There’s nothing that a player who is coming up on free agency likes to see more than other players at their position cashing in, or fighting for the value of their group, because they know that can only mean good things for themselves down the line.
That’s where James Conner stands right now heading into 2020, entering the final year of his rookie contract and knowing that this could potentially be his last with the Pittsburgh Steelers, his local team and the team that drafted him in the third round in 2017.
He was on the Going Deep podcast recently—which you might remember from that infamous James Harrison interview a month or so ago—talking about a number of topics, but one thing that he was asked to talk about was Dalvin Cook.
Cook is from Conner’s draft class and is in a similar position. He has said that he intends to hold out during training camp until he receives a reasonable contract offer from the Minnesota Vikings, this in spite of the fact that the new Collective Bargaining Agreement makes it even more painful for players who are under contract to hold out.
“I’m team running back, so I’m going to support all the running backs in whatever decisions that they make”, Conner said. “Me, I’m prepared, my mindset is just to ball. Now, where if they come to me with something, we’ll talk. But if they don’t say a word to me, it’s cool. I’m going to play. and I’m going to show them. And so, I support Dalvin, man and everything that he’s doing”.
With Dalvin Cook holding out until he gets a ‘reasonable deal’, how does another stud RB, @JamesConner_ from his draft class feel about the RB market and his own upcoming free agency?
— Going Deep Podcast (@goingdeep) June 25, 2020
This is not the first time that he has made similar comments. Back in November, he used the same phrase—“I’m team running back”—when he was interviewed on Good Morning Football talking about the contract status of some prominent running backs at that time, including Melvin Gordon and Ezekiel Elliott.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that he had a front row seat for one of the more dramatic running back contract showdowns in recent years. The Steelers placed the franchise tag on Le’Veon Bell in each of Conner’s first two seasons. In the first year, Bell waited to show up just before the start of the regular season before signing the tag. During the 2018 season, he never signed it, and never reported.
That did give Conner the opportunity to enter the starting lineup, and he made the most of it, being voted into the Pro Bowl that year after accumulating 1470 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns in 13 games.
He hurt his market value following an injury-plagued 2019 season, however, and he understands that he needs a strong bounceback year to maximize his value. It wouldn’t hurt for the running back position to maximize its value in the meantime, either, giving him all the more reason to support Cook.