The Denver Broncos did not address the Running Back position in the 2011 NFL Draft this past weekend. The current group consists of Knowshon Moreno, Correll Buckhalter, Lance Ball, LenDale White, Jeremiah Johnson, Brandon Minor and Mike McLaughlin. Moreno is the starter who hasn't hit his stride going into Year 3. Buckhalter is a 10-year veteran with multiple knee operations who will turn 33 in October, but the rest are relatively unknown quantities. Lance Ball is a 3rd year player that only got 44 touches last season. LenDale White is returning from a ruptured Achilles tendon. Jeremiah Johnson is a 2nd-year Practice Squad veteran. Brandon Minor is a rookie who was cut at the end of Training Camp by the Bears last season without even getting a carry. Mike McLaughlin is another virtual rookie who didn't do anything with the Ravens last year.
There is little depth that the Broncos can afford to trust here, so they will need to acquire at least one more rotational back and definitely some competition. The team should bring in some bodies to vie for a roster spot in Training Camp, but today we shall look at what the Free Agent market has in the way of Running Backs. The list compiled below is not a complete listing of every RB available. I have edited out the over 30 crowd and others that wouldn't upgrade the current situation. So you won't find the likes of Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams or Carnell "Cadillac" Williams listed below. There are probably ten other players that didn't make this list either. Again, as with the Defensive Tackles in yesterday's post, we are revisiting an article I wrote about a month ago, with added updates.
DeAngelo Williams is the starter for the Carolina Panthers. He is 5' 9", 217 lbs, Age: 27 and in his 5th year. He made $2.1 million in 2010. DeAngelo has a nice mix of speed, power, and perseverance. He is quick, elusive, and very creative in the open field. He finishes well and is a good receiver. This is a Back who can carry his team when he gets on a roll. The drawbacks: He will dance to the line and get stuffed at times, is undersized and has some durability issues. Considered a Star tailback, DeAngelo has a career rushing average of 5.1 yards. He made the Pro Bowl in 2009. With Jonathan Stewart still locked up, will DeAngelo become a dispensable commodity? I know there are Bronco fans that would love to see Williams in an Orange uniform, but it is doubtful the Panthers will permit him to leave without compensation. Perhaps through a tag and trade? They do need a quarterback.
Update: The Panthers used their Franchise Tag on Center Ryan Kalil, counting on DeAngelo's status to be Restricted under the 2010 CBA rules. The Bronco are still expected to make a bid for his services. The Miami Dolphins are said to have an interest in Williams as well. It's unknown whether DeAngelo would care to reunite with John Fox in Denver, but to obtain Williams, the Broncos would have to pay him more than the $1 Million salary of Knowshon Moreno or the $1.92 Million that Correll Buckhalter will make this season.
Cedric Benson is a starter for the Cincinnati Bengals. He is 5' 11", 227 lbs, Age: 28 and in his 6th year. His 2010 salary was $3,750,000. This former 1st-round bust has reinvented himself with two 1100+ yard seasons in Cincinnati. Even though he just turned 28, Cedric should have one more good contract left in him. Benson is a powerful runner who can pound it inside and isn't afraid of contact. He uses the cut back well and has good go-ahead speed. He also is solid in the receiving game. Cedric doesn't possess great top-end speed or a lot of elusiveness and his straight-forward style makes him injury-prone. He's also had off the field trouble early in his career. He is considered an above-average featured back.
Joseph Addai is the starter for the Indianapolis Colts. He is 5' 11", 214 lbs, Age: 27 and in his 5th year. In 2010, his salary was $718,720. Addai was once one of the league’s promising backs, but injuries and a slowly deteriorating Colts’ offensive line have cut into that potential. Now at 27, Addai probably has one good contract left, but must first compete with Donald Brown to prove that he can still be the complete back he once was. Addai is great as a one-cut runner. He makes good decisions and accelerates through the hole. An outstanding receiver with good hands and a feel for zones, Joseph is elusive and can break tackles on the perimeter. He is not a power runner or move-the-pile guy, but really a bit of a system player who looks better because he rarely faces an eight-man front. Addai is considered to be an excellent starter who has been to the Pro Bowl and has a Super Bowl Ring.
Update: The Colts signed Addai to a 1-year Restricted tender on March 3rd, but it isn't expected to be valid when the CBA mess is cleared up, because Restricted Free Agents are prohibited from signing their tenders during the lockout. Joseph has 5 years vested and should have Unrestricted status. Even though Indy drafted RB Delone Carter in the 4th-round, they would still like to re-sign Addai. The Colts also have Donald Brown, Mike Hart and 32-year old, 11-year veteran Dominic Rhodes.
Brandon Jackson is the starter for the Green Bay Packers. He is 5' 10", 216 lbs, Age: 25 and in his 4th year. He made $465,590 in 2010. Brandon is a power runner with the ability to move the pile. A very determined runner, he always keeps his feet moving and runs with purpose. He can explode through the hole and has good long speed. However, his blocking is poor and he is an average receiver at best. He shows a lack of instinct and tends to run right into traffic. Jackson has to learn to set up his blocks and read the field better. Considered a decent starter or an excellent backup.
Update: The Packers are expecting to lose Jackson to Free Agency, but behind starter Ryan Grant they have plenty of depth as they showed last season. The reigning Super Bowl Champs didn't bother drafting another back, but James Starks is ready to step in and replace Brandon. While he's not a top tier guy, Jackson would improve the Bronco backfield.
Update: Claiming that he's back to full health after having his ankle scoped in February, Ahmad is ready to play. The Giants have tendered him with a 2nd-Round price tag and drafted Da'Rell Scott in the 7th-Round on Saturday. New York was about to place a 1st and 3rd-Round tender on Bradshaw, but the uncertain CBA status made them balk. To me, it sounds like the Giants believe he is healthy, but are hedging their bets.
Mewelde Moore is the 2nd string RB behind Rashard Mendenhall for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is 5' 11", 209 lbs, Age: 28 and in his 7th year. In 2010 he made $1.759 million. A smart, hard working player, Mewelde is an exceptional receiver out of the backfield. He has great hands and knows how to run routes. He also possesses good short area quickness and can make defenders miss in the open field. However, Moore lacks lower-body strength to break tackles and doesn't have great long speed or an extra gear. A willing blocker who sometimes gets pushed aside, Mewelde is a solid role player with a Super Bowl Ring.
Update: The Steelers, expecting Mewelde to leave in Free Agency, drafted Baron Batch in the 7th-Round on Saturday. While Rashard Mendenhall is the starter, they feel that Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman can replace Moore. Pittsburgh would love to have him back, but it will depend on how strong an offer the market holds.
Kenneth Darby plays behind Steven Jackson for the St.Louis Rams. He is 5' 10", 211 lbs, Age: 28 and in his 3rd year. According to Yahoo, his 2010 salary was $467,280. A polished and well-rounded running back, Darby is quick and reads defenses well. He has good hands as a receiver and also has some return skills. He can sometimes be a little too patient on reads and isn't particularly fast. He's not the best blocking back, but consider him a good 3rd-down back or spot starter.
Update: The Rams didn't draft a replacement for Darby and declined to tender an offer, making him an Unrestricted Free Agent.
Michael Bush is the 2nd option behind Darren McFadden for the Oakland Raiders. He is 6' 1", 245 lbs, Age: 26 and in his 3rd year. He made $466,760 in 2010. In a limited role, Bush has posted some eye-popping numbers behind a questionable offensive line and an ineffective passing game. He was a potential 1st-round selection prior to a leg injury which sidelined him in his senior year. With his 4.4 average, Michael has shown glimpses that he could be a punishing starter in a better situation. He has great power with his frame and is capable of moving the pile. He also has receiving skills and a enough open-field quickness to be more than just a short-yardage guy. He is lacking in top speed and can be slow through the hole at times. It could be said that he is behind in his development. Bush is unproven as a steady ball carrier. Consider him a decent starter.
Darren Sproles is the 2nd string all-purpose back for the San Diego Chargers. He is 5' 6", 190 lbs, age: 27 and in his 6th year. In 2010, his salary was $7.2831 million. With his mercurial size, Sproles has proven that he can’t be a starting back, but he is exactly what most teams look for from their back-up. He’s a dangerous special teams weapon and a threat to score each time he gets the ball. He can change directions at full speed and has excellent hands as a receiving back. His durability is a question mark when it comes to a heavy workload. He will make some bad decisions when going for the big play and has ball security issues. He is considered a multi-purpose back with starter potential.
Update: Even though they drafted his successor in Jordan Todman, the Chargers will make an offer to Sproles. The rumor is, he;s headed for Miami to continue as a 3rd down and return specialist.
Jerome Harrison is the 2nd string RB behind LeSean McCoy for the Philadelphia Eagles. He is 5' 9", 205 lbs, Age: 27 and in his 5th year. His 2010 salary was $539,160 according to Yahoo. After carrying all but 77 times in his first 3 years, Harrison rushed for 862 yards on 194 attempts in 2009 including 3 straight 125 yard games to end the season. As a 5th round pick, Harrison still hasn’t made much money, which meant that 2010 would be even more pivotal for him. In October 2010, he was traded from the Brown to the Eagles in exchange for Mike Bell. Harrison has good speed and quickness, solid power, and can catch the football. He also has good vision and will get the most out of each running play. Because of his size, he's not a great interior runner and relies too much on his athleticism to make plays. Considered a decent starter or solid backup.
Jason Snelling is the 2nd RB behind Michael Turner for the Atlanta Falcons. He is 5' 11", 223 lbs, Age: 27 and in his 3rd year. His 2010 salary was worth $1.684 million. Snelling is a powerful runner with a compact build who has a short burst of quickness and a strong second effort. He is a good lead blocker, along with being a dependable receiver. Jason only possesses average speed, elusiveness and agility making jukes or on cut backs. He also has some ball security issues. Consider him a starting fullback or a spot-starter as a tailback.
Update: Atlanta placed a 2nd-Round Restricted tender on Snelling, indicating a desire to keep him, but then drafted Jacquizz Rodgers in the 5th-Round on Saturday. He has been a good 3rd down option as a runner and receiver for the Falcons and would be a bruising upgrade to the aging Correll Buckhalter.
Saints since I wrote the previous post (in January), two Running Backs have re-signed with their clubs Pierre Thomas was re-signed by the New Orleans Saints to a 4-year, $11.2 million deal with $4.2 million guaranteed, including a first-year roster bonus of $2.7 million. The Seattle Seahawks agreed with Leon Washington to a 4-year, $12.5 million contract with $3.5 million guaranteed, including a $1.5 million signing bonus.
Thee are more than enough options here, but if I missed any likely candidates, please state your case in the comments.