Michael Turner Signing: Steal or Mistake

Matt HomdisCorrespondent IMarch 3, 2008

Tt was announced early Monday morning that that the Atlanta Falcons had signed the Chargers back-up running back, Michael Turner, to a six-year $34.5 million contract.

After suffering through a horrible season, with the Michael Vick case and the Bobby Petrino affair, the news of the signing should come as great news to the fans of Atlanta.

However, if you take a closer look, adding Michael Turner might be more of a curse then a miracle.


Importance of the offensive-line

Turner will be entering his fifth year in the league, on relatively fresh legs. The average career of an NFL running back is rather short, so having just over 200 carries over the course of his young career, shows that there are many more years ahead of him. Having the opportunity to study behind the games greatest back also adds to his pedigree.

The Falcons ended with a record of 4-12 in 2007, with a an offence that finished ranked 29th in the league in total offense and 26th in rushing. What made the Denver Broncos churn out 1000 yard rushers during a string from the mid-90s to now was the strength of the offensive line. If Turner is to have any impact on this team, the Falcons must improve the players protecting and creating holes for him.


Another case of back-up fever?

Alvin Harper...Lamont Jordan...Scott Mitchell...

Since the beginning of the free agency era, teams have tried to build through the draft and wise free agent signings. A trend that has arisen is signing players who have excelled with other teams as back ups to come in and start.

Upon subbing for an injured Dan Marino, Mitchell signed a huge deal with the Lions and though he had a decent first season, he quickly fell off the map and spent the rest of his career as a journeyman backup.

Jordan had a nice string of games replacing Curtis Martin in late 2004, which led to being offered a five year $27 million contract by the Raiders; he has followed with three injury-plagued seasons.

Alvin Harper was drafted in the first round in 1991 by the Cowboys, to complement Michael Irvin. Demonstrating great breakout speed, Harper helped Dallas capture two Super Bowls, and was promptly picked up by the Tamba Bay Buccaneers when he hit free agency. He proceeded to go on and catch 67 catches for the remainder of his career, ending up in the defunct XFL.


Weak division

On the plus side, Turner has jumped to the NFC, widely considered the weaker conference. Only three running backs from the NFC ended up in the top 10 in rushing yards in '07, so the addition of an athletic running back should go a long way in helping the Falcons move up in the standings, if the O-line cooperates.

Without the wear-and-tear of four years as a starter, he has the opportunity to hit his stride as he enters the prime years of his career.


Is he a risk worth taking?

With Atlanta hitting rock-bottom in 2007, there is only one place for them to go: up. Turner is the first piece in the puzzle that could bring the Falcons back to contention in a very weak division.

If not, the curse of the back-up signing will continue.