Former Oakland Raiders running back Michael Bush is set to become a free agent next week and plenty of NFL teams will likely be calling to lock the bruising rusher into a contract for the next few seasons. The Cleveland Browns may be one of the dark-horse teams that are interested in Bush due to the fact that they may lose their own running back, Peyton Hillis, to free agency.
Bush would fit in nicely with the Browns' offense, but may come at a price that Cleveland will have a hard time swallowing. In the Cleveland Browns free-agency tracker, it was estimated that Bush would likely pursue a multi-year deal worth $20-25 million over the course of the next four seasons.
Bush rushed for nearly 1,000 yards and started six games for the Raiders in Darren McFadden's absence. He has also had sustained success over the course of his young NFL career by becoming a significant red-zone threat. In 61 games played with the Raiders, Bush scored 21 touchdowns and averaged 4.2 yards per carry.
Hillis' numbers are quite similar to the statistics achieved by Bush over the course of their careers. Hillis is currently averaging 4.2 yards a carry in 52 games played and has scored 20 touchdowns. However, Hillis was the starter for an entire season with Cleveland and was a bit of a fumble machine in his two years with the Browns.
Hillis was successful running mostly between the tackles in Cleveland and Bush shares a similar downhill running style that the Browns have seemed to embrace. The Browns seem intent on building the offensive line for next season and that should help any runner Cleveland puts in the backfield starting from Week 1.
Bush has compiled over 3,000 yards from scrimmage throughout his career and has gotten better at catching balls out of the backfield in recent seasons. Bush caught 37 passes in 2011, surpassing his career high of 19 set in 2008. That would be important as a member of the Browns due to the West Coast offense and the large amount of plays that put the running back in the slot, motion or receiving option from the backfield.
The Browns will need to add a running back if they lose Hillis to free agency. Currently, Cleveland has Brandon Jackson and Montario Hardesty as their runners on the active roster. Both of those players have had a hard time staying healthy over the course of their careers and neither has proven that they can be a productive long-term solution.
The Browns may also be in a position to draft a quality running back if they do not trade their high picks in the upcoming draft.
Cleveland may not be on the list of perfect destinations for Bush given the lack of current free-agent appeal and the market in which Bush will likely have to choose from in the coming weeks. However, if Cleveland manages to attract Bush, their offense will be significantly improved for the 2012 season and will finally have a solid option at running back to build on for the next few years.