James Conner is unlikely to resign with the Pittsburgh Steelers, so where might he land in free agency?
The Pittsburgh Steelers had the second-most pass-heavy offense in the NFL last season (65.5 percent). So it was no surprise they came in near the bottom in rushing attempts (28th), and dead last in both yards per game and yards per carry. James Conner led the way with 721 yards (4.3 yards per carry) and six touchdowns.
After missing six games and generally being banged up in 2019, Conner only missed one game due to injury in 2020 (two more missed due to COVID-19). But he has never played more than 14 games in a season. In 2018, his best season, he had 973 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns along with 55 catches in 13 games.
Conner is a free agent, and there should be a market for him. But that market will not include the team that drafted him, as Brooke Pryor of ESPN has reported the Steelers are unlikely to re-sign Conner. Significant cap concerns are the easy thing to lean on there, but the truth in a broad sense is Conner is a pretty replaceable running back if he can’t stay on the field.
So on the assumption he’s not back with the Steelers, here are three potential landings spots for Conner in free agency.
3 potential landing spots for James Conner in free agency
3. New York Jets
With a combination of cap space (second-most in the league) and multiple needs, the Jets will be able to swim in the deep end for free agents. But if they fall short in any pursuit of someone like Aaron Jones, Conner is in the category of fall back options. Pairing him with another veteran or a rookie (Travis Etienne?) would look pretty nice compared to what the Jets tried to slap together last year (Le’Veon Bell, Frank Gore, La’Mical Perine).
For Conner, signing with the Jets might depend on his other options. But an opportunity for a big role and a contract that could blow all others out of the water would be hard to turn down.