Sunday, March 04, 2007

who should be the next member of the Factory?

That is, Mike Shanahan's Tailback Factory. The Broncos have addressed the secondary with the Dre Bly deal, but doing so requires nailing down a stud at RB to replace the fumble-prone Tatum Bell -- this is of utmost importance because said RB will be responsible for pounding holes in order to score and take pressure off Jay Cutler to win games with his arm alone. The Broncos have not had a serious feature back since Clinton Portis was dealt for Champ Bailey (and the Broncos got the better of that deal given Portis' injury problems -- if he doesn't get hurt as often, everyone wins.) Most observers note that the Denver O-line can be counted on to produce a 1,000 yard rusher every year, but it's instructive that the team has rarely advanced past the first weekend of the playoffs post back-to-back titles without Terrell Davis (and, of course, John Elway, but we're talking RBs here.)

Ahman Green has inked with the Texans, so he's out. Fortunately, there are five good options possible (old Denver Post article, but mentions these four names)-- two by trade, three* (please see the update/correction below) by free agency. They are profiled in my personal preferred order:

1. Willis McGahee, Buffalo Bills -- if he can be stolen from Buffalo (and the Broncos are willing to ditch lower draft picks), then he's the man to grab for a contract year and try to nail down for an extension. Only 25, with a couple of full seasons under his belt, he's young enough to run as much as the Broncos like to, and still got just under 1,000 yards this season while missing two games. I still question why Buffalo is even shopping him.

2. Travis Henry, cut by Tennessee Titans - 28 with a 3rd 1,000 yard season out of six total years in the league. Suffered bouts of fumble-itis in Buffalo -- part of why Buffalo got McGahee in the first place, but revived himself on the Titans by giving VY a back to go to. Probably the best back currently on the free agent market -- might not be coming cheap.

3. Thomas Jones, Chicago Bears - two straight 1,000 yard seasons, age 27. Probably can thrive as a feature back, but I'm not sure the Bears will take him for an offer that doesn't knock their socks off (likely something requiring a stud defensive player or place where they can draft one), especially because rumor in Chicago is the players prefer him to his tag-team mate Cedric Benson.

4.. Jamal Lewis, cut by Baltimore Ravens - 27, only one season w/o a 1,000 yard season, but yards-per-carry dropped dramatically post 2003-season (well, they had to, 2,000 yard seasons don't exactly come every year). 3.6 yards per carry last year**. Prone to off-field troubles. Ravens probably cut him to try and re-sign him for less money more than anything else.

UPDATE: Forgot one. (**This addition also removes the "lowest yds per carry of the group" from Jamal Lewis.)

5. Dominic Rhodes, Indianapolis Colts -- Has had a 1,000 yd season on his own, but most of last year's highlights belonged to Joseph Addai, and I suspect Indy would be OK with letting him go after his recent DUI arrest. Got 3.4 a carry last year. Not bad with the receiving stats. Should have split the Super Bowl MVP with Addai, but not exactly what you think of when you think of "franchise running back," and despite recent plug-and-play backs in the past few years, the Broncos could use one if they're going to stand a decent chance of another Super Bowl.

If you want someone teaming up with Mike Bell, you probably take a flyer on Lewis first and then try Rhodes. I'm not sure the Bears will get rid of Jones. Henry is visiting soon, and while inconsistent in other venues, the OL turns mediocre backs into 1,000 yard rushers. McGahee is the prize, though.

It's also highly likely that none of them will be a Bronco, as Shanahan may just pluck another back out of the draft and throw him in with Bell.


twins15 said...

I would love to see what Willis McGahee could do in Denver... that running game could be scary good once again.

Signal to Noise said...

So would I. I think the Giants want him more, though.

I seriously wouldn't be surprised if we just wound up drafting someone and teaming him with Bell. It's just the way Shanahan works.

I would be satisfied with Travis Henry.

twins15 said...

Henry would be solid as well. I can see the drafting of a guy, but to me the RB class isn't that strong after Peterson and Lynch. I mean, would Shanahan really go into the year with Mike Bell and a guy like Antonio Pittman as the RBs? I guess we'll find out.

Sanchez said...

I can't believe that Buffalo are shopping McGahee. If the Broncos can get him I really think they could be challengers next year. That running game would be awesome.

I can't see any of the others having quite the same impact.

Nice post btw.