EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 23: Mike Tolbert #35 of the San Diego Chargers scores a second quarter touchdown against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on October 23, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
With the announcement that he intends to retire after his only season on the Baltimore Ravens, the void left by Ricky Williams will need to be filled by the team. Second year RB Anthony Allen seems to think he can be that guy and while he does have the measurements in size to meet the requirements of what the Ravens will be looking for, he missed most of his rookie season due to injury and it appears unlikely that the team will go into the 2012 season with their hopes riding on him.
Then again, if you had asked most fans if they thought the team would go into the 2011 season with only rookie QB Tyrod Taylor as starter Joe Flacco's backup, most would have said "no way." However, with the value of a free agent backup running back not as high as in past years, there is a decent chance the Ravens can find one to complement Rice at at decent price.
The issue that plagued Baltimore during last season was their inability to get that one yard or so on key third downs and against the goal line. They missed the scoring skills of RB Willis McGahee and the bull-like abilities of FB LeRon McClain, both gone from the team in free agency prior to the season. With no big back on the team, they either failed to make that short gain or were forced to throw instead.
Therefore, a big back to succeed on third and short or at the goal line would be a great complement to Ray Rice, and there are a few veteran free agents that will be available beginning on March 13th. Signing one to either work alongside of Anthony Allen or even compete with him for the backup role would mean one less draft pick to spend on a running back.
According to a story on NFL.com, the bigger backs that appear headed to the open market include the Oakland Raiders Michael Bush (6'1", 245 lbs.), Cleveland Browns RB Peyton Hillis (6'2", 250 lbs.), San Diego Charger RB Mike Tolbert (5'9", 243 lbs.), Cincinnati Bengals RB Cedric Benson (5'11", 227 lbs.), and former Ravens FB LeRon McClain (6', 260 lbs.). Bush, Hillis and Tolbert are all basically the same age (26, 27) with four years of NFL experience. Benson is a bit smaller than the others and of course, McClain is more of a fullback but obviously can carry the ball as he proved during his previous stint in Baltimore.
From a pure size standpoint, the best match for the Ravens appears to be Bush, Hillis, Tolbert or McClain, with Bush and Tolbert my choice as the type of back who can bull forward to gain that one yard the team so desperately needs.The price they will command as well as their willingness to accept a backup role will have a lot to do with the ability to sign one of them. However, the possibility of being on a team that could get them a chance at a Super Bowl ring has to be worth something, right?
Which free agent running back would you prefer to see backing up Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice?
Michael Bush (Oakland) (35 votes)
Peyton Hillis (Cleveland) (56 votes)
Mike Tolbert (San Diego) (37 votes)
Cedric Benson (Cincinnati) (16 votes)
LeRon McClain (Kansas City) (66 votes)
Stick with Anthony Allen (Ravens) (49 votes)
Other (1 vote)
260 total votes