NFL Free Agents 2013: Breaking Down the Best Fits for Michael Turner
In a cap move, the Falcons are likely to release running back Michael Turner, as reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Due to make $6.9 million next year, Turner is coming off his worst season in Atlanta, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry with 800 rushing yards on 222 carries.
It’s time the Falcons move on from Turner, a back who gave them five solid seasons, including three with more than 1,300 yards rushing.
He’s getting older, at 31-years-old, but he can still be a dynamic runner in the right system.
He adapted to Matt Ryan and his throwing abilities, catching an average of 16 passes out of the backfield the past three seasons.
He’s one of those bruising backs who can power his way for a first down and lower his shoulder to run defenders over.
Splitting time with Jacquizz Rodgers last year, Turner would be a great complementary back on the right team.
If and when the Falcons release Turner, there are bound to be a number of teams checking in.
Let’s see who they might be.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers have been searching for a power running back since Ahmad Green left. With the free agent class this year, they will be tempted to make a play for a running back.
Right now, the Packers have a group of halfbacks who are trying to find their way in the NFL.
Four backs saw time on the field in 2012 as the Packers were looking for someone to carry the load.
Alex Green led the team in rushing with 464 yards, but he didn’t find the end zone.
James Starks has been unimpressive and unable to give the Packers what they were hoping for.
Ryan Grant was brought back to ignite the running game. He rushed for just 127 yards in four games with the Pack and two touchdowns.
In a down year, Turner reached 800 yards. If Aaron Rodgers has a weapon like that, a bruiser who can move the chains and find the end zone, it will make the Packers an extremely dangerous team.
Someone capable of reaching 1,000 yards on the ground will go a long way to the makeup of the Pack.
There’s $7.1 million in cap space for the Packers, via John Clayton of ESPN.com, so if they can find some wiggle room to sign a veteran back like Turner, they should jump on it.
The Cardinals duo of halfbacks, Beanie Wells and LaRod Stephens-Howling, haven’t been able to solidify themselves.
Each has flashed some of their abilities, but each has lacked consistency, leaving Larry Fitzgerald as the only reliable offensive threat game in and game out.
Opposing defenses knew this, and if they were able to contain Fitzgerald, Arizona was in for a long game.
Ryan Williams hasn’t been able to stay on the field. He’s played in just four games over a two year span, but still has confidence he can be a factor in the Cardinals running game.
Bringing in Turner would stabilize the Cardinals running back corps and provide them with a back who’s scored double-digit rushing touchdowns the last five seasons.
New head coach Bruce Arians has said his running backs won’t be too involved in the passing game, via Kareem Copeland of NFL.com. Though Turner has shown he can catch out of the backfield, his first two seasons with Matt Ryan he caught a total of 11 passes and was primarily a power runner.
Turner scored 10 touchdowns last year while Wells and Stephens-Howling scored nine combined.
He will give the Cardinals a veteran leader who can share time with Williams. Keep Wells as depth and let Stephens-Howling go.
For Arians, it’s worth taking a look at. Turner could play well in his system.
The Dolphins are in need of a veteran running back. With $35.8 million in cap space available, from John Clayton of ESPN.com, there are many moves this team can make.
Potentially losing Reggie Bush to free agency means there’s going to a vacancy in the backfield.
Lamar Miller is entering his second season as a pro and figures to be the feature back if the Dolphins don’t re-sign Bush.
Turner could come in and provide Miami with a third-down back who has shown how reliable he can be. He came into his own with Atlanta and would bring high energy and years of experience to a Miami team that is quite inexperienced.
The money is there to spend. Reports suggest they will try to land a top wide receiver in free agency. They may just be in the market for a consistent running back as well.
Turner won’t get the $6.9 million he was lined up to get in Atlanta, but the Dolphins should give him a serious look.
He’s still capable of being a threat in the backfield and will provide veteran leadership around a young group of running backs.
Andrew Luck is a quarterback who likes to pass. Similar to Matt Ryan, he gets his running backs involved in the passing game.
Since Turner has been catching the ball the past three seasons, he should fit right into a pass happy Colts team. Luck threw the ball 627 times last season, including three games of 50 or more passes.
However, in order to succeed, the Colts need a balanced attack of run and pass.
While Vick Ballard had an above average rookie season with 814 rushing yards and another 152 receiving yards, he needs a complementary back. Donald Brown has been a big disappointment in the backfield.
Michael Turner could come in and split time with Ballard. At worst, Turner can be a third down or goal-line back with his ability to find running room on short yardage.
At best, he’s an every down back with potential to make some noise in the passing game.
They have $46 million in cap space, per John Clayton of ESPN.com, and will be actively pursuing a variety of players in free agency.
It makes sense for them to look at running backs, and Turner, who’s due for a pay cut, should be high on their list.
The Lions are another team that needs stability in the run game.
They have relied on Matt Stafford’s arm to guide them the past couple of seasons. That’s no surprise given his weapons through the air: Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Titus Young and Brandon Pettigrew.
Like the Colts though, they’re going to need a balanced attack to be successful.
The Lions could desperately use a running back of Turner’s caliber. With Mikel Leshoure, the Lions have a guy they think can become a quality feature back. He emerged last season with 798 rushing yards in the first season he saw game action. He sat out his rookie campaign with a torn Achilles.
Head coach Jim Schwartz recently remarked on Leshoure's ability to handle the load of the carries, from Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press,
He flashed enough highs that that gives us optimism that he can, but he also had enough inconsistencies to say that he's not there yet. We still have high hopes for him and expect him to make a big jump.
Despite the optimism, the Lions would be wise to add a veteran to mentor Leshoure and fellow halfback Joique Bell.
For Turner, he could propel this team back to the playoffs. The Lions have been searching for a consistent running game for the past few years.
If Turner can get his legs back, you can’t help but think what a one-two punch Leshoure and Turner would be.
From Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com, "improving the running game is one of the Lions' offseason priorities." That could be through the draft or free agency.
Turner would give the Lions an additional power rusher to go with Leshoure and the speed back, Bell.