Analysis: If we learned anything about NFL running backs this offseason, it’s that they are highly replaceable. That is how franchises seem to view them, at least.
If we learned anything about NFL running backs this offseason, it’s that they are highly replaceable.
That is how franchises seem to view them, at least, with the Dallas Cowboys allowing DeMarco Murray, who set a team rushing record last season, to slip away to NFC East rival Philadelphia; San Francisco parting ways with offensive fixture Frank Gore; and Super Bowl champion New England bidding adieu to both Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley.
On a grand scale, we witnessed a backfield in motion. Here, in alphabetical order, are the displaced dozen:
REGGIE BUSH (from Detroit to San Francisco): After rolling up 1,006 yards for Detroit in 2013, Bush ran for 297 in 11 games last season and the Lions released him. The 49ers signed the 30-year-old back to a one-year deal.
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GORE (from San Francisco to Indianapolis): Gore intended to sign with Philadelphia but reversed his field and agreed to a three-year deal with the Colts. A busy man in San Francisco’s offense, he rushed for more than 1,000 yards in eight of the last nine seasons.
ROY HELU (from Washington to Oakland): The Raiders signed Helu to a two-year deal on the first day of free agency, adding a running/receiving threat who averaged 8.7 yards per touch last season and figures to complement 230-pound basher Latavius Murray … if Oakland is looking for that type of 1-2 punch.
RYAN MATHEWS (from San Diego to Philadelphia): Mathews signed a three-year deal with the Eagles even after the club signed DeMarco Murray. Thus Philadelphia has the triple threat of Murray, Mathews and Darren Sproles. Of course, there is only one football.
LeSEAN McCOY (from Philadelphia to Buffalo): McCoy was traded by the Eagles, even though he has the NFL’s third-most rushing yards (6,792) and fourth-most rushing touchdowns (44) since Philadelphia took him in the second round in 2009. The Eagles got linebacker Kiko Alonso in the deal.
DARREN McFADDEN (from Oakland to Dallas): McFadden, in his eighth season, didn’t play in a full 16 games until last season. He began the Raiders’ season behind Maurice Jones-Drew, eventually replaced him, but then lost his starting job to Latavius Murray.
DeMARCO MURRAY (from Dallas to Philadelphia): The Eagles signed the 2014 rushing champion to a five-year deal worth a reported $42 million. The team had tried to sign Gore, and former Philadelphia back McCoy said on “The Rich Eisen Show” the Murray signing was “a panic move.”
TRENT RICHARDSON (from Indianapolis to Oakland): Richardson, the No. 3 pick by Cleveland in the 2012 draft, failed to pan out with either the Browns or with the Colts, to whom he was traded in 2013. He will compete for playing time with Latavius Murray and Helu.
RIDLEY (from New England to New York Jets): The Jets declined to exercise their option on Chris Johnson and added Ridley as depth behind Chris Ivory. Ridley, who is coming off major knee surgery, had his best year in 2012, when he rushed for 1,236 yards and 12 touchdowns.
C.J. SPILLER (from Buffalo to New Orleans): Spiller, the No. 9 pick by Buffalo in 2010, is a burner who could thrive playing on that Superdome turf. His 2014 season was cut short by seven games because of a broken collarbone, and he finished with career lows in catches (19) and yards receiving (125).
VEREEN (from New England to New York Giants): Vereen was instrumental in New England’s Super Bowl victory over the Seahawks, making 11 receptions in that game. He is a versatile back and a solid blocker, who provides a change of pace to a roster that includes backs Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams.
DeANGELO WILLIAMS (from Carolina to Pittsburgh): Williams, who was sidelined most of last season because of various injuries, steps into the spot vacated by LeGarrette Blount and behind starter Le’Veon Bell. Williams won’t have to shoulder the load in Pittsburgh the way he did for several seasons with the Panthers.