NFL Free Agents 2011: 5 Possible Stops for Willis McGahee
Now that the NFL and the NFLPA have agreed on the terms and framework of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, months of free agency and trades will take place in a matter of days. While nothing can be officially done until later this week, it's time to start looking ahead.
One of the earliest rumors to hit the airwaves today was that the Baltimore Ravens will part ways with running back Willis McGahee. While he's had his role reduced some by the development of Ray Rice, McGahee still likely has some production left in him.
Here are five possible destinations for the free agent to be.
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McGahee could assume the role that is expected to be vacated by free agent Mewelde Moore. He's a good receiver and can play in any type of running game, so he has the potential to be another weapon on a potent Pittsburgh offense.
McGahee would likely be attracted to Pittsburgh because it would give him a chance to play for a contender and also give him two games a year to remind Baltimore that they should have kept him. Sometimes those are powerful motivators for free agents.
McGahee is not going to sign for nothing. If the Steelers are dedicated to signing a running back like Moore, they'd do better to sign Moore or another bargain back.
Also, the Steelers seem more likely to give extra carries to Isaac Redman rather than sign a pricey free agent. They also have rookie Baron Batch in the mix. His versatility might simply be all they are looking for in a back.
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Detroit drafted Jahvid Best to be their running back of the future, so McGahee would once again be in a tandem or support role, which is probably better for him at this point in his career. McGahee does have the potential to get hurt if overused, so teaming with a runner like Best would be a great fit.
Detroit would also be attracted to a versatile back like McGahee since it would give young quarterback Matthew Stafford yet another weapon on offense to go with Best and receiver Calvin Johnson. It could be a nice match.
Again, McGahee might be turned off by a lower contract offer and by the lack of a featured role on offense. He also might be turned off by the simple fact that Detroit isn't known for their playoff appearances.
McGahee could be a good fit for Detroit, but the team might also be hesitant to commit a lot of money to an aging veteran. They've done a nice bit of work in the draft in recent years and have started to build a good-looking, young team.
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In Cleveland, McGahee could, as with Pittsburgh, have the pleasure of sticking it to the Ravens twice a year, and he also could play for a young team that could definitely use him. There's no guarantees that Peyton Hillis will be able to sustain his 2010 success. Even if he does, it might be an excellent chance for the Browns to team up two different types of runners.
The Browns could use a veteran presence on a very young offense. McGahee also would give young quarterback Colt McCoy an extra target and strengthen a running game that helps take the pressure off of a young passer.
It depends a lot on what Pat Shurmur wants to do with his offense. If he wants an older, more seasoned back like McGahee to provide a change of pace for Peyton Hillis, he would do well to sign him.
It's reasonable to think Cleveland will have some money to spend, but I'm not sure McGahee will want to take it. Cleveland, like Detroit, doesn't have that contender status that McGahee is used to with the Ravens.
San Francisco 49ers
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San Francisco did really well by signing Brian Westbrook last year. With Westbrook likely to leave, the 49ers will be looking for another veteran backup to Frank Gore. The former Miami teammates could pair up and help take pressure off of Alex Smith, who's trying to revive his career one last time.
McGahee would enjoy a lot of playing time in a running offense and with a running back who can't be overworked too much without injury. The 49ers will likely run the ball a lot to mask a weak passing attack, so they need more than one reliable player in the backfield.
McGahee and Gore are similar players, so it may not be a fit. Teams with two backs often like to have some different styles in play. McGahee wouldn't be a fit in that regard. He also is prone to injury at times as well, so the 49ers may opt for a more sturdy option.
Also, McGahee will be looking for more money than the 49ers are likely to commit to a backup. Westbrook took a lesser deal last year because he was coming off of an injury. The 49ers won't be able to woo McGahee in the same fashion unless some other teams spurn him.
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The Washington Redskins need a new running back. Clinton Portis is either going to leave or retire, as he has become unreliable and injury prone. Beyond him, there is no proven player to take the reigns. There are a lot of options, but all would do better if paired with a veteran.
Mike Shanahan has worked wonders with running backs before, so it's reasonable to think McGahee would benefit from working with him. He's created and resurrected a lot of backs in his long career. McGahee could be the next success story for him.
The money will be there, but who knows if Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen will commit the money to McGahee rather than pursue a new quarterback. That is Washington's first priority, and I don't expect that McGahee will last long on the open market.
Also, McGahee doesn't represent a major upgrade over a healthy Portis, so the team may opt to stick with Ryan Torain and one of the young backs like Evan Royster, who was productive at Penn State and looks like a Shanahan back.