Cleveland Browns Have No Use for Aging Running Backs

Benjamin FlackSenior Analyst IMarch 3, 2010

CLEVELAND - NOVEMBER 30:  Antoine Bethea #41 of the Indianapolis Colts tackles Jamal Lewis #31 of the Cleveland Browns during their NFL game on November 30, 2008 at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. The Colts defeated the Browns 10-6.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Prior to the 2007 season, the Cleveland Browns signed Jamal Lewis from their division rivals, the Baltimore Ravens. Lewis was thought to be washed up after three sub-par years from '04-'06.

The Browns took a chance on Lewis at only 27 years old. Lewis rewarded them with probably the second best season of his career running for 1,300-plus yards at 4.4 YPC and nine TDs.

Lewis and Derek Anderson were the leaders of Rod Chud's dynamic offense that led the Browns to the brink of the playoffs with a 10-6 record.

However, things fell apart in 2008. The offense sputtered to a screeching halt. Lewis struggled with nagging injuries to barely pick up 1000 yards and only at a 3.6 YPC clip and four TDs.

Lewis came into the 2009 season running his mouth and complaining about, well...everything. His season was a complete and total waste. 30 years of age and 11 years in the league had caught up with him. He finished the season on the IR. The Browns finally cut ties with Lewis at the end of the season.

The Browns are now in a bit of a re-tooling stage in the franchise, moving on with young players while exploring the possibility of bringing in a few veterans with some life left in then.

That being said, after a 5-11 finish in 2009, the Browns are still two years away from competing for the playoffs and at least three from a championship.

There has been a lot of push by members of the BR who want the Browns to pick up one of the free agent running backs that have recently been cut by their respective teams.

The leading names are LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook, and Thomas Jones. One contributor for the Browns to the BR has specifically suggested picking up Jones.

This move would make no sense for the Browns moving forward.

Jones will be 32 years old at the start of the season. That is approaching being a fossil in terms of an NFL running back.

He did have a very productive season in 2009 rushing for over 1,400 yards, 4.2 YPC, and 14 TDs. His good season may be better attributed to a solid offensive line since both Shonn Greene and Leon Washington each rushed for 500-plus and 300-plus yards respectively and better YPC. But that is a discussion for another time.

There is still good reason to believe that he may have another year or two left in the tank.

But running backs' legs seem to disappear overnight when they reach their 30s.

And the Browns are still two or three years away from being playoff material. None of the previously mentioned backs will still be a factor in the NFL when that time comes.

The Browns need to focus on building with young talent instead of giving away roster spots and money to players who will not be with team when they are ready to compete for the playoffs.

These players are better suited to be picked up by teams on the verge of a championship. Not teams drafting in the top 10.

Finally, the picture chosen for this article was selected for a purpose. This is what happens to old running backs in NFL when they lose their legs.