What will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers do with their backfield in 2011? Currently, the Buccaneers have six running backs on their roster, although one of those backs finished the season on the injured reserve list. Two of the six backs are also heading on the wrong side of 30 years of age.
The running game for the Buccaneers was a surprising strength of the team in 2010, as the Buccaneers finished the campaign with the 8th best rushing offense in the NFL do in large part to rookie LeGarrette Blount. Blount, signed as a free agent after the Tennessee Titans released him, became only the second undrafted free agent to rush for over 1,000 yards. Blount will be the focal point of the Buccaneers rushing attack in 2011, but it’s his supporting cast which remains in doubt.
Carnell “Cadillac” Williams is slated to become a free agent if and when the free agency period starts this offseason. Williams is longer longer the productive rookie that Bucs fans saw in 2005, but he remains a fan favorite. He produced nearly 800 all purpose yards in 2010 and became the Buccaneers featured third down back as he excelled in pass blocking of Josh Freeman. Williams will be 29 in April and is coming off two major knee surgeries. It is hard to guage what sort of interest Williams would generate on the open market. I’m certain that the Buccaneers would love to have Williams back, but at what cost?
Earnest Graham is another fan favorite in Tampa Bay and has demonstrated over his career that he is a truly unselfish player, eager to do anything he is asked. Graham is the epitome of versitility. He can be a feature back, he can play fullback and block or he can catch the ball out of the backfield. However, Graham just turned 31 in January and as the Buccaneers continue their youth movement, either Graham or Williams is likely gone for 2011.
There are three backs on the Buccaneers roster with little or no experience. Kregg Lumpkin, Kareem Huggins and Carlos Brown out of Michigan. Huggins did see some limited action this season before tearing his ACL and being lost for the season. Kregg Lumpkin was acquired from Pittsburgh before the start of the season to replace Clifton Smith in the backfield. Lumpkin is a big back at 5’9″ 230 pounds but only carried the ball once for the Buccaneers all season. Brown was a four year starter for the Michigan Wolverines and rushed for 1,025 yards and 8 scores in that time.
Two or three of these roster positions could be in doubt, so I look for the Buccaneers to use a 5th round or later pick on a running back in the upcoming draft.