The National Football Post continues its breakdown of free agents who will hit the open market on Friday, the start of a new league (and uncapped) year. Today: running back Chester Taylor.
The Vikings have obviously made a commitment to Adrian Peterson by taking him at the top of the draft in 2007 and at some point will make a further commitment in the form of a long-term contract. That leaves Taylor in the background in Minnesota, now with an opportunity to step out of Peterson’s shadow with a new team. The Vikings love Taylor and would like to keep him but know it will be difficult with what’s ahead for Peterson and having to deal with RFA Ray Edwards. So Taylor will be set free to gauge the market.
The cost will depend on the level of bidding. It likely will not reach the level of Brandon Jacobs, who last year garnered a four-year, $25-million deal with $13M guaranteed, but it might rival the deal that Jacobs’ backup with the Giants, Derrick Ward, received from Tampa Bay — a four-year, $17M deal with $6M guaranteed and $13M over the first three years. Taylor’s contract will certainly outpace the running back deals made last year by the Broncos with Correll Buckhalter and J.J. Arrington (later rescinded due to injury) for four years and $10M, with less than $2M guaranteed.
At first glance, there’s the combustible combination of the position of running back and the age of 30. With those two facts, I would usually advise teams to head for the hills, as I have previously detailed the graveyard full of bad deals for older running backs, with a couple recently buried this year.
However, that may not be the case here. In fact, teams are said to be more interested in Taylor than all other running back options out there, including LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook, Darren Sproles, Thomas Jones and more. The reason? The all-important tread on the tire, for which Taylor is seen as having a lot left.
In eight years in the league, Taylor had more than 160 carries (an average of 10 per game) only once, in 2006 with the Vikings, before the arrival of Peterson. From backing up Jamal Lewis in Baltimore to backing up Peterson in Minnesota, the feeling around the league is that Taylor has some legs left to help a team for one more contract. He will get that from one of a host of suitors – the Chargers, Bears, Giants, Lions, Patriots and ever-present Redskins are all said to be sniffing around Taylor.
Yes, it goes against all principles that a 30-year-old running back will have a strong market in free agency, but that’s where we are. Taylor – not Westbrook, not Tomlinson, perhaps not even Sproles – will be the prize of the free-agent running back class of 2010. Two former superstars – Tomlinson and Westbrook — will watch and wait while Taylor, at the same age as they are, negotiates a strong third contract in the NFL.
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