The Cardinals’ first step into free agency will apparently have an Edge to it. Despite numerous denials from the Cards that they would chase a big-name running back, multiple NFL sources confirmed Colts running back Edgerrin James — arguably the biggest name on the free agent market — is expected to visit Arizona today.
Free agency began Friday night at 10:01 p.m.
Attempts to reach vice president of football operations Rod Graves late Friday night were unsuccessful.
James’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, did not return a phone message.
The Cardinals, who should have between $15 million and $18 million of salary cap space they could spend on free agents, have been linked to multiple players. The latest, NFL sources said Friday, are St. Louis defensive tackle Ryan Pickett and Giants defensive tackle Kendrick Clancy. The Cardinals might also have interest in New Orleans center LeCharles Bentley, if he isn’t quickly signed by Philadelphia as has been reported.
Already on the Cards’ expected laundry list are Baltimore defensive tackle Maake Kemoteau, Giants cornerback Will Allen, Detroit guard Kyle Kosier, Houston guard Milford Brown, Jets center Kevin Mawae, and possibly San Francisco linebacker Julian Peterson, Detroit cornerback R.W. McQuarters and Pittsburgh receiver Antwaan Randle El.
None would make the impact of James, however. Both Graves and coach Dennis Green had all but dismissed multiple times the idea of chasing a high-profile running back. At the recent scouting combine, Green said the team avoids “blockbuster deals,” which is what it would take to sign James.
“If you ask me if we’re going to go after one of the incredible backs that might be available in a blockbuster deal, that probably will not happen,” Green said.
Then again, that was before the Cards got another $7.5 million of cap space with the new collective bargaining agreement, which might have changed their thinking.
Ironically, the Colts had been looking for a second-round pick for James prior to last season. But the Cards passed and used the pick on J.J. Arrington — the back who will be relegated to the bench if James came to Arizona.
James is coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he ran for 1,506 yards and 13 touchdowns and had an additional 44 receptions.
James, who will turn 28 Aug. 1, does already have 2,544 “touches” (carries plus catches) in his career. There are concerns how much longer a high-mileage back will remain productive, one of the reasons the Cardinals have been hesitant to pursue such a back. James also suffered a major knee injury in 2001.
But James has averaged 320 carries a year since then, and he told SI.com Thursday he plans on playing many more seasons.
“You have to take it on a case-by-case basis,” James said. “I take care of myself, so don’t accuse me of being injury-prone because of what happens to other guys.”
James also has made a habit of conducting his offseason workouts at home in Florida rather than with the Colts, which may conflict with the Cardinals. Green has made it clear he wants all his players to go through offseason workouts in Arizona.
The Cardinals do not want to be used as leverage for James to jump his price tag, something that has happened to the franchise in the past. That may lead them to try to get a deal done quickly.
The Colts have interest in bringing James back, but general manager Bill Polian told the Indianapolis Star in Friday’s editions “our clear inclination is to sit and see what the market does.”