September 9, 2021

5 Running Backs the Baltimore Ravens Should Target Right Now

The Baltimore Ravens suffered another brutal blow to their running back room as Gus Edwards is feared to have torn his ACL in practice. Edwards was set to be the Ravens' lead back after the season-ending injuries to J.K. Dobbins and Justice Hill. To make matters worse, it is also being reported that the Ravens lost cornerback Marcus Peters in the same practice to a torn ACL. 

While the Ravens will always be competitive with Lamar Jackson taking the snaps, it is clear that the running back room is going to need some reinforcements. One could assume that Le'Veon Bell, who was just signed to the practice squad this week, will be signed to the active roster and will serve as the Ravens' bell-cow this season.

With the news of Devonta Freeman also being signed to the practice squad in the wake of the Edwards injury, it would seem that the Ravens have found their replacement. Or have they?

In 2020, Freeman appeared in five games with the Giants recording fewer than 200 yards rushing and only one touchdown. After being released by the Saints this offseason, it is clear that Freeman's time as a feature back in this league is over.

The running game is such a big part of this team's identity that without it, they will have some real problems if a banged-up Freeman is forced to get a lot of touches. 

It is now clear that the Ravens would benefit greatly from finding another back. Both Bell and Freeman are banged up and have not played much recently. If the Ravens actually want to rely on that, be my guest. I am sure the Bills, Chiefs, Browns, and Titans feel the same way. In this article, I will touch on the five best options for the Ravens to beef up their running attack in 2021.

These players could be acquired via free agency or trade, but either way, we should expect the Ravens to target one or more of the available running backs. 

David Johnson, Houston Texans

It's clear from free agency and recent trades that the Texans' new regime is not committed to David Johnson — or any player, really — at all. 

While Johnson was once the top dual-threat back in football, he has not reached 1,000 yards rushing since 2016 and ran for just 691 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games last season. Those are pedestrian numbers compared to what he used to be. 

The Texans will probably look to offload one of their backs sometime this season, and the Ravens should be all over that. Johnson would serve as the perfect one-year rental. Plus, a stint with an explosive offense like the Ravens might help Johnson extend his career. 

Todd Gurley, Free Agent

It's stunning how far Todd Gurley's value has fallen.

Despite being just 27, the former All-Pro's career looks like it could already be over. Gurley visited with the Ravens earlier in the offseason and the franchise elected to sign washed-up runners in Le'Veon Bell and Freeman. That's not a good sign for Gurley. 

How much more football does Gurley have in his surgically repaired knees? It seems like not much, but the Ravens might decide to roll the dice on the once-dominant back. 

Mark Ingram, Houston Texans

The Ravens are certainly familiar with Mark Ingram.

Ingram signed with the Ravens in 2019 and was a massive ingredient to their 14-2 season. Not only that, he seemed to be the perfect locker-room guy. Ingram was released from Baltimore at the end of 2020 due to dwindling reps and efficiency. In his two years at Baltimore, Ingram rushed for 1,317 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also caught five touchdowns on 32 receptions.

Even if Ingram didn't contribute much in Baltimore for a second stint, he'd be a welcome addition and locker-room presence for a team going through its issues. 

Latavius Murray, Free Agent

Even before the Edwards injury, Latavius Murray was getting a lot of buzz around NFL circles as a possible match to join the Ravens after he was cut from the Saints. But Murray may not be the type of back that the Ravens are looking for. That is not to say that Murray isn't a serviceable back in this league, he just does not fit this offense like other options. The Ravens took a chance on a similar type of back like the next guy on my list in 2019 and it worked out perfectly.

Murray is still a very serviceable runner and will be an upgrade over what the Ravens have now, which is almost nothing. The Ravens should feel comfortable with Murray being the second-string running back.

Duke Johnson, Jacksonville Jaguars (PS)

Duke Johnson was signed to the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad this week and would be a perfect player in this offense. While Bell and Ty'son Williams could get the majority of touches this season, Johnson would be that perfect relief as a dual-threat back.

In 91 career games with both the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans, Johnson has rushed for 1,931 yards with eight touchdowns. He also has caught 307 passes for 2,829 yards and 12 touchdowns. Johnson could be a nice fit in the Ravens' up-temp offense even though they don't throw to their backs often.

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