TEMPE, Ariz., March 26 (UPI) -- Emmitt Smith, pro football's all-time leading rusher who is determined to prove he can still be a major factor in the NFL, signed a two-year contract Wednesday with the Arizona Cardinals.
The Cardinals made a move to improve their stature in the league, having reached the playoffs just once since moving from St. Louis in 1988.
Financial terms were not disclosed, but Smith reportedly received nearly $8 million. "Emmitt Smith embodies the fiber and fabric of the NFL," Cardinals Coach Dave McGinnis said. "We know what players of his stature bring to the football team."
"We are excited to have a player of his caliber in the mainstream of our organization," said Cardinals General Manager Rod Graves. "He represents ths kind of caliber of player and person we want in our program."
Smith, who turns 34 in May, rushed for 17,162 yards in 13 years with the Dallas Cowboys before being released on Feb. 27. Last Oct. 27, Smith passed Walter Payton (16,726) to take over the No. 1 spot on the NFL's all-time rushing list
But Smith's streak of 11 straight 1,000-yard seasons also came to an end in 2002, when he rushed for 975 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 3.8 yards per carry.
Dallas owner Jerry Jones called Smith "Cowboys royalty" but decided his team needed to go with younger players. Although it was an amicable parting, Smith said, "I think I'm a 1,300-yard back, and I will be out to prove that."
Smith gets his chance in Arizona, the only city he visited after leaving the Cowboys. It appeared none of the playoff contenders had interest in Smith, who will conduct a news conference Thursday.
It was rumored that the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers might make an offer to Smith, who starred at the University of Florida, but that never materialized.
In Arizona, Smith will likely start ahead of Marcel Shipp, who rushed for 834 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 4.4 yards per carry, last season.
Smith will get to run behind one of the league's biggest offensive lines, featuring 6-6, 372-pound guard Leonard Davis, 6-8, 328-pound tackle Anthony Clement and 6-6, 335-pound tackle L.J. Shelton.
After a 5-11 season, the Cardinals have made dramatic changes in the offseason, losing quarterback Jake Plummer and receiver David Boston and signing Smith, quarterback Jeff Blake and safety Dexter Jackson, the Super Bowl XXXVII Most Valuable Player.
An eight-time Pro Bowler and four-time rushing champion, Smith was a member of three Super Bowl-winning teams for the Cowboys in the 1990s.
The 5-9, 212-pound Smith is one of the NFL's most durable backs and is widely recognized as one toughest and hardest working players in league history.
Perhaps the best example of Smith's work ethic and determination came in the final game of the 1993 season, when the Cowboys faced the New York Giants.
With the NFC East title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs on the line, Smith separated his shoulder late in the first half but remained in the game. He finished with 32 carries for 168 yards and 10 receptions for 61 yards -- including a five-yard touchdown -- in a 16-13 overtime win.
Smith followed by averaging 93.3 yards in three playoff games, culminating with a Most Valuable Player performance against Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVIII when he rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns.