The Philadelphia Eagles running up the score on the Oakland Raiders was the insult added to the injury that occurred in the first half. Once again, it was Darren McFadden who had to exit the game because of another injury to the leg.
McFadden has a history of injuries ranging from turf toe in his rookie year to a Lisfranc injury that shut him down while he was on pace to be an MVP candidate in 2011. In the loss to the Eagles, McFadden had to leave with a hamstring injury. This time the McFadden injury was different. There was a silver lining to McFadden leaving the game.
In McFadden's absence, Rashad Jennings averaged 6.8 yards per carry and scored a touchdown on one of Oakland's few highlights of the day. Jennings finished the game with 102 rushing yards on 15 carries and seven receptions for 74 yards to total 176 yards from scrimmage.
Jennings was signed in free agency this past offseason to be the primary backup to McFadden. Now here we are, nine weeks into the season, and McFadden is still set to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. Contract negotiations between McFadden's agent and Oakland's front office could be difficult because of McFadden's potential versus injury risk.
The Raiders drafted running back Latavius Murray in the 2013 NFL draft, but he is currently on the injured reserve list. He could certainly contribute as a backup in 2014 when he returns at full health. The Raiders also have Marcel Reece in their backfield, and although he is listed as a fullback, he is capable of doing just about anything.
The way Jennings played with McFadden out made it look like Jennings fits better in Oakland's offense. McFadden is averaging 3.7 yards per carry on the year compared to the 3.9 YPC from Jennings. Although the difference is small in terms of production, the difference in salary is large. Jennings is only taking $555,000 of Oakland's cap room compared to McFadden's $5.8 million salary, per Spotrac.com.
Which running back should be a priority to re-sign?
Both men will be unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. Based on their 2013 salaries, Jennings would be cheaper to re-sign than McFadden, and because of McFadden's inconsistency, it could be easier to negotiate with Jennings.
The Raiders will have over $60 million in cap room after this season, but that doesn't mean they should sign McFadden to whatever size contract he wants. The Raiders will have other key free agents to re-sign who have been more consistent and less injury-prone than McFadden.
The latest injury to McFadden is frustrating because no matter how much people trust in him to finally have a healthy year, he has once again failed them. He has given the Raiders no more than 13 games in a single season since being drafted fourth overall in 2008.
The trade deadline came and went with McFadden staying put, but the Raiders could still be compensated with draft picks from the league for losing a free agent. With McFadden's health and production down, the Raiders may have to cut their losses now and take what they can get in compensation.
It is unknown whether Jennings would be more durable as a starter and play in all 16 games plus playoffs, but it is becoming clear McFadden sure can't do it.