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Cardinals’ signing of Chris Johnson proving to be a big steal

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) hands off to running back Chris Johnson (23) against the Detroit Lions during an NFL football game at Ford Field in Detroit, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)

Any team that was looking to add a veteran running back in the offseason certainly had a lot of options available both via trade and free agency.

The NFL’s leading rusher from last season — DeMarco Murray (1,845 yards with Dallas) — was available and went to the Eagles on a five-year, $42 million dollar contract with $21 million guaranteed. Another star back, LeSean McCoy, who rushed for 1,607 yards in 2013 and 1,319 yards last year, was traded from the Eagles to the Bills for a linebacker who hadn’t even played last year because of injury. Wily, old veteran Frank Gore, who notched his eighth 1,000-yard season last year with San Francisco, went to the Colts on a three-year deal for $12 million with $7.5 guaranteed.

Other solid backs were in high demand as well. C.J. Spiller, who rushed for 1,246 yards with Buffalo in 2012, signed with New Orleans on a four-year deal for $18 million with $9 million guaranteed. Ryan Mathews, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher with San Diego, went to the Eagles on a three-year deal for $11.5 million with $5 million guaranteed. Darren McFadden, the fourth overall pick in 2008, signed with Dallas for two years and $5.85 million. Veteran DeAngelo Williams got $4 million over two years to go from Carolina to Pittsburgh.

And then there was the Arizona Cardinals. Like a snake in the grass, the Cardinals waited. And after the dust had settled and all the other backs had signed, they went to the dollar store and got Chris Johnson on a one-year deal for $870,000 with no money guaranteed. There are incentives that could push his earnings to $2 million and the way he is playing he just might get them, but making the Pro Bowl and gaining 1,300 yards didn’t seem like a realistic shot when he signed on August 17.

Because Johnson was victimized in a drive-by shooting that the left the driver of the vehicle he was in dead, a lot of teams passed on him, even though he rushed for 2,006 yards in 2009 and had over 1,000 yards for six straight seasons.

Now five weeks into the season, the team that bided its time and played the waiting game came out on top. Johnson has been by far the best running back acquisition in the NFL this season and he is a big reason why the Arizona Cardinals are 4-1 and all alone in first place in the NFC West.

A comparison of running backs who switched teams this year:

Player (Team) ATT Yards Avg. TD
Chris Johnson (Arizona) 79 405 5.1 2
Frank Gore (Indianapolis) 76 325 4.3 3
DeAngelo Williams (Pittsburgh) 49 231 4.7 3
Ryan Mathews (Philadelphia) 41 205 5.0 2
LeSean McCoy (Buffalo) 43 146 3.4 0
DeMarco Murray (Philadelphia) 49 130 2.7 2
Darren McFadden (Dallas) 37 129 3.5 1
Shane Vereen (NY Giants) 25 101 4.0 0
C.J. Spiller (New Orleans) 9 31 3.4 0


Sometimes you get what you pay for. And sometimes, not often, you get a lot more for your money. The Arizona Cardinals just purchased a car with a lot of miles on it on the cheap, but it runs great.

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