What to do at RB?
Earnest Graham provided a wonderful storyline for us beat writers covering the Bucs this season. The rags-to-riches tale never gets old.
But now that the season is in the books, the Bucs will have to give a lot of thought to how they proceed at running back. Graham's emergence certainly gives them something to build on. The Bucs appear willing to commit to him as they are already discussing a contract extension. But, if we learned nothing this season, we now know how critical depth is at this all-important position.
For the purposes of this conversation, we will not consider Cadillac Williams because, frankly, I'm not convinced he will help the Bucs in 2008 as his patellar tendon injury really needs a full year to recover from. By then, it'll practically be October. So, let's look at the landscape beyond Williams.
The in-house options include Michael Pittman, though he becomes a free agent in March and it's my understanding that he intends to look around and gauge interest elsewhere. Doesn't mean he won't be back, but there's a chance he might not.
Also currently on the roster is Michael Bennett, who says he wishes to come back to see what he can do with a whole offseason and training camp learning the offense. Whether the Bucs want him back remains to be seen.
Then, there's always the free agency option. Scanning the list of projected free-agent running backs, a couple names caught my eye: Dallas' Julius Jones is one. The 26-year-old didn't put up huge numbers this season, with 588 yards playing behind Marion Barber. But Jones netted a combined 2,077 yards in the previous two seasons. And with Barber coming up on restricted free agency, the Cowboys might not want to invest too much at the position. Another guy whose team will be hard-pressed to keep him: Oakland's Justin Fargas. The Raiders saw Dominic Rhodes break out late in the season and rookie Michael Bush returns in 2008 after a broken leg caused him to miss the season. That might make the Raiders think twice about giving a sizable contract to the 27-year-old Fargas, who rushed for 1,009 yards.
You might prefer I explore the possibilities of adding a sexy name like San Diego's Michael Turner, who also will be a free agent, or the prospect of selecting a back early in the draft. But here's my position on spending lavishly at running back: it's a risky proposition. Running back is a position that is predisposed to injury (see Cadillac). Your investment might turn out to be a lemon, especially when we're talking about a guy like Turner, who has never been a workhorse back because he plays behind LaDainian Tomlinson.
Your money is better spent on a game-breaking receiver or a stout offensive tackle -- though the Bucs appear solid at the latter position. The other part of my argument is this: running backs come a dime a dozen. Just look around the league at how many running backs you've never heard of are giving their teams a consistent rushing attack.
There's no right or wrong answer. This is just my opinion. Of course, I'm the one with the blog, so guess I have the upper hand :) Not to worry. Have your say and I'll chime in later.