The Oakland Raiders have entered the off season with seemingly a million questions to answer and million possibilities to go about them. Somewhere between the quarterback quandary and what to do with the secondary comes the question of who is going to run the ball come week one.
Darren McFadden has under achieved and has been a walking injury guaranteed to happen. Luckily, Marcel Reece has been dependable as always despite a lack of opportunities and the Raiders stumbled upon Rashad Jennings in 2013. Reece will be back but the other two of the trio are currently in limbo. Free agency holds some options as does the draft.
Here is a look at some possible scenarios.
Jennings, a seventh rounder in 2009 played wonderfully in 2013 after coming over from the Jacksonville Jaguars. When McFadden once again proved to be an injury liability Jennings not only showed power but some speed as well. He ran for 150 yards at the Houston Texans with an 80-yard dash for the end zone. He only truly got shutdown in one game, versus the Dallas Cowboys.
On the year he ran for 733 yards with a 4.5 average. He could improve in pass protection but overall he showed he can be a starting tailback and carry the bulk of the workload. With that said the Raiders should re-sign him. He had a good year but not one that will warrant a huge contract. Of the free agents available at his position he will be a steal. A two-year $2.5 million deal would probably lock him down. That would basically double his salary but he earned it.
With Jennings signed the Raiders would have to finally say goodbye to McFadden. He simply cannot stay healthy and he will still command a high dollar new deal. The Raiders should and will cut ties. Going forward the Raiders will look to strengthen the backfield with a proven free agent. The list is not long and only a few players stand out.
Knowshon Moreno pops out as the biggest up-and-comer on the market. He had a truly breakout season this year and will be highly sought after. The Broncos have a ton of free agents and it will be interesting to see where Moreno fits in their plans. The back will be slightly pricey coming off of a 1,000-plus yard rushing season. He proved he can be an every-down back and was great in pass blocking and catching situations.
It may be a long shot but if the Raiders can lure him away from the cross-division rivals the Silver and Black immediately get a huge weapon. Moreno will likely be looking for a three to four year deal worth $2.5-3 million per season. He really has had only one great year so the Raiders may want to be careful if they get in a bidding war over him.
The slightly cheaper and less proven back on the market would be the bruiser LeGarrette Blount from the New England Patriots. His carries were limited but he finished the season as strong as any back in the league. He ran for 193 yards in week 17 and in the divisional playoff round he gained 166 yards with four touchdowns.
He would be a great complimenting back to Jennings and could be had for a pretty reasonable price. His low-carries and lack of consistency will be leverage to bargain a cheap, short contract. The Raiders could feasibly get Blount with a 1-2 year deal at $900,000 a year. He would need to improve his pass blocking and maybe lose a few pounds off his enormous frame.
If these or other free agents prove to be too expensive the draft has a few players worthy of a look. With the high-scoring, fast paced spread-option infiltrating the NFL the running back position has become increasingly devalued in recent years. With that said the running backs prospective draft position is truly a mystery.
Three players really standout as game changers coming into the NFL in 2014. Ka’Deem Carey of Arizona is an explosive runner with exceptional vision. He is projected to go in the second round and could be an instant success in Oakland. Tre Mason of Auburn had a decent year and played great against big time opponents. His time in the formidable SEC makes him NFL ready today. Lastly, Bishop Sankey of Washington is the fastest of the three with a 4.49 40-yard dash time according to cbssports.com and has is projected somewhere between the second and third round of the draft.
You can read more about running backs available in the NFL Draft, take a look at the top 10 running backs available in the Draft come May.
The Raiders running back position is not the greatest concern for the Raiders front office but it certainly should be a close second. Jennings proven he can be a starter and he won’t be asking for McFadden money. Jennings should be signed soon, before other teams start making enticing phone calls to the talented back. After that the brass can take a deep breathe and consider their options to finding the supporting cast.
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