Last year at this time the Kansas City Chiefs knew they had one of the top five running backs in the NFL thanks to the presence of Jamaal Charles. However, he was trying to comeback from the ACL tear he suffered at the beginning of the 2011 season. Some RBs come back quickly from such an injury but others are never the same player.
For Charles, the injury was more concerning because his running style was built on quickness, cutting and speed. In 2010 he fell just shy of 2,000 total yards racking up 1,467 on the ground and another 468 receiving. It was a season where he established himself as one of the league’s most exciting players. In 2012 our concerns were eliminated as he made it back as strong as ever. Not only that, he was practically the only bright spot on a 2-14 team running for 1,509 yards. At 26 years old, Charles should have several more productive years before he starts to slow down.
Even with Charles in the fold, every team in the NFL is well aware that they are only one play from needing a solid backup. KC tried to fill that void last year with Peyton Hillis. A player coming off an injury plagued season of his own and looking to bounce back, but it simply didn’t pan out. Hillis ran for only 309 yards on 85 carries and 3 TDs. The Chiefs were obviously concerned about the impact Charles could have coming back from his knee injury and in addition to signing Hillis they drafted both Nate Eachus and Cyrus Gray in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Here is the Chiefs RB roster currently:
It would be easy to say the Chiefs have what they need at the RB position. However, one play is all it takes to go from top 5 to bottom 5. If Charles is taken out of this mix, RB becomes a position that will hold the Chiefs back. There is no thunder to the Charles lightning. With that in mind, who should the Chiefs consider in free agency?
Here are some of the more notable free agents this year (best year in parenthesis):
- Felix Jones, DAL (2010, 800 yards, 2 TD)
- Cedric Benson, GB (2009, 1,251 yards, 6 TD)
- Danny Woodhead, NE (2012, 301 yards, 1 TD)
- Chris Ivory, NO (2010, 716 yards, 5 TD)
- Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG (2011, 267 yards, 2 TD)
- Jonathan Dwyer, PIT (2012, 623, 2 TD)
- Rashard Mendenhall, PIT (2010, 1273, 13 TD)
- Steven Jackson, STL (2006, 1,528, 13 TD)
- Kevin Smith, DET (2008, 976 yards, 8 TD)
- Tashard Choice, BUF (2008, 472 yards, 2 TD)
When you look through this list, it would be easy to look long and hard at Peyton Hillis all over again. The list is filled with guys that are on the downhill side of careers, some were once great, some less than that. The most consistent of the available RBs would be Steven Jackson. He has battled the injury bug many times over the years but has still managed to average over 1,000 yards for 8 straight years. He’s had at least 4 TDs every year as well and takes care of the ball with just 23 fumbles in his 9 year career.
Jonathan Dwyer is another back to consider. He’s coming off the best year of his career which could point to Pittsburgh resigning him, but that’s not a given and he may hit the market.
One thing is certain, the Chiefs should not draft another RB this April unless they provide an incredible value. They’ve drafted three RB in the last two years and need a chance to mature and develop. Signing Jackson or Dwyer would be good insurance for Jamaal Charles and provide the team with a change of pace as well.