On Monday, we talked about five quarterbacks the Detroit Lions should be in on in free agency. Today we’re looking at a position a little more difficult to gauge. The Lions probably don’t need a running back in free agency. They might take a look at one in the draft, but probably not in free agency. With D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, Craig Reynolds and Jermar Jefferson on the roster already, the Lions are probably good to go at running back in the short term. Still, the Lions may still find themselves looking to add someone to the group in free agency. Here’s some names to pay attention to if they do.
This name sound familiar? The Lions drafted Washington in the seventh round in 2016, and the versatile back played in 17 games for Detroit over his first two years. Then he headed to the New Orleans Saints, where spent the last four seasons. Washington has become something of a special teams ace since joining the Saints. Unfortunately he hasn’t seen the field as a running back like he did in Detroit. Playing behind Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram and Ty Montgomery on team that liked to do a lot of run plays with their backup quarterback will do that.
In Detroit, Washington could have himself a return to the ground game in short order, but more so, the Lions could utilize him in a special teams role—where someone like Jefferson failed to produce. Of course, that connection with Dan Campbell could help bring Washington back to The Motor City.
You might know Ryan Nall from his time with the Bears. An undrafted rookie in 2019, Nall has spent the last three years with the Bear, but only had six carries for 12 yards in his career. He’s mostly just spent his time with the practice squad. The Lions could bring Nall in to give him his next shot.
Nall is not a superstar and probably never will be. Nall is a Zach Zenner style running back. He can run forward and he can lower his shoulder on a guy. If you ask him to do much more than that, it’s probably not going to work. Still, Nall can bring some power running to the Lions backfield, and that’s something the team doesn’t really have right now—as evidenced by their 26th ranking on short-yardage efficiency, per Football Outsiders. On top of that, he should be really cheap.
Okay, let’s jump out of the box a little. Before we were just looking at guys who could chip in a little. Now we’re looking at a guy who could get some meaningful time. Not a lot of meaningful time, but meaningful time nonetheless. There was a time when Alex Collins looked like he was going to be the next big thing at running back in the NFL. He had a big year with the Ravens in 2017. Since then, he’s trended downwards due to injuries.
I mentioned that the Lions don’t really have a power runner in the backfield right now, Collins could be that guy. Collins could bring his sturdy frame and powerful running ability to the Lions red zone unit. The Lions only scored eight red zone rushing touchdowns in 2021. That’s 25th in the league.
You have to get at least one older guy in there, right? Murray is a guy who just won’t seem to go away and has become something of a utility guy in recent years. Murray is the type of guy you call in to start a few games here and there, and he’s gets the job done.
The Lions dealt with some injuries and illness at the position last year. It would be nice to have guy like Murray who can come in and work in short order if the Lions find themselves short handed again. The Lions also have some connections with Murray, too. Dan Campbell worked with Murray for two seasons in New Orleans.
Let’s take one swing. Just one. Man, I still just can’t get over the time when Melvin Gordon wore a Lions hat before the 2015 NFL Draft. Will we ever see Melvin Gordon in a jersey to match? Probably not ever, but what if, right?