With the devastating news that second-year running back Ryan Williams will yet again miss a football season due to injury, the Arizona Cardinals have to be clamoring to find a willing trade partner to help them salvage an already sputtering offense.
Williams left the Week 5 game against the St. Louis Rams with what is said to be an AC joint injury (per NFLTradeRumors) to his left shoulder that requires season-ending surgery. That leaves the Cardinals with an injured LaRod Stephens-Howling, William Powell and Alfonso Smith—having already lost Beanie Wells due to turf toe.
Wells can return no earlier than Nov. 25 against the Rams.
According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, the Cardinals will not rule out a trade to add a running back to the roster. It seems a trade would be in the best interest of Arizona, given their 4-1 start to the season and first-place seed in the NFC West.
The NFL recently changed the trade deadline from Week 6 to Week 8, and this new rule could save team president Mike Bidwill some cash, stress and possibly even draft picks. After all, we are approaching Week 6 of the NFL season.
Here are three possible options should Arizona choose to make a deal:
At this point in Ken Whisenhunt’s Cardinals coaching career, it is almost a given that he will cherry-pick players off the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster every offseason. Arizona has built a free-agent pipeline from the Steel City to the Valley of the Sun, and for the most part, it has been a good connection.
Arizona sends S James Sanders to Pittsburgh for RB Jonathan Dwyer.
With running back Rashard Mendenhall returning from an ACL tear that ended his 2011 season prematurely, Pittsburgh now has a plethora of able-bodied backs on the roster.
Jonathan Dwyer’s playing time has dropped each week since Week 1, and Mendenhall’s Week 5 return meant Dwyer was the odd man out. Isaac Redman spelled Mendenhall last week and did a formidable job, so Dwyer could be permanently relegated to the bench.
Dwyer is big—5’11”, 229 pounds—and can play the role of Wells while he recovers, leaving the combination of Stephens-Howling, Powell and Smith to share snaps accordingly.
The thick third-year back has never carried the load for the Steelers, so he likely would not do the same in Arizona, but splitting time 60-40 with the undersized trio of backs until Wells is able to get back on the field would be a benefit to the offense.
With the Ryans—Clark and Mundy—taking turns filling in for the aging, injury-prone Troy Polamalu, both are feeling the pressure of having to play two positions at any given time. James Sanders can play both free and strong safety, and with his help and added depth, there would be less to worry about in a Pittsburgh secondary that struggles without its leader.
There are other ways of improving the run game than trading for a running back. The offensive line is putrid, and nabbing a left tackle to upgrade over former guard D’Anthony Batiste could help.
The free-agent market also still has some value at running back, believe it or not. Trading for a tackle and signing a free-agent back could be an option to enhance the injury-depleted positions.
Arizona sends CB William Gay to Philadelphia for LT Demetress Bell.
Arizona signs free-agent RB Carnell Williams.
Demetress Bell signed with Philadelphia after left tackle Jason Peters went down with a season-ending Achilles injury. He was expected to start in Peters’ place, but he ended up losing out to 6’9”, 330-pound King Dunlap during the preseason.
Bell replaced him, and though he did not play particularly well in three injury-relief starts, he would be an immediate upgrade over Batiste.
The Eagles secondary is thin behind Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Rookie fourth-round pick Brandon Boykin started off well, allowing just two receptions over his first two games as a pro, with an opposing quarterback rating of 42.4.
But over the past three games, in which the team has gone 1-2 and allowed an average of 246.0 passing yards per game to Kevin Kolb, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, Boykin has been burned to the tune of 13 catches for 157 yards, a touchdown and a 117.1 opposing rating.
An added veteran leader to the secondary should be on Philadelphia’s to-do list before the trade deadline, and William Gay could be the right piece.
Signing Carnell “Cadillac” Williams is a short-term fix because he likely does not have many carries left in his surgically repaired knee. But getting five to seven games this season out of the 30-year-old until Wells can return would help the team get by, especially with an upgrade at left tackle.
Buffalo’s season is slipping away. After a 45-3 road shellacking at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers, the Bills reportedly will spend the week in Phoenix leading up to their Week 6 matchup with the Cardinals.
When they leave after the game Sunday, they may as well leave one of their running backs behind.
Arizona sends CB Greg Toler and a 2013 third-round pick to Buffalo for RB Fred Jackson.
Coming off an injury of his own, Fred Jackson opened the door for young slasher C.J. Spiller. All Spiller did in Jackson’s absence is rush 29 times for 292 yards, a 10.07 yards per carry average and three touchdowns over the first two weeks of the season.
Jackson has since returned from the grade II LCL sprain—a sprained knee, in layman’s terms—he suffered on opening weekend and, in splitting time with Spiller over the past two games, has carried the ball just 22 times for 58 yards, an average of 2.64 yards per carry.
The 31-year-old Jackson does not have many carries for how old he is—just 845 going into Sunday’s game in Arizona. Compare that to 29-year-old St. Louis Rams star RB Steven Jackson, who has carried the ball an astounding 2,215 times in eight-plus NFL seasons. That is the most among running backs currently on an NFL roster.
Jackson’s first season was 2007, at age 26. He may as well be 28 years old and in his prime.
Greg Toler would provide the Bills with much-needed secondary help. Over the past two games—two losses by a combined 97-31—the cornerbacks have been obliterated by Tom Brady and Alex Smith, of all people.
Brady and Smith combined to throw for 643 yards and six touchdowns on Buffalo’s defense. If it gets much worse than that, the U.S. Government will declare a state of emergency in southwestern New York.
What Should the Cardinals Do to Insure the Offense Can Keep Up?
Toler is a quick, athletic corner who can run with most receivers on the field. He would be welcomed in Buffalo.
While the game plan for Whisenhunt and Co. has not been revealed, something must be done to salvage the season. The Cardinals sit atop the NFC West at 4-1, but after surrendering 17 sacks over the past two games and losing both leading rushers during that span, the season is in jeopardy of being lost.
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s squad has played lights out to this point, but they cannot carry the team all season. At some point if they falter, the offense will have to return the favor and pick them up. If they cannot, it will be a long remainder of the 2012 season for players, coaches and fans alike.