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Currently, the Giants only have two running backs (David Wilson and Michael Cox), and one fullback (John Conner) under contract for 2014.
Wilson, of course, recently had successful neck surgery on Jan. 16, though general manager Jerry Reese told WFAN’s Mike Francesa that, while they remain optimistic Wilson will be able to play in 2014, “necks and backs are tricky.”
Andre Brown is also coming off his second-straight injury-interrupted season, having again suffered a broken left leg, landing him on the temporary injured reserve list.
After starting out his 2013 season strong upon his return from injured reserve, Brown saw his production decline. He finished with three consecutive overall negative grades from Pro Football Focus (subscription required) and lost three fumbles in his final four games.
Brown will likely be re-signed, though it is unlikely he will get a rich, long-term deal. There’s little reason to think that Brown can’t contribute as part of a rotation.
Peyton Hillis, whose play was impressive enough to warrant a return engagement in my opinion, isn't a lock to be brought back. Instead, I think the Giants might look for a younger runner with fresh legs to carry the bulk of the workload if Wilson isn't ready.
The most intriguing option who matches the "young runner, fresh legs" description is Joique Bell of Detroit.
A restricted free agent, Bell finished with a 15.1 overall mark from PFF, the ninth best grade of all running backs last year. He also posted a 9.4 grade as a receiver out of the backfield and a 4.9 grade as a runner.
In three seasons, Bell has 1,064 rushing yards on 248 carries and 11 touchdowns. As a receiver out of the backfield, he has 1,032 yards on 105 receptions with nine receptions of 20 or more yards.
Bell also has limited experience returning kickoffs, having returned three career kickoffs for 58 yards.
The Lions might not be able to retain Bell given their cap situation. Per Over the Cap, Detroit has over $131.5 million committed to their Top 51 total for 2014—a number that exceeds the projected $126.3 million cap.
Even if the Lions were to tender Bell at a minimum qualifying offer, because he was an undrafted free agent, if another team were to sign him, they would not be required to surrender a draft pick to the Lions.
If Detroit doesn’t tender the 27-year-old Bell at a minimum second-round level, the Giants should most definitely see if they can arrange a visit with this underrated and durable running back.