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Free Agent Running Backs (Pre-Franchise Tags)

The San Diego Chargers will probably need to sign a free agent Running Back. Who is out there and who fits the Chargers' needs best?

Mike Ehrmann

With the news that the Miami Dolphins plan to let Running Back Reggie Bush hit free agency, I thought it might be a good time to look through all of the running backs that are set to hit the market.

The running backs on the San Diego Chargers' roster for 2013 are as follows:

  • Ryan Mathews
  • Le'Ron McClain
  • Edwin Baker

So, if nothing else, the team will need to either re-sign or replace Ronnie Brown as the 3rd Down Back and backup to Mathews. I'd also say that the team would be looking for someone to fill the role that Jackie Battle had in 2012 of "power back" that wears down opposing defenses late in games, but if they're trying to switch to a zone-blocking scheme that seems less likely. Let's go shopping.

  • Reggie Bush, Miami Dolphins - I like this a lot. Bush grew up in San Diego before going to USC for a fantastic college career that lead to him being the #2 overall selection for the New Orleans Saints in the 2006 NFL Draft. Bush never became the Hall of Fame Running Back that many thought he could be, but he has proven himself to be a valuable weapon and even a viable fill-in for an injured starter.
  • Cedric Benson, Green Bay Packers - Washed up. Bad hands. No thanks.
  • LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (RFA) - Hmmmm, I wouldn't be opposed to giving him a shot as a rotation guy, as long as the Bucs don't want a ton in return (he's a restricted free agent).
  • Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys - Not sure about his blocking, but I love his hands and he's capable of being a starter for a few weeks if he can manage to stay healthy. I wouldn't mind this one bit.
  • Peyton Hillis, Kansas City Chiefs - A bit of a headcase, but a fine RB in the right system. Whether or not this is the system, I don't know, but I seem to remember the Broncos and Cardinals being interested in Hillis last offseason.
  • Shonn Greene, New York Jets - With Rex's job on the line, I don't see how they let Greene walk out the door in New York.
  • Lance Ball, Denver Broncos (RFA) - Can't imagine the Broncos would be comfortable letting Ball go, with Willis McGahee getting up there in age, but McCoy would probably be interested.
  • Chris Ivory, New Orleans Saints (RFA) - I wouldn't mind Ivory. Not stoked enough to be giving up draft picks for him, though.
  • LaRod Stephens-Howling, Arizona Cardinals - A favorite of Ken Whisenhunt's in Arizona. He'd be a pretty good fit in San Diego.
  • Danny Woodhead, New England Patriots - If he's not a Patriot next season, I will be shocked.
  • Ronnie Brown, San Diego Chargers - Had a solid year, but didn't blow anyone away with his performance.

What's the final verdict? Who is my favorite? Which of these should the San Diego Chargers target? Well, seeing as how Running Backs are a dime a dozen in the NFL, the answer is "Whichever one is cheapest."

The Chargers should be able to find at least one good RB in the draft, but they probably want to grab a free agent to make sure that they have someone on the roster that can pass block and has starting RB experience to prove that they can handle the load and spotlight if/when Ryan Mathews breaks (and nobody seems to trust McClain to be that guy ever again). That's pretty much everyone on that list.

My best guess of who actually lands on the team is LaRod Stephens-Howling, assuming he's a decent pass-blocker. He would also add depth to the team's return specialists.

Which free agent Running Back do you think the Chargers should go after?