Heading into 2014, Ben Tate was the biggest name free agent running back on the market. After years of successfully backing up Arian Foster in Houston, Tate showed a decent amount of promise and had earned a chance for a starting role somewhere in the league.
With an extension in Houston not a foreseeable option, the 25-year-old Tate hit the open market and agreed to terms with the Cleveland Browns on a two-year, $6.2 million deal three days after free agency began. Tate would eventually lose his starting job in Cleveland, was released and had stints with the Vikings and Steelers before the Ravens knocked them out of the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
If the NFL has shown anything, running backs are a dime a dozen, depleting the open market for big-money contracts. Add in the fact that there's a severe drop-off for backs over the age of 30, it'll be hard for Ravens running back Justin Forsett to cash in for a major deal in what will likely be his final contract in the league.
The 29-year-old journeyman running back was undoubtedly the Ravens MVP and had an unheard of season for someone heading into their seventh season with a stat-line that never cracked 1,000 all-purpose yards, epecially not even getting close after his rookie season. Forsett was brought into Baltimore by former Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak to teach his system to the backfield. Once Ray Rice served his two-game suspension, it was figured that Forsett would likely be released.
Instead, Forsett will be playing in Sunday's Pro Bowl due to his Top 5 rushing performance (1,266 yards) and eight touchdowns on the season.
Forsett took to the internet to blog about his future in Baltimore.
This is a team and an organization that allowed me to go out and show what I could do, that trusted me and believed in me. I would love to stay a Raven, but there’s also a business side to it, and for most of my career, I’ve been on the wrong side of the deal. But whatever the outcome may be, I am at peace because I am trusting that God will lead the way. If he can allow me to go out and have my best season in year 7, when people didn’t even think I’d make the team, then surely he can open up another door for me…be it here or somewhere else. That said, I would like to stay in Baltimore.
For as bad as the Ravens offensive line and backfield was in 2013, everything clicked under Kubiak in 2014, which was a surprise to many. The offensive line allowed the second-fewest sacks in the league and everyone in the Ravens backfield excelled aside from Bernard Pierce, whom has been on a major decline since his sophomore season in the league.
Whether it's the Ravens or any other team in the league that signs Forsett, they'll be taking more of a risk than usual. Forsett will hit the dreaded 30-year-old mark on October 14th, an age that seems to devour careers of running backs, even if they were Pro Bowl caliber the year before. Specifically for the Ravens, having just lost Kubiak to the Denver Broncos as their new head coach, even more questions are evolving about the offense undergoing their fourth coordinator in as many seasons.
While things are looking up for the Ravens offensive line and running game, they still have to be concerned that it could return to their 2013 form, especially under the leadership of offensive line coach Juan Castillo.
I believe that Forsett deserves a two-year deal, regardless of where he ends up. With the Ravens still having $9.5 million tied up in dead money from Ray Rice's cap hit, they're going to have to be even more cautious in their investments in the back field.
They're already paying quite a bit for nothing.
Forsett is a great player and teammate in the locker room. While I'd love for him to be back, it has to be at the right price. Looking at what the Browns gave Ben Tate, a running back that had a better career than Forsett before his contract and five years younger at the time, a two-year, $6.2 million deal seems just about right.
I'd certainly like to have that in my bank account for retirement. Let's see if the Ravens can get it done before Forsett could hit the open market.
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