The Arizona Cardinals have expressed a desire to add some depth to their backfield this offseason to help their oft-injured depth chart. With the news that the Atlanta Falcons will release Michael Turner to avoid paying him $6.9 million next season, the answer for Arizona’s running back needs may be found via free agency.
When Turner is cut and becomes an unrestricted free agent, the Cardinals should make a very hard run at him to bring him west in 2013.
Turner is obviously “the Burner” no more, as he was when he left the San Diego Chargers in 2007 for Atlanta. Now at 31, he isn’t going to be leading the league in rushing any time soon, and he’s certainly not productive enough to make almost $7 million. In 2012, he started to be used as more of a complementary back as the Falcons’ offense turned to Matt Ryan to carry the load. Turner had fewer than 300 carries over 16 games for the first time since joining the Falcons in 2008, but he was still productive.
The 5-foot-10, 247-pound back finished the year with 222 rushes for 800 yards and 10 touchdowns. His 3.6 yards per attempt average was a career low, but those numbers would be welcome on a Cardinals team whose leading rusher last season was LaRod Stephens-Howling who gained just 357 yards on 111 carries in 14 games. Turner had as many rushing touchdowns as the entire Arizona roster last season as they averaged just 3.4 yards per carry as a unit and ranked No. 32 in the NFL in rushing.
New head coach Bruce Arians could use a better running back to take some of the pressure of his vertical passing attack, especially as he breaks in a new quarterback (more than likely). Turner is just the type of back he’s looking for, too; a tough, strong, between-the-tackles kind of runner who doesn’t need to be a part of the passing game to be productive.
Turner would be in a similar situation he was last season, part of a rushing attack that was merely there to keep defenses honest, but he didn’t seem too put out by that arrangement in Atlanta.
Michael Turner will need a new home, and the market for running backs over 30 isn’t going to be all that active. But for the right price, Arizona could use a veteran workhorse to give their running game a consistent presence and a strong attack between the tackles.