|Ed Mullholand / US Presswire|
|Depending on the free-agency rules, teams might be ready to pounce on Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams.|
Don't be misled by just one running back -- Mark Ingram -- being drafted in the first round. Or by the fact that other needy teams, like Miami and Washington, selected running backs later in the process. There is still a need for ball carriers, and there are running backs in free agency that could add not only production, but reliability.
Of course, we don't know what the free-agent rules will be so it's hard to tell if a free-agent running back like Carolina's DeAngelo Williams will be available. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said they're interested in retaining Williams, but if Williams can hit the open market, Carolina might not stand much of a chance.
Let's take a look at some free-agent running backs and their possible destinations:
The five-year veteran is coming off a foot injury that cut short his 2010 season. Even so, he's only 28 years old and doesn't have a ton of mileage on his legs because he's always split carries. It should not come as a shock if Denver and former coach John Fox pursue Williams. The Broncos have Knowshon Moreno, but he's been nicked. A carousel of players has stepped in but none has brought what Williams could bring. If the Bengals don't re-sign Cedric Benson, Williams could provide the power running game for which the offensive personnel are built. Miami, even though it drafted Daniel Thomas, likes two workhorse runners, and Williams could provide some needed experience.
On the issue of coaches acquiring familiar players, Carolina's Rivera -- the former defensive coordinator in San Diego -- knows how dangerous the diminutive Sproles can be, and adding him as a third-down back and a returner might be an option. The Panthers have a lot of other needs and a starter in Jonathan Stewart, but Sproles is a game-changer who could ease the load of rookie QB Cam Newton. The Rams, Buccaneers and Steelers could be intriguing fits as well.
Ok, he's under contract, and Saints coach Sean Payton likes him, but would the Saints have traded first- and second-round draft picks to get Ingram if they liked Bush that much? Bush's contract is heavy, and there would have to be some tinkering to make it palatable, but then there is a numbers game. Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory and Ingram would seem to be more situated than Bush, so Bush, especially if you factor in his, Twitter rants, could very well be on the outs. He might not command a huge pile of money, but there would be several teams interested. Intra-division foes Tampa Bay and Carolina could use him, as could Minnesota, San Francisco and Indianapolis, among others. Could you imagine how much fun Peyton Manning could have with Bush?
Would it be something if the Redskins or Eagles tried to lure Bradshaw? The Giants would probably have to pay more than they'd like to retain him if they came hunting, but they know how good of a player he is and seemingly wouldn't want him in the division. It would be a big surprise if the Giants didn't re-sign him, especially after saying they want to bring him back.
All signs point to the Bengals trying to re-sign Benson. With so few teams in need of a starting running back, this would probably be best for Benson and Cincinnati. Miami, although it drafted Thomas, could be an option should it let Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams walk.
Though he's got some wear and tear, Brown would seem suited to return to the Dolphins. His 3.7 yards per carry was a career-low, but he finally played a full 16 games for a team that had multiple struggles on offense. Fellow Florida teams Tampa Bay and Jacksonville might want some veteran depth.
Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.