White smoke from the Vatican on Wednesday.

Up In Smoke: Mendenhall's Move To 'Zona Could Be Career Ender

Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Former Pittsburgh Steelers Rashard Mendenhall is heading to Arizona to play for the Cardinals and buddy Bruce Arians.  He’s inked a one year deal with the Cards, and I fully believe that will cost him his career.  Shortly after Mendenhall’s move was announced through the Twitt’o’sphere, white smoke began to spew forth from the chimney at the Vatican announcing a new pope had been selected.  Much like that chimney, Mendenhall’s career is about to go up in smoke as well in 2013.

How desperate was Mendenhall to get out of Dodge?  Apparently enough to sign just a one year deal for a team that struggled all over the place offensively.  It’s doubtful that with Airans at the helm that the offense will take a huge leap out of the nether regions of obscurity.  Arians may make that team better, but it’s going to take a couple of years before that happens – well after Mendenhall’s one year is up, and the team needs more than a semi good ‘featured’ back to right the ship.  Don’t expect an extension from them – even with a great season in 2013.

One year deals are usually reserved for the ‘Over 30′ crowd who are proven vets.  It’s the traditional ‘I was good for the last ten seasons, still have some gas in the tank, and still want to play football’ kind of signing.  Whether Mendenhall really wanted to be reunited with Bruce Arians is a moot point when you consider the big risk v. medium reward in Mendenhall’s decision.  Mendenhall is still young, and if he was productive enough of a back, he should have at least received a multi year deal from some team out there.  Did he take the first offer on the table?  Seems like it considering we are just two days into free agency signings and there weren’t many RB’s up for grabs.  

Mendenhall is taking a risk with the 2013 season being his last attempt to define himself as a starter and one who’s worth the money and attitude.  The only way he is rewarded is if he has a phenomenal season in ‘Zona and another team nabs him in 2014.  At age 29 going on 30 at that point, Mendenhall will be on the verge of that Club 30 I was talking about.  Will he even get a huge long term contract?  Doubtful.  I don’t know what he’s expecting to do or have happen while in Arizona.  Sure he gets to keep playing football, but for how long?  Arizona is not a running team and will have difficulties adjusting to Arians offense at first – assuming he’s either calling the plays or hires someone who will call similar schemes.

I’m seeing a 500-700 yard year out of Mendy, and that’s a far cry from what he’ll need to get the nice long term contract the Club 30 desires – especially at the running back position.  He’ll likely turn into a 3rd down running back like former Steelers RB Mewelde Moore did after he came from the Vikings.  That’s low on the depth charts and doesn’t equal a big pay check or long term deals.

This deal with ‘Zona could be the beginning of the end for Mendy.  Come to think of it…. If the latest trends hold true in a couple of years, Steeler fans should expect to see Mendenhall back in a Steelers uniform as a 3rd down running back in 2015.  No surprises there.

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