Unlike several of his former University of Utah colleagues, running back T.J. Pledger didn’t sign a rookie free-agent contract after going undrafted in the 2022 NFL draft.
Instead, Pledger went to the Arizona Cardinals rookie minicamp on a tryout basis, and on Monday, he officially turned that tryout into a contract.
He was one of six tryout players to sign with the Cardinals.
Who is T.J. Pledger?
Pledger spent the 2021 season in the Utah program after transferring from Oklahoma and rushed for 694 yards and six touchdowns for the Utes.
The 5-foot-9, 196-pound back averaged 6.6 yards per carry as the team’s second-leading rusher and had four 100-yard rushing games in his lone season with the Utes.
After the season — his junior campaign — he declared for the NFL draft.
In addition to Pledger, the Cardinals signed quarterback Jared Guarantano, offensive lineman Greg Long, wide receivers Christian Blake and Jared Smart and safety Tae Daley on Monday after they tried out for the team.
Who do the Arizona Cardinals have at running back?
For Pledger to make the regular season roster, he’ll need to stand out on a Cardinals roster that has several young running backs.
The Cardinals’ running back group is led by 27-year-old James Conner, the team’s leading rusher this past season (752 rushing yards, 15 touchdowns) who signed a three-year deal this offseason.
Beyond Conner, though, there are opportunities for other running backs to contribute.
Arizona’s second-leading rusher from a year ago, Chase Edmonds, signed with Miami, and the team returns two running backs under 25 — Eno Benjamin and Jonathan Ward — who’ve played sparingly in the backfield in their NFL careers.
Arizona also signed 25-year-old Jaylen Samuels this offseason.
Pledger is one of three rookie running backs who will be fighting for opportunities.
The Cardinals drafted former USC back Keaontay Ingram in the draft’s sixth round, then added former Fresno State running back Ronnie Rivers as an undrafted free agent.