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Room To Improve For Jermaine Gresham

Veteran tight end took less money to return to Cardinals, expects big 2016


Tight end Jermaine Gresham believes injuries slowed him last year and a healthy 2016 will result in better numbers.

Bruce Arians has seen almost everything during his decades-long coaching run in the NFL, so not much fazes him.

But when the Cardinals coach heard tight end Jermaine Gresham was spurning substantially more guaranteed money to return to Arizona, he did a double-take. Gresham reportedly had a four-year contract offer on the table with $12 million in guaranteed money during his free agency, but instead signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals for $3.5 million earlier this month.

"I was shocked," Arians said at the owners' meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. last week.

For Gresham, several factors played a part in the decision. He enjoyed his time with the team last season and knows the Cardinals have a legitimate chance at a Super Bowl. Gresham, 27, also feels like he can rejuvenate his career with another year in the offense.

Gresham didn't sign with the Cardinals until late July last year because he spent most of the offseason recovering from back surgery. The lack of offseason work and a rushed calibration to a new offense contributed to statistical lows in every category – 18 catches, 223 yards and a touchdown -- for the former Pro Bowler.

Instead of being frustrated, Gresham saw potential.

"I feel like the opportunity is here," Gresham said. "I think last year, coming in when I did, the shape that I was in, that wasn't the best Jermaine that was out there. The opportunities in the offense and me being 100 percent, the sky's the limit."

Gresham confirmed the outside interest and said it was nice to be coveted by multiple teams. Still, he determined that spending at least one more season with the Cardinals was best.

"The reason why you play the game is you want your family to be set (financially), but it's the bigger picture and I'm just trying to see it through," Gresham said.

The Cardinals' tight end room could look similar to last season, led by Gresham, Darren Fells and Troy Niklas atop the depth chart with Ifeanyi Momah and Gerald Christian also in the mix. While the group didn't put up big numbers last season, Arians was always quick to compliment the players.

Arians prefers tight ends who can block as well as receive, and he seemed happy with the collective performance in 2015. Gresham feels like he has room to grow individually, and he hopes to begin making those strides next month when players can return for offseason work.

"I started feeling better as the season went along (in 2015), but you can't substitute a full offseason," Gresham said. "A full offseason with the playbook, a full offseason of training."

Images of Cardinals cheerleader Rachael from throughout the year

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