The names are impressive: JJ Watt. AJ Green. Rodney Hudson. Malcolm Butler. James Conner.
Each player fills an important need for 2021 and brings with them varying degrees of fame and NFL success. The most recent addition James Conner may not be as famous or accomplished as his fellow free agent additions but he is fantasy football famous.
Conner feels like the final piece of a free agent puzzle that Steve Keim has patiently pieced together while sipping a mug of coffee, wrapped in a warm blanket while other teams storm off frustrated by the complexity of the offseason box of pieces.
Last season, James Conner had a chance to seize the starting running back job for a high powered Pittsburgh offense and become a real star. Conner struggled to fulfill those expectations but still carved out over 4 yards per carry in 11 starts on the season.
His role with the Cardinals will likely be as a 1A or 1B to Chase Edmonds in the backfield. Edmonds will likely enter camp as the lead back but his value in the offense is as a multi dimensional offensive weapon rather than a traditional bell cow. I'd expect Conner to end the season with more carries even if Edmonds ends up being the more impactful player.
But the real value that comes with the James Conner signing is the nirvana he introduces to Steve Keim's pre-draft process. Armed with a strategic, successful free agent splurge, Keim is blessed with the ultimate draft empowerment: Ultimate Draft Freedom.
Instead of being boxed into a corner forced to take a position of need, Keim is free to spin the wheel and draft whatever best player falls into the Cardinals lap.
Could a top WR like Devonta Smith slip to 16? Yes. Could the draft's top ranked CB tumble due to injury concerns allowed the Suns to take a risk other teams can't? Yep. Could a pass rusher sneak down to 16 and provide long term depth at one of the NFL's most valuable positions? Yessir. How about a versatile offensive lineman that could provide short term depth and long term stability. Its all on the table.
This is the best possible spot for the Cardinals to be in with a roster stocked with talent on short term deals but a long term window wide open with Kyler Murray entrenched at QB.
The last piece of the offseason puzzle for Steve Keim is the NFL Draft; let's hope he still has some puzzle magic left.