Cardinals RB James Conner 'would love' to return to Arizona as free agency nears

James Conner is set to hit free agency after a monster season, generating 752 yards and 15 rushing TDs on 202 carries in his first year in Arizona.

A Pro Bowler, Conner proved he can be a destructive runner and a difference-maker near the goal line, and improved as a pass-catcher (37 receptions on 39 targets for 375 yards and three TDs).

After struggling through injury near the end of his run in Pittsburgh, Conner signed a one-year, $1.75 million contract with the Cardinals.

The 26-year-old told Dani Sureck of the team's official website that he'd love to return to Arizona this offseason.

"With the opportunity they gave me and the relationships I've built (in Arizona), I would love to continue out there," he said. "But I'm a free agent, so I'm excited to see what's next. I'm a man of faith, so I know it will all work out for me."

Conner enters the offseason as one of the top running backs heading toward free agency. While teams don't throw money at running backs, he could have a solid market after his outstanding 2021 season.

A return to Arizona makes sense if sides can work out an arrangement, particularly with fellow running back Chase Edmonds also slated to be a free agent.

Outside of DeAndre Hopkins, nearly all of Arizona's top weapons are set to be free agents. Joining Conner and Edmonds, Christian Kirk, A.J. Green, Zach Ertz and Maxx Williams are all slated to hit the open market. Those six free agents accounted for 65 percent of the Cardinals' rushing yards and 71 percent of their passing yards in 2021.

Pressed against the salary cap, it will be an interesting offseason of difficult choices in Arizona, starting with whether the Cardinals can retain Conner.

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