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James Conner signs extension with Cardinals

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The Pitt product could reprise his role as a feature back in Arizona, with Chase Edmonds heading to Miami

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Former Pitt running back James Conner signed a three-year contract extension with the Arizona Cardinals on Monday, following an impressive 2021 season that ranked among the best of his professional career.

The three-year deal is worth $21 million, with $13.5 million guaranteed, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. However, the maximum value of the contract could increase to $25.5 million under certain conditions.

Last season, Conner ranked second in the NFL in rushing touchdowns, as he found the end zone 15 times in 15 games. And factoring in his three receiving touchdowns, he still posted the second-highest total in the league, with 18. Only Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor and Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler fared better, with 20 rushing and receiving touchdowns apiece.

All told, Conner came up with 1,127 yards from scrimmage and averaged 4.7 yards per touch while splitting snaps at running back with Chase Edmonds. He also helped the Cardinals reach the playoffs and post their first winning record since 2015, as the team went 11-6 and proved to be a force in the NFC.

The 2021 season was the second in Conner’s five-year NFL career in which he posted 1,000 yards from scrimmage. The last was the 2018 season, when he ran for 973 yards and added 497 through the air for a total of 1,470 as the feature back of the Pittsburgh Steelers. And for his efforts in 2018 and 2021, Conner was rewarded with trips to the Pro Bowl.

Next season could be more of a challenge for Conner, as his backfield partner Edmonds signed with the Miami Dolphins on Monday, likely altering Conner’s role on the team. As a result, Conner could become a feature back again, or the team could pair him with another running back, limiting or enhancing his goal-line role. Either way, Conner will have a new situation to adjust to, but if it works out, he will have a key role on a contender.