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Cardinals Floated as ‘Landing Spot’ for Former Pro Bowl No. 2 Overall Pick


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Kliff Kingsbury talks with Kyler Murray during a game against the Buffalo Bills in 2020.

The Arizona Cardinals are in a tough bind at the running back position heading into the 2022 offseason.

2021 Pro Bowl running back James Conner and running back Chase Edmonds are set to be 2022 free agents. That leaves the team with Eno Benjamin and Jonathan Ward as their only two solidified running backs on the depth chart for the next season.

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Of course, the Cardinals could bring back one of their two free-agent running backs. But from the outside looking in, it doesn’t appear likely both will be retained. The Cardinals are over the salary cap by $813.3K heading into the offseason according to Overthecap.com.

That leaves speculation as to what direction the franchise could go moving forward. A writer named the Cardinals as a possible destination for a former Pro Bowl running back.


PFN Lists Cards as Suitor for Ex-First-Round Pick

New York Giants general manager Joe Schoen told the media at the NFL scouting combine that he’s willing to entertain trade offers on running back Saquon Barkley.

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft had a remarkable rookie campaign, totaling 1,307 rushing yards and 91 receptions, thus earning a Pro Bowl selection and AP Rookie of the Year award. Since then, his numbers have gone down and a season-ending ACL injury in 2020 has only made things worse for the once-heralded running back.

Barkley is set to earn a guaranteed salary of $7.2 million in 2022 due to ex-GM Dave Gettleman exercising his fifth-year option. The Giants have already cut payroll on March 2, releasing tight end Kyle Rudolph and running back Devontae Booker.

Shortly after the news from Schoen, Pro Football Network’s BJ Rudell has pegged the Cardinals as a possible landing spot for Barkley.

“Kyler Murray, Conner, and Edmonds combined for 12 rushing touchdowns from the 1- or 2-yard line in 2021,” said Rudell. “When everyone was healthy, this offense clicked like few others. Optimally, Barkley could slide in as a 14+ TD running back on the best offensive team of his career. If he could stay healthy in this scenario, he’d earn a very nice payday after the season — if the Cardinals didn’t re-sign him first.”

It’s also worth mentioning Rudell thinks the Cardinals also offer the best ceiling in terms of fantasy sports. Bookies.com also listed the Cardinals as the fifth-best odds of being Barkley’s Week 1 team in 2022 at +1500, with the Giants, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons having better odds to land the running back.

Nonetheless, the former Penn State running back has had a tough time in the league with injuries. Barkley hasn’t had a full season since his rookie year and only had 593 rushing yards in 13 games in 2021.

While Schoen is open to trading Barkley, Dan Duggan of The Athletic doesn’t think the Giants will trade Barkley as the league’s sources think the running back is worth a fourth-round pick.

But Schoen didn’t draft Barkley and is coming from a Buffalo Bills organization that never had an expensive running back that is tough to pinpoint.

At Barkley’s peak, the dual-threat ability as a runner and pass-catcher was undeniable in his first two seasons. In 2018 and 2019, Barkley posted close to 3,500 scrimmage yards in spite of missing three games in his second season.

But the last time Barkley eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards was in 2019, which was almost three years ago. Whoever acquires Barkley shouldn’t think of him as a bell-cow running back that will be available for every down.


Does Barkley in Arizona Make Sense?

It’s very hard to imagine the Cardinals trading for the price tag of Barkley’s after just seeing Conner’s Pro Bowl production, who signed a one-year, $1.75 million contract in 2021.

At the same time, both profiles are familiar. Conner had injury concerns in Pittsburgh and had one Pro Bowl appearance in the same year as Barkley.

What Barkley has going for him is that he’s still just 25 years old. Conner is almost two years older than Barkley and had a marvelous season being used as a between the tackles running back and pass-catcher.

If healthy, Barkley could do the same. The problem is the notion of trading draft capital on top of Barkley becoming a free agent in 2023. Why not just resign Conner who you’ve seen perform excellently in Kliff Kingsbury’s system?

They also have a tight-cap situation with wide receivers Christian Kirk, A.J. Green, edge rusher Chandler Jones and tight end Zach Ertz to worry about entering free agency.

General manager Steve Keim has shown no evidence of paying running backs as he dealt Pro Bowl running back David Johnson and didn’t resign Kenyan Drake in 2021.

But with the threat of Conner and Edmonds set to be unrestricted free agents, it’s not out of the question to keep continuity and re-sign at least one of the two.



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