What Cardinals get in Rashard Mendenhall

March, 13, 2013
3/13/13
2:10
PM ET

The Arizona Cardinals' one-year contract agreement with Pittsburgh Steelers free-agent running back Rashard Mendenhall gives new coach Bruce Arians a potential upgrade from the recently released Beanie Wells.

Both players carry significant injury concerns.

However, Mendenhall has experience playing under Arians when both were with the Steelers. That provides some comfort for Arians as he puts together his first roster with the Cardinals. Rules prevent coaches and players from talking football at this stage of the offseason. Arians knows what he's getting in Mendenhall. That has to provide some comfort.

Also, Mendenhall would appear to be the more versatile back and someone the Cardinals could trust in pass protection. That is also significant for Arizona as the team looks to install more of a downfield passing game.

The chart shows production since the start of the 2009 season for Mendenhall and Wells. Mendenhall is 25 years old and was a first-round draft pick in 2008. Wells, released this week, is 24 years old and was a first-rounder in 2009.

Talented 25-year-old running backs generally do not get on the market in the absence of questions regarding their ability to produce.

Mendenhall (5-foot-10, 225 pounds) suffered a torn ACL in the final game of the 2011 season. An Achilles injury bothered him in 2012. The Steelers suspended Mendenhall last season after the running back failed to show for game (the team had told Mendenhall he would not be active for that game). In 2011, Mendenhall also drew criticism for tweets regarding Osama bin Laden.

Mendenhall carried 51 times for 182 yards and a touchdown in five games last season. Wells carried 88 times for 234 yards and five scores in eight games.

The Cardinals reportedly had interest in Miami Dolphins free-agent running back Reggie Bush. Bush reached an agreement with the Detroit Lions and never visited Arizona.

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