Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Should the Team Look to Free Agency for RB Depth?
As it currently stands, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will go into the 2013 season with a very young and inexperienced group of running backs. Outside of the stellar rookie season Doug Martin put together, there are a lot of questions in the backfield.
The team did bring in (Pro Football Talk) Brian Leonard, signing him to a one-year deal. Leonard, who played for head coach Greg Schiano at Rutgers, can catch passes out of the backfield and is a very solid short-yardage runner. But will that be enough?
Michael Smith, Matt Brown, Mike James and Jeff Demps, the other running backs on the roster, have never carried the ball in a regular season game. In the case of Demps, it's not clear how soon he would join the team due to his track and field commitments.
If the Bucs decided to get an insurance policy at running back, options do exist. Michael Turner, Brandon Jacobs, Cedric Benson, Beanie Wells and the recently released (ESPN) Willis McGahee are all available as free agents.
Most of those players come with injury concerns, but they all have a proven track record in the NFL, unlike the current crop of Bucs backs. Whether or not to bring in one of these players is a fair question.
There is no doubt that Martin will get a huge workload in 2013 after running for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. In addition to that, he caught 49 passes and is well on his way to becoming one of the league's elite players at the running back position.
Still, players like McGahee and Turner have both had plenty of recent success in their careers. In 2011, McGahee ran for 1,199 yards in Denver. Turner ran for at least 10 touchdowns in each of his five seasons with the Atlanta Falcons.
Last season, only three players in the league had more than Martin's 319 rushing attempts. Bringing in a player the team can rely would help reduce the tread on his tires.
The Bucs will likely wait until training camp or even after a few preseason games have commenced to see what they have in guys like Smith, Brown and James. But it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see them turn to one of the players on the open market.
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