Rashard Mendenhall: Denver Broncos Need to Pass on RB

Kyle NewportFeatured ColumnistMarch 10, 2013

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 23:  Rashard Mendenhall #34 of the Pittsburgh Steelers breaks the tackle of Chris Crocker #33 of the Cincinnati Bengals during a second quarter run at Heinz Field on December 23, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos had the best record in the AFC last season and made it to the NFL postseason, so the team should have no interest in signing running back Rashard Mendenhall.

Mendenhall had three consecutive good seasons from 2009 to 2011, but he had a nightmare of a season in 2012. 

In the final game of the 2011 season, Mendenhall tore his ACL against the Cleveland Browns. It took him until Week 5 of the 2012 season to return, but he had very little impact once he returned.

He also strained his Achilles right after returning to the team and was made inactive after his inability to hold onto the football.

The 25-year-old had 182 rushing yards on 51 carries, which equates to an average of 3.6 yards per carry, in six games last season. He had a long of 20 yards and failed to find the end zone. He also tied a career-high with three fumbles last season.

Not everyone is going to return from a torn ACL like Adrian Peterson, but Mendenhall has off-the-field issues as well.

Late last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers suspended Mendenhall for "conduct detrimental to the team." The Steelers normally have good reasons for suspending a player, so that's troubling for any team looking at signing the running back.

Now Dan Hanzus of NFL.com reported on Sunday that Mendenhall has interest in the Broncos.

The Broncos won 11 straight games to end the regular season in 2012 and ran away with the AFC West, so they don't need to take a risk on a player like Mendenhall.

Willis McGahee tore his MCL in Week 11 against the San Diego Chargers, but he has been a productive back since joining Denver. A year after rushing for nearly 1,200 yards, the running back ran for 771 yards in a little over nine games. He added 221 receiving yards to his total.

Like Mendenhall, McGahee struggled with fumbles last season. He lost four of his five fumbles. However, McGahee does not have the off-the-field issues that have plagued Mendenhall.

McGahee is 31 years old, which does not help his cause. The team could decide to cut him because of his injury history and age.

The Broncos also have Ronnie Hillman, who showed some promise as a rookie. He isn't ready to be a No. 1 back, but he would help ease McGahee back into the lineup. 

Hillman ran for 330 yards in his first season and ran for nearly four yards per carry.

Denver has a good one-two punch in the backfield, and it doesn't need to bring on a risky free agent. Not only do they have two good backs, but Knowshon Moreno also showed some positive signs.

After McGahee went down, Moreno had two 100-yard games last year. He had three rushing touchdowns and caught one as well. The veteran was the team's leading rusher in five of the final six regular season games.

Peyton Manning has never had a great running game, but it never seems to matter.

He threw for over 4,600 yards and 37 touchdowns last season, and that was without a dangerous running game for much of the 11-game winning streak. In a down AFC West, Manning will be able to run away with the division again.

Had it not been for a fluke in the playoffs against the Baltimore Ravens, the Broncos may have represented the AFC in the Super Bowl. 

Mendenhall has had his share of issues on and off the field in recent years, so Denver should not even consider signing the veteran.


*All stats are from ESPN.com