Time for the Cleveland Browns To Bring in a Veteran Running Back

Steve TaterCorrespondent IJuly 23, 2009

SAN DIEGO - DECEMBER 28:  Runningback Tatum Bell #21 of the Denver Broncos rushes the ball against the San Diego Chargers during the second quarter of the NFL game at Qualcomm Stadium on December 28, 2008 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Two months ago, I did a piece pointing out that the Cleveland Browns' franchise is leaving itself terribly thin at the running back position.


The team has done nothing to address that issue since.


The Browns will start training camp with a 30-something-year-old running back with a lot of mileage, a third-down back, an injury prone lifetime backup, and a sixth-round draft choice on the roster.


The sad truth is that if Jamal Lewis ends up going down for any length of time, which is entirely possible given his age and number of carries under his belt, the team does not have a single running back who has proven he can carry a heavy workload.


It might be time for the team to kick the tires on a few out-of-work veterans who found out that they were not going to command a big pay-day in free agency.



The pickings are slim, so no one on this list is without a wart or two. However, it may be prudent to bring in one of these veterans who have had a track record in the NFL:





Name                    Height  Weight           Seasons      Team        Carries    Yards

Alexander, Sean      5-11     228                  9            WAS           11          24

Bell, Tatum             5-11     213                  5            DEN             44        249

Dunn, Warrick         5-9       187                 12           TB             186        786

Foster, DeShawn      6-0       222                 7            SF               76        234

James, Edgerrin       6-0       219                 10          ARI            133        514

Johnson, Rudi          5-10     225                  8           DET             76        234 



You can cross Warrick Dunn off, as there is a strong possibility he will be signing with either the Eagles or the Cardinals soon.


Dunn still can be a useful third-down back who can also start in a pinch, but he is at a point in his career where the possibility of a championship is the only thing keeping him from retiring. The Browns just do not give him that opportunity.


Sean Alexander played in only four games for the Redskins in 2008. He is three full seasons removed from his spectacular 1,880-yard 2005 season.


Alexander is still holding out hope for a return to the NFL and wants to show that he has put those nagging foot and wrist injuries behind him.


Tatum Bell was not re-signed by the Broncos in the offseason after playing in just seven games in 2008.


Bell did gain over 1,000 yards in his only season as a featured back in 2006. He has never averaged under 4.1 yards per carry in an NFL season.


It is somewhat of a shock that he has not found a home given his age, at 28-years-old, and success albeit limited, in the league.


DeShawn Foster could be intriguing to the Browns because he has spent his entire career splitting carries with another back. After backing up Frank Gore with the 49ers, he should be hungry for any role he can get with a new team.


Foster is not explosive, but he is a capable veteran who can provide some depth.


Edgerrin James turns 31 before the season starts and has clearly lost a step or two—he just has not admitted that to himself.


However, Edge is a warrior who is looking for a team to help him prove that the rest of the world is wrong.


He will likely wait out training camp to see if some team’s number one back goes down before picking up the phone.


Rudi Johnson was a perennial 1,000-yard back just two seasons ago.


Injuries and salary demands cut short his stay with the Bengals after 2007. He ended up in Detroit and got bitten by a youth movement in 2008.


Johnson is motivated, so he could be a player who some team could catch lightening-in-a bottle (like the Browns did with Jamal Lewis a couple of seasons ago).


With camps set to open in a week, most of these running backs could be desperate to find a job in the NFL.


With the Browns being one of the few teams who are so thin at the position, they could be attractive to a veteran who is looking for a shot to revive, or prolong, their career.