Free agency can be a tricky off-season stage for the Detroit Lions. While winning franchises are historically built through the draft, acquiring a quality free agent can be beneficial as well.
There are plenty of available options who could be worth the gamble for the Lions, but none of them are at the running back position. The running game without question needs immense fixing, but it can’t start with players like Adrian Peterson or Jamaal Charles.
Detroit’s running game suffered last season due to a lack of talent, as well as availability. The starting core of backs missed a total of 24 total games last season which included losing Ameer Abdullah in Week 2 to a broken foot. That resorted to the 25-year-old Zach Zenner, who in fairness is best suited as a backup, having to carry the majority of the load,
The backfield is already plagued with injuries, so why add an aging veteran with injury history?
Peterson turns 32 on March 21 and Charles will turn 31 on December 27. The prime of those two is well behind them, with Father Time and bad knee injuries in their present worries.
Running backs are becoming expendable commodities as the NFL continues to evolve as a passing league. Not many backs are bound to carry the ball 300+ times like Ezekiel Elliot did last season as a rookie. New England’s LeGarrette Blount was one carry shy of 300 but still played in the popular committee backfield with two other vital players.
The Lions should do everything necessary to steer clear of any veteran free agent running back, especially those over the age of 30. Even younger veterans like Latavius Murray should be far off Detroit’s board.
There’s a strong chance that the Lions could settle with the backs on their roster given their crowded depth. If they were to gamble on a new feature back, it would happen at the NFL Draft in April. Betting on a player beginning their career with fresh legs makes better sense than taking a chance on a short-term fix with an aging player.
Detroit is currently in position for postseason contention, but they need to continue investing in their future. The Lions are not a franchise where they can address weaknesses with a quick-fix star addition. General manager Bob Quinn had a successful first year with his draft class and must repeat with more quality talent to develop.
So while a star name might sound intriguing in theory, it’s a bad idea for Detroit. Teams are bound to overpay for players like Charles and Peterson, but the Lions don’t need to be one of them.