by Kent Sterling
Running backs don’t get healthier with age. Even Ahmad Bradshaw – a 27-year-old coming off a 1,015 yard season for the New York Giants has seen his best days.
The Colts need a little help at running back returning Vick Ballard, Donald Brown, and Delone Carter, none of whom is especially dynamic or likely capable of being the long term answer in the backfield for a team trying to diversify its attack.
The Colts threw a lot last year, ranking sixth in the NFL with 628 pass attempts, but only 17th in yards per attempt. The rushing offense ranked 22nd in yards, and 26th in yards per attempt.
The rushing firm of Ballard, Brown, and Carter distinguished itself only in spurts, but the signing of running backs who have surgery to replace a foot screw in February do not pay quick dividends in September.
The Colts are forced into a position where signing Bradshaw is a consideration because this free agent class intersected with a draft class bereft of great talent at running back. A flawed Eddie Lacy was the best of the draftees, and Bradshaw has been the #1 free agent.
Teams do not let a productive running back hit the open market, and the Giants didn’t just allow it, they forced it by cutting Bradshaw to save roughly $2.5 million against the cap.
Bradshaw’s per carry production receded every year of his career following his rookie season until 2012, when he reverted to his average yards per carry of 4.6.
Franchises in panic work free agency as hard as the Colts are, and the signing of Bradshaw would be a move born of hysteria to try to find a way to prove that the 11-5 record in 2012 was not an aberration, which of course it was.
Math would suggest that the Colts should have won 7.2 games last year, according to pro-football-reference.com. That means the Colts outpaced math by 3.8 wins, which is almost unprecedented for an 11-win team.
A signing like Bradshaw is not unprecedented. In 2011, the St. Louis Rams signed two veteran running backs – Cadillac Williams and Jerious Norwood. Both were in their late 20s, and both crapped out.
Is Bradshaw worth a flyer as a veteran minimum guy? I don’t think so. His signing will reek of desperation, and I’ll bet that if signed by anyone this offseason, Bradshaw does not open the season on an active roster.
Buying a pretty car with a racy motor but also a history of mechanical failures is a risky business. Nothing wrong with taking a peek under the hood, but evaluate it based on what it is today, not what it was four years ago.