One of the effects of the NFL player lockout is the impact it will have on careers, especially for older players and for those that play positions where longevity is a particular issue. Like running back.
According to Answers.com, the average career length for a starting NFL running back is less than 2.6 years, which is short even by NFL standards.
So, while the players sit and wait, they age. Some running backs are likely to already be on the bubble with their current team. Following, we will discuss the nine most likely running backs to find themselves wearing new laundry when play resumes.
Some have more trade value than others. They will be traded. Others may simply be cut.
The one wildcard here is the current lockout. The draft will go on as planned, but only picks and future picks may be traded. Teams will be unable to trade current players for picks. This will stunt some of the movement, to be sure. That said, if the lockout ends before the season begins, we should see a spike in player trading as teams position themselves, dump unwanted salaries and try to upgrade their rosters.
Speculation on the future for Houston Texans running back Steve Slaton being moved by the Houston Texans is in overdrive.
In an online chat, Houston Chronicle writer John McClain said, "Slaton is on the roster. He'll compete for playing time. It'll be hard for him to make it. Ideally, he looks good in preseason, and they can get something for him. If there's a preseason, of course."
Slaton rushed for over 1,200 yards in 2008, but has been a much smaller part of the Texans offense the past two seasons. With the emergence of Arian Foster, Slaton is both expendable and potentially valuable enough to warrant a middle-round draft pick.
According to Pro Sports Daily, New Orleans head coach Sean Payton has indicated that Reggie Bush remains in the Saints' plans and that he is hopeful a deal will get done once the lockout is over:
"I think there will be a number. We just have to find that number that both sides are comfortable with," Payton said during a media session at the NFL league meetings Tuesday at the Roosevelt Hotel.
Never, ever believe anything a head coach says about potential personnel decisions during the free agency and draft portions of the NFL season.
Reggie Bush is an all-purpose back whose production is not that difficult to replace. He rushed for just 150 yards from scrimmage in 2010 and failed to score a single rushing touchdown. He caught passes for 208 yards and one touchdown. And as a kick returner, he failed to reach the end zone a single time last season.
He is also overpaid, with a contract calling for more than $11 million in 2011. If he can be moved, he will be.
LaDainian Tomlinson will not be happy as a third down, change of pace and situational back. He feels he has more than that left in him—but not for long.
Shonn Greene is both the present and the future for the New York Jets. Coach Rex Ryan called Greene his "bell cow." He will be the featured back in 2011.
So, look for Tomlinson to look for a way out of New York. He knows his time is short and that there are teams out there that would consider him an upgrade in the backfield. His age is advancing and his worth declining. But he may bring a low round 2012 draft pick.
The Baltimore Ravens will owe McGahee over $6 million for the 2011 season. There is no way they will pay that kind of money to the guy that will be a backup for Ray Rice.
According to McGahee's agent Drew Rosenhaus, the runner will not accept a renegotiated contract offer from the Ravens. NBC's Pro Football Talk reported that Rosenhaus said, "We don't expect him to be back unless they will pay him his contract."
The 29-year-old running back has exceeded 1,100 yards rushing three times in his seven-year career.
There was a time when Marion Barber III was the closer for the Dallas Cowboys. Julius Jones would start each game and get the lion's share of the carries through the first two quarters or so. Then, when the defense was beginning to tire, Barber would come in with his high energy and reckless abandon and start punishing defenders.
Those days are gone. Barber's production has declined to the point that he now feels compelled to over-celebrate a three-yard run. In 2009, Barber rushed for 932 yards and seven touchdowns. In 2010, he ran for 374 yards and four touchdowns.
With the much quicker Felix Jones and the more versatile Tashard Choice likely to share running duties for Dallas in 2011, Barber figures to be the odd man out. The trouble for the Cowboys is that he will likely bring no more than a sixth- or seventh-round pick.
That, or he will be cut.
Fantasy Sports site Rotoworld files the following report regarding Kansas City Chiefs running back Thomas Jones:
Coach Todd Haley confirmed that Thomas Jones will return for a 12th season in 2011.Jones suggested after the Chiefs' playoff loss that he would take some time to contemplate his future entering his age-33. Jones faded down the stretch for a second straight season, averaging a plodding 2.3 YPC over the final quarter of the season. He'll return in a similar role, though we expect Jamaal Charles' carries to increase at Jones' expense.
Again, any time a head coach "confirms" a player's status this time of year, look out. Jones may well have another year in him, but it may not be in Kansas City. Jamaal Charles is a small scat back that requires a team to keep a bigger, durable back in the stable as a backup plan and for a change of pace.
Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan is famous for making somebodies out of nobodies when it comes to running backs. His zone blocking schemes have made for the unlikeliest of ball-toting heroes. But even Shanahan cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
Ryan Torain is a running back that lacks the moves to make defenders miss, the speed to break away for a long run and the imagination to put together a stellar NFL career.
Look for Shanahan to upgrade and Torain to be wearing some different laundry come 2011.
(Of course, that is just speculation. You may see Torain on the Redskins' sideline with his helmet under his arm.)
The Denver Broncos have a new sheriff in town. His name is John Fox.
And he is already talking about the running back situation in Denver. According to Rotoworld.com, Fox said, "I'd say there's no doubt we're going to get another back somewhere."
Most take Fox to mean that he will be looking for some help to back up Knowshon Moreno. But what if he is simply looking to get more out of that position? In his first two seasons, Moreno has yet to break 1,000 yards rushing or to score more than seven rushing touchdowns.
He may become trade bait if Fox feels like someone like free agent Laurence Maroney is a better option in Denver.
The New England Patriots have the running back-by-committee thing going. Danny Woodhead and Benjarvus Green-Ellis are the Frick and Frack at running back. Green-Ellis provided 1,000 yards from scrimmage in 2010, while Woodhead chipped in another 547.
Woodhead averaged 5.6 yards per carry and scored five touchdowns. His unexpected productivity may make him just the right piece of meat for Belichick to dangle before some run-challenged team.