenery might be good, especially with a team that is expected to make noise in 2021.

"I'm excited for this opportunity. It's definitely a change of scenery," Conner said. "I've been in Pittsburgh for eight years and I was learning so many lessons and that time in Pittsburgh was just prepping me for where I'm at right now in my life in this journey that brought me out here to A.Z.

"I feel like I was well-equipped with everything I've been through and continue to go through in this journey and it leads me to here. I'm excited to be in this red, I'm truly excited, and it's a blessing."

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