The NFL free agency signing period begins in one week. We seem to have been spending an extraordinary amount of time lately discussing various veteran running backs and whether or not they fit the New York Giants. Let’s put a bow on that discussion today and summarize all of the available options.
At this point, I am practically turning purple coming up with ways to discuss the Minnesota Vikings’ soon-to-be-free-agent running back.
We know Peterson is interested in the Giants. He keeps making sure the entire world knows that. Are the Giants interested in Peterson, a future Hall of Famer who will be 32 next season?
Former Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride thinks they will be, though he doesn’t believe they would pay a lot of money for him. MMQB’s Peter King thinks the Giants are interested. Vegas oddsmakers think there is a pretty good chance he lands with the Giants. Many lists of potential Peterson landing spots [like this one | and this one] include the Giants.
Coach Ben McAdoo said Wednesday that the Giants will “evaluate” Peterson. That doesn’t mean they will be interested. It also doesn’t mean they won’t be interested.
All I know for sure is what I have said repeatedly — the Giants should not sign Peterson
We talked about Charles on Wednesday. The former Kansas City Chiefs great is, by skill set, a far better fit for the Giants than Peterson. He’s both a runner and receiver and has experience in the West Coast offense, whereas Peterson is an I formation power back.
Thing is, Charles is a 30-year-old back coming off two knee surgeries who duplicates rather than complements the skill sets of the players the Giants already have — Paul Perkins and Shane Vereen.
We are talking specifically about Charles right now, but The Ringer noted this week that both Charles and Peterson are competing with Father Time, who always wins.
The Ringer’s Danny Kelly wrote this about Charles:
He may never regain the explosiveness that he once possessed as a runner, but he’s always been very dangerous out of the backfield as a pass catcher, especially in the screen game (see: his 285 career receptions and 20 touchdowns). He’d make a great complementary back in a number of offenses and could feature either on early downs or on passing downs. Charles’s ability to play in shotgun-heavy looks for pass-happy clubs should attract a more diverse set of suitors than Peterson’s rigid style.
Both Perkins and Vereen already do those things for the Giants.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Murray [free-agent profile] is undoubtedly a back with a skillset different than that of Perkins or Vereen. He is a power back who has had success. He gained 1,066 yards in 2015 and gained 788 yards with 12 touchdown and a 4.0 yards per carry average last season.
There are, however, questions.
Like, why did Murray lose playing time in 2016? Like, why are the Raiders seemingly willing to let a productive 27-year old back go and, if you believe the rumor mill, make a bid for Peterson? Like, is Murray actually worth anywhere near the $6.9 million annual salary Spotrac projects he will receive on the open market?
Here is Levi Damien of SB Nation’s Silver and Black Pride on Murray:
At 6-3, 225 pounds, you won't find many bigger, more imposing backs. Though seldom does it seem like he uses his size to his advantage. He tends to run upright which helps his vision, and he can make some quick cuts for a guy his size, but rarely does he drive through defenders for extra yardage. He ran for over 1000 yards in 2015 as the Raiders' workhorse back and showed promise. But there were too many times where it seemed like he left yards on the field. I wouldn't rule him out as the featured back for a team, although investing in him could be a risk. He enjoyed some fine blocking in Oakland last season which opened some very big holes.
The Raiders are going to let him test the market and if another team is willing to pay more than the Raiders think he's worth, he will be gone. As you probably know, he's from upstate New York, so he'd probably welcome a trip back there as a pro.
The Green Bay Packer fits the veteran power back description at 5-11 and 231 pounds. He has been successful in the offense the Giants run, since it’s the one McAdoo brought with him from Green Bay. In four seasons, Lacy has never averaged less than 4.1 yards per carry. [Full free-agent profile]
NFL.com’s Adam Schein considers Lacy one of the biggest risks among this year’s free agents:
“... if Lacy goes on the cheap, then it will be a worthwhile flier. After all, the guy is still just 26 years old and was averaging a career-high 5.1 yards per carry before hitting injured reserve last season.
But you simply cannot pay him anything approaching big bucks. Or bank on him to be the lead dog at running back. Don't foolishly pay for the 2,317 yards and 20 touchdowns Lacy piled up in his first two NFL seasons, because that guy hasn't showed up at the office since.”
There are always questions about exactly what Lacy weighs. Last year, when he played only five games due to an ankle injury, is the first time he missed more than one game in a season.
Lacy just might make the most sense of any of the guys we have mentioned.
DeAngelo Williams and LeGarrette Blount are veteran power backs who could be available. If we want to just name drop, Rex Burkhead, Jacquizz Rodgers, Christine Michael are among recognizable names on the market.
If the Giants don’t make a run at Lacy I’m not really sure they will end up having legitimate interest in any of the veteran backs. At least not legitimate enough interest to spend significant money.
Personally, I’m fine with that.
The 2017 NFL Draft is flush with running backs, with CBS Sports having draftable grades on 28 backs. If the Giants don’t go for a do-everything weapon like Christian McCaffrey of Stanford in the first round they can get a power back later. The names I keep hearing are Corey Clement of Wisconsin, James Conner of Pittsburgh [draft profile] and D’Onta Foreman of Texas [draft profile].
Point is, I believe the Giants can find a back to complement what they already have without overspending or hoping they can get something from a fading superstar.