5 Free Agents Who’d Complement Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson

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Tennessee Titans Need an Affordable Backup for Chris Johnson, But Who?

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

That idiom fits for NFL teams who get their rushing production from a stable of running backs. It also prolongs their careers. Fewer carries equals fewer hits. Fewer hits equals better health at an older age.

The Tennessee Titans drafted Chris Johnson in the 2008 NFL Draft. For two seasons, Johnson teamed up with LenDale White. These running backs formed what was known as “Smash and Dash.” They earned this nickname because of their contrasting styles: power and speed.

Along with a great defense, Johnson and White were largely responsible for a 2008-09 season that ended with the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. As a rookie who split carries, Johnson had 1,228 rushing yards. Although White had fewer carries and yards, he had 15 rushing touchdowns, many of which came at the goal line.

White was traded in 2010. Since then, Johnson hasn’t had that type of partner. In fact, he hasn’t had any partner in crime. Javon Ringer and Jamie Harper aren’t the change-of-pace backs that should complement Johnson. Neither are useful toward the goal line.

A power running back is an affordable, yet necessary addition this off-season. As Johnson turns 28 years old in September, it’s time to start reducing his carries. The Titans need another option because there are games when Johnson’s style doesn’t work. Those are the games when a power running back would keep this offense from going one-dimensional.

Here are five free agents who the Titans could consider. These players are listed in alphabetical order via last name, not by personal preference.

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Cedric Benson (Unrestricted Free Agent)

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Does Cedric Benson have anything left? In 2012, Benson didn’t find work until the second week of the preseason. The Green Bay Packers signed him for the veteran’s minimum. He became the workhorse back until a Lisfranc injury ended his season in Week 5.

Benson is a violent runner who, while he isn’t as much of a bruiser as some of the other players on this list, is more of a complete running back. If Johnson were to go down with injury, Benson is capable of carrying the load. He’s also effective in pass protection.

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LeGarrette Blount (Restricted Free Agent)

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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Titans fans may remember LeGarrette Blount from 2010. Despite an impressive preseason, Blount didn’t make the 53-man roster. He’d sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he’d become a starter for two seasons.

In 2012, Blount lost his starting job to rookie Doug Martin. Blount played just 8.8 percent of the Buccaneers’ 2012 snaps.

Will the Buccaneers tender him an offer? They may decide to move forward without the oft-troubled running back.

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Shonn Greene (Unrestricted Free Agent)

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Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Shonn Greene may not re-sign with the New York Jets. At age 27, the 226-pound running back comes off a season when he had averaged 3.9 yards per carry on 276 attempts. During the 2009-10 season, he was an effective complement to LaDainian Tomlinson.

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Peyton Hillis (Unrestricted Free Agent)

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Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

At 6'2" and 250 pounds, Peyton Hillis is the exact opposite style of running back who could recreate “Smash and Dash.” He’s also been highly successful against the Indianapolis Colts. In two games since the 2011-12 season, Hillis has 42 carries for 195 yards and two touchdowns.

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Chris Ivory (Restricted Free Agent)

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Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

How many running backs does a team need? In 2012, the New Orleans Saints had a backfield that consisted of Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, Travaris Cadet and Chris Ivory. Ivory is considered no better than No. 4 on their depth chart.

The Saints may not pay an estimated $2 million for a running back who has durability issues. Depending on what kind of tender offer that Ivory receives, some teams may pursue him. Ivory combines the power and speed that the Titans could use behind Johnson.


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