Left out after Bills' deal for LeSean McCoy, could C.J. Spiller be free agency's top steal among RBs?

Rand Getlin
Yahoo Sports

In a free-agent running backs group that includes DeMarco Murray, Justin Forsett and Ryan Mathews, could C.J. Spiller end up becoming the steal of the class?

At least seven teams have interest in the former Buffalo Bills running back who is set to hit the open market on Tuesday, multiple league sources told Yahoo Sports. Among them are the three other teams in the AFC East – the New York Jets, New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins. The Jets might be the team to beat given the familiarity Chan Gailey, their offensive coordinator, has with the running back. As head coach with the Bills, Gailey drafted Spiller in 2010.

The Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions are the other teams that have interest in Spiller, league sources said.

(USA TODAY Sports)
(USA TODAY Sports)

Instead of coming to an extension agreement with Spiller, the Bills went in a different direction via blockbuster trade and got Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy.

[Check out Shutdown Corner's full 2015 free agent rankings – click here for offensive players, and click here for defensive players and specialists]

Over his first four seasons, Spiller generated 5,550 all-purpose yards (he also returned kicks) and scored 18 total touchdowns. In that span, he averaged 5.1 yards per carry while rushing for 3,021 yards and displayed versatility with 139 receptions for 1,070 yards.

He's been a bit of a forgotten man after suffering a clavicle injury in Week 7 last year against the Minnesota Vikings. Though the play he was injured on – a 53-yard run up the left sideline that started with a cutback from the opposite hashmark – was the perfect illustration of the explosiveness Spiller adds to an offense, he averaged a career-low 3.8 yards per carry to that point.

The first time he experienced a production dip happened in his first season under Doug Marrone, whose offense quickly became one of the most predictable in the league. During the 2013 season, Marrone's first as the Bills' head coach, over 61 percent of the Bills' plays ran through Spiller when he was on the field, whether the ball was handed to him or thrown his way, according to Pro Football Focus. That percentage ranked second in the NFL behind only the San Diego Chargers' Mathews. Add a declining offensive line and a rookie quarterback into the equation and you've got the recipe for stifling your star running back's production.

The other knock on Spiller, a common refrain, is that he is injury prone. But Spiller has played in 70 out of 80 games, with seven of those missed games coming in 2014 with the broken collarbone.

Is Spiller, who turns 28 in August, an every down back? He certainly was in 2012 and 2013 when he touched the ball 485 times (409 carries, 76 catches) while averaging 5.3 yards per carry and nearly 8.5 yards per reception.

During his Pro Bowl 2012 season, his best and last under Gailey, Spiller rushed for 1,244 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 6 yards per carry while adding 459 more yards and two more touchdowns as a receiver.

The scenery change could make Spiller one of the steals this offseason.

 

C.J. Spiller Career Rushing Yards and Touchdowns | PointAfter

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