Sports Outside the Beltway

Cardinals Sign RB Edgerrin James

The Cardinals have signed the top free agent running back available this offseason.

The Arizona Cardinals have hollered to anyone who would listen that they are serious about building a winner. They backed up the big talk Sunday by signing Edgerrin James to a four-year, $30 million contract — almost certainly the most significant free-agent acquisition in the history of the long-suffering franchise.

“You look at his ability to go out and run the football,” Arizona coach Dennis Green said, “and that’s an element we just have to have. We are extremely excited. We had a great weekend.”

James flew into Phoenix with agent Drew Rosenhaus on Saturday and had a deal by Sunday morning. It was the only visit he made as a free agent.

“I’m not scared to take a chance,” James said at a news conference at Cardinals’ headquarters. “I’m not scared to go out there on a limb and do something different. If I was nervous, I would probably have done whatever it took to stay back where I left.”

The four-time Pro Bowl player and two-time NFL rushing leader started 95 regular-season games over the past seven seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, gaining 9,226 yards and scoring 56 touchdowns, both franchise records.

Last season, in 15 starts, he rushed for 1,506 yards, averaging 4.2 yards per carry, and 13 touchdowns, second behind Kansas City’s Larry Johnson in the AFC. He led the league in first downs with 115 — 94 rushing and 24 receiving.

James has been one of the most productive running backs in the NFL after the Colts took him with the fourth overall pick in 1999. He has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in six of his eight NFL seasons, and ran for more than 1,500 yards in each of the last two.

The 28-year-old James joins an Arizona team that went 5-11 last season, leading the league in passing but finishing dead last in rushing with 1,138 yards, averaging 3.2 yards per carry.

“It’s a nice situation. All they really need was a back,” James said. “They’ve got an MVP quarterback (Kurt Warner), they’ve got two Pro Bowl receivers (Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald).”

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