Editor's note: Raiders insider Scott Bair will preview positions of need for the Silver and Black and which members of the 2015 free agent class would fit well in Oakland. Teams are free to negotiate with free agents starting Saturday and sign them on March 10. The next installment in this series focuses on running backs.
The Raiders had high hopes for running backs Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew, believing in vain that the veterans were heading toward a career renaissance.
It didn’t happen. Jones-Drew got hurt early, fell out of the running back rotation and was a spectator late in the year. McFadden stayed healthy all season for the first time in his career, but still averaged just 3.4 yards per carry.
Latavius Murray emerged late in the year with enough flash, patience and physicality to warrant consideration as the feature back of the future. New Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio rightfully said that Murray hasn’t earned the starting spot, and will surely compete with some new faces heading toward the 2015 season.
McFadden isn’t expected to be retained, and Jones-Drew might get cut before the regular season begins if he doesn’t show the explosiveness required to excel at this level.
The Raiders are expected to go hunting for another rusher in free agency or the draft. With just a week left until teams can sign free agents, here’s a look at select players the Raiders could target in free agency:
Latavius Murray: 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, 2 accrued seasons, Central Florida
Stats: 82 carries, 424 rushing yards (5.2 avg), 2 touchdowns; 7 receptions, 143 receiving yards
Maurice Jones-Drew: 5-foot-7, 210 pounds, 9 accrued seasons, California-Los Angeles
Stats: 43 carries, 96 yards; 11 receptions, 71 receiving yards
Thoughts: Murray is a candidate to be the primary ball carrier, and new Raiders coach Jack Del Rio hopes Jones-Drew has something left in the tank because the two have history from their days together in Jacksonville. That’s far from certain, so the Raiders will need to give Murray some help from the outside. A proven commodity could be the way to go.
[RELATED: Raiders free agency preview: Running backs]
DeMarco Murray: 6-foot, 217 pounds, 5 accrued seasons, Oklahoma
Stats: 392 carries, 1,845 yards (4.5 avg.), 13 touchdowns; 57 receptions, 416 receiving yards
A good fit?: Murray should be too expensive for the Raiders to pursue. There are too many other needs to address with significant money to seriously chase Murray. While he’s 27, his insanely heavy workload (449 touches last year) is also a concern when offering a longer-term contract.
Mark Ingram: 5-foot-9, 215 pounds, 5 accrued seasons, Alabama
Stats: 226 carries, 964 yards (4.3 avg), 9 touchdowns; 20 receptions, 145 receiving yards
A good fit?: If the Raiders plan to enter into free-agent bidding on top backs, Ingram would be a good option. He’s only 25 years old coming off his best season as a pro, with just 582 professional carries to his name. He could be a solid addition to the Silver and Black, assuming the bidding for his services stays relatively civil.
Others: C.J. Spiller, Ryan Mathews, Frank Gore, Justin Forsett
Reggie Bush: 6-foot, 205 pounds, 10 accrued seasons, Southern California
Stats: 76 receptions, 297 yards (3.9 avg), 2 touchdowns; 40 receptions, 253 receiving yards
A good fit?: Bush is now 30 years old, an evil number in the running back game. While he struggled in Detroit last season, he has exceeded 1,000 rushing yards twice and came just 14 yards short in 2012. He could tutor Murray and provide a solid change of pace as a third-down back, which might save his legs. If he can be had on a short-term deal, Bush should be considered.
Shane Vereen: 5-foot-10, 205 pounds, 5 accrued seasons, California-Berkeley
Stats: 96 carries, 391 yards (4.1 avg), 2 touchdowns; 52 receptions, 447 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns
A good fit?: Like Bush, Vereen is generally a passing-down specialist with solid hands. He’s just 26 years old, with less wear on the tires. That might make him more attractive to the Raiders as a receiver from the backfield and an accent back. If the market settles a bit, Vereen could be a solid compliment to Murray, or a full-time replacement if Murray struggles in 2015.
Others: Roy Helu, Ahmad Bradshaw
Overall: This is a solid free agent class of running, backed by a deep draft at the position. That means the Raiders shouldn’t break the bank when they could give big-money deals to premium players at other positions. They need to find rushing help at some point in this offseason. A veteran could provide a spark. If the Raiders are afraid of advancing age, Cal product Vereen may provide solid value, though Bush remains an intriguing option. If they want a bigger name, Ingram has a solid combination of talent and youth.