As the 2021 NFL free agency class dwindles down and rumors swirl, Pittsburgh Steelers RB James Conner is one of the higher-profile players who remains unsigned. However, there are only a few landing spots that make sense for someone of his skill set.
James Conner Landing Spots
The Miami Dolphins are a logical landing spot for James Conner and rumors suggest they are still in the RB market
They have cap space, a need at RB, and enter a window to make serious noise in the AFC East. Every other team in the division has made significant moves, and this is arguably the Dolphins’ biggest need.
Going into the 2020 season with questions at the position, Miami deployed several running backs. Of those, the most successful was Myles Gaskin, a 2019 seventh-round pick from Washington. Gaskin played just 10 games and led the Dolphins in rushing with 584 yards on 142 carries, adding another 388 yards on 41 receptions with 5 touchdowns.
However, signing James Conner in free agency would allow them to use that crucial pick on other needs. They did bring in former Rams RB Malcolm Brown on a two-year deal, but this should not be enough to keep them out of the market for a significant addition.
Are the Seattle Seahawks back in the running back market in free agency?
The Seattle Seahawks have released Chris Carson, and now their backfield is in limbo. Rashaad Penny was a first-round selection in 2018 but has never lived up to expectations. He also tore his ACL late in 2019 and only saw 11 carries in 2020. Behind him, it is a mismatch between Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas.
Pete Carroll could view James Conner as the majority rusher in a committee approach and pursue him in free agency.
James Conner could see the New York Jets as a landing spot during the 2021 free agency period
Adam Gase is gone, and Robert Saleh needs help at the running back position. The Jets have plenty of cash to throw to help take the pressure off Sam Darnold or whoever will play quarterback.
If they do go quarterback with the second-overall pick as many expect, both Justin Fields and Zach Wilson will need a running back to rely on as they adjust to the NFL. James Conner could be a reliable option for the Jets and a considerably cheap option.
The Atlanta Falcons might be another landing spot for Steelers RB James Conner
I think we can all agree that Todd Gurley is not coming back to Atlanta, leaving the position in limbo. Head coach Arthur Smith wants to have a rushing attack, and they could be a landing spot for James Conner.
The hard part of this scenario will be the spending space. The Falcons entered free agency cash strapped and still have their backs against the wall.
While a fan favorite, rumors suggest the NFL is unsure of James Conner’s value
We all know the backstory of James Conner. Everything from cancer to playing at Pitt, to taking over the starting role for the Steelers.
However, his career has been up and down in terms of production. In his sophomore year, Conner took off once out of the shadow of Le’Veon Bell. Conner played in 13 games for the Steelers in 2018, rushing 215 times for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns while adding 55 receptions on 71 targets for 497 yards and another score.
In 2019, injuries crept up to James Conner. He appeared in just 10 games in 2019, rushing 116 times for 464 yards and scoring 4 touchdowns.
In 2020, Conner suffered an ankle injury in Week 1 and tested positive, landing him on the NFL reserved list. Later on, he dealt with a quad injury which cost him Week 15. Additionally, the Steelers’ offensive scheme changed midseason. After Conner averaged 15 carries per game up to Week 7, from Week 8 on, the Steelers running backs rushed 153 times — combined.
Between injuries and the struggling 2021 salary cap, James Conner has seen little interest in free agency. Even though he is one of the top remaining running backs, teams are not currently prioritizing the position.
We could likely see someone like James Conner take a smaller one-year deal as a “prove-it” contract, hoping to reset his market.
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