Running back depth remains a concern for the Arizona Cardinals, even after selecting Keaontay Ingram in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL draft. Ingram and a couple of undrafted rookies currently look set to vie for the role occupied by Chase Edmonds last season.
Edmonds was the change of pace for James Conner in 2021, yet while the latter was brought back in free agency, Edmonds signed with the Miami Dolphins. It leaves the Cardinals without a key receiver out of the backfield in their offense.
General manager Steve Keim could go the veteran route to replace Edmonds. The Cards have been named as a possible destination for a running back who has gotten his share of touches for an annual AFC contender and even played in a Super Bowl.
Kansas City Chiefs’ Rotational Back Remains an Option
Darrel Williams remains on the free-agent market and is an option for the Cardinals, according to Logan Ulrich of NFL Trade Rumors. Ulrich noted how “there are still a couple of teams like the Cardinals and Giants who could use reinforcements to their depth, especially given the injury history of their current starters. Williams has actually visited with Arizona, so that’s worth watching.”
As Ulrich pointed out, Williams, who has spent four seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, has already met with the Cardinals. The visit was reported by ESPN’s Field Yates back in April:
There is other interest in Williams, with the New Orleans Saints also looking like a possibility. The player’s visit to New Orleans was reported by Brenden Ertle of SB Nation’s Canal St. Chronicles.
Meanwhile, Williams recently posted about a trip to the Superdome on his Instagram, per Boot Krewe Media:
If there’s still a chance to land Williams, the Cardinals should take it. The 27-year-old was productive in both phases of the offense for the Chiefs last season.
Williams rushed for 558 yards and six touchdowns on 144 attempts. He also made 47 catches for 452 yards and a pair of scores.
Williams’ versatility and durability proved invaluable when KC starter Clyde Edwards-Helaire missed seven games because of knee and shoulder injuries. Protecting the football also made Williams a more than useful replacement, per Gridiron:
Aside from his skills on the field, Williams also offers some intriguing intangibles, including big-game experience. He stepped up during the 2020 playoffs, tallying 155 total yards in wins over the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills, en route to Super Bowl LV. Williams had two carries and as many catches when the Chiefs lost 31-9 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Cardinals still need to replace Edmonds, who rushed for 592 yards and amassed 311 more as a receiver last season. Williams fits the bill as a former undrafted free agent who has played his way into a niche role in the league.
Ironically, a couple of other players who went undrafted could ensure the Cardinals have no need to add a veteran behind Conner.
Rookie FAs Can Make Impact in Backfield
The Cards threw plenty of darts at the board looking for new options at running back during and after the draft. Those options include rookie free agent T.J. Pledger.
A standout at Utah, Pledger has been named by Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski as the most exciting member of the Cards’ undrafted class. Sobleski underlined how Pledger’s “ability to create when everything isn’t perfect is a vital trait for the NFL, where vision and elusiveness are necessary.”
Pledger isn’t the only unheralded newbie who could earn carries in the Cardinals’ new-look rushing rotation. Former Fresno State star Ronnie Rivers has been highlighted by Andy Kwong of SB Nation’s Revenge of the Birds as somebody talented enough to outperform his current status:
Giving opportunities to Rivers and Pledger, along with drafting Ingram, show the Cardinals have cast a wide net in search of a complementary rusher for Conner. It’s an important role because the latter is 27 and has yet to complete a full season during five years in the pros.