The 2017 offseason may represent a shift in Steve Keim’s free agency philosophy. Previous years of his reign have included surprise marquee deals (Carson Palmer, Jared Veldheer, Mike Iupati, Chandler Jones), been bolstered by under-the-radar yet productive role players (Frostee Rucker, Matt Shaughnessy, Jerraud Powers, Yeremiah Bell, Antonio Cromartie, Corey Peters etc.) and highlighted by veteran bargains deemed past their prime by the rest of the league (Karlos Dansby, Larry Foote, John Abraham, Dwight Freeney, Chris Johnson etc.)
The emphasis must now be on resigning the talented core of Cardinal free agents. Doing so could potentially eat up most of the team’s remaining cap space and (unless Keim can weave some contract magic) would limit them to mid-tier and bargain bin players.
One such player could be the perfect backup to David Johnson at running back.
Backup RB: David Johnson is a freak and the Cardinals should be looking to build the offense around his unique and special skill set. They are also fortunate to have some promising young depth at the position. A veteran presence in the film room and on the practice field would be beneficial, especially if they possessed some of the same receiving traits as David Johnson to allow for scheme/personal flexibility. Chris Johnson is the first name on the list if he decides to return on a team-friendly deal.
Rex Burkhead (Cin): The 4th year professional has been praised by head coach Marvin Lewis and teammates alike and the Bengals want him back on the team in 2017. Has been production in with his few opportunities and has very little wear on his tires because of being stuck behind Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard on the depth chart. Burkhead started the Bengals’ last game of the season against the imposing Ravens’ run defence which only allowed an average of 89.4 running yards per game (5th best in the NFL). He notched 119 yards on 27 carries (4.4 ypc) and 2 touchdowns. He also caught two passes for 25 yards. Averaged an impressive 4.6 yards per carry over the 2016 season and has a knack for finding and exploiting creases in the oppositions defence and rarely gets downed or negative yardage. He may not garner enough attention to earn a starting gig but would be consider a No.2 back role behind David Johnson, one of the league’s most dominate players? He would be one injury (touch on wood, touch on wood, touch on wood) away from showcasing his skills on a team that should be postseason contention. A 1 or 2 year deal makes sense for both sides.