Making the Case for LeGarrette Blount in Detroit.
To say the Lions need a new running back would be an understatement. The duo of Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick in the backfield has proven redundant. In 2016, Abdullah (5’9″, 203 lbs) only appeared in two games before landing on injured reserve, while Riddick (5’9″, 201 lbs) managed 357 rushing yards and one touchdown before suffering the same fate. Both rushers have the frame, durability, and skills of speed backs who excel in coming out of the backfield. A physically-imposing, power runner would be able to handle the bulk of the carries and relegate these smaller backs to complementary roles.
So how about a 250-pound wrecking ball who can literally carry defenders into the end zone? LeGarrette Blount’s market has been extremely quiet. Understandably, the former Patriot recently turned 30 years old and is coming off a 299-carry season in 2016. Nevertheless, Blount had his most productive year to date, totalling 1,161 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns. He hit paydirt twice as often as every Detroit rusher combined. Matthew Stafford could seriously benefit from that kind of presence in the backfield. Look at Tom Brady last year.
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While Blount can be a hammer on the ground, he offers minimal production in the passing game. Conversely, his teammate James White caught 60 passes for 551 yards and 5 touchdowns. In the mold of New England, the Lions could deploy Blount as the starter, with Abdullah and Riddick (371 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns in 2016) on passing downs.
The running back market in free agency has been relatively untouched. Per Spotrac, Blount would cost about $4 million per year, based on his production and age. In order to make such a transaction, Detroit would have to make some cuts to clear the cap space. Of course, a signing like this would presumably end Zach Zenner’s tenure in Michigan. Additionally, it would translate into the Lions not taking advantage of a deep draft class for running backs.
If Detroit wanted to address their backfield in free agency, though, Blount would be the answer.