TAMPA — I don’t know why but I’ve always been extremely high on running backs in the NFL. Maybe it stems from my deep roots in Fantasy Football where the running back is everything. Or it may just be that history has shown when a running back has talent, the team he’s on succeeds.
Look at Barry Sanders. He played for the Motor City Kitties and even they went to an NFC Title Game.
My affection for teh running back may also come from the old “you love what you don’t have” adage. The Bucs, for as long as I’ve been alive, have had only one viable franchise back in 18 years.
I dare somebody to argue Eric Rhett as a franchise back.
Warrick Dunn has been the only thing in the running back department the Bucs have been able to hang their hat on. They’ve swung big and missed numerous times since his departure to Atlanta, specifically the Cadillac Williams experiment. Now LaGarrette Blount is the young guy in charge that has massive upside.
But can he do it alone?
History suggests no. He’s not the type of runner that can be an elite franchise back the same way Adrian Peterson has been for the Vikings or Chris Johnson has been for the Titans.
Now this is history suggesting Blount can’t carry the backfield, not me. I see Blount as a Ray Rice type runner who can be explosive but more often then not will barrel (or leap) over defenders rather than blow past them with speed.
This is where a two-back system comes into play, which I have been in favor of since I first saw it used. The only thing the Bucs need is a running back to fill the second back slot.
Enter: the disgruntled Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans.
Now the Titans have said they aren’t interested in trading him, but we’ve heard that before. What nobody is hearing is progress in the contract talks between Johnson and Tennessee. A guy who has given so much for so little can only do it for so long before he takes his talents elsewhere.
Right now Johnson has LeBron James status in terms of where he could go. By this I mean with what he has done and the way teams jump at superstardom that can fill seats, Johnson won’t have to settle taking a contract with the Bills or the Seahawks. Johnson would be in high demand should he hit the free agency market anytime soon and he’d have the pick of the litter in terms of where to suit up.
Now enter the variables.
Johnson isn’t a cold weather back. Not too many speed backs are cold weather guys. Johnson is from warm weather,played in warm weather and always will. Heck, he’s from Orlando; who wants to go from Orlando to Tennessee to Chicago?
If Johnson were to pick a place to play, I’d bet on him choosing a southern city, particularly one close to his home in Orlando. That leaves two possible choices in this hypothetical: Miami and Tampa Bay.
Miami is a popular choice, especially for a young, rich and extremely popular superstar (again, see LeBron James). But unlike James did, Johnson wouldn’t be walking into a team on the cusp of a championship. Miami’s quarterback situation is a joke, they have no weapons and Fergie is part owner of the team.
No, no and Hell no.
Tampa, on the other hand, is close to Orlando and offers the same climate as Miami. Plus if he really wants to party with LMFAO in the clubs, he can drive to Miami or buy a summer home there.
Tampa is also a team on the cusp; mere pieces away from becoming a legitimate force in the NFL. With the addition of Johnson, the Bucs would solidify their offense as a deadly weapon. If Josh Freeman can’t throw, dump it to Johnson. If the box is stacked to stop Johnson, have Freeman throw. If Freeman can’t throw and Johnson isn’t an option he can run.
To really boggle defense’s minds, create a package where Johnson and Blount are both on the field with Freeman, Winslow, Mike Williams, and Arrelious Benn. Do you really think the Saints will have fun planning out an attack against the Falcons AND the Bucs? It’s called beating them at their own game folks.
Plus, and this would be the chief selling point to ownership, having the league’s top running back in your uniform will fill seats at Raymond James Stadium and prevent the embarrassing blackouts bemoaning Bucs fans in the greater Tampa area. Not only would he fill seats, but he’d sell jersey’s and posters and billboards. Interest in the Bucs is already starting to soar, adding Johnson would give Bucs Nation and the Bucs revenue make the adrenaline shot Uma Thurman got in Pulp Fiction look like a pinprick.
Of course, this would mean trading the farm for him. Tennessee is hellbent on keeping CJ2K, as he’s called, but their also not the brightest bunch of execs the NFL has seen. It doesn’t take a MacArthur Grant recipient to find a solution to the equation: Elite NFL Running Back in his prime + He wants more money = PAY HIM WHAT HE’S OWED!
Offer up a load of draft picks and maybe a player and get him in a Bucs uniform. Make them an offer they can’t refuse, but don’t go overboard.
The name Herschel Walker is swirling in my mind.
This is all a pipe dream, a long shot, a hot fantasy and a miracle all rolled up into one; but it doesn’t hurt to have any of those. Especially when they’re about the Buccaneers and another Super Bowl trophy.