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Zay Jones Confident In Ability To Make Impact For Cardinals 

Treatment on free-agent visit made difference to get veteran

New Cardinals receiver Zay Jones runs downfield after a catch during an OTA.
New Cardinals receiver Zay Jones runs downfield after a catch during an OTA.

Game days in the NFL are an opportunity for many to enjoy the action with family, but for Zay Jones, it was a different type of family outing.

Jones grew up around NFL locker rooms, his father Robert a linebacker and three-time Super Bowl champion in a decade-long career. His uncle, Jeff Blake, quarterbacked multiple teams in the league, including the Cardinals in 2003.

Coincidentally, when it was time for Jones to search for a new NFL home after being released by the Jaguars, it was the Cardinals that felt like family.

Jones and Blake haven't discussed the Valley in-depth but Jones was familiar with his uncle's stop in Arizona. However, it was the personal conversations with general manager Monti Ossenfort and the coaching staff that sealed the deal for Jones.

"I just really began to fall in love with what they're building here in the way that they just treated me as a man with respect and asking about my family and my health," Jones said. "Transitioning into football, as far as what they see in me and how I can help this football team. That was really one of the main selling points for me was being wanted in a place."

Blake and Robert Jones have been sounding boards for the wide receiver throughout his career. Arriving at the Dignity Health Training Facility as the new face in the room, he's looking to make a splash with the guidance they've instilled.

Jones signed his contract last week. At this stage, most people would still be extending a hand to introduce themselves to others in the building.

But when asked his early impressions of the wide receiver room, Jones didn't give a standard answer that would indicate somebody is freshly new to the program. He named every player and mentioned a trait that stood out to him.

Michael Wilson is physical and savvy while being young. Greg Dortch is quick and explosive. Zach Pascal, Chris Moore, Jeff Smith, Andre Baccellia, and Dan Chisena have unique knacks about themselves. And of course, rookie Marvin Harrison Jr.'s tape and pedigree speaks for itself.

"They welcomed me with open arms and I'm really grateful for them," Jones said. "When you transition sometimes to a new place, things can still be difficult for you. To have guys that embrace you and welcome you, it's meaningful."

Jones becomes another complimentary piece for Kyler Murray and the Cardinals offense. At 6-foot-2, the veteran target becomes the 10th receiver in the room to be taller than six feet. The only two that aren't? Dortch is 5-7, Baccellia 5-10. Last season, Wilson and Pascal were the only Cardinals wide receivers that were at least 6-0.

Even though coach Jonathan Gannon said it wasn't specifically the goal to add lengthy wide receivers this offseason, bringing in players like Jones that "fit the price of admission" automatically improves the roster.

"His football character is through the roof," Gannon said. "He's extremely smart and has obviously played at a high level for a good amount of time. He's done well acclimating in last week and he's excited to go."

In two seasons with the Jaguars, Jones had 116 receptions for 1,144 yards and seven touchdowns. His first season in Jacksonville featured career-bests with 82 receptions and 823 receiving yards. Injuries sidelined him for eight games in 2023.

The size and talent in the receiver room has taken a 180-degree turn. Having played both as a receiver on the outside and in the slot, Jones' versatility adds an element to the offense that was absent in 2023.

"He's smart enough to play all of it," Gannon said. "He's played multiple positions through his career and had production at all of them. He wants to help us win."

Getting on the same page with Murray and developing that rapport will be critical for the Cardinals to improve off of last year's win total. Jones said it's still too early to paint the picture of what the offense could look like, but in just a few practices, Murray's leadership has stood out to the wide receiver.

Once the chemistry develops, the new guy on the block could help the Cardinals take a leap forward.

"Obviously with the guys that we have here, we're capable of doing something special," Jones said. "It's about putting the work in, so everything seems to be aligning for me as far as that aspect."

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