Talk pro football with SI.com's Andrew Perloff in Huddle Up, a forum to discuss the hottest topics around the NFL.
3/08/2007 03:02:00 PM
Running back roulette
Travis Henry rushed for 1,211 yards and seven touchdowns last season for Tennessee.
While the quarterback carousel traditionally gets more ink, the running back changes have been more significant this offseason. Several former 1,000-yard rushers have been traded or signed with new teams. Although they have more knee surgeries between them than Super Bowl rings, this group could make a major impact in 2007.
Here's my projection for each running back next season, assuming they stay healthy ... a huge if in this case:
Travis Henry, Broncos - Henry may be the next running back to explode in Denver. The Broncos still like second-year RB Mike Bell, but he should be more a short-yardage guy. Predicted 2007 total: 1,400 yards
Thomas Jones, Jets - The Jets ranked seventh in the NFL in rushing attempts per game, even though they were averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. Jones should get 20 carries per contest. Predicted 2007 total: 1,350 yards
Willis McGahee, Ravens - Ravens VP Ozzie Newsome said McGahee is a back who can make people miss. McGahee certainly didn't avoid many tackles last season, but maybe he'll improve with a better offensive line. Predicted 2007 total: 1,200 yards
Ahman Green, Texans - Green, 30, joins a team with a notoriously bad offensive line, no passing to game to protect him and he faces a schedule loaded with the top rush defenses in the NFL. Predicted 2007 total: 1,100.
Jamal Lewis, Browns - Lewis' success hinges on who the Browns draft. Obviously, QB Brady Quinn or OT Joe Thomas could help Lewis' numbers, while RB Adrian Peterson would not. The biggest problems for Lewis are the Browns' lack of a passing game and the fact he won't play Clevleand twice this season. Predicted 2007 total: 1,000
Tatum Bell, Lions -- It's not clear if Kevin Jones will be able to return from his foot injury, so the former Broncos back has a chance to be the man in Detroit. Unfortunately, that's not saying much. Predicted 2007 total: 900
Dominic Rhodes, Raiders -- It's hard to evaluate a running back from Indy. Defenses are so scared of the passing game, Colts backs typically run through holes they won't see on other teams. Rhodes will likely split carries with Lamont Jordan in Oakland. Predicted 2007 total: 750
Corey Dillon - Dillon was solid in his part-time role with the Pats, but he's fooling himself if he thinks he's still a primary back. The 32-year-old back looked like he was going to collapse of exhaustion every time he broke into the secondary last season. Predicted 2007 total: 800
Chris Brown - Brown's name is synonymous with "upright running style." The 6-foot-3 running back is just too big a target and likely won't stay healthy as a No. 1 guy. He does, however, have value to a team that needs a dangerous second back. Predicted 2007 total: 700
Randy Moss had just 42 catches for 553 yards and three touchdowns last year.
How many teams really want a 30-year-old malcontent wide receiver coming off his worst season? We're about to find out, as the Raiders field offers for Randy Moss. Let's handicap the odds for where Moss will end up:
New England: The Pats were apparently interested, but appear less likely to pursue Moss now that they traded for Wes Welker and reportedly made a hefty offer to free-agent Donte' Stallworth. If Stallworth turns them down, maybe Moss comes back into the picture. I'm not convinced New England needs Moss in the first place. The Pats' lack of big-time receivers hurt them last year, but they were not far off from winning the Super Bowl. A moderate improvement at that position is all they need. Odds: 15/1
Green Bay: The Packers signed troubled Koren Robinson last year, so Moss won't scare them. Former disgruntled Raider Charles Woodson had eight interceptions for them last year, which might lead them to think they can resuscitate Moss' career. Odds: 8/1
Tampa Bay: NFL.com reported that the Bucs contacted Oakland about Moss. This might imply Tampa Bay believes Georgia Tech wideout Calvin Johnson won't be available at No. 4 in April's draft. Tampa Bay desperately needs a vertical threat on offense, although I'm not sure Moss would be happy with Jeff Garcia at quarterback -- assuming he can beat out Chris Simms and maybe Jake Plummer. Odds: 12/1
Jacksonville: Jacksonville was a rumored destination for Moss a couple of weeks ago, but not much seems to be developing. The Jags have invested in first-round picks WRs Reggie Williams and Matt Jones, but still lack a bona fide deep threat. The rumor may have started because the Jags hired Moss' former coach Mike Tice as an assistant. Odds: 40/1
San Diego: San Diego's one weak spot on offense is receiver and it's interesting to imagine Moss facing single coverage as teams focus on LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates. Three reasons the Chargers haven't been mentioned much in the Moss chatter: 1) Moss has played poorly against San Diego over the last two seasons; 2) Raiders owner Al Davis wouldn't help a divisional rival; 3) Norv Turner is San Diego's new coach. Odds: 75/1
Oakland: Davis has a history of asking for too much and the Raiders likely still want to try to get something out of the investment they've already made in Moss. Odds: 2/1
Where do you think Randy Moss will play next season?
Leonard Davis signed a seven-year, $50 million deal with the Cowboys.
Before you get too excited about the money flying around right now, look at how the Colts built their Super Bowl team. They drafted or signed as undrafted free agents 21 of 22 positional starters, and picked up the other one, Anthony McFarland, at last year's trade deadline.
They did sign kicker Adam Vinatieri last year, but you get my point. The financial structure of the NFL has made the pendulum swing toward drafting to build a champion instead of free agency. Good teams are vigilant about keeping their best players so they don't have to overpay in the open market. And if they draft well for their system, they can overcome free-agency losses.
With the bump in salary cap, this market was particularly overvalued and it's easy to spot the questionable deals, even though some of them look bigger on paper then they are in reality.
Here are my top five red-flag signings:
Leonard Davis, OT/OG, Cowboys: It seems weird the Cowboys would give him so much money – an $18 million signing bonus – and they're not even sure if he'll play guard or tackle.
Nate Clements, CB, 49ers: Clements' eight-year, $80 million deal is believed to be the richest for a defensive player in NFL history. Does that mean Clements is the best defensive player ever?
Derrick Dockery, G, Bills/Eric Steinbach, G, Browns: I'll be the first to admit I can not evaluate offensive guard play, but I do know the Vikings' acquisition of guard Steve Hutchinson for record money barely improved their rushing offense. I doubt Dockery and Steinbach will have a great impact either.
Ahman Green, RB, Texans: Green reportedly got more money from the Texans (four years, $23 million) then he was even looking for. Green was a great player at one point, but 30-year-old running backs with injury histories don't have a lot of value in today's NFL.
Dewayne White, DE, Lions: I'm willing to assume this a bad signing just because we're talking about the Lions. Anyone care to argue with that logic?
Let me know who you think was overpaid and who actually deserved a big payday.