Which of these free agents would you suggest?Originally Posted by Chadman
2010 NFL Free Agent Running Backs
Cadillac Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2
Like his college teammate Ronnie Brown, Cadillac Williams has had a rebirth of sorts after a couple injury-plagued seasons. He’s reclaimed the starting gig in Tampa Bay and done about as well as you can expect in Tampa while sharing carries in a deep backfield. If he can make it through the year healthy, the Buccaneers should look to re-sign him to a mid-level contract, with plenty of cap space available. He has played a lot better than his volume production indicates because the offense has been unable to stay on the field for extended periods. Looking at his career numbers, he excels as the game rolls into the third quarter and beyond, particularly on carries 11 to 15. He’s reached that upper bound only four times this season. If the Bucs can generate continuity on offense and have the ability to remain balanced, Williams’ numbers should also increase.
Darren Sproles, San Diego Chargers (27)
It’s very difficult to measure the importance of Darren Sproles because his greatest value isn’t as a traditional runner. With Tomlinson also struggling to get the running game moving, Sproles’ lack of success pounding the ball can be partially attributed to a below average run blocking unit. Still, Sproles is best when put on a touch count and given most of his work on screens and the return game. He won’t make $6.6 million a year, like he’s making on his franchise tender, but will get a good mid-level contract rewarding him for his explosiveness and unique contributions. Sproles is one of the league’s best back-up or change-of-pace backs. As an unrestricted free agent, I have the hunch that other teams will overpay for his services, while the Chargers will rely on their history of drafting successful running backs to keep the running game alive. It could be fullback Mike Tolbert who sees his share of touches increase.
Mike Bell, New Orleans Saints (27)
Splitting time with Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell has been an effective inside power-runner for the Saints as he was for the Broncos in his rookie season. Both Bell and Thomas provide a simple, but effective running game. If New Orleans unloads Reggie Bush’s $13.5 million cap charge by next season, they’ll have plenty of room to return Bell and Thomas, back to The Big Easy, while still having plenty of money left over.
LenDale White, Tennessee Titans (25)
With the explosion of Chris Johnson as the league’s best running back this season, White has seen his carries scaled back big time. Over the last 5 games, White has been given a total of 11 carries, less than his average per game last year. According to the Nashville Tennessean, White has gone on the record saying, “I don’t want to sit here and play backup to nobody. I refuse. I don’t want to.” This is a good sign that White is as good as gone next year, putting a decent goal line, power back on the market. It’s his attitude and questionable work ethic that potential suitors will have to explore.
Leon Washington, New York Jets (2
It’s always unfortunate to see any player get injured, but it’s all the more painful to see them go down on a contract year. The broken leg should heal in a couple months, but it will most likely eat into what could have been a big payday. Washington is similar to Sproles, but a better pure runner. Washington has the speed to turn the corner and be the great complementary back. He has added value as a kick returner where he’s among the NFL’s most feared. This summer, he turned down a number of contract offers in hopes of a huge payday in free agency, so we’ll see if he drops his asking price. If his asking price remains high, he would also risk playing for just a Restricted Free Agent contract if a new CBA isn’t reached.
Jerious Norwood, Atlanta Falcons (27)
Norwood has been largely unproductive this season thanks to injuries, but returned to the field in Week 12. With Michael Turner also battling some injuries, Norwood should get the opportunity to display his talents despite a productive Jason Snelling also pleading his case. Norwood can’t be counted on as an every down back, but will sign a contract indicative of his role as it’s been in Atlanta. He’s a back-up with plenty speed to put a scare into defenses.
Chester Taylor, Minnesota Vikings (30)
Running behind Adrian Peterson, Taylor hasn’t gotten nearly the amount of touches he could be elsewhere. You do have to tip your hat to the Vikings coaching staff though for using him to the best of his abilities. His rushing numbers are the worst of his career, but his true value comes as a 3rd down back and in his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Even with his age, Taylor will continue to be an effective back for several years in a Kevin Faulk type role. If the Vikings don’t try hard to retain him, he could move to another contender and have success elsewhere. Taylor appears to be peaking at just the right time, averaging 6.1 yards per carry over the last four weeks.
Willie Parker, Pittsburgh Steelers (29)
Since being sidelined in Week 4, Parker has averaged only 4 carries per game in 7 games since. The run game now belongs to first-round pick Rashard Mendenhall who has done a great job since being given the starting job. Parker has been virtually non-existent and unproductive this season. After this season, there won’t be much interest in Parker, but the Steelers may be willing to keep him around on an incentive-based deal based upon his career accomplishments in Pittsburgh to serve as the full-time backup to Mendenhall. Parker could just as easily try moving on to look for a bigger role.
Other Notable Free Agents:
Kenneth Darby, St. Louis Rams (27)
Kevin Faulk, New England Patriots (34)
Jerome Harrison, Cleveland Browns (27)
Le’Ron McClain, Baltimore Ravens (25) – Restricted FA
Adrian Peterson, Chicago Bears (31)
Kolby Smith, Kansas City Chiefs (25) – Restricted FA
Jason Snelling, Atlanta Falcons (26) – Restricted FA
DeShawn Wynn, Green Bay Packers (26) – Restricted FA
Justin Griffith, Seattle Seahawks (30) – Fullback
John Kuhn, Green Bay Packers (27) – Fullback
Tony Richardson, New York Jets (3 – Fullback
Naufahu Tahi, Minnesota Vikings (2 – Fullback
Mike Tolbert, San Diego Chargers (24) – Fullback – Exclusive Rights FA
Leonard Weaver, Philadelphia Eagles (27) – Fullback