Turner signs with Falcons
Posted Mar. 02 at 12:26 PM
The Falcons on Sunday landed one of the big prizes of free agency, signing Michael Turner to a six-year contract valued at $34.5 million, with $15 million guaranteed. He potentially could energize an Atlanta running game that floundered last year with Warrick Dunn as its lead back. Dunn, who’ll likely be released, is 33 years old and weighs only 180 pounds.
Turner has been an underused backup with the Chargers, logging only 228 carries in four years while backing up LaDainian Tomlinson. But he’s got a nice combination of size (237 pounds), speed and tackle-breaking ability. He averaged at least 5.2 yards per carry in each of his last three seasons with San Diego.
In Atlanta, Turner should be the centerpiece of of the team’s new offense, getting 20-plus carries in a lot of games. The Falcons also have Jerious Norwood, who could be very effective in a change-of-pace role, but Turner should pretty much all the touches he can handle. If the Falcons can give him some adequate blocking and if he can stay healthy, Turner should post very solid fantasy numbers.
And with Turner now off the market, the pool of capable runners who are true free agents is drying up. Jamal Lewis and Justin Fargas have already re-signed with their old teams. The best of the remaining unrestricted free agents are Julius Jones, Chris Brown, T.J. Duckett and Musa Smith. So at this point, the teams that are looking for starting running backs are more likely to be turning their attention to the college draft, which probably features three first-round talents – Darren McFadden, Jonathan Stewart and Rashard Mendenhall.
The rundown on the running backs who are free agents this offseason:
1. Marion Barber (Dall.)
Restricted free agent. Cowboys won’t let him get away.
2. Michael Turner (S.D.)
He’ll start for Falcons, who gave him $15 million guaranteed as part of a $34.5 million contract.
3. Jamal Lewis (Clev.)
Re-signed with Browns; $17 million for three years, with $10 million guaranteed.
4. Justin Fargas (Oak.)
Re-signed with Raiders; $12 million for three years, with $6 million guaranteed.
5. Julius Jones (Dall.)
Unlikely to re-signed with Cowboys. At best, should share time at tailback for some team. A backup-quality back, in our opinion.
6. Greg Jones (Jac.)
Re-signed with Jaguars, who made him league’s highest-paid fullback. He’ll get a few touches (maybe 3-4 TDs) in offense that features Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew.
7. Chris Brown (Tenn.)
Probably will sign with a new team to be an above-average backup. Titans probably will go with LenDale White and Chris Henry as their top 2 tailbacks.
8. T.J. Duckett (Det.)
Ran pretty well during the second half of last season. When he’s in shape, provides a nice combo of size and speed.
9. Musa Smith (Balt.)
Looks great at times but has problems staying healthy.
10. Ron Dayne (Hou.)
Has run well at times for Houston two years in a row. If Texans don’t solve their tailback problems, he might start a few games for them again.
11. Aaron Stecker (N.O.)
Played well filling in for Reggie Bush last season.
12. Tatum Bell (Det.)
Nice speed but doesn’t break enough tackles. At best, an average No. 2 tailback.
13. LaBrandon Toefield (Jac.)
Has been buried behind Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville. Might be an above-average backup tailback for another team.
14. DeShaun Foster (Car.)
Doesn’t break enough tackles and can’t stay healthy. A bust as a starter with Carolina the last two years.
15. Mewelde Moore (Minn.)
Possible backup tailback for some team. Good receiver and can play special teams.
16. Samkon Gado (Mia.)
Possible backup tailback for some team.
17. Michael Bennett (T.B.)
Re-signed with Bucs just before free agency started. Might be their backup.
18. Michael Pittman (T.B.)
Possible backup tailback. Good pass catcher.
19. Jesse Chatman (Mia.)
Played well at times for Dolphins last year. Has had some weight problems.
20. Mike Anderson (Balt.)
At 34, he’s getting awfully long in the tooth.
NOTE: As the reader points out, I've overlooked Derrick Ward. Not sure how that happened, but he is, indeed, an unrestricted free agent. He should be high on the list. Similar in quality, I think, to Julius Jones. Not as proven as Jones, of course, but might be a little better. And DeShaun Foster has signed with San Francisco, where he'll be the backup behind Frank Gore.
--by Ian Allan
Posted by DAVID GARRICK | Mar. 02 at 04:49 PM
Why is Derek Ward not on this list, and why is there no mention that Deshaun Foster signed with San Francisco on Friday?
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