8 Free Agent Running Backs Who New York Giants Could Target
8 Free-Agent Running Backs that New York Giants Could Target
Roll on up for the casting calls; yes, that’s right, the New York Giants are holding auditions for depth at their running back position once more in 2013.
Whether it be the sustained All-Pro production of Tiki Barber, the three-headed monster dubbed "Earth, wind and fire" or the little 'n large combination that brought home a fourth Super Bowl trophy, the running back position has been a comforting formality for the G-Men for the best part of 15 years; all of a sudden, it’s the most problematic and borderline-farcical issue facing coach Tom Coughlin and his staff.
The Giants' 2013 backfield corps has a circus-like feel to it: They let go of a 1,000-yard -- albeit injury prone -- rusher in Ahmad Bradshaw to ride with a first-round draft pick that can’t keep hold of the ball, Brandon Jacobs was let go after winning a Super Bowl and did nothing for a year before being called back as an emergency option and the whole Da’Rel Scott fiasco has left the Giants’ hierarchy with more than a little egg on their faces. Scott, who began the season as No. 2 on the depth chart, was cut after starting his first game in the NFL; he was then subsequently re-signed before being waived for a second time after tweaking a hamstring in his limited involvement in Week 6.
Although the team currently has four running backs included in the 53-man roster, just one of them was able to practice in the build-up to Week 7. David Wilson is out for up to four weeks with a neck injury, Brandon Jacobs was given additional time to rest those ancient legs after his start on Thursday night and Andre Brown is stuck on IR leaving rookie sixth-round draft pick Michael Cox as the lone ranger of the backfield.
It’s difficult to put an accurate number on Wilson’s return given the tenderness of his injury. The tenderness of Jacobs’ years creates plentiful doubt on how long he can sustain the kind of workload he faced in Week 6, and with the universal doubts over a rookie’s discipline as a regular starter, it seems the Giants may have to dip into the free agent market as a short-term fix to their tumultuous situation.
Luckily for the Giants, there are plenty of options that are at least worth consideration. In fact, you may be surprised at why some of the names on our list are still without a team given the state of the run game in a few of the NFL teams this year. Being free agents in Week 7 of the regular season, very few of our candidates are in a position to dictate negotiation, so the upside is that they would be available at a budget-friendly price.
So, there may yet be light at the end of the tunnel. How can the Giants fix their injury-ravaged, ailing, 30th-ranked rushing offense? Read on.
Has there been a bigger fall from grace in the NFL in the past decade?
The man needs no introduction. Peyton Hillis was a phenomenon in his third year as a pro. After two nondescript seasons with the Denver Broncos, the seventh-round draft pick burst onto the scene after moving to the Cleveland Browns in 2010. Such was his contribution that season, he made into a select group of footballers and onto the front cover of the Madden video game franchise.
Where that Peyton Hillis has been since is a mystery, but we all know that somewhere deep down inside is a man who once rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns in a single season.
Hillis is rumored to be working out with the New York Giants as we speak.
Danny 'DJ' Ware
Another who is reportedly back in practice with the Giants, Danny Ware spent four seasons with the team after going undrafted in 2007. The upside to taking Ware being that there would be a minimal settling-in period as he is already very familiar with the coaches, facilities and the majority of the surrounding personnel. If the Giants do end up signing a free agent, it is likely to be for nothing more than a supporting role to make up the numbers behind Jacobs, Brown and Cox; for that reason, D.J. Ware seems the most risk-free candidate.
Torain is another who is familiar with the scenery in and around the Meadowlands after spending time with the Giants in 2012-13.
Having already filled a similar role to the one in question, i.e. a stop-gap due to injury, Torain practiced with the Giants throughout the summer before being cut at the beginning of the 2013 season.
Torain showed glimpses of his ability in 2010 rushing for 742 yards and four touchdowns as the Washington Redskins feature back during eight games as a starter; useful and amicable statistics to say the least.
Once the scorer of the winning touchdown in an NFC Championship game as a rookie, all has gone quiet in the Tim Hightower camp over the last few seasons.
With a tantalizing blend of power and the ability to make lung-bursting runs downfield, Hightower had all the attributes to be a major success in the NFL. After being traded to the Washington Redskins in 2011, his season was cut short by the perilous torn ACL injury.
He hasn't featured in the league since and was reported to be visiting the Giants at the beginning of 2013 training camp. Hightower will feel he still has something to offer, especially as a potential third- or fourth-choice rusher.
Chris 'Beanie' Wells
Chris Wells is another running back bursting with potential who once promised so much, only to be cast aside into obscurity for various reasons.
Wells was the first-round pick in the NFL Draft for the Arizona Cardinals just four seasons ago. Although sporadic, his form at times showcased his evident ability to be a leading running back in the NFL. Wells sets a franchise record in 2011 when he ran for 228 yards in a single game and is another free agent with at least one 1,000-plus-rushing-yard season to his name.
If Wells can prove his fitness and desire, there is arguably no better place for a running back to ignite a fledgling career than in New York with a team that places a great emphasis on running the ball as part of their offense.
Granted, perhaps his time with the Atlanta Falcons was rightly coming to an end, but how somebody can't get a gig in the league after an 800-yard, 10-touchdown season is beyond belief.
His production in the Atlanta offense was considerably down on the season before (540 yards to be exact), yet Michael Turner remains a very capable running back in the NFL. For his first four years under the dome in Georgia, he was one of the best, most notably in 2008 when he amassed a staggering 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns -- second only to Adrian Peterson in the entire league.
The idea of Turner as a third- or even fourth-choice back on the depth chart is unthinkable as he still evidently has the prowess to do a job in the right offense. His remaining shelf-life may be limited, but if he make himself available at the right price, there is little doubt that Turner could still be a difference-maker in this league.
Not a name that will have been banded about too much, if at all, regarding the current vacancies with the New York Giants.
In four seasons as a pro, Ball has accumulated just 1,031 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns, so it's agreed he is far from the standout candidate on this list.
Though it may be a little naive to even suggest this as a factor, don't dismiss it outright -- Ball was born and raised in New Jersey and graduated from Teaneck High School with 39 touchdowns to his name. Being a native of the Garden State, his affiliation with the New York Giants is apparent. What better way to inspire the most out of a professional than to give him the chance to represent his hometown team?
Second only to Michael Turner as the most-decorated of all our candidates, Cedric Benson brings eight years of experience, 6,017 rushing yards and 32 touchdown runs to the table.
In truth, he was on to a bit of a loser in 2012 when he left the Cincinnati Bengals on the notion of being the missing piece of the puzzle as far as the Green Bay Packers' offense was concerned. Benson was integral to the Bengals and departed on the back of three consecutive 1,000-plus-yard seasons.
Benson was cited by Bengals' chief Marvin Lewis for his negative attitude when the team opted not to re-sign him for 2012. Though, if he can remain grounded and realistic -- which would be a necessity for Tom Coughlin -- the Giants could certainly use the abundance of ability that's currently going to waste on the Benson family sofa.