The free agent running back market has been pretty static but that’s apparently about to change.
According to reports, DeMarco Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher for the Dallas Cowboys this past season, will be in Philadelphia today for a free agent visit. A bidding war for Murray is seemingly underway between the rival Eagles and Cowboys. ESPN also reported that C.J. Spiller, the former Buffalo Bills speedster who is one of the top remaining free agent backs, will be in New Orleans today to meet with Saints’ officials.
The developments probably mean that it would be a good time for the Ravens to lock up their own free agent back, Justin Forsett. Now that the Ravens have a little cap room, that’s been the priority. However, the market may dictate that they move fast. The last thing that the Ravens may want is one of the teams who miss out on Murray or Spiller to throw a bunch of money at Forsett.
That being said, the Ravens still appear to be the best fit for Forsett. The Washington Redskins have expressed interest, but I don’t know why Forsett, who yearned for a starting role for so long, would want to be a backup behind Alfred Morris.
The Atlanta Falcons make some sense and their offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, advocates the blocking scheme that Forsett thrived in last season. However, the Falcons already have two smaller backs in Devonta Freeman and Antone Smith.
The Jacksonville Jaguars could use a workhorse back but they released Forsett about a year ago. The Oakland Raiders? Forsett went to college in the Bay Area and the Raiders have a ton of money at their disposal. Forsett would be an ideal guy to mentor young running back Latavius Murray. But the Raiders also are a ways away from being a playoff-caliber team.
The Ravens, however, can offer an opportunity to be the primary back for a playoff team. They also have a good offensive line and a young fullback in Kyle Juszczyk who should get better as he gets stronger. If the money is right – and that’s certainly no sure thing – the Ravens would seem to have an advantage on the rest of the field.
I can’t say for sure what the Ravens would do if they lost Forsett, but they’d still have some OK options. Stevan Ridley, the former New England Patriots back who tore up his knee last season, could be a low-risk, high-reward signing. Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas, both threats out of the backfield, would be nice fits in Marc Trestman’s offense. Ahmad Bradshaw, Darren McFadden and Knowshon Moreno are all injury prone, but they are talented and should come cheap.
Don’t misunderstand, I think it’s important that the Ravens re-sign Forsett. I’m just saying that it wouldn’t be panic time if they didn’t. With Lorenzo Taliaferro and Bernard Pierce, their cupboard is not bare at the position. The Ravens also figure to spend one of their 10 picks on a running back as this year’s draft features a dynamic class.
** Any time I tweet about the Ravens needs or holes, I get a boatload of responses that usually include the message: “In Ozzie We Trust.”
OK, I get it. But it still is pretty stunning that already this offseason, the Ravens have lost a starting wide receiver (Torrey Smith), the starting tight end (Owen Daniels), the starting defensive tackle (Haloti Ngata), a starting defensive end (Chris Canty), their best interior pass rusher (Pernell McPhee) and their Pro Bowl-caliber kick returner (Jacoby Jones).
It’s easy to forget the attrition that the team suffers every offseason and yet they’ve made the playoffs six out of past seven seasons. General manager Ozzie Newsome and company again have a lot of work to do and it’s going to be real interesting to see how they build back up the roster.
** The free agent tight end market is particularly thin, but one new addition to it yesterday would be a logical fit for the Ravens. Scott Chandler, who was released by the Buffalo Bills, has caught 180 passes and 17 touchdowns over the past four seasons.
He’s durable, having missed just three games during that span. He is 29 years old and he should come with a reasonable price tag. Chandler gets low marks for his blocking, but second-year tight end Crockett Gillmore can occupy more of a blocking role.
What the Ravens really need at the position is a pass-catching and red-zone threat to replace some of Daniels’ production and fill the void if Dennis Pitta is unable to play in 2015. And Chandler, because he was released, won’t cost the Ravens a compensatory pick, which is significant to them.
** My colleague Aaron Wilson reported Wednesday that the Ravens are still trying to re-sign backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who is on a free-agent visit with the Buffalo Bills.
I gather that surprised some people, given that Taylor hasn’t shown a whole lot in limited action. It, however, does make sense.
One, the Ravens, buoyed by Joe Flacco’s durability, don’t want to pay good money for a backup quarterback, so that probably rules out a couple of the more accomplished options, like Matt Moore and Michael Vick.
Two, there are just not a whole lot of competent backup quarterbacks available. Three, Taylor is reliable and a hard worker whose athleticism and skill set provides some good practice looks for the Ravens’ defense.
And finally, Taylor and Flacco are very close and it’s important that the starter can trust and confide in the backup.