NFL free agency 2013: Cardinals pursuing Rashard Mendenhall, but does he fit?

Jamie Squire

We give a quick breakdown of former Steelers RB, Rashard Mendenhall.

The Arizona Cardinals have plenty of holes to fill on their team, so logically, they are going to have to use free agency to fill some of them, as the draft isn't going to do that. One of their most glaring holes comes at running back, where the team recently released Beanie Wells and appears willing to let LaRod Stephens-Howling leave via free agency.

The Cards have been linked to names such as Reggie Bush, but the one that appears the most likely is former Steelers running back, Rashard Mendenhall. Mendenhall was a former first-round draft pick of the Steelers out of Illinois. In his five seasons with Pittsburgh, he started 48 games, rushing for 3,549 yards and 29 touchdowns, but he also coughed up the football nine times, seven of which resulted in turnovers.

Mendenhall was relegated to the fourth string spot last season because Coach Mike Tomlin apparently got tired of some of his fumbling issues. There was even speculation that he was going to be traded, but nothing ever came to fruition. Now that he is a free agent, the Cardinals make sense as a logical destination given Mendenhall's ties to Coach Bruce Arians (Arians was his offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh) and Arizona's glaring need at the position.

So, as many of you are probably asking by now, why would the Cardinals want to sign a player that seems to be very similar to the one they just cut? The parallels between Mendenhall and Beanie Wells are uncanny. Both have fumbling issues, both have an extensive injury history and they were both former first round picks that didn't last with the team that drafted them past their rookie contracts.

Mendenhall has an extensive set of injuries that he has dealt with. In 2008, he was placed on IR after fracturing his shoulder. In 2012, he tore his ACL. Coincidentally, Mendenhall was 68th in the league in rushing attempts last season, falling behind Cardinals RB Ryan Williams, who was placed on IR after five games.

The Cardinals, if they signed Mendenhall, will be banking on a rejuvenation of sorts. He has not shown to be a consistent runner and was even deactivated last season because of his inconsistency. With his former offensive coordinator now calling the shots in Arizona, the prevailing thought is that he can put up numbers similar to his 2010 season, where he rushed for over 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns while playing in all 16 games.

Mendenhall is also a very experienced pass blocker as a running back, a trait that Coach Arians covets in his running backs. On passing downs, Mendenhall can be inserted into the game and be used as an extra blocker to help protect the quarterback. Last season, despite the low amount of snaps he took, Mendenhall did receive a positive pass blocking grade.

If he is signed, Mendenhall could potentially create a nice tandem with Ryan Williams in the backfield. It could also become very reminiscent of the 2011 season, where Chester Taylor was forced to start for the Cardinals due to the top running backs sustaining injuries.

What do you think? Would signing Rashard Mendenhall be a wise idea? Is it worth the risk? Tell us in the comments section below.

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