Now that the Denver Broncos have released RB Willis McGahee it's time to look at potential landing spots for the veteran back. After his release McGahee mentioned a few teams on his wish list. "There are a lot of places I wouldn't mind playing. You got Miami, Dallas, Green Bay, San Diego, Oakland. That's not necessarily my order of preference, though. All of those teams I mentioned I would go to with no problems," he said. There are needs at the RB position with all of those teams, but which one is the best fit? Let's take a closer look.
The Dolphins are moving forward with Lamar Miller as their starter. Miller is an electric playmaker who is dangerous in the open field and reminded many in the scouting community of former Broncos/Redskins RB Clinton Portis. Behind Miller they have third-year RB Daniel Thomas and rookie Mike Gillislee (Florida). Thomas has not impressed during his short time in the NFL but reports out of minicamp say he's getting a few reps with the first-team. Gillislee is a good all-round back who compares closely to Knowshon Moreno (Broncos) because of his ability in pass protection and as a receiver out of the backfield. McGahee would be an upgrade over either of those backs and could give the team veteran insurance they don't have right now at the position. He played his college ball at the University of Miami and could feel right at home with the Dolphins. The Dolphins have one of the most unproven backfields in the league and could take a look at McGahee if the price is right.
The Cowboys are an interesting team to consider here. They have Demarco Murray as their starter and he's a quality runner when healthy. In the fifth-round of the 2013 NFL draft they selected Joseph Randle (Oklahoma State) to compete for the primary backup job behind Murray. With Felix Jones (Eagles) moving on in free agency it means Randle will have to compete with guys like Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner for that job. Randle has incredible straight line speed and is difficult to catch from behind. However, he's not a disciplined runner and lacks the frame to add more muscle. Durability is also already a concern with Randle as he is still recovering from offseason thumb surgery. Even Murray has been banged up this offseason with a minor hamstring injury. The Cowboys believe they're in a playoff window right now. Having this group of injury riddled backs won't help their situation. Adding a veteran like McGahee would make sense.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers haven't had a 100-yard rusher in 43 consecutive regular season games (more than twice as long as any other active streak in the NFL) and upgrading their ground game was a big focus this offseason. The Packers’ group of running backs combined for 12 rushing touchdowns over the last three seasons, the fewest in the NFL. They also are averaging 3.8 yards per rush over that span (tied for last in the league), and have been worse at gaining yards after contact each season compared to the rest of the league. That could all change if second-round pick Eddie Lacy (Alabama) can stay healthy. Lacy was arguably the top back in this draft class but fell to the Packers because of durability concerns. He's got good footwork and is a downhill runner with 64.7 percent of his rushes coming between the tackles. Lacy averaged 7.6 yards per carry on such running plays with about one in every four attempts going for at least 10 yards at Alabama. In addition to Lacy the team also selected Johnathan Franklin (UCLA) in the fourth-round of the 2013 NFL draft. Franklin is a good all-purpose back who runs bigger than his size and can be a reliable receiver out of the backfield. Add in veterans James Starks, Alex Green, and DuJuan Harris and this is one cramped backfield. The Packers didn't bring free agent Cedric Benson back this offseason so adding McGahee doesn't make a lot of sense.
The Raiders are a team that has always welcomed veteran players near the end of their careers. They are also a team with one of the most injury prone starters at running back in the league. Darren McFadden is a fantastic player but he's never played more than 13 games in any season during his pro career. He is entering the final year of his contract in 2013 and would like to finally make it through a whole year. It would be foolish to think that THIS is the year McFadden actually plays a full season. The team added veteran Rashad Jennings in free agency this offseason. The former Jacksonville back had fallen out of favor with the Jaguars and is looking for a fresh start with the Raiders. He struggled through injuries last season and needs to prove that he can stay healthy as well. In the sixth-round of the 2013 NFL draft the team selected Latavius Murray from Central Florida. Murray is a big back with a swift style and he's difficult to bring down when he builds a head of steam. Murray is an interesting player to watch given McFadden's injury history but is already banged up with a foot injury in minicamp. If McGahee signed in Oakland there's a very good chance he could start a handful of games in 2013. He has a connection on the staff as Raiders head coach Dennis Allen used to be the Broncos defensive coordinator in 2011.
San Diego Chargers
The Chargers could be the best fit for McGahee. Their starter Ryan Mathews has been average at best, struggling with durability and confidence issues during his pro career. Behind Mathews the team added Danny Woodhead in free agency and we may see him play a bigger change of pace role than some people think. Veteran Ronnie Brown rounds out the running back corps and fullback Le'Ron McClain is there to blast open holes. Brown isn't the same player he used to be and lacks the power of a back like McGahee. McClain and McGahee were teammates with the Ravens from 2007-2010. In fact, McClain blocked for McGahee during his 1,200 yard season in 2007. That's not the only connection for McGahee. New Chargers head coach Mike McCoy was the Broncos' offensive coordinator from 2009-2012 and knows McGahee well. McCoy could trust McGahee as a veteran backup and known how to use him in a power back (or starting) role. This could be where we see McGahee end up for training camp.
When McGahee reported to Broncos minicamp he was asked about how much he had left in the tank. "I have a lot. With the new [way] we do practice and stuff, it';s totally different than when I first came in. We [used to] hit every day, two times a day. It has taken a toll." McGahee said.
He also commented on how he loves to prove people wrong. "I think if I didn't have that motivation I probably would be done by now. But there are people out there that have their doubts. My job is to prove them wrong."
Finally, McGahee also talked about his health status. "I'm healthy, I'm cleared. Everything is good. No problems. I can run. I've been working out when I was in Miami. I've dropped down (weight). No complaints."
No, McGahee is no longer the player he once was. However, he could still play a key role for a team in need out there. McGahee has enough left in the tank that he would be relevant for fantasy owners no matter where he lands. As we get closer to training camp keep McGahee on your radar. He could be an important late-round draft pick or waiver wire addition for your fantasy team in 2013.
More from Cecil Lammey:
The Audible LIVE! 7/18/2013 NFL News & Notes - July 19
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The Audible LIVE! 7/11/2013 NFL News & Notes - July 12
Who's The Handcuff? - Darren McFadden - July 5
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The Audible: 2013 Beat Writer Tour - Interview with Chargers Beat Writer Michael Gehlken - June 25
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