After four years playing under the non-stop microscope that is the sports landscape in New York City, cornerback Antonio Cromartie was in desperate need of a scenery change.
So, he headed back to where his NFL career began, the west coast, and signed a one-year deal worth $3.25 million with the Cardinals back in March.
An eight-year pro with three trips to the Pro Bowl on his résumé, Cromartie brings plenty of experience and swagger to a budding secondary looking to keep up with The Joneses of the NFC West — in particular the Seattle Seahawks.
While Cromartie was not shy about claiming his stake as one of the elite players at this position this offseason, the 30-year-old was more matter-of-fact when speaking after the team’s morning training camp session Saturday.
“I’m happy to be here for one,” Cromartie said. “I think the biggest thing we can do is just go out and play football the best way we know how as a secondary. That’s making sure everybody is on the same page, and we’re doing what we were supposed to do.
“I was just brought in here to add to what they already have with Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Tony Jefferson and those guys. It’s just a matter of me coming in and helping the best way I can.”
What Arizona has is a secondary group bursting with potential and youth — but one that is in desperate need of additional mentoring and veteran leadership.
In 2013, the Cardinals’ defense finished near the middle of the pack — ranked No. 13 — in passing yards allowed per contest (233.0) but showed signs of weakness when it came to defending opposing teams’ tight ends.
Of the 29 touchdowns Arizona allowed through the air, 17 were registered by tight ends.
But with a physical, 6-foot-2 defensive back with 28 career interceptions entering the fold, the sky might very well be the limit for the backbone of Todd Bowles’ defense.
“There’s a lot of talent [here], but at the end of the day talent doesn’t win championships,” said Cromartie. “It’s the team that plays together collectively and goes out and plays football the best way they know how.
“If we can go out there, put all of our talent together and making sure we’re playing smart and doing the things that we’re supposed to do, this is a championship-caliber team.”