A year ago, there was hope for Beanie Wells. So much hope, in so many different sparkling rainbow colors after he maintained his full health over the course of an entire season, rushing for 1,047 yards at a pace of 4.3 per carry, with 10 touchdowns. Then Wells went ahead and Wells’ed himself, missing half the season in 2012.
Had he been able to maintain even a shred of health, the Cardinals may have been much more interested in re-signing their own player as he entered free agency. But now with Wells gone along with La’Rod Stephens-Howling, paying someone to take handoffs — and preferably someone who won’t combust — was a glaring need for Arizona.
So enter Rashard Mendenhall, who just struggled mightily last season in Pittsburgh while recovering from an ACL tear, and he also had issues with not being a jerk.
The Cardinals have reportedly signed Mendenhall to a one-year deal, meaning that in a matter of, oh, an hour one of the quieter positions during Day 1 of free agency has now had two of its top names plucked. As expected they both went to teams where starting right away is likely and almost assured, with Reggie Bush landing in Detroit.
There’s a possibility that if Ryan Williams can avoid tearing things he could find himself on the lesser end of a platoon with Mendenhall, one that’s fed by the presumably minimal financial commitment given to the former Steeler. But Mendenhall is still young even in running back years (he’s 26), and if he can rebound throughout this offseason to become even half of what he was in 2010 when he rushed for 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns (both career highs), the bell cow role is his immediately.
Of course from a fantasy perspective, the value of any Cardinals running back is severely limited by their quarterback’s inability to connect with his receivers at a league-average rate. Kevin Kolb’s future remains uncertain, while Brian Hoyer will return eventually after he was tendered as a restricted free agent. And then there’s Ryan Lindley and John Skelton, who…aren’t quarterbacks.
Really, it doesn’t matter, because any of those names as the starter will result in utter despair. Geno Smith or bust.