As a precursor to free agency and the NFL Draft, Pride Of Detroit will take a look at each position on the Detroit Lions roster. The series continues with a look at the running back position.
Under contract: Mikel Leshoure (through 2014), Jahvid Best (through 2014), Devin Moore (through 2014)
Free agents: Joique Bell (ERFA), Kevin Smith (UFA), Stefan Logan (UFA), Jerome Harrison (UFA), Shaun Chapas (ERFA)
The Detroit Lions have put together a pretty good one-two punch at running back with Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell. Leshoure finally hit the field in 2012 after missing 2011 with a season-ending injury, and he was pretty impressive all things considered. The hope is that he will only get better as he continues to gain experience and regain the speed he may have lost from his Achilles injury.
Bell sort of came out of nowhere to be a big-time contributor in 2012. He earned a roster spot with his play in the preseason, and he earned a spot in the rotation at running back with his strong play early on in the regular season. His playing time went up over the course of the season, and it looks like he will be a part of the offense going forward as a complement to Leshoure. Since he is an exclusive-rights free agent, he should be re-signed this offseason.
Aside from Leshoure and Bell, the Lions don't really have much of anything at running back. Jahvid Best's career is likely over thanks to his concussion issues, and it's not expected that the Lions will re-sign Kevin Smith or Stefan Logan. Also, Jerome Harrison, who has been recovering from a brain tumor, is set to become a free agent.
The other two backs worth mentioning are Devin Moore, who is under contract, and Shaun Chapas, who is an exclusive-rights free agent. Chapas actually joined the active roster at the end of last season as a fullback/tight end, and he could be re-signed to fill that same role this offseason. As for Moore, he signed a futures deal at the end of last year and will try to fight for a roster spot in training camp.
Need going forward?
It's no secret that the Lions need to add a speedy running back to their offense. If Best were to suddenly be cleared, he would fill this need, but that's not expected to happen. As a result, the Lions will have to try to address this need either through free agency (with someone like Reggie Bush, perhaps) or the 2013 NFL Draft. They already have a couple solid backs in Leshoure and Bell, but they're lacking a home-run threat right now.