The New York Giants have reportedly released running back Ahmad Bradshaw, opening up an opportunity for teams in need of a competent veteran back to make him an offer on March 12 when the NFL season officially begins anew.
Per Pro Football Talk:
Giants release Ahmad Bradshaw, per source with knowledge of transaction.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) February 6, 2013
This comes as somewhat of a shock, since Bradshaw has been a highly productive player for the Giants—especially the past four seasons, totaling 3,687 yards and 30 rushing touchdowns in that time.
That said, this move is pragmatic, since the Giants face a tenuous salary-cap situation in 2013. According to the New York Post's Paul Schwartz:
Given the money the Giants had to distribute, they are not in terrible shape when it comes to gearing up for the 2013 season, but at the moment, they are $4.7 million over the projected salary cap, according to ESPN. It means the Giants have plenty of work to do in the coming months, especially because they have 22 of their own free agents to consider.
Bradshaw's old contract would've counted toward $5.25 million against the cap, and given the emergence of David Wilson and Andre Brown—both of whom make significantly less money—releasing the veteran makes sense for the Giants.
Although Bradshaw hasn't ruled out a return to the Giants (via NFL.com), it seems inevitable that he will being wearing new colors next season.
A 26-year-old veteran of six seasons, Bradshaw still has plenty to offer, so where will he end up in 2013?
Doug Martin is the main man for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As a rookie, he rushed for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns, and he'll only get better going forward.
LeGarrette Blount is a restricted free agent in 2013, but he really struggled last season under new head coach Greg Schiano, averaging just 3.7 yards per carry and scoring just two touchdowns. The Bucs might not be high on bringing him back, and it would seem to be a good move to bring in a veteran to spell Martin.
Tampa Bay will certainly have the cash to entice Bradshaw, too. According to Alan Dell of the Bradenton Herald, "Tampa Bay has committed about $98 million toward a cap that is expected to be around $121 million."
The biggest obstacle I see in this scenario is that Bradshaw will likely want to go to a team that will give him a chance to compete as a starter.
ODDS: Five percent chance Bradshaw is with the Buccaneers in 2013.
Adrian Peterson is a beast, and the Minnesota Vikings aren't looking for anyone to replace him any time soon.
Toby Gerhart really struggled behind Peterson in 2012, though, averaging just 3.4 yards per carry.
If Minnesota wants to keep AD healthy long term, it would be smart to bring in a competent backup who won't cause a major drop off in production when he's getting a breather.
The Vikings will have plenty of cap space to make moves this offseason, too, according to ESPN 1500's Tom Pelissero, who writes:
Pending final accounting on incentives and escalators that will be done after the Super Bowl, the Vikings project to be about $12.3 million under their adjusted cap, putting them comfortably in the top half of the league in terms of space.
As it was with the Buccaneers, Ahmad Bradshaw may not be willing to go to a team where he'd be playing second fiddle. The Vikings may end up filling the void behind AD through the draft.
ODDS: Five percent chance Bradshaw ends up with the Vikings in 2013.
New offensive coordinator Norv Turner already has his bell-cow running back, Trent Richardson.
What he doesn't have is a competent third-down back who can spell Richardson, and Ahmad Bradshaw would be perfect in this capacity.
The Browns have plenty of cap space to sign him, too, if he were willing to back up Richardson. According to ESPN's John Clayton, the Cleveland Browns enter the 2013 season $48.9 million under the cap—a staggering number.
But like the first two teams we looked at, Bradshaw might not be willing to come in as a backup.
ODDS: Five percent chance Bradshaw ends up with the Browns in 2013.
The Cincinnati Bengals made a move for BenJarvus Green-Ellis last offseason, signing him to a three-year contract worth $9 million.
Green-Ellis was a competent running back for the Bengals last season, but he won't ever be a back teams fear. His 3.9 yards-per-carry average was not what the team expected when it signed him, and I have no doubt Cincinnati will be exploring ways to upgrade its running back corps.
Ahmad Bradshaw would certainly have a chance to compete for the starting job with the Bengals. He's more fleet-footed than Green-Ellis, and his ability to get to the outside and stretch opposing defenses would assist Andy Dalton and the team's aerial attack.
Cincinnati has a boat load of money to spend this season, too. According to ESPN's John Clayton, the Bengals enter the 2013 season approximately $55 million under the cap.
ODDS: 10 percent chance Bradshaw ends up with the Bengals in 2013.
This leaves Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller as the team's two primary running backs heading into next season, and while Miller may hold plenty of promise, I'd be shocked to see Miami stand pat with these two unproven players.
Bradshaw's experience playing behind Eli Manning could be invaluable to Ryan Tannehill's development.
He's an able pass-protector against blitzing linebackers, and his ability to make consistent positive gains in the running game as well as catch passes out of the backfield would give him a chance to compete for a starting role in 2013.
The Dolphins will be set to make some moves in free agency, too, as ESPN's John Clayton reports Miami will enter the 2013 season approximately $35.8 million under the cap.
ODDS: 10 percent chance Bradshaw ends up with the Dolphins in 2013.
Aaron Rodgers has suffered without a competent running game for far too long.
The Green Bay Packers must do something to remedy this situation in 2013, and adding Ahmad Bradshaw to the starting lineup would be a huge step in the right direction.
Unlike the other teams on this list, the Packers don't necessarily have tons of money to spend next season. According to ESPN's John Clayton, Green Bay will start the 2013 season $7.1 million under the cap, which doesn't afford much wiggle room.
That said, the chance to start for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations might be enough to sway Bradshaw into taking less money than he might get from other teams with more cap space.
ODDS: 15 percent chance Bradshaw ends up with the Packers in 2013.
From one Manning to another, Ahmad Bradshaw could find himself contending for another Lombardi Trophy if he lands with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
No offense to Willis McGahee, Lance Ball, Ronnie Hillman and Knowshon Moreno, but Bradshaw would enter training camp pencilled in as the team's starter should he sign with the Broncos.
McGahee is nearing the end of his career, and he struggled to stay healthy in 2012. Hillman, Moreno and Ball are all backups. Period.
According to ESPN's John Clayton, Denver will enter the 2013 season approximately $18.5 million under the cap, meaning it would have enough cash to entice Bradshaw, while still maintaining enough money to sign its draft picks and perhaps another veteran.
ODDS: 20 percent chance Bradshaw ends up with the Broncos in 2013.
The Indianapolis Colts feature one of the brightest young stars in the NFL in quarterback Andrew Luck, who will enter his second season in 2013.
Unfortunately for Luck, he played his rookie season without much of a running game to help him, as the Colts finished the season with the NFL's No. 22-ranked rushing attack—one that averaged just 3.8 yards per carry.
As a result of the Colts' terrible running game, opposing teams were able to send pass-rushers at Luck without fear of getting gashed up the middle, and he was sacked 41 times.
Adding a savvy veteran like Ahmad Bradshaw would really improve the Colts' rushing attack and give Luck some breathing room on passing plays.
Indianapolis has tons of cash to spend, too. According to ESPN's John Clayton, the team enters the 2013 season $46 million under the cap.
ODDS: 30 percent chance Bradshaw ends up with the Colts in 2013.
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