In the midst of a lockout and continued labor strife, the NFL offseason has been in a virtual state of hibernation. But that doesn't mean we can't dream up our on version of the offseason -- it is called "fantasy" football after all, right? So when all of these labor issues are resolved and we can get back to football, here are eight suggestions for teams that would improve their running back situation and at the same time increase or retain the player's fantasy value.
DeAngelo Williams signs with the Redskins. I would love to see Williams end up with the Colts, but that's not a likely scenario since that team rarely signs big-name free agents. As a result, a Williams-to-Redskins move would make sense. Ryan Torain is brittle and can't handle the workload of a full season, so Williams could come right in and take over a prominent role for coach Mike Shanahan. Sure, the Skins did add Roy Helu and Evan Royster in the draft, but owner Dan Snyder has never been shy about signing big-name free agents -- even if it's not at a position of need. With Williams out of the mix in Carolina, Jonathan Stewart would be primed to have a breakout season.
Ahmad Bradshaw re-signs with the Giants. Bradshaw is coming off a career season from a statistical perspective, recording 47 catches, 1,549 scrimmage yards and eight touchdowns despite the fact that he shared carries with Brandon Jacobs. Surprisingly, he also received close to the same percentage of red-zone carries as his bruising teammate. So, while Bradshaw has endured multiple surgeries on his ankle and feet, his skills and abilities will make him a solid No. 2 fantasy option in an offense that should put some points on the scoreboard. There has been speculation that the Giants could part ways with Jacobs, but I'm expecting this duo to both return in 2011.
Cedric Benson re-signs with the Bengals. Benson was one of the most featured backs in the league last season, based on the percentage of his team's carries he received. With new coordinator Jay Gruden at the helm of the offense, the Texas product would continue to see a great majority of the rushing attempts. Gruden wants to establish the run and pound the football, so Benson is a nice fit. If the Bengals don't have Carson Palmer under center, which looks like an imminent scenario, Benson would be an even more important part of the offense with a rookie in Andy Dalton. If he remains in black and orange, Benson will be a viable No. 2 fantasy runner in drafts.
Ryan Grant remains with the Packers. It looks likely that Grant will play out the final year of his contract with the Packers, who now have a plethora of running backs on their roster. James Starks emerged as a viable playmaker down the stretch during the team's run to a Super Bowl championship, and the team also drafted Hawaii's Alex Green in April. Brandon Jackson, who led the team in carries last season, is scheduled to be a free agent and could be out of the mix. The presence of Starks is going to keep Grant from seeing a true featured role, but playing with the Packers is still his best bet to retain at least some of the value he had coming into the 2010 season.
Joseph Addai re-signs with the Colts. Most reports suggest that Addai will return to the Colts, and I tend to agree. The veteran out of LSU is more than capable of being a nice fantasy option, but he can't stay out of the trainer's room lately. He missed half of the 2010 campaign with neck and shoulder ailments, and hasn't started a full 16 games even once in his five years at the pro level. Donald Brown has proven that he can't be a featured back, however, so Addai will remain atop the Colts depth chart and has flex-starter value in most leagues. Keep in mind that the team did draft Delone Carter, who could turn into a nice short-yardage option in the running game.
Michael Bush remains with the Raiders. Obviously, Bush's fantasy value would skyrocket if he were allowed a chance to start with another team. But based on the fact that the Raiders assigned him a first- and third-round restricted free-agent tender, there's little chance that Bush will be wearing anything but Silver & Black next season. Considering how highly Darren McFadden will be taken in most fantasy drafts, however, that might not be a bad thing. McFadden's proneness to injuries is well documented, so Bush will be one of the most valuable handcuffs in the world of fantasy football. Remember that Bush also recorded career bests in carries, yards and touchdowns in 2010.
Darren Sproles signs with the Dolphins. There have been numerous reports that Ronnie Brown is open to re-signing with the Dolphins, but I'd much rather see them add Sproles from a fantasy perspective. The speedy lightning bug out of Kansas State would be a nice compliment to rookie Daniel Thomas. More importantly, he wouldn't be a major threat to Thomas on early-downs. The same can't be said of Brown, whose presence in the backfield could create an unwanted committee situation. If the Fins want depth behind Thomas, Kevin Smith could be an option as well. But the best situation from a fantasy perspective would be to ensure Thomas is the bell cow moving forward.
Marion Barber signs with the Rams. I can't see a scenario where the Cowboys don't release Barber, especially after the selection of Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray in the draft. The former fantasy star won't re-gain a starting role anywhere around the league, but he would be a nice fit for the Rams as Steven Jackson's backup. There have been reports that the team has interest in Sproles as a third-down back, but that doesn't fill the need behind Jackson should he fall prey to an injury. Barber, 27, would fill that need. He'd also turn into a viable late-round handcuff selection for owners who land Jackson in the earlier rounds.