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Free Agency Primer 2015: Running Backs

Ellington should be healthy, but Cardinals need someone to share the ground game burden



The Cardinals are busy surveying the free agent landscape, hoping to add more key pieces to a core which has won 21 games over the past two seasons. Free agency begins on March 10, and we'll break down the team's needs at each position leading up to the signing period.

More free agent analysis: QB

Free agent primer: Running back

Cap numbers of players under contract for 2014: Stepfan Taylor ($635,125); Andre Ellington ($610,966); Robert Hughes (585,000); Kerwynn Williams ($510,000); Marion Grice ($510,000);

Scheduled free agents: None

Need: Medium

Images of running backs who are scheduled to hit the free agent market on March 10

Analysis: The Cardinals will be in the market for a bigger running back to pair with Ellington atop the depth chart. Ellington's second season was a far cry from his first, as he was banged up throughout and saw a sharp decrease in his yards-per-carry average. Despite the down year, Ellington still finished with 660 rushing yards and 395 receiving yards in 12 games, and coach Bruce Arians plans to again make him an offensive focal point in 2015. Jonathan Dwyer was supposed to be the goal-line and short-yardage back in 2014, but he played in only two games before getting placed on the season-ending reserve/non-football injury list in mid-September after allegations of domestic abuse. Dwyer is a free agent and doesn't figure to return, so General Manger Steve Keim is expected to peruse the market and settle on a between-the-tackles runner to complement Ellington.

There are some big names out there, chief among them DeMarco Murray, but the Cardinals don't figure to be in the bidding for his services. The market could dictate who ends up with the Cardinals, as Keim has done an impressive job of inking proven veterans to team-friendly deals in his first two offseasons in charge. He could either identify a target and strike quickly, or try to wait out the process a few days and sign a veteran for a reasonable sum. Kerwynn Williams showed impressive flashes at the tail-end of last season after Ellington went down, and he will aim to lock up a roster spot heading into 2015. Stepfan Taylor, Robert Hughes and Marion Grice are also under contract and they will also compete for a place on the team. The Cards carried four running backs for the majority of last season, so there will be healthy competition this offseason if a running back is added in free agency.

Notable past free agent RB signings by the Cardinals: Dwyer (2014); Rashard Mendenhall (2013); Edgerrin James (2006); Emmitt Smith (2003); Mario Bates (1998).


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