While I don’t really expect the Redskins to sign anyone or even trade for a running back to replace rookie Derrius Guice, they need to keep the option open. No single back they find is likely to come close to replacing Guice who had a realistic chance to be a top 10 back statistically this season, but a committee approach could be passable. It’s possible the Redskins stick with their internal options and that might end up being the best solution in the end, but if they were to look to bring in a free agent their options are pretty limited:
– Morris hasn’t drawn much interest despite performing well while replacing Zeke Elliott last season. Morris is well known (and loved) by the Redskins fan base after three straight 1,000 yard seasons to start his career. Gruden and some of the coaching staff had him for two years at the start of their Redskins tenure, but they seemed eager to move on from him. I think there is a real concern with the Redskins (and much of the rest of the league) that Morris is just too much of a one dimensional back for today’s NFL. In six seasons including 69 career starts, Morris has 1,262 carries, but just 82 career targets (catches are only 57). That is tough for teams to swallow as they want their backs to be involved in the passing game, not only to create mismatches with linebackers, but so as to not tip off the defense what the play call is. While there are some understandable concerns with Morris, he is someone the Redskins should consider bringing in.
-Darkwa has only had one season where he’s had any sort of feature back work and he did a decent job, posting 750 yards and a 4.4 ypc last year for the Giants. Considering how bad the Giants offensive line was a year ago those numbers are even more impressive. While he hasn’t had a ton of passing game involvement in his career, Darkwa has done an okay job in this area. Though probably never capable of being a full time feature back, Darkwa showed enough to warrant a committee role or quality back-up option. The Redskins should definitely at least consider him if they are unsure of their current backs.
– Peterson will go down as one of the greatest running backs of all-time, but it’s likely that his years of a feature back have passed him by. He led the league in rushing yards and TDs just 3 years ago in 2015, but since then he’s dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness. The other issue with Peterson is he’s so one dimensional. In all this time in the league he’s managed just 2,015 receiving yards. If the team is concerned that a back like Alfred Morris is too much of a tell for opposing defenses, than Peterson definitely is.
-Charles still hasn’t retired yet, but Alex Smith‘s former backfield mate is nearing the end of his once promising career. If not for multiple ACL injuries Charles could have been an all-time great back. Charles has clearly lost a step, and is a major injury concern. He would likely come pretty cheap and obviously has plenty of familiarity with Alex Smith. Charles managed just 296 yards last season, but did average a respectable 4.3 ypc. He can still contribute some in the passing game as well, but is clearly not the dynamic player he once was.
– Murray announced his retirement right before the start of camp, but multiple reports suggest that he still wants to play and would consider the right opportunity. Though coming off a year where he averaged just 3.6 ypc, in 2016 Murray was highly effective rushing for 1,287 yards at 4.4 ypc and adding another 377 yards on 52 receptions. Murray can still be effective in spurts and could be a solid piece as part of a 2 or 3 man committee approach. He’s a balanced back who can be effective as a receiver as well (though not a dynamic player), so he doesn’t have the same concern as a Morris or Peterson of being too one dimensional. If the Redskins start looking at external options, Murray could possibly make the most sense all-around.
– Forte is likely completely done with the game as he retired soon after the season and there has been little to suggest he’d be interesting in making a comeback. Forte was a 5 time 1,000 yard back who also ws highly effective as a receiver out of the backfield. Though he’s been declining of late and dealt with some knee issues, he’s still been decent when on the field the past few years. I see little chance of him coming back, but if the Redskins get desperate they should check in on him.
There are no great options here for the Redskins, but I do think at least a plausible case can be made that Morris, Darkwa or Murray would be an upgrade for the Washington offense. They won’t come close to replacing the upside of Guice this season, but they can help ensure the Redskins rushing attack is at least league average or maybe slightly better. I still would consider it as unlikely that the Redskins go this route, but it should at least be considered.
Update: With Morris signed elsewhere the Redskins best option would be Darkwa. They clearly need a running back now given the recent injuries to Perine, Marshall and UDFA Martez Carter, so this is no longer a long shot. Jamaal Charles is also being brought in for a workout, but he doesn’t seem to have much left in the tank.