With the Arizona Cardinals looking to upgrade a number of positions in free agency, there is one position that gets overlooked because of the numbers -- the running back position.
The production from Andre Ellington, the potential of Stepfan Taylor and the possible potential of Ryan Williams lead many to believe that the Cardinals are in a great position, and they are. However, to stand pat would not be the best thing to do, as there are a couple of pieces missing from the running back room.
First off, that is a very young and inexperienced group. The veteran of the group is Williams with his five career games in three years.
Last season, Rashard Mendenhall was brought in to be the starter. He was not terribly effective, but he did provide a very important thing in the locker room in addition to being a workhorse -- he was the leader of the room. The other backs looked up to him and could lean on him, whether it be football reCampus Portallated or preparation related.
That's what they don't have right now. They can't draft a player like that. They would have to bring him in via free agency.
Likewise, head coach Bruce Arians pointed out something that the team needs to have as well -- a player behind Andre Ellington that can do some of the things that he does, just in case Ellington were to get hurt. That way the offense would continue without drastic changes.
They could potentially draft that player, but we can look at free agency as well for potential players.
Now, nothing against Stepfan Taylor, but with the team set to build their offense around Ellington's skills, the type of runner you want to bring in is more of a player who would take snaps away from Taylor, unless he is a grizzled vet who plays more of a special teams role.
Here are some decent names to throw out there that could be the harder, between-the-tackles runner to complement Ellington -- Mendenhall (who could be retained), Maurice Jones-Drew, LeGarrette Blount, Toby Gerheart, Ben Tate. They all could play ahead of Taylor.
If the Cards are willing to let Taylor get those bulk carries, perhaps a veteran backup could be Ronnie Brown, Jackie Battle (yeah, the guy that gave Larry Fitzgerald a concussion), or Ahmad Bradshaw.
Now, what about a veteran guy that could fill a backup role, play special teams and do the same types of things that Ellington can?
For that type of back, you could look at Leon Washington or LaRod Stephens-Howling. LSH is coming off an ACL tear, but he is a solid guy on special teams, he could step in for Ellington as the back that lines up at receiver or getting the ball outside or in space. Washington was the same type of guy, too, only he is now 32 years old. Both have been in the league long enough to be a good leadership presence in the running back room.
I am convinced that the team will need bring in a veteran free agent. It could be a Jason Wright or Chester Taylor-type player, who leads from the bottom of the depth chart. It could be a Mendenhall that gets more carries than the other guys. But it has to be someone with credibility in the league.
Who should that be?
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