5 Veteran Running Backs Who Would Give the St. Louis Rams' Backfield a Boost
After nine seasons in St. Louis, the Rams and All-Pro running back Steven Jackson decided it was time to part ways. Jeff Fisher and Co. wanted Jackson to take a reduced role to stay in the Lou, while SJ39 knew he still had what it took to shoulder the load as an every-down back.
Apparently the Atlanta Falcons also felt like Jackson still had what it took to shoulder the load. They signed him to a three-year, $12 million deal with $4 million guaranteed. Which ultimately means Les Snead will be looking to replace the 29-year-old running back in free agency or through the draft.
With nine picks total in April's draft, it's more likely they use one of those selections on adding talent to a backfield that surely needs it. Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead both flashed at times in 2012, but the jury is still out on whether they are every-down backs.
Let's take a look at five sure-fire players St. Louis should look to sign if they decide to go the veteran route.
It seems as if Ahmad Bradshaw has been around the NFL forever, but he will only be 27 when the 2013 season starts. When healthy he is one of the best backs the league has to offer, yet that has been his biggest knock over the course of his six-year career.
His recurring foot problems have had teams proceeding with caution during the first week of free agency. Eventually a team will bite on the two-time Super Bowl champion, but it may not happen until after the draft. By then his market will be at its lowest point, and some will team will be able to get the better end of the deal.
With the New York Giants he only averaged 10.9 carries per game, so it's safe to assume that's all the Rams would expect to get out of him as well. His yards per carry average (4.6) for his career is astonishing, and he's terrific on third downs in pass protection.
You can't tell me the Rams couldn't use him at the right price.
Like Ahmad Bradshaw, Beanie Wells finds himself with a "buyer beware" label attached to his name. Over the course of his four-year career, the former first-round pick has missed a total of 13 games due to various injuries.
His most recent ailment in 2013 was a bum toe that caused him to miss eight games. Yet the biggest question mark surrounding the entirety of his career has been persistent knee problems. According to Kent Somers of azcentral.com, the Cardinals were not optimistic about the condition of his knees.Which consequently lead to his eventual release.
However, he is only two years removed from a 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown season. The last time St. Louis had a running back score 10 touchdowns, George W. Bush was still in office. If Wells' knees check out, it's worth bringing him in for a workout.
He will be 25 at the beginning of the 2013 season and could be useful in a short-yardage, goal-line type of role. If that's the case, the price tag on him would be low, and the Rams could heavily structure his contract with incentives.
Without question, Michael Turner's better days are behind him. He has little left in terms of explosion, and he's best suited for a goal-line type of role at this stage in his career. Yet the Rams are in need of a guy who can punish the opposition in short-yardage situations.
Turner picked up first downs on 40 of his runs last year, while forcing 43 missed tackles. Only five running backs forced more missed tackles in 2012, so it wouldn't surprise me to see the two-time Pro Bowler replace the guy who replaced him.
Let's not forget that Turner was most effective last season when he saw 12 carries or less. So it would be important to keep his carries down. Which is exactly what St. Louis would do based on the fact that it still has Richardson and Pead looking for their fair share of carries as well.
Remember when Peyton Hillis was donning the cover of Madden and being proclaimed as the best running back in the NFL? Yeah, those days are long gone, but at 27 years old his playing career isn't necessarily over.
Of the five seasons Hillis has played in the NFL, only two of them have been as a starter. So the wear and tear on his body has been minimal outside of the two years he spent with the Cleveland Browns. From 2010-2011 he carried the ball 431 times, for an average of about 215 carries a season.
In his three seasons as a non-starter, he only carried the ball 163 times. The jury is still out on whether his 2010 season was a fluke, but one thing rings true in Hillis' game. He picks up a ton of yards after contact.
On just 85 carries in 2012, he picked up 206 yards after contact. The seventh-best mark in the league amongst all running backs, according to PFF. The only thing to be extra weary of is his inability to hold onto the ball. He has a history that is plagued by fumbling problems.
While Javon Ringer may not be the most well known name around the league, he does possess a few traits that will intrigue a couple of teams this offseason. Ringer has played in Chris Johnson's shadow his entire career, but has made the most of every opportunity given to him.
Over the course of his four-year career in Tennessee, he has averaged four yards a carry on 120 carries. Not to mention has caught 38 balls out of the backfield. Ringer is also regarded as an efficient pass-blocker in third-down situations—an area where Rams will surely miss Jackson's presence.
The only thing to be weary of is an MCL injury that caused him to miss 14 games last year. It's also worth mentioning that Ringer battled back from an infection during the preseason that almost cost him his arm. So it's safe to say 2012 just wasn't his year. It's unfortunate because the Titans could have used his help early on in the season when Johnson was struggling.