I remember back in 2009 when Steve Slaton, who was coming off a stellar rookie season, was advised by his agent not to hold out of camp in hopes of a long-term deal from the Texans. I think it's safe to say that that agent is probably as unemployed today as Slaton is.
Despite being the third leading rusher in Texans history, he was cut yesterday in the final year of his rookie deal at only 25 years old. But how did we get to this point only two full seasons removed from rushing for 1,282 yards and nine touchdowns as well as 50 receptions for another 377 yards and another touchdown?
People often joke about the NFL standing for Not For Long and in the case of a running back, the shelf life is very small. This is why you see so many teams reluctant to give out long-term contracts and dollars to players at the position. Remember when Seattle gave Shaun Alexander an eight-year deal worth $62 million? He was cut just over two years later because his production fell off.
It's a very short window for running backs in this league and for some, like Slaton, it can all change in a moment.
After his sensational rookie season, Slaton decided to put on some extra muscle to help in the blocking game and in short yardage situations. This decision backfired as he lost his burst and then battled a neck injury that apparently led to him losing feeling in his arm, something that he kept from coaches in fear of losing his job. But he ultimately lost it anyways after it led to him suffering from one of the worst cases of "fumblitis" fans had ever seen.
After his neck surgery was successful, the team tried to get him involved somehow but as a kick returner, he was atrocious and seemed to have lost his vision along with his speed. So many times he would miss an opening and run straight into the tackles as he lost his starting role to Arian Foster after he had the best season ever for an undrafted free agent.
The team continued to give him opportunities, but after this past week in New Orleans saw him earn just eight yards on four carries, it was evident that Steve had nothing left in the tank.
As I mentioned before, he is only 25 and he never had any knee or leg problems, so a comeback is possible. In fact, I think some team will give him a shot for sure. But one has to wonder if his window has already closed. He made the mistake of trying to fix what wasn't broken by gaining weight and muscle. In a league where your shelf life is already less than six years, I'd stick with what works.
Best of luck to Steve though, as you'll have to work hard to find as nice of a guy in this league.