After news broke that the Lions were in talks with the Chargers about a possible trade that would send Antonio Cromartie to Detroit, many of you speculated that Maurice Morris would probably be involved in any deal that happens. After all, the Chargers have already released LaDainian Tomlinson and are going to let Darren Sproles become a free agent, so they are in desperate need of adding depth to the running back position.
When it was originally reported that Cromartie was on the trade block a week or so ago, I wrote off the Lions' chances of landing him simply because San Diego was hoping to get a running back in return for the cornerback. I figured there weren't any backs on the Lions' roster that San Diego would be interested in because Kevin Smith is injured, but as John Niyo reports, the Chargers very well may want to acquire Morris.
The Lions have discussed a potential trade with the San Diego Chargers involving cornerback Antonio Cromartie, the News has confirmed. But the Chargers' asking price for Cromartie may include running back Maurice Morris, in addition to a fourth or fifth-round draft pick, a league source said.
Looking at this from the Lions' point of view, Detroit is already in the market for a running back. With Kevin Smith's status for 2010 uncertain, the expectation, at least by me, is for the Lions to sign a veteran back when free agency opens or to pick up a back in the draft in April. Adding a starting-caliber back ensures that if Smith isn't ready to go this September or beyond, the Lions will have a backup plan. And if Smith is ready to go in September, the Lions will have a pretty good stable of backs.
I guess what a trade involving Maurice Morris would come down to is where he fits into the Lions' plans both with or without a healthy Kevin Smith. Last season I thought Morris did a pretty good job of filling in for Smith, but would he be able to shoulder the load of being the starting running back for an extended period of time if Smith is unable to return early on in the season? That may not be necessary if Detroit plans on signing someone like Chester Taylor or drafting a running back, allowing Morris and the new guy to split the carries until Smith does return. Once that happens the Lions would be set at running back and have plenty of depth in case another injury happens.
If the Lions were to get rid of Morris, it would be a risky move. Yes, it would be nice to be able to upgrade the secondary, but suddenly the only healthy running back on the roster who played last year is Aaron Brown. Brown is not an every-down back, making the need to sign or draft someone even bigger than it is now. I suppose if the Lions already plan on doing that then Morris is expendable in a sense, but there would still be a need to add some depth to the running back position even after bringing in someone to fill in for Smith or replace Morris.
Let's say Morris is traded and the Lions sign Chester Taylor, for example. Although the Lions could bank on Smith being healthy in time for the 2010 season, if he's not then suddenly you are one injury to Taylor away from Aaron Brown having to step in as the starter, which no offense to Brown, just doesn't sound like a very good idea. Perhaps the Lions are confident enough that Smith will be healthy in time for next season that Morris could be traded, or they are just going to gamble and pick up extra depth along the way no matter what. If the plan all along was to add another running back, then trading Morris would simply change the need to add a couple running backs. Is it possible to add a player like Chester Taylor and pick up a decent back to replace Morris as well? Definitely. And if that means upgrading the secondary requires trading Morris, I think it would be worth it.
Quickly looking at this from the Chargers' perspective, I can understand why they would want to trade for Morris. At first I was confused strictly because Morris doesn't seem like a starter, but this would be a move to add depth to the running back position for San Diego. I would be willing to bet they will draft a running back pretty early on no matter what, so a move to bring in a veteran like Morris would give them depth behind that young running back. Beyond that, if they are going to get rid of Cromartie anyways, I'm sure their thinking if that they might as well get a player that upgrades depth in exchange for him.