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Surveying the Free Agents: RB

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The 2008 season starts today. We'll continue to look at my stated offseason goals and offer some ideas on how they might be attained. I'm not necessarily endorsing one course of action or another, just looking at the possibilities and providing some insight.

Clear Up the Running Back Mess

Free agency is a less than ideal solution to the Seahawks running back woes and won't likely be pursued. Even a modestly priced retread will make many times more than any of the talented backs that could fall to the second day of the NFL draft. What free agency does offer, though, is a certain amount of security, you can target a player and know he will be available. Predictability, you've seen this player compete against NFL competition. And respectability, when you're segueing a former star player to the trash heap, signing a 5th round rusher out of Oregon State is considered a "non-move" by the mass media and the majority of fans. Even an obscure free agents offers some semblance of name recognition. Finally, free agency, or, at least, staying open to the possibility of acquiring a running back through free agency, allows for drafting flexibility. Not just in who they pick, but how they pick. Trading a couple second day picks could cost you a shot at drafting Yvenson Bernard or Chauncey Washington, but it could allow you to trade up for a prized player in the second, third, etc.

In other words, it's an option. In certain scenarios, what otherwise looks like a bad move can be justified. Here are three free agents to be that could fill Seattle's running back need.

Julius Jones: Julius Jones played ahead of Ryan Grant at Notre Dame. There he earned a reputation for explosiveness through the hole, elusiveness in the open field and game breaking speed. Jones was the 43rd overall pick in a decent running back class. He erupted for 800 yards in eight games his rookie season. A feat that sent expectations skyward, but since then Jones has disappointed. In many ways, Jones' career and running style have duplicated his brother's, Thomas. The elder Jones became a more complete rusher after his speed slipped away, but banking on a player to become something he's never been is a poor investment. Speed is typically the first skill an athlete loses, and Jones, who has a lot of bust in his boom, only managed a long rush of 25 yards in 2007. The best case that can be made for Jones is that he's a once fine talent with little wear that can still run between the tackles, a skill that would compliment Maurice Morris' perceived deficiencies. Jones is decent receiver and a willing if far from dominant blocker.

Michael Turner: Turner's the big name, and given his consistency, explosiveness and 5.5 YPC career average, one can see why. Less discussed, though, is that Turner offers little as a receiver, ran behind one of the best run blocking offensive lines in football and suffered a substantial drop in productivity in 2007. It's premature to say that Turner himself has declined, but it's a hefty gamble given his expected contract and game experience. Turner has never recorded three straight games of 10+ carries and never recorded a 20+ carry game. It's all but immaterial, as the Hawks don't have the bucks to compete with the big spenders who'll target Turner in the coming months. The best case that can be made for Turner is that signing him would virtually guarantee Shaun Alexander's exit.

Mewelde Moore: Moore is the wildcard. He's among the best receiving backs in football, but has done something to discourage multiple coaching staffs from giving him fulltime touches. That's not an argument in of itself, but it's grounds for investigation. Moore fails to fit a stereotype. Often labeled a scatback, he lacks a deadly third gear (4.65/40), but he's exceptionally agile, possesses quick feet, and ably carried the load at Tulane, setting a school record for carries. There's always a disconnect between stats and reality, and it's possible that something very real keeps Moore from making it as a featured rusher, but his career numbers demand attention. Moore is almost certainly the cheapest back available, too. The best argument against Moore is that rather than a compliment to Morris, he essentially is Morris.

Each player's rushing and receiving DVOA by season (2004-2007) can be found after the jump.

Production Trends by the Numbers
Player 2007 Rushing DVOA 2007 Receiving DVOA 2006 Rushing DV0A 2006 Receiving DVOA 2005 Rushing DVOA 2005 Receiving DVOA 2004 Rushing DVOA 2004 Receiving DVOA
Julius Jones -9.8% 33.7% -1.9% 63.7% -7.7% -18.9% -1.3% -17.3
Michael Turner -27.9% N/A 46.7% N/A 27.9% N/A 11.8% N/A
Mewelde Moore 35.5% N/A 33.4% 7.0% 1.9% 25.6% 34.1% 6.2%