Jermaine Gresham ‘looking forward to the future’ with Arizona Cardinals
GLENDALE, Ariz. — In a lot of ways, Jermaine Gresham signing with the Arizona Cardinals made plenty of sense.
The team was incredibly thin at the tight end position, and Gresham — a two-time Pro Bowl selection — could provide experience as well as ability.
But in other ways, the pairing made little sense.
In two years under head coach Bruce Arians, the Cardinals have rarely used the tight end in the passing game, with their leading receivers at the position in 2013 and 2014 — Rob Housler and John Carlson, respectively — combining for 72 catches, 804 yards and two touchdowns.
Yet, Gresham chose to sign a one-year contract with the Cardinals, spurning a list of suitors that was rumored to include the New Orleans Saints, Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers.
“I can’t really say, just very team-oriented and the owner and the GM did a good job selling me on what they had to offer,” Gresham said when asked why he chose the Cardinals. “It worked out well.”
The 27-year-old Gresham caught 62 passes for 460 yards and five touchdowns last season. Along with San Diego’s Antonio Gates and Carolina’s Greg Olsen, he is one of three tight ends to have at least 40 receptions, 400 yards and four touchdowns in each of the last five seasons. He was available to the Cardinals at a discounted rate in large part because he is recovering from back surgery, and teams were likely unsure of whether or not he would be able to play at a high level.
Like others before him, Gresham will play on a one-year contract in hopes of rebuilding his value and hopefully parlaying that into a bigger, long-term contract.
The Cardinals are more than happy to play their part. In a way, Gresham can be a security blanket, for both quarterback Carson Palmer and the team itself. Prior to adding the former Bengal, the tight ends on Arizona’s roster had combined for eight catches and 109 yards, a total that rises to nine catches for 110 yards and one touchdown if you include playoffs.
“He’s been a Pro Bowl tight end. I felt that we needed another veteran just in case some of the young guys falter. I like the depth in that room; I really like the depth in the room now,” Arians said. “He’s a more than adequate blocker; he’s been an excellent receiver and a Pro Bowl player. Just putting him in our system and finding a spot for him.”
Gresham was not on the field for the first day of training camp Saturday, as he is on the PUP list to begin camp. Arians said the hope is to get him on the field soon, at least for walk throughs, and then for practices when he is ready to go.
When he does make his return, though, Gresham’s learning curve may be a little easier due to the fact that he has a rapport with quarterback Carson Palmer. The two were teammates in Cincinnati in 2010 when Gresham, then a rookie, caught 52 passes for 471 yards and four touchdowns.
So, the quarterback knows what his new weapon brings to the table.
“Yeah, it’s big,” Palmer said of the signing. “He’s a mismatch against linebackers. He can be a mismatch depending on the safety. He’s really, really good in the run game and can pass block against defensive ends, which is rare for tight ends. He’s just such a big, physical presence on the field.”
That’s why the QB did his part to make a reunion in the desert happen.
“Yeah, I’ve talked to him over the years. I think he was looking for the right fit and for a number of reasons we were the right fit and thankfully we were,” he said. “I’m always texting and calling and recruiting when I can. I don’t know how much of a role it played, but just playing in this stadium on this grass, practicing at our facility and just kind of looking at the team, I think we kind of had everything he was looking for.”
According to Gresham, Palmer played a significant role.
“He did a good job recruiting me,” Gresham said. “He stayed in my phone a lot and kept giving me reminders. He sold it well, so I’m happy to make it home for the year.”
As for what kind of role Gresham will play for his new team, the tight end said he was promised nothing. He said all the team guaranteed was a chance to come in, play and help the team try and get to the Super Bowl.
He’s hopeful it won’t be long until he’s back on the field doing exactly that. When he does, he will put an end to what was an eventful — and sometimes frustrating — offseason.
“I had a lot going on this offseason,” he said. “At the end of the day I find peace with playing football, so not being able to play football and dealing with all the other stuff, it was tough. But it’s all behind me now, I’m looking forward to the future now.”