GLENDALE, Ariz. — As the saying goes, while two is company, three’s a crowd.
Unless you’re a member of the Arizona Cardinals’ backfield, apparently.
Monday afternoon word came out that the Cardinals had signed free agent running back Chris Johnson to a one-year deal. A three-time Pro Bowler who was with the New York Jets last season, Johnson adds experience to an otherwise young group of running backs that was set to be led by third-year pro Andre Ellington and rookie David Johnson.
Oh, he also brings career totals of 8,628 yards and 51 touchdowns on the ground along with 296 catches for 2,154 yards and nine touchdowns via the air.
Ellington, who is still expected to be the Cardinals’ No. 1 running back, has no problem with the team bringing the veteran into the fold.
“I’m excited, man,” he said. “As many players as we can get in here to help us win a championship, I’m all for it.
“He’s a legend; he’s a guy I can learn a lot from, so I’m looking forward to it.”
It is unknown what kind of role Johnson, who will turn 30 in September, figures to have. However, it’s not unreasonable to assume he will receive a fair amount of touches as he tries to rebuild his value in the desert. What that means for Ellington or the other Johnson, a third-round pick from Northern Iowa, remains to be seen.
But the rookie, who got back on the practice field in a limited role Monday for the first time in nearly two weeks following a hamstring injury, said the signing of the former Titan and Jet is a good thing.
“I can learn from him, hopefully, when he comes,” he said. “He’s a great back and hopefully I can learn something.”
Johnson added he doesn’t feel threatened by the move because he hasn’t even been on the field to show what he can do.
And therein lies what is likely the main reason the team went out and signed Johnson.
Earlier Monday, before the team had officially signed the back, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM that Chris Johnson is, “one of those guys, every time he touches [it] you hold your breath. He could take it to the house.”
In 2009, Johnson paced the NFL with 2,006 rushing yards, and he topped the 1,000-yard mark in each of his first six NFL seasons before slumping last season with the Jets.
Few are expecting him to be that kind of player again, but if nothing else he presents another weapon for the team to deploy. It wasn’t that long ago when Johnson was viewed as one of the best runners in the NFL, someone the dynamic Ellington said he patterned his game after.
“I studied his game a lot coming up, coming through high school and college,” he said. “He’s a guy that can go get it. I learned a lot from his skill set and I’m glad to have him on my team.”
Johnson figures to be at training camp Tuesday beginning to work with his new team. From that point, it will be about figuring out everyone’s role and how best to utilize all the talent the team seems to have on the offensive side of the ball. It’s a good problem to have — if it is indeed a problem — but when asked if there will be enough plays to keep everyone happy on offense, Ellington smiled.
“You can ask coach that,” he said, with a laugh. “But for the most part we have so many weapons, it’s going to be a fun season.”
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