Ahmad Bradshaw still has plenty to offer NFL teams in need of a versatile back.
Bradshaw and the Giants parted ways after he had yet another operation on his right foot (h/t ProFootballTalk), which will sideline him until the beginning of training camp.
When healthy, Bradshaw is one of the more productive backs in the NFL. He is only going on 27 years old, so there will be a market for his services once he can prove he is back to full strength.
In 2012, Bradshaw gained 1,015 yards on 221 carries and scored six touchdowns, giving him a 4.6 yards-per-carry average. He also reeled in 23 receptions for 245 yards as the safety outlet for quarterback Eli Manning. As an added bonus to his already impressive versatility, Pro Football Focus ranks him as the best pass-blocking running back in the NFL by a large margin.
There are several teams heading into the free-agency period and draft who could use a back like Bradshaw in a prominent role. All of this relies on Bradshaw making a full recover, but it sounds as if he believes he will.
Let's break down a few teams that should be itching to sign Bradshaw sooner rather than later.
Bradshaw has recently shown a public interest in the New York Jets during an interview with NFL AM (h/t NFL.com).
According to Manish Meta via Twitter, the Jets have zero interest in the former Giants running back:
The Jets would be wise to reconsider their stance.
The duo of Bilal Powell and Shonn Greene did not get the job done in 2012, and there is nothing to say that will change in 2013. Greene rushed for over 1,000 yards, but it took him almost 300 carries and landed him with an awful 3.9 yards-per-carry average.
Powell has a brighter future, but is not a feature back given his size. Placing Bradshaw in the backfield will better protect Mark Sanchez and give him a versatile back who can make plays out of the backfield via run or pass.
According to Pro Football Focus. the Green Bay Packers had a bottom-five rushing attack in the NFL last season.
That will not cut it for a team that has come up short in the postseason repeatedly.
In fact, the Packers did not have a running back gain more than 475 yards on the ground. The offensive philosophy in Green Bay does not call for a heavy dose of rushing, but the top two rushing averages on the team should not belong to quarterback Aaron Rodgers and receiver Randall Cobb.
The Packers offense becomes stagnant and one-dimensional without a running back who can hurt defenses by catching passes out of the backfield. Alex Green, James Starks and Cedric Benson were non-factors in this category.
That is where Bradshaw come in to help. He can gain the tough yards between the tackles when asked, but more importantly, he can be a receiving threat that opens things up down the field in the vertical offense Green Bay employs.
The rich would only get richer if the Packers pursued Bradshaw when he gets healthy.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were another bottom-five rushing team in Pro Football Focus' year-end rankings.
The reasoning behind the ranking is simple—the Steelers like to run down the throats of opponents, but that does not work without quality runners. Pittsburgh had no quality backs in 2012.
Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman took most of the workload in 2012, and the result was not pretty. The two hardly made it past the 1,000-yard mark combined, neither had averages above four and only combined to score four touchdowns.
Any hope that youth could take over in 2013 also plummeted when the Steelers were forced to release electric rookie running back Chris Rainey after he was arrested for battery (h/t ESPN).
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers could be making a transition to a zone-blocking scheme in 2013. This is horrible news for power runners like Dwyer and Redman, but fits Bradshaw's skill set well.
Adding Bradshaw to the mix in Pittsburgh makes sense. He is known for his blue-collar work ethic and fits what could be a different offensive approach in 2013 well.
New York Giants
If all else fails, it will not at all be surprising to see Bradshaw and the Giants reunite once he can prove he is healthy. Bradshaw has hinted publicly that the team left the door open for his return later in the offseason, according ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk (h/t Rotoworld).
Which team do you think should sign Ahmad Bradshaw?
The move to originally part ways with Bradshaw made sense. It freed up $2.75 million in cap, and the future looks bright, thanks to Andre Brown and first-round rookie David Wilson.
Brown was a nice surprise in 2012, securing a 5.3 yards-per-carry average and scoring eight times. Wilson struggled early, but turned it around late with a five yards-per-carry average and four touchdowns of his own.
It is important to note that Brown and Wilson flashed primarily as Bradshaw's backup. Bringing him back at a cheaper price point and reducing his role while he mentors the inexperienced backs makes sense.
Bradshaw's home is in New York, and at the end of the day, the Giants and Bradshaw still could help each other in 2013.