It’s possibly the worst kept secret in the organization that the Washington Redskins need insurance at the running back position. Dismissing all of the questions surrounding the abilities of Matt Jones to be the primary back and operating under the assumption he will, in fact, be the primary back due to both verbal confirmation from the powers that be and lack of evidence to the contrary, the team needs a proven veteran backup who has shown an ability to carry the workload should Jones become either injured or ineffective.
The free agency options are plentiful and while none necessarily make one think any player currently on the waiver wire is a better starting option than Jones there are several who have started far more games in their respective careers. Keeping in mind the backup is not part of a youth movement but rather part of a, “Dear Lord, get us to the next draft so we can address this need.” movement, the following players seem viable options in that role. Obviously each comes with caveats otherwise they’d not be in the free agency market. The salary figures are from the 2015 NFL season. Those costing over $1.0MM appear on chart #1 while those costing under $1.0MM appear on chart #2.
Statistics alone say the Redskins should be looking at Arian Foster or Steven Jackson, both of whom have been workhorse primary backs in the past. Foster is coming off a major injury but ran for 1,246 yards in just 13 games in 2014. If he can pass a physical he has to be considered a serious option. Jackson’s last productive season was 2012. He is not a viable option. Bell had a poor 2015 season but carried the ball 390 times for 1,510 yards in 2013-2014. Gerhart has never carried the ball more than 109 times in a season and has totaled 160 carries in the last three seasons. He is not a viable option. Bush has carried the ball just 84 times for 325 yards the past two seasons. He is not a viable option. Of the ‘expensive’ backups only Foster and Bell potentially fill the necessary role.
Of the lower priced backs, Bradshaw has played just 19 games the past three seasons. Durability issues eliminate him from the equation. Jackson has carried the ball just 165 times for 625 yards the past two seasons. Age has caught up with him. He is not a viable option. Pierce has carried the ball just 99 times for 370 yards the past two seasons however he did carry the ball 150 one season and is only 25 years of age. Thomas played four games with the Skins last season but has only carried the ball 75 times for 350 yards the past three seasons combined. He is not a viable option as a primary back.
The long and short of the situation is that, at present, there are limited viable options for a backup who can double as a primary back if necessary and the Redskins need to jump on one of the few options before there are none. Arian Foster at even 75% of what he once was would be a tremendous asset as a backup. Joique Bell could possibly regain his former form with better run blocking than he had in Detroit. Pierce could potentially be a low cost, low risk, high reward backup. There also may be a player unexpectedly released at some point who fits the bill. What doesn’t fit the bill is having Chris Thompson and Keith Marshall as the backup plan. Journalists are supposed to tell the story, not write the story, but if someone like a Robert Kelley wants to step up into the role of primary backup that would be a story I’d enjoy writing. Why not? If the team is willing to trust Jones as the primary back then why not Kelley as the backup?
P.S.> I know Steven Jackson is in both charts. Kindly overlook that egregious error. You may flog me later when the team goes in an entirely different direction.
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