Antonio Cromartie wanted to find a team that was going to contend for a Super Bowl.
So, he landed in Arizona.
The Cardinals signed the cornerback to a one-year deal reportedly worth $3.25 million, with another $500,000 available if he plays in all 16 games. While being introduced to the media Thursday, the former New York Jet and San Diego Charger pointed to the team’s competitiveness as a main reason why he signed on the dotted line.
“You’re part of a team that’s right where it needs to be,” Cromartie said at the team’s Tempe training facility. “That’s a team been there, that’s committed to winning. And also, a team that’s right on the edge, on the verge of being a Super Bowl champion team.”
Cromartie, who is about to enter his ninth season, said that is something he was looking for after the Jets released him on March 9.
The Cardinals, who just missed the playoffs last season but won 10 games — one of which was a road win against the Super Bowl champion Seahawks — believe they got a player who is primed for a bounce back season following a down 2013.
“The thing that’s appealing to us is in Todd Bowles’ pressure scheme, his ability to play press-man,” Cardinals GM Steve Keim said. “And to have two corners like him and Patrick (Peterson) where they can play that press-bail and get in receivers’ faces and reroute them, and not only have length but speed and athleticism, is a huge asset for us moving forward.”
Cromartie will line up opposite Peterson and along with Tyrann Mathieu in a defensive backfield that appears to be growing evermore dangerous as the offseason progresses.
“You look at guys like Patrick and Tyrann and now Antonio, you have three ball hawks who have the ability to make big plays after the catch and guys who can do special things after the interception,” Keim said.
Cromartie has 28 career interceptions, three of which he’s returned for touchdowns. A 6-foot-2, 210-pound player, his combination of size and speed has made him one of the most tantalizingly frustrating players in the NFL.
Sometimes he’s been great, other times he’s been bad.
As the number-two cornerback, the Cardinals will probably settle for good, and they think that got at least that in Cromartie, especially now that he’s healthy following a hip flexor strain that limited him for the majority of 2013.
“I’m grateful and I’m blessed for the opportunity to have a chance to come out and play the game I love for another year under my belt with the Arizona Cardinals,” the cornerback said. “That’s what I look forward to. I’m just trying to come in and try to be the leader that I can be and just go play football the best way I know and that this organization needs me to be.”
The goal is make an already very good defense even better and to rebuild a player whose value appears to have plummeted a bit. Like Karlos Dansby last year, though, he could be a big season away from landing another big contract. And whether he would get it from the Cardinals or another team, no doubt that’s a problem Arizona would like to have a year from now.
“The good news for him and my selling point to him and his agent are the facts that if you’re going to come back and you’re going to, some degree, resurrect your career, why not do it a place where you feel like you have a top-five defense, you have a team that is going to feature you on an island — you’re going to get a lot balls thrown your way, obviously, because of Patrick being on the other side,” Keim said. “So your ability to create stats and to cover in a short amount of time and play in a good defense is beneficial to you.”