Tag:LaRod Stephens-Howling
Posted on: February 23, 2012 9:05 am
Edited on: February 23, 2012 10:28 am
 

2012 NFL Free Agency: Running back rankings

Players are willing to get the franchise tag if it means a long-term deal is in their future. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Leading up to the start of free agency on March 13, we're compiling the best 2012 NFL free agents by position. These are the running backs.

1. Ray Rice

Breakdown: Ray Rice told CBSSports.com back in October that "I think the Ravens are going to do the right thing … with the contract situation, I'll leave it in their hands." As it stands, Rice is a free agent. And it appears that while the Ravens may eventually "do the right thing" and sign him to a long-term contract (though almost certainly nowhere near Adrian Peterson-type money), the short-term plan is to franchise him. At 25, Rice hasn't yet reached his prime, which is all the more reason the Ravens should find a way to keep him in Baltimore for the next five years.

NFL Draft prep
The problem, of course, is that running backs are fungible. We've beaten this dead horse beyond recognition but it's worth repeating: teams can find relatively productive backs for little money. Knowing that, it doesn't make sense to use a non-trivial part of the salary cap to pay running backs, even those well above replacement level. It's why were were adamant last summer that the Titans shouldn't pay Chris Johnson. (They did and he was underwhelming in 2011, rushing for 1,047 yards -- 4.0 YPC -- and four touchdowns.)

That said, Rice isn't your typical back. In addition to his ability to run the ball, he's also a dangerous pass catcher. How dangerous? He led Baltimore in receptions in 2011 (76), was second behind Anquan Boldin in 2010 (63), and first in 2009 (78). For all the talk about Joe Flacco wanting a new deal, the Ravens' offense goes through Rice.

Potential landing spots: Ravens. That's it. If he gets away, Baltimore deserves whatever fate awaits them. Rice fits any system but is especially dangerous when he's utilized. That seems obvious but it's something offensive coordinator Cam Cameron forgot at various points during the 2011 season.

2. Matt Forte

Breakdown: Forte missed the final month of the 2011 season with a knee injury but it won't have any impact on what the Bears think he's worth. They have no plans to let him hit free agency -- earlier this month team president Ted Phillips said, "We'd like to (work out a long-term deal). But as (new GM) Phil (Emery) pointed out we obviously will at least consider placing the franchise tag on him. We don't have any intention of letting Matt hit the open market. We'll sit down with him privately, Phil will, and discuss what the plans are prior to the Feb. 20 franchise tag date."

And while #paydaman was the Twitter meme of the '11 season for Forte, he seems amenable to the franchise tag if it leads somewhere beyond a one-and-done deal.

"It depends on the motive of (the franchise tag)," Forte said a few days after Phillips' comments above. "If they are doing the franchise tag just to get more time in order to negotiate a long-term deal, then I would be OK with it. But if it's just to hold me another year and just, 'Let's throw some money at him right now to keep him quiet,' that's not going to solve anything."

Plus, with offensive coordinator Mike Martz gone and Mike Tice named as his replacement, the offense shouldn't require six weeks to find its rhythm. Ideally, a healthy mix of pass and run will keep Cutler upright and the Bears competitive in the NFC North. Forte, clearly, is a big part of that.

Potential landing spots: The Bears have no intentions of letting Forte get away, but like Rice, he'd fit in pretty much any offense. He's a capable pass-catcher and north-south runner.

3. Arian Foster

 Foster wants to stay in Houston '100 percent' (Getty Images)
Breakdown: Foster told CBSSports.com at the Super Bowl that he "100 percent" wants to be back with the Texans and it sounds like the Texans 100 percent want him back.  As of early January, the two sides hadn't made progress on a new contract, and like Forte, Foster doesn't seem averse to the franchise tag if it means a long-term deal is in his future. Unlike Forte, Foster is a restricted free agent, which means the Texans have the option to sign him to a tender offer, which would be much less than the one-year franchise-tag value of $7.7 million.

Could the Texans' offense survive without Foster, the 2010 NFL rushing leader? Yeah, sure. They still have Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels and Ben Tate. But Foster is only 25, and he's played on an undrafted free agent's salary the last two seasons. He's certainly outperformed his previous deal, now it's up to Foster's agent and the organization to find some middle ground.

Potential landing spots: The Texans. The franchise tag guarantees that other teams won't even get a shot at landing him. That said, he'd fit perfectly in the Redskins' scheme (they run virtually the same offense as the Texans, just with less talented players).

4. Marshawn Lynch

Breakdown: In the wacky world of Pete Carroll, trading a second-rounder for Charlie Whitehurst makes sense. So too does signing Tarvaris Jackson. To Carroll's credit, he said "thanks but no thanks" when his Heisman-winning quarterback during his USC days, Matt Leinart, was dumped by the Cardinals. And he had something to do with bringing Marshawn Lynch to Seattle for a 2011 fourth-rounder and a 2012 fifth-rounder. Lynch carried the Seahawks to a playoff win over the Saints in 2010, and rushed for 12,04 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2011.

Lynch was Seattle's most consistent offensive weapon last season (this explains the Peyton Manning scuttlebutt) and earlier this week the word on the street was that the team was in "deep" contract talks with Lynch and would consider using the franchise tag if the two sides couldn't reach an agreement.

We're not sure that's the best use of resources for an offense with plenty of issues. Unlike the Ravens, Bears and Texans -- all teams with top-15 quarterbacks -- the Seahawks might want to take that $7.7 million they'd use on Lynch and address other needs (quarterback, wide receiver, or a couple running backs, for example).

Potential landing spots: Seahawks, Bengals, Jets, Redskins

5. Michael Bush

Breakdown: Darren McFadden played in just seven games last season but the Raiders' rush offense still ranked 11th in the league, according to Football Outsiders. Much of that was due to Michael Bush, who ran for 977 yards (3.8 YPC) and seven touchdowns, and added 418 yards receiving.

Still, despite his '11 success, when training camp begins, McFadden will be atop the depth chart. Running backs-by-committee are en vogue so it's reasonable to think that Bush will get plenty of work but he wants to be a starter (likely because it comes with starter money). And for that reason, the Contra Costa Times' Steve Corkran wrote last week that Bush might prefer the franchise tag to a long-term deal. Corkran pointed out that new general manager Reggie McKenzie has a knack for developing running backs, which could mean that Bush will be elsewhere next season.

Potential landing spots: Bengals (former Raiders coach Hue Jackson is an assistant there), Buccaneers, Redskins

6. BenJarvus Green-Ellis

Breakdown: ESPN.com's Mike Reiss broke down Green-Ellis' situation nicely last week: "The view from here is that the Patriots would like Green-Ellis to return and have a price in mind. The question then becomes if that price is attractive enough that it sparks Green-Ellis to sign before hitting free agency."

Free agency starts March 13. There will be a glut of running backs on the market and there's no promise that Green-Ellis will get more in free agency than he would from the Pats. It's more likely that New England will offer something less than market value because a) they typically handle the salary cap well, and b) they'll sell it as "we're a winner, if you go elsewhere you'll be in rebuilding mode."

And then there's c): the Pats drafted two running backs last April -- Shane Vereen in Round 2, Stevan Ridley in Round 3 -- and should they not be able to re-sign Green-Ellis they'd have plenty of depth at the position (something they seem oddly incapable of at wide receiver). As always, as long as Tom Brady is on the field, the Patriots will have a good chance to win. It would be nice to have Green-Ellis behind him but New England's offense will survive either way.

Potential landing spots: Patriots, Chiefs (Scott Pioli's the GM)

7. Cedric Benson

Breakdown: It's seldom players go to Cincinnati to revitalize careers but Benson isn't your typical NFL running back. The Bears' former No. 4 pick in 2005, he was considered a bust until he joined the Bengals in 2008. He rushed for 1,251 yards in 2009, 1,111 in 2010 and 1,067 last season.

This offseason, the organization has talked about getting backup Bernard Scott more touches next season. Benson, meanwhile, has taken to publicly calling out the Bengals -- not the best negotiating strategy.

“We didn’t stick on what the offense was built on," Benson said during an appearance this week on SiriusXM. "When we had Carson and Chad we kept a strong identity in the run game and we kind of got away from it and didn’t let that part of the offense grow and bit the bullet on it a little bit.”

As for Benson's future in Cincy, we think this comment pretty much says it all: “I’m not sure [where things stand]. We haven’t had any talks about a new deal.”

Last offseason, the organization dumped Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, drafted A.J. Green and Andy Dalton and made the playoffs. The in-with-the-new personnel philosophy will apparently continue this offseason, too.

Potential landing spots: Benson's skills have diminished to the point that he's probably not worth more than a veteran minimum deal. Given his baggage, it makes more sense for a team looking for running back depth to sign a young player.

8. Peyton Hillis

Cleveland wants to keep Hillis? (Getty Images)
Breakdown: Whether Hillis was a victim of the Madden curse (he thinks he was) or he just got really bad really fast, the fact remains: he cost himself a lot of money in 2011. Hillis was traded from the Broncos to the Browns for Tim Tebow's No. 1 fan, Brady Quinn, and Hillis rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2010. He played in just 10 games last season, rushing for 587 yards and three scores.

Not good. Not good at all.

There were concerns during the season that Hillis let his impending contract negotiations affect his decision to play. As you might expect, that didn't go over well with teammates or fans. Still, the Browns said last month that they want Hillis back after he "worked his way into the team's good graces" over the final six weeks.

A source tells the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot that the organization might even consider franchising (!) Hillis if they come to terms with linebacker D'Qwell Jackson. That sounds, well, silly but then again, we're talking about the Browns.

Potential landing spots: Browns, Patriots (where derailed careers get back on track), Broncos (two Tebows, one backfield)

9. Ryan Grant

Breakdown: The team appeared to favor James Starks but he's had trouble staying on the field. In 2011, Grant had 14 starts and rushed 134 times for 559 yards and two touchdowns. Not particularly noteworthy, but then again, he played in Aaron Rodgers' offense. He'll be 30 in December and while he rushed for more than 1,200 yards in 2008 and 2009, an ACL injury sidelined him for all but one game in 2010.

Earlier this month, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Rob Reischel wrote that "Packer general manager Ted Thompson won't make a heavy investment in a running back Grant's age… So Grant will test free agency, and he is unlikely to return unless there's little interest on the open market."

Grant seems to understand the situation. "We'll see," he said. "I know I have a lot left. I think I showed that at the end of the year here. Would like to be back . . . but we'll just have to see."

Potential landing spots: Teams looking for running back-by-committee members willing to play for the veteran minimum. Barring injuries, not sure there will be much of a market.

10. Honorable Mention

Unrestricted free agents: Mike Tolbert, LaDainian Tomlinson, Kevin Smith, Thomas Jones

Restricted free agents: LeGarrette Blount, Isaac Redman, LaRod Stephens-Howling

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Posted on: August 19, 2011 11:33 pm
Edited on: August 20, 2011 5:44 pm
 

Cards RB Ryan Williams officially out for season

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

UPDATED (Aug. 20; 5:39 p.m. ET): It's official: Cardinals RB Ryan Williams is out for the season, as Rapid Reporter Craig Morgan writes.

Said coach Ken Whisenhunt on Saturday: "The human element gets lost sometimes. You’re so excited about a young man like Ryan and you build a relationship with him over a short time. You want to see him have success and then that’s put on hold.”

----------

While Tim Hightower was performing impressively for the Redskins on Friday night (six carries, 70 yards, TD), his former team might be longing for a backup to its starting RB.

Ryan Williams Injury
That’s because rookie Ryan Williams -- selected in the second round by the Cardinals to compete with Beanie Wells for the starting spot -- most likely ruptured the patella tendon in his right knee during Arizona’s preseason loss to the Packers. That was what coach Ken Whisenhunt told reporters, via Cards Chatter, after the game, and if that injury is confirmed, Williams will miss the rest of the season.

Williams had to be carted off the field after he was tackled by Green Bay rookie S M.D. Jennings and awkwardly landed on his right leg. Williams’ teammates surrounded him before he left for the locker room, and he held his head in his hands as he left the field.

Without Williams in the lineup, LaRod Stephens-Howling and Alfonso Smith are the RBs that would back up Wells -- who was brittle himself last season. Either way, it’s a devastating loss for the Cardinals.

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Posted on: April 18, 2011 12:13 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 6:00 pm
 

Offseason Checkup: Arizona Cardinals

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

L. Fitzgerald could walk into free agency at the end of next season (US Presswire).

Eye on Football's playing doctor for every NFL team with our Offseason Check-ups



Let’s see, when your choices to fill the starting quarterback spot boil down to Derek Anderson vs. Matt Leinart, you know your season is pretty much screwed before it even begins. And that’s pretty much what happened with the Cardinals last year (though, to be fair, quarterback was far from the only problem in Arizona).

I bet you don’t remember this, though. After beating the Saints in Week 5, Arizona actually was 3-2 before falling through the floor. The only player worth a darn on offense was WR Larry Fitzgerald, and it seems like most of the defense underachieved (most notably, LB Joey Porter). Suffice to say, it was not a good year for the Cardinals.




Best player is unhappy

Fitzgerald, the only bonafide superstar on this team, was visibly frustrated last year with the offense (and the quarterback play in particular), and even though he somehow caught 90 passes for 1,137 yards last season, the Cardinals front office has to convince him that Arizona has a blueprint for the future. Otherwise, Fitzgerald could walk away after his contract is up after the 2011 season.




1. QUARTERBACK
This is an easy spot to pick on, because if you look at the current roster of QBs, here’s who you find: Anderson (consistently terrible throughout his career, and he doesn’t like taking questions about laughing on the sideline during losses), Max Hall (probably doesn’t have the skill set to start in the NFL), John Skelton (perhaps a little potential) and Richard Bartel (no idea who this is). Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert has a pretty good shot at landing in Arizona, and if he doesn’t, the Cardinals could elect to go after Marc Bulger.

2. RUNNING BACK
The Cardinals tried two years ago, selecting RB Beanie Wells in the first round, but that hasn’t worked out so well. Wells had a tough time staying healthy last season, and Tim Hightower had a big problem with fumbles. In fact, Arizona was last in the league in rushing offense – which kinda doesn’t help the quarterback. I actually think LaRod Stephens-Howling is a pretty good player, but I’m not sure he’s a featured back kind of guy.

3. LINEBACKER
Although the defense ranked No. 29 last season, I like the three players across the line (NT Dan Williams and DEs Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell), and the secondary could be very, very good. But the linebackers are brutal. Texas A&M’s Von Miller would be a blessing for the Cardinals, who pick fifth, but he might not be around by then. Besides, Gabbert might be the more exciting (though not the safer) pick.




It’s hard to believe the Cardinals are only three seasons removed from playing in the Super Bowl, and it’s hard to imagine them getting back there anytime soon. If only Arizona had a good quarterback, a dependable running back, a second WR, a decent offensive line, and some players in the LB corps, the Cardinals would have a good chance of getting back to .500.

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Posted on: November 27, 2010 10:40 pm
 

Week 12 injury news and analysis, part IV

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Rams at Broncos

Denver LB D.J. Williams, who’s not had such a great past few weeks, is questionable to play with a concussion. Following his arrest on a DUI charge two weeks ago, he was knocked out of Monday’s game after a blow to the head. But he returned to practice two days later, so it looks like he’ll probably play. LB Robert Ayers is probable to play.

Three of the four St. Louis players on the injury list are probable. That leaves only WR Danario Alexander as questionable. Apparently, he had a great practice Wednesday, and it looks like he’s ready to make his first game appearance since Oct. 24.

Chargers at Colts


The biggest star for San Diego, TE Antonio Gates, is questionable with plantar fasciitis, but it seems highly unlikely he’ll play, because he’s still in a significant amount of pain. WR Malcom Floyd is questionable with a hamstring problem, but Chargers QB Philip Rivers will be happy to welcome back WR Vincent Jackson to the team. Also, WR Legedu Naanee, who hasn’t played since Oct. 3, is probable.

The Colts list seven players as questionable. Since TE Brody Eldridge, LB Gary Brackett and LB Clint Session didn’t practice all week, we’ll just assume those three won’t play.

49ers at Cardinals


K Joe Nedney is doubtful with a knee injury, and he’ll likely miss his second-straight game. San Francisco signed Shane Andrus to replace him Nov. 17, but since the 49ers were shut out last week, he wasn’t needed. It’s likely that won’t happen two games in a row.

For Arizona, DE Calais Campbell is questionable with a bad ankle, and he’ll be a gametime decision for Monday Night Football. Though LB Clark Haggans hasn’t played since Week 7 and is questionable, it sounds like he’ll be ready to play. As will RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, who also is questionable and very well could play.

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Posted on: November 21, 2010 11:41 am
 

NFC Inactives, Week 11

Posted by Will Brinson

As always, we list the big name ACTIVES up top: Donald Driver, WR, Packers; Bernard Berrian, WR, Vikings, Darnell Dockett, Cardinals; Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals, Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins

And INACTIVES right here:

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers -- Stewart's out (concussion) and so is DeAngelo Williams, which means it's the Mike Goodson party against Baltimore. Somehow the Ravens aren't favored by more than two touchdowns yet.

Kevin Smith, RB, Lions -- Smith is actually on IR, so he's done for the year now.

Jimmy Clausen, QB, Panthers -- Clausen also suffered a concussion and won't play. Brian St. Pierre, away!

Brandon LaFell, WR, Panthers -- New Mad Lib game: _____ of the Panthers suffered a concussion Sunday.

LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB/KR, Cardinals: You probably shouldn't be starting their defense on your fantasy team. Unless it's bonuses for negative points.

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Posted on: September 17, 2010 11:04 pm
Edited on: September 17, 2010 11:13 pm
 

Beanie Wells a gametime decision

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Cardinals RB Beanie Wells, who’s been out with a knee injury, is listed as questionable on the official NFL injury list. According to the team’s official website, Wells will be a gametime decision, but it doesn't sound real promising,

Writes Darren Urban: “Like the last two weeks, he has done so little, it’s hard to believe he would be much help even if he would be able to play. Now that Jason Wright had all week to practice, however – added in with Tim Hightower and LaRod Stephens-Howling – I would think the Cards can deal with it if Beanie is a no-or-little-go.”

I watched much of last week’s Cardinals-Rams game, and Stephens-Howling (seven carries, 49 yards plus a 27.3 kickoff return average) looked pretty impressive to me. Hightower was OK, minus the two fumbles he lost, though coach Ken Whisenhunt said he wasn’t in danger of losing playing time (of course Whisenhunt also thought Wells would be OK by Game 2, and that doesn’t look like it’ll happen).

And while we're talking about Hightower, here's an interesting story from the Arizona Republic regarding his thoughts on his fumbles.

Said Hightower: "My job is to hold on (to) that football. My job is to make plays. My job is to run the football and be successful at it ... You can try to analyze it, try to break it down, slow it down, rewind it, pause it and do all that stuff. But at the end of the day you've got to find a way to get it done."

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Posted on: August 10, 2010 4:20 pm
 

Beanie Wells to be limited in practice

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

A quick update on Arizona RB Beanie Wells, who hurt his ribs Monday after taking a well-placed hit from Cardinals S Hamza Abdullah. Though there were no fractures, Wells is experiencing swelling and he’s likely to be limited in practice today.

At this point, it’s unclear whether Wells will play in the preseason opener Saturday against the Texans.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt explained what happened, and the Arizona Republic was taking notes:

Whisenhunt had no problem with Wells being hit on the play, he said.

"I don't blame Hamza because earlier in practice Beanie had come through and lowered his shoulder and knocked the (inappropriate term) out of a DB," Whisenhunt said. "And Hamza obviously wasn't going to let that happen to himself. It was a good football play; there was nothing cheap or unnecessary about it."

Wells was carrying the ball through the hole and was stepping over another player. "He was a little bit high," Whisenhunt said. "He could have dropped his shoulder and there would have been a collision but that (bruised ribs) wouldn't have happened. But that's part of practice and you have to understand that when you're in pads, that's what can happen."


Tim Hightower remains the starter at RB, but Wells was looking to take more carries this year after a decent, but not great rookie season. LaRod Stephens-Howling and Jason Wright also will take more reps if Wells is out for a while.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com