Does it seem lately as though the Buccaneers' backfield is reminiscent of a romantic comedy? Raheem Morris—forgive me, but you are clearly the dame in this little tale, and our two upstanding studs are Cadillac Williams and Earnest Graham.
The plucky Morris has the unenviable position of choosing between what I hope at least are not the loves of his life, but rather who will be the Bucs’ 3rd down back in 2011.
The Bucs have a new stud RB in the recently redeemed LaGarrette Blount, who hurdles would-be tacklers and get 5 yards a carry. Unfortunately, his physical prowess does not entail aptitude for blitz pick-up or catching out of the backfield.
This is where Williams and Graham enter the story. Williams, the incumbent, proved himself last year not only as a reliable blocker and pass catcher, but as a player who could actually play all 16 games of a season. Poor Graham may have missed his chance to be Morris’ go-to guy when he volunteered to give Caddy his carries and become the de facto fullback.
As an unrestricted free agent, Williams could very well walk away from his beloved Buccaneers to bring depth to some other lucky team. Graham, on the other hand, is due $1 million in 2011, a hefty price for player who would only see the field a few times each game.
Nevertheless, Earnest would love to make the case to Raheem that no one will treat Greg Olsen’s shotgun packages with more care.
Neither back is much of a catch when it comes to avoiding the injury bug; Williams runs on two reconstructed knees, and Graham has had about as much abuse as an undersized fullback is liable to take.
Williams does not have the burst he used to, and Graham has never been a burner. Also, Rah likes his players young, which does not apply to either player.
However, both players have experience picking up the blitz, catching the football, and actually being good at it. Best, and possibly worst, of all, Graham and Williams are two of the best guys a football team could have in the locker room. Graham is probably as selfless as any player in the league and will play any position he is asked to play.
Williams commands respect after returning from two catastrophic knee injuries and is simply a quality human being. Both men have even taken young Buc Blount under their wing, helping him understand how a real NFL player ought to behave.
We now come to the part of the story where our hero Raheem is forced to pick between the (discounted) $6 Million Dollar Caddy or the altruistic fullback Graham. Should Raheem take the easy route and let Caddy walk? It would be justified given Caddy’s diminished running ability.
Or should Rah give Graham his walking papers? Earnest has had problems playing a full season, and Erik Lorig, who may well be a superior lead blocker, waits in the wings to take his job. The drama may be just too much to bear.
The logical choice is Graham. He can still run, and has all the tools necessary to flank Josh Freeman in the shotgun. His $1 million price tag is high, but his versatility pays for itself. Long term, Graham has less wear and tear on his body, despite being 2 years older than Williams.
Don’t worry about Caddy; he’ll land on his feet (hopefully without hurting his knees). The rejected one always does alright, usually ending up with the the sad, assuming lass he did not notice previously, like the St. Louis Rams. And who knows, Rah might want to keep them both, but that would mean this situation no longer qualifies as a romantic comedy.